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Monday, Jan 30, 2023
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Green Products and Services Not Always An Easy Sell

Over the past year-and-a-half, Calabasas-based Ecco Technologies has worked with Loyola Marymount University to reduce the amount of waste the school hauls off to the dump each year. Among the initiatives, the company helped establish a system to divert organic waste from the school’s cafeterias and food courts. Instead of throwing it away, the school now turns it into compost and mulch that’s kept on site and used for landscaping. “We’ve helped them reduce waste hauling fees by 35 percent, reduce landscaping costs by 40 percent and reduce water usage by 35 percent,” said Derek Tabak of Ecco Technologies. “People are beginning to spend money on these types of things.” But while green products and services can have a positive effect on a company’s bottom line, Tabak and other local business owners said it’s not always an easy sell. Educating potential clients on cost savings, versus just the environmental benefits, is important. “Going green in the long run saves money, but it’s not free to do it,” said Tabak, adding environmental programs also only works if all of the participants clearly understand their roles. “There’s a learning curve.” A question of price point About a year ago, Buzz Boettcher founded Gray Water Recycling Systems. The company sells high-tech systems that collect and purify waste water from sinks, dishwashers, laundry machines and more. Recycled water can be re-used for irrigation and toilets. About 70 percent of sales in L.A. County are in the San Fernando Valley, said Boettcher. Celebrity and environmentalist Ed Begley Jr. even installed one at his Studio City home. “People in the San Fernando Valley seem to be more tuned-in to water and environmental causes,” said Boettcher. Sales have been fair over the past year but have not met Boettcher’s initial projections. He thought the systems, which purify water to nearly drinkable quality, would take off globally. Instead, sales are piecemeal in California and surrounding states. He chalks that up largely to the first product’s sticker price of $7,000. If it’s being installed at an existing home, additional plumbing costs can add another few thousand dollars. Buying systems for homes under construction are the cheapest bet. “Price is certainly an issue for the every day consumer,” said Boettcher, adding they would say “I want to do it,” but the economic climate makes it more difficult. The company has since launched another product that sells for $1,000 and can be installed by a homeowner. But commercial properties have latched onto the top-end gray water systems because they save money in the end. A restaurant in Hollywood installed one to cut down on water bills that were hovering in the four and five figure category. The business now recycles nearly 1,000 gallons of water per night and reported that water bills are significantly down. “The systems pay off for businesses and people with large irrigation needs,” said Boettcher, adding others buy it to satisfy their eco consciences. “I kind of believe in the trickle-up theory: Once one person does it another says ‘I want one too.’” Degrees of acceptance Metro provides eco-friendly cleaning, engineering, parking lot care and recycling services for Valley properties such as The Disney Channel, NBC lot, and The Pinnacle in Burbank. Gary Mitchell, project manager of janitorial and maintenance for Metro at the NBC lot, said economics factor heavily into demand for the services. “Some people are still not aware that environmentally friendly products are competitive (in terms of price),” said Mitchell, adding once business owners or property managers realize it won’t cost much more they typically sign-on. You have to speak to the bottom line by showing them how using these services and products will save them money and boost marketing and public relations efforts. The fact that it’s good for the environment is kind of an added benefit, he said. Metro’s use of eco friendly cleaning chemicals and recycling programs are in line with the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. If a property owner wants to eventually seek LEED certification, using Metro makes the process easier. Some still resist the whole green thing though, said Mitchell. “Some property owners are more astute. You have to show businesses how it’s a win/win.” A matter of time Ecco Technologies opened shop about three years ago, and Tabak said it has taken about two years for the company to gain traction. In addition to providing waste reduction consulting services the firm sells a wide variety of products. Sales can take up to a year to be consummated because they require educating all of the stakeholders and getting businesses to commit funds. Many businesses are aware of environmental sustainability, but others are still in the dark. Networking and honing in on companies well-suited for the products and services, versus waiting for the phone to ring, are what keeps business coming in, said Tabak. And Ecco Technologies is fine tuning its own business to be more in-line with market demand. “I think as time progresses people are becoming more educated about doing things that benefit the environment,” he said. “Wal-Mart even sells green products these days. I always tell people that even doing one small thing is a start.”

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