Small Business Magazine recently profiled five entrepreneurs who are running successful green businesses

Part 5: Gregory Kasparian - The water saver

In the cavernous cleaning area of Turco-Persian Rug Co., carpets snake their way through shaking, scrubbing and rinsing machines, while workers attack stains by hand. When this place is in full swing, Turco-Persian can clean up to 200 carpets a week - and wash away more than 11,350 litres of hot water each day, about the same as taking a 14-hour shower. And that's an improvement: Until owner Gregory Kasparian installed automatic shut-offs that close the taps when there's no rug on the line, Turco-Persian used twice the water it does now.

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Green Your Business Parts 1 - 5

It's hard to believe Kasparian - who took over the century-old business from his father - when he insists financial concerns trump environmental ones. He was thinking about saving energy long before it was fashionable. In the 1960s, an architect who was helping to expand the facilities told him not to bother insulating the building. Natural gas was so cheap, he said, that he'd never make back the cost of insulation. Kasparian did it anyway. "It's amazing how things change, isn't it?" he says.

And last year, the 69-year-old traded in his gas guzzler for a hybrid Toyota Camry. Then he signed up with Bullfrog Power, the first 100% green electricity retailer in Ontario. Bullfrog's energy mix comes entirely from wind and low-impact power sources, but it doesn't come cheap. At 9.1 cents per kilowatt-hour, it costs 30% more than conventional hydro. Kasparian estimates his company's energy bills have gone up by an average of $450 a month, on top of already huge costs of $1,300.

In the cleaning room sits a new hot-water heating system designed by QuikWater, based in Oklahoma. The system, which cost $35,000, forces water through a series of stainless-steel packing rings that are warmed by a gas burner. The process is 99% efficient--almost no heat is lost in exhaust, and no huge hot-water tank sits in the corner constantly sucking energy. All the fluorescent lights have been equipped with electronic regulators that mean the fixtures consume one-third less electricity. Even the soap Turco-Persian uses, made locally by Sohan Chemicals, is free of harsh detergents.

Upstairs in the drying room, where a couple hundred Persian rugs hang like the flags of fallen empires, the sauna-like air was once vented directly outside. Now, that air is stripped of moisture and recirculated, and incoming air is prewarmed through a heat-exchange system. The upgrade cost Turco-Persian more than $48,000 two years ago. But the company that installed it told Kasparian he'd save $20,000 a year on his gas bills. So far, they're right on target.

Despite Kasparian's efforts, he doesn't tout Turco-Persian as a green company. In fact, he seems keenly aware that it still has a large environmental footprint. Hot water is still a concern, so next on his list of planned improvements are solar panels that will preheat water coming into the building, before it gets to the hot-water tank. He's in the initial stages of calculating whether the savings will justify the cost. But Kasparian will likely go ahead regardless--consider it an investment in future generations. "If we can do it," he says, "anyone can."

Pipe Dreams

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As much as 90% of hot-water energy literally goes down the drain. RenewAbility Energy's Power-Pipe-basically just a section of copper pipe about 150 centimetres long-recycles up to 60% of the heat lost in waste water and can save businesses 40% on their energy bills. As water goes through the Power-Pipe, it clings to a thin film and transfers its heat to cold water circulating on the outside of the drain pipe. The Waterloo company says its system has no moving parts, so it won't break or wear out.