By Worldchanging Canada blogger Sonia Mendes.
In addition to being Earth Day, April 23, 2007 also fittingly marked the official launch of Ark Eco Delivery Service in Ottawa, Canada’s first eco-friendly delivery company.
In a fiercely competitive business world where the definition of “success” is rapid growth and profits, Ark Eco takes a boldly oppositional stance.
“I think sustainability is the real key to success,” says Juan Gomez, co-owner of Ark Eco Delivery Services along with his brother, Luis Gomez, and brothers Don and Jeffery Abboud.
Drawing on their past collective experience in the transportation business, the two sets of brothers came to realize that the industry was not operating in a sustainable fashion. As they began to question how large delivery companies conducted business, they saw a number of glaring inefficiencies.
“I noticed that these delivery companies would pull up and open the door to their huge truck, and there would only be two or three small packages inside,” says Gomez. “It didn’t make any sense to me.”
Inspired by the David Suzuki Foundation and the concept of natural capitalism, the four co-owners decided it would be responsible to invest money in biodiesel vehicles. Ark Eco is currently equipped with three such vehicles, each of which boasts a fuel-efficient Mercedes Benz engine. When a delivery is requested, they send the vehicle that is most appropriate for the job in terms of minimizing wasted space and fuel.
While the company’s business model was originally based largely on home deliveries, such as bringing furniture from a large retailer to the consumer, Gomez says they were inundated with inquiries for courier services. This prompted the development of the “Go for Green” courier service and an investment in a SmartCar, which Gomez estimates runs 75 miles to the gallon.
While maintaining competitive rates, Ark Eco is also aiming to improve upon other inefficiencies in the delivery industry.
“We were just completely blown away that many delivery companies didn’t use GPS technology,” says Gomez. “All of our vehicles use GPS and we’re in constant communication with our vehicles, to ensure our drivers use the most fuel-efficient routes.
Another popular component to the company’s business model is its Eco Points program. By using Ark Eco’s services, customers accumulate points which can be donated to plant trees through Tree Canada.
The initial reception to their service offerings in Ottawa has been very strong, but Gomez admits there is much work left to be done.
“A lot of people are very enthusiastic yet they don’t fully grasp the concept of sustainability,” he says. “There is a lot of educating that we need to do along the way.”
While he acknowledges many people feel frustrated that they can’t singly make a difference, Gomez remains optimistic that his business model and lifestyle can truly have an impact.
“If anyone makes one little change, others along the way will notice and gradually it becomes a movement.”
Ark Eco has already made it on to the radar of environmental organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation. After David Suzuki concluded his cross-country tour during which Canadians were polled on their environmental priorities and concerns, the David Suzuki Foundation called Ark Eco and hired them for a very special delivery. Gomez was ecstatic to deliver the resulting report, titled “A Country Too Cool to Lose,” to the Prime Minister via SmartCar.
Ark Eco is also working to align its business model with major political mandates, such as “Project Green” launched by the federal government in April. Gomez is now studying biomimicry, an approach in which innovation is inspired by nature. While concepts such as using waste as a resource are still new, he is forging ahead and hopes to join forces with other organizations to conduct trials.
“It’s not all about money to me,” explains Gomez. “I want to be able to look back and say that I really tried and that I really participated (in the environmental movement).”
Front image and inside images: Sonia Mendes