[IMAGE]Sun-.jpg[/IMAGE]Going green is becoming more popular in nearly every sector of industry and motorcoach is no different.
San Diego's Sun Diego Charter Co.'s President Richard Illes saw that going green could help his operation appear more unique than the competition.
"About a year ago, we saw a niche in the market for green transportation and, with that, we changed our culture," says Illes. "We went on an environmental campaign to see what we were doing versus what we should be doing, and then came up with some concepts and carried those forward."
Sun Diego started its culture change, subtly, instituting a recycling program both in the office - everything from paper to toner —and on its motorcoaches, requiring drivers to separate refuse after each trip. It soon spread to the garage with the recycling of such items as tires, antifreeze and motor oil.
"Everybody has to buy into the culture, and that was probably the biggest challenge; trying to educate people and have them understand what it means to be environmentally responsible," says Illes. "Once they understood it, they signed on to the program, and they are now consciously addressing things that need to be changed further."
Illes adds that the operation has also instituted a "Green Committee," which addresses how everything in the operation can be even greener.
The operation also goes paperless when possible and has changed most of its cleaning products to more eco-friendly brands.
Taking the green approach to Sun Diego's motorcoach fleet, Illes says that he has been aggressive in updating the fleet so that the oldest coaches still in operation are 2004s and is way ahead in meeting the stringent state air quality standards, developed by the California Air Resources Board, that are slated to go into effect in 2013.
The operation also has a strict five-minute idling policy; a sophisticated, satellite-based GPS speed-monitoring system to control motorcoach speeds and help improve fuel economy; and began using a 10-percent blend of biodiesel fuel, complete with an on-site fueling station.
"It seems like a lot of companies are turning toward using environmentally-friendly vendors, and we kind of created a niche by going green," says Illes of his operation's efforts. "So far, it's actually helped us in the marketplace, and other organizations that are green-conscious have contracted us for their transportation, which probably wouldn't have happened in the past."
To help grow its business, the operation has increased its online presence and reached out to markets that they previously hadn't focused on, such as schools and government contracts. Currently, about 50 percent of its business comes from daily runs to local casinos.
In 2010, Sun Diego plans on going even greener by beginning work on a new facility that will be more sustainable, including using energy-efficient lighting and having a reclaimed water system for vehicle washing.
In the meantime, Illes says that he believes that green is the way to go for many in the industry and that taking small steps is the key to changing an operation's culture.
"It's such an easy thing to do that it surprises me that more people haven't jumped on the bandwagon," he says. "It's really not that difficult, it's just small changes — you can't just flip a switch and decide that tomorrow you are going to green. But, it's such the right thing to do that I'm sure we'll see more operators heading in that direction soon."