Driven to be Green – Chapman Automotive Team Champions Environmental Stewardship

By David B. Pittman –

It’s not uncommon for automakers and dealerships to boast of environmentally friendly vehicles featuring reduced emissions and increased fuel efficiency. Yet it is rare to turn the focus on the dealership itself, setting higher, more all-encompassing standards of “green” environmental policies and community stewardship.

That company is Chapman Automotive Group Tucson, which has undertaken efforts that have:

• Reduced the company’s overall water and energy consumption
• Slashed its bottled water purchases by 60 percent over the last three years
• Increased recycling efforts by placing large, attractive recycling boxes in all of its showrooms and beneath the desks of everyone in its sales force
• Curtailed paper usage by printing on both sides of pages when possible, greater usage of email and computer storage, and reductions in the multiple copying of contracts
• Planted hundreds of trees on behalf of customers in partnership with Tucson Clean & Beautiful
• Assisted and donated to various other nonprofits including Habitat for Humanity, the Humane Society of Southern Arizona and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

None of this could have been accomplished without the work of the Green Team, a volunteer group of Chapman employees from all five of its Tucson dealerships that continues looking for ways to make the company’s policies and practices greener and more sustainable both internally and in the community.

“I like to say that Chapman Automotive is the ‘Holy Green,’ instead of the ‘Holy Grail,’ of corporate environmental stewardship,” said Gina Murphy-Darling, aka Mrs. Green, the creator and voice of Mrs. Green’s World Radio Network.

Murphy-Darling said that while Chapman encouraged the formation of its Green Team, “the positive things that are being done are not because of a corporate mandate, but are staff-initiated efforts. The Green Team has taken on a life of its own. Credit goes both to Chapman’s leadership and the employees.”

Neb Yonas, GM of Chapman Automotive Group Tucson, always believed it was important that the company’s environmental initiatives be guided in a grass-roots effort by employees.

“This is purely voluntary,” he said. “I haven’t sent a memo out saying ‘from now on nobody drinks from plastic water bottles.’ This comes from our employees making suggestions and exploring ways to be more environmentally friendly, while still providing the comfort our customers are used to and expect.

“From management’s perspective, we have so many things we must keep on top of and to put this on department managers to enforce is not a task that is needed. It has a more lasting effect if there is buy-in from everyone from the ground up. The Green Team is something that is not only surviving on its own, but it is growing and it doesn’t have to be monitored.”
Initially there were seven members of the Green Team. That number now fluctuates between 12 and 16 members.

“Green Team members come from all five of our dealerships and serve in different capacities, such as receptionists, sales people and parts guys,” Yonas said.

“These people are very dedicated and they are good communicators. They go to the meetings and then speak to their peers and let them know what is going on. They are friendly people that know everyone at their stores. They do a good job.”

Chapman Automotive is among Murphy-Darling’s sponsors and in return she serves as a consultant to Chapman on how to save money through the utilization of eco-friendly policies. She has worked with the Green Team, helping to bring in speakers from community organizations, including the Community Food Bank, Local First, RISE Equipment Recycling, Tucson Clean & Beautiful and Habitat for Humanity.

“The auto industry is much greener than it used to be in terms of reduced emissions and fuel efficiency – but with Gina we’ve taken it a little bit further,” said Yonas. “Green means more than just small carbon footprints. It also means doing some community work and helping make our community more sustainable.”

One of Chapman’s most successful community efforts has been its Trees for Tucson partnership with Tucson Clean & Beautiful. At three Chapman dealerships – Honda, Acura and Volkswagen – auto buyers are offered the choice of a gift bag or a tree that can be planted on their property, a public park or other public site.

“This program is very popular with our customers,” said Yonas. “Planting the trees is more costly than providing goodie bags, but it has a lasting value that results in people remembering Chapman. We are going to expand this program to our other dealerships soon.”

B.J. Cordova, director of communications for Tucson Clean & Beautiful, said the program has resulted in hundreds of trees being planted throughout Tucson.

“We have a very positive relationship with Chapman Automotive and we are extremely happy to work with them,” Cordova said. “Chapman’s participation has had a significant effect in the last year and we’ve continued to see the number of trees being planted increasing.”

Fifty-five Chapman employees and some of their family members recently took part in a Green Team Build Day with Habitat for Humanity Tucson. In addition, Chapman provided a $5,000 donation to Habitat.

“We are so grateful to have Chapman Automotive as a partner and a resource,” said T. VanHook, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Tucson.

Chapman also has hosted five Pick a Pooch days for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. Chapman opened various showrooms on Saturdays for members of the community to come in and adopt pets. A spokesperson for the Humane Society said Chapman’s efforts resulted in finding homes for about 40 pets, with Chapman not only providing the space for adoption events, but paying the adoption fees, as well.

Chapman’s latest effort was partnering with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for its Light the Night event. In less than two months members of the Green Team raised more than $8,000 for the cause. That, combined with a Chapman corporate donation, resulted in a contribution of $15,000 to the nonprofit. Chapman was recognized at the event as Outstanding Corporate Sponsor.

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