Earth Day: How Franchises Prioritize Eco-friendly Practices
Conserva Irrigation is the only national outdoor irrigation company founded on the concept of water conservation, reducing water use from irrigation by up to 60 percent.
Despite devastating economic impacts, the lockdowns from COVID-19 have resulted in decreased air pollution all around the world, giving residents of even highly polluted cities cleaner air. A NASA satellite saw a drop in air pollution over the Northeast U.S. as many companies have shut down and as people have reduced travel. Meanwhile, a few environmentally focused franchises are reflecting on their best practices on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
“You got people that look at things as half empty or half full. I’ve always looked at it a third way—there’s critical, vital water inside of that cup, no matter how you look at it,” said Russ Jundt, founder of Conserva Irrigation, the only national outdoor irrigation company founded on the concept of water conservation.
Growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota—the land of 10,000 lakes—Jundt joined the irrigation industry in the early 2000s and quickly became disheartened at the level of water waste. About 1.5 billion gallons of water are wasted daily on irrigation alone.
“Fresh, beautiful water is just being spewed out onto lawns, streets, sidewalks and parking lots, with no thought behind it at all,” Jundt said. “It was sickening. I couldn’t stand it.”
So Jundt walked away. He invested in a Mosquito Squad franchise with his business partner and quickly fell in love with the franchising model. After looking into buying an irrigation franchise and failing to find one, they launched Conserva Irrigation in December 2010. Within the first 60-90 days, they had more than 300 clients. They began franchising in 2017, and the brand has grown to more than 90 territories in the U.S.
“Water is important to people,” Jundt said. “So is great service and having a pristine green and lush landscape. But doing so by using the right amount of water is important.”
Conserva Irrigation’s technology can reduce water use from irrigation by up to 60 percent, not only saving water but also money for homeowners and businesses. In a pilot with Target, Conserva helped the retailer save 250 million gallons of water in just three seasons. Jundt hopes to have 400 locations by 2025 and be the largest irrigation company.
“We want to create more financially independent franchise owners and do it in a way that is promoting, protecting and preserving Earth’s beautiful fresh water,” Jundt said. “That’s a healthy one-two punch: make great money, do it in the right way.”
“Care cleaners, not dry cleaners”
Salomón Mishaan, founder of Oxxo Care Cleaners, says the traditional industrial presses used in dry cleaning shops actually ruin clothes and the chemicals used are harmful to the Earth due to their resistance to degradation. In 2000, Mishaan created the Oxxo concept and was the first in the U.S. to venture into environmentally safe dry cleaning.
“I tend to say it’s the hippie in me,” said Mishaan when asked why sustainability and eco-friendly practices matter to him and Oxxo. “The environment has always been an issue that’s important to me. I’m South American, I’ve worked and owned industries and tried to work with the most environmentally friendly functions I can.”
Oxxo uses a GreenEarth solvent that if spilled, turns into sand. They also use biodegradable bags, soaps and detergents. The brand offers traditional hand-ironing, targeting a higher-end customer who will pay an average of $7 or $8 per item for dry cleaning, and $3 to $4.75 each for shirt laundry.
“In the long run, it’s the best thing for the Earth, and people do appreciate it,” Mishaan said. “Lots of people have moved to Oxxo because they care and they’re green, but we have to have people understand, why are they green? Organic isn’t really green, it’s petroleum-based, whereas we are sand- and silicon-based.”
Typical dry cleaners use a chemical called perchloroethylene, also known as PCE or perc, that Mishaan said has been used to degrease engines. According to the U.S. National Toxicology Program, perc is a suspected human carcinogen and can impact air quality. If poorly managed, run-off into lakes, storm-water drains, streams and groundwater can also impact drinking water. There are no federal regulations that limit the use of perc in commercial dry cleaning, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reassessing the chemical's health impacts.
Oxxo also offers a 24-hour garment drop-off unit, where customers can slip their bag of clothes in a machine slot. Once their clothes are cleaned and sterilized, they can return, pay for their order by credit card on the Oxxo app, then grab their garments from the automated dispenser.
“Our concept is based on caring. That’s why we’re called a care cleaner, not a dry cleaner,” Mishaan said. “For the last 10-20 years as new products have come into the market, we’re the only company that is not using either a formaldehyde- or oil-based product. It’s something I looked into very deeply when I started the company, to make sure the product I’m using isn’t helping on one end and hurting on the other.”