'Green' is about more than marketing

"Green" is both a buzzword and a way of life. However, if you're going to tap into the buzzword, practice the lifestyle as well. That way, your efforts to go green will appear authentic and ultimately earn you much more credibility than just using it as a marketing ploy.

Any self-storage owner can commit to "green" practices in one or more areas-energy conservation, environmentally-friendly products, reducing waste, recycling among them.

Increasingly, people are considering environmental issues when buying products and services. By making your eco-friendly practices known, you'll be doing consumers, as well as yourself, a favor. But, the key here is to be real about it-and let bottom-line benefits accrue as a natural consequence of your practices.

Put more bluntly, any green practice you initiate should be because you believe in it-not because you just want to make money from it.

Here are straightforward, low-cost ways to start the green balling rolling this spring as part of the annual lead-up to Earth Day, which officially falls on Sunday, April 22 this year (although various community events are scheduled at different times proximate to the official celebration):

1. Sponsor a facility recycling and cleanup day on or around Earth Day, complete with different trash and recycling bins. Encourage tenants to use this opportunity to offload and clean up their units. Everything from computer equipment (and other technology requiring environmentally-sound disposal) to plastic bottles, cans and trash can be deposited into various receptacles strategically placed throughout the property.

While this likely won't garner you any short-term financial gain, it helps build goodwill, trust and loyalty with tenants. Plus, it encourages them to get rid of stuff that may not be in the property's best interest-flammables, substances that attract bugs, et al. (We all know that people store stuff prohibited by their agreement; this is an indirect way of giving them an "amnesty" of sorts.)

2. Look at lighting. OK, this might not be so low-cost. (But it may not be as bad as you think.) Proliferation of LED lighting and other illumination technologies is raising the bar of energy conservation and efficiency. This is a great time to look into retrofitting existing fixtures or implementing a new lighting system in your facility. By the time that daylight dwindles later in the year, you can be ready to roll with new and better lighting.

Besides the substantial energy consumption savings with LEDs and CFLs compared to incandescent lighting, other costs decrease as well-such as replacing burned out bulbs all the time. To satisfy yourself that there is a healthy return on investment, consult with an illumination specialist to determine how long it will take to recoup your initial investment. Then, request revisions as warranted until the plan meets your financial tolerance level.

Again, this may not bring an immediate groundswell of new business. But, the added security enhancements as well as green nature of new lighting again will build tenant loyalty and serve as a powerful selling tool to prospects. Plus, reduced energy consumption can be promoted as a perk to keeping rental rates down if you so choose.

3. Ponder pest control. It's spring-can you say "pest control?" For a variety of reasons, development and deployment of eco-friendly pesticides are hot buttons this time of year.

Here's the rub: Finding pesticides that will do their primary job and serve the environment at the same time. In the past, there have been mixed results-with some green pest control products failing in their primary pest eradication mission. Others are or are not considered green, depending on whose definition and qualifications are cited. And where you live. San Francisco, for instance, is a tougher nut to crack green pest control-wise than other US locations.

While the debate continues over defining what's green and what's effective in pest control, the best advice to self-storage owners is "Caveat Emptor"-Buyer Beware. If you want to go green in pest control, do some diligent investigation first. Talk to one or more pest control organizations in the know. Or, go very simple: Something as relatively inexpensive as a mixture of 20% dish soap, 40% alcohol, and 40% water can be an effective insect killer.

Do-It-Yourself Pest Control

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