Businesses in the mobile economy (food trucks, service vendors, etc.) have recently been going to a more eco-friendly attitude. That encompasses many things such as preventing food waste, sourcing food locally, and using different types of energy sources, such as solar power, to reduce your carbon emissions and your overall footprint in the environment. There are a few reasons why it's important to become more eco friendly with a mobile business.
It’s a huge help to your community to obtain your resources locally. When you use local vendors, you’re supporting businesses in your own community. The resources you need don’t have to travel as far, so you are able to save on fuel usage and reduce your carbon footprint. Many food trucks do their best to buy their meats and produce from local farms. Additionally, if you can, find local sources for other materials you may need. Is there a local paper products vendor you can use? How about a local signage or truck wrap company? Local is better!
As you search out suppliers, do your best to find companies that produce more sustainable products. For example, if your company is a food truck and uses paper products, consider biodegradable products first. Very often these will be BETTER products than you currently use and will keep your food fresher longer. For example, one of the MOBLZ founders when working with a non-profit a couple of years ago decided to switch over to a biodegradable plant-based styrofoam replacement for the traditional styrofoam clamshell containers they had been using. With the traditional styrofoam, they always had problems in that the heat of their fried foods melted the container as the melting point was around 250 degrees. The plant-based product had a higher melting point (~350 degrees) and did not melt when foods like fried fish and hush puppies were placed in them. The newer product also caused less condensation to build up nearly eliminating the “soggy food” issue found with other types of containers. Due to continued usage by the non-profit, the local restaurant supply house started carrying the plant-based containers allowing them to be sourced locally. Win-win!
Investing in equipment upgrades to your mobile business can reap dividends down the road. One example is to invest in solar panels for your truck that can help power more passive items such as fans and exterior lights. Another idea is to invest in food carts instead of a full-size food truck. You can then pull the cart behind a conventional vehicle that’s been outfitted with a trailer hitch. There’s a company called Move Systems that makes a food cart called the MRV 101. This cart has a refrigerator, a grill, plenty of counter space, an eco-friendly hand washing sink, deep fryer, prep area and much more. It’s estimated that a food cart produces 60% less carbon emissions than a conventional food truck. This concept can lead to lower start-up and operational carts. Additionally, it can lead to higher profits. One food truck in the Raleigh-Durham market has created five carts allowing them to service multiple areas at the same time. Also, the carts are more cost-effective for them to take to smaller events meaning they could service places they might not previously considered.
It can take a large investment to create a mobile business truck. If you are thinking about starting a mobile business, one key suggestion is to talk to others in the industry to see what works and what doesn’t work for a particular design. One thing our staff has found is that business owners LOVE to talk about their business and their equipment. If you visit a food truck event and enjoyed the food, talk to the operators. They would very likely be happy to show you around the truck. Just be courteous and don’t attempt to do this while there are 20 people in line to order!
Other Eco-Friendly Options
One company that we’ve referenced frequently over the years is Spiffy On-Demand Car Care. They’ve actually done a great job of making their entire process eco-friendly. Spiffy does mobile car detailing and provides mobile oil changes. They use biodegradable soaps, reclaim all of the water that is used for the car wash, and they never allow a drop of oil to touch the ground. They use a vacuum system to remove the oil from the engine before refilling it. They also recycle all of the oil from the oil changes. Each month they recycle about 50,000 gallons of oil. All of that, and they go TO the customer!
If you are in the food truck space, you could make some changes to your menu to include some plant-based or vegan options. We’re not suggesting that you should go full vegan, but adding vegan offerings does two things for you - it expands your customer base and it allows you to offer more environmentally friendly menu options. An example that might serve two markets is Barvecue. Yes, we spelled that correctly! Barvecue is a plant-based meat alternative company that is based in North Carolina. It can provide a delicious choice for vegans.
Regardless of what type of mobile business you operate, there are efficiencies and upgrades that can be made to take better care of our environment and to also help grow your business. Take advantage of what you can use to grow. For even more details about these and similar topics, check out the lastest installment of The Mobile Economy Podcast.