Clean green machines: Don't forget the car!
You take short showers, buy local produce, maybe even have a rain barrel or two. Have you looked in the driveway yet? Unless you're a particularly enthusiastic greenie who's eschewed personal automotive travel altogether, chances are you've got at least one car parked out there. Getting it clean used to mean wasting gallons of water– either from your own spigot or a professional car wash spray. Not anymore, thanks to Virginia Ecological Detailing, a new mobile car cleaning business whose owner claims he can get even the filthiest car sparkling without water, electricity or any toxic chemicals– and he can do it anywhere, anytime.
"We use a 32-ounce bottle of solution and turn around and do the whole vehicle," says Robert Kirkpatrick, the 27-year-old entrepreneur who launched the company this year and has been scrubbing cars in downtown parking spots, driveways and anywhere else his customers might summon him– even in the middle of the night.
"Cab drivers call, sometimes at 2 or 3 in the morning," he says, "because someone got sick in the vehicle." Prices for a full detail range from $185 for a small car to the low-$200s for larger vehicles, and for an extra $15 he can be on site immediately even after hours– between 5:30pm and 7:30am.
Kirkpatrick is not the first auto detailer to shun water. Back in the drought of 2002, Express Car Wash on Seminole Trail battled the shutdown of carwashes by pioneering its own "dry wash" system, which used a solution of the chemical butyl glycol. It enabled that business to stay open, but Kirkpatrick says he wanted to take dry cleaning a step further– in the green direction.
The key to that, says Kirkpatrick, is the use of the right tools– various brushes take the place of vacuums– and the use of green cleaning products, which are soy-, coconut- and lemon-based.
What's good for cars is also good for humans, he says.
"A lot of detailing company employees have to wear gloves," he notes. "When using ecologically friendly products, you don't have to worry about it getting on your skin, irritation, that sort of thing."
An entrepreneur since his childhood spent in various foster homes around the state, when he mowed lawns to earn spending money, Kirkpatrick says he's not only determined to help the environment– he's aiming to help the local economy by providing jobs to those who need them most. In addition to advertising for staff, he's looked to the downtown homeless day shelter, the Haven, for new hires, and says his staff of seven is now ready to tackle jobs large and small.
"I look for people who are desperate, who want a job, and are willing to do hard work," he says.
In addition to detailing, Kirkpatrick says he's recently added paint-free dent removal to his list of offerings, and will soon offer eco-friendly auto-repair as well. He attributes his ambition to the hardships he faced early in life.
"Foster care, teaches you not to rely on anyone else," he says, "to keep on dreaming, to try to be better in life."
For Kirkpatrick, it seems, the American dream really is green.