Spotlight: Colonial Nissan Builds First-Of-Its-Kind-In-Virginia Dealership Solar Superstructure

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In June 2018, Colonial Nissan – a 2018-19 Better Business Challenge participant – debuted a first-of-its-kind solar superstructure at its Route 29 dealership, signaling a significant investment in reducing its carbon footprint. Colonial Nissan collaborated with solar energy firm Sun Tribe Solar on the design of the unique garage superstructure, which features 480 rooftop solar panels and is expected to produce more than 214,000 kWh annually and supply 93-percent of the dealership’s electricity needs. 

Colonial Nissan now holds the distinction of being the first solar-powered car dealership in Virginia. 

In this Q&A, we asked Liza Borches, president and CEO of Carter Myers Automotive (parent company of Colonial Nissan) about the company’s commitment to renewable energy. Borches also described some of the other steps being taken to save energy and reduce waste company-wide – and why she thinks sustainability makes good business sense. 

Why did Colonial Nissan join the Charlottesville Better Business Challenge?  

LIZA: As a company, we give back to our communities through many non-profits both with volunteer hours and dollars. We also give back to our associates through our employee stock ownership plan. The next frontier in our corporate responsibility was to further our commitment to reducing our impact on the environment.  

What sort of actions has Colonial Nissan taken so far to save energy (and money) as part of the Challenge? (Obviously, the BIG one is the new solar superstructure!)    

LIZA: The Solar superstructure was our first huge initiative to reduce our impact on the environment. In addition, we replaced all of our lights on the lot with energy-efficient LED lights.   

What sort of energy-saving and carbon footprint-reducing measures are you looking forward to exploring or implementing (as part of the Challenge)?   

LIZA: We have had some great initial meetings and are in the process of doing the following: eliminating all plastic water bottles in both dealerships and replacing them with refillable water systems. We currently purchase over 76 cases of water a month for our associates and customers to drink – by replacing them with the refillable water stations, we will be able to reduce the plastic usage significantly. All associates have been given company water bottles and we will have environmentally friendly cups for the customers to use while visiting our dealerships. We are switching out all plastic stirrers for coffee to the wooden ones and working on replacing our coffee cups with glass mugs for both associate and customer use. Our Green Team is making a list of all rooms that would benefit from occupancy sensors and we expect to install them during the month of October. In addition, we are having a lighting assessment done to help us prioritize other areas where we can improve the energy efficiency of our lighting systems. We are in the process of remodeling four bathrooms and replacing the paper towel dispensers with air dry machines to eliminate the paper towel needs. Finally, our Green Team is evaluating the best way to improve our recycle process and looking into compost bins for the waste after company lunches.   

What advice would you offer other local businesses or organizations who may be interested in saving energy, going green, or reducing their environmental impact (in addition to joining the Challenge)? 

LIZA: Obviously it is a decision that every company has to make for themselves, but we have found that the Better Business Challenge has given us a focus and process that is very helpful for our team. We had already decided that we wanted to be a more environmentally-friendly company and had started on several initiatives. The Challenge has given us a great framework on how to investigate our dealership to find even more ways to lessen our impact than we had thought of before. It has also been great to have a team of our associates involved because they are learning and seeing opportunities that were not even on our radar!

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