A Toyota Motor Corp. Australia Ltd. dealership in the state of Victoria becomes the first in the country to garner a 5-star environmental rating from the auto maker.

Patterson Cheney Toyota in Dandenong achieved the rating by adopting innovative ways to reduce its environmental footprint, Toyota says.

Launched in May, the benchmarking program, known as Toyota Environmental Dealership, integrates green thinking and sustainable business practices into the daily operations of Toyota dealerships.

TED allocates points for action on seven environmental areas, including recycling and waste management; energy and water use; environmentally preferred purchasing; and social contribution. Dealerships can be awarded a 3-, 4- or 5-star rating.

Toyota Australia President and CEO Max Yasuda says overseas research shows a higher percentage of new- and used-vehicle shoppers would prefer to buy their vehicle from an environmentally responsible dealer.

"Dealerships recognize the advantages and opportunities in showing leadership to address environmental issues,” Yasuda says in a statement.

“Many Toyota dealers have already made progress in some areas of environmental management, and TED provides them with a practical roadmap to achieve further gains.”

Patterson Cheney Principal Colin Uden says the program opened his eyes to the countless ways small businesses can bring about positive change.

“Energy-efficient cooling and lighting and water-saving technology use to be reserved for the most environmentally conscious, but now it is widely available to the community and business sector,” he says. “Many of the changes we've made are so simple that I don't know why we didn't adopt them sooner.”

To achieve a 5-star TED rating, Patterson Cheney Toyota formed an environment committee and adopted a number of proactive actions

These include replacing energy-hungry lighting; using recycled pizza boxes for employee clock-on cards; installing blinds and canopy screens to maximize shade in summer and natural light in winter; washing cars in water from rain tanks; and teaching customers eco-driving techniques.

These efforts achieved a 15% reduction in energy use and a savings of up to 18,500 gallons (70,030 L) of water a month over the last 12 months.

“The business case for making your dealership or business environmentally friendly is financially attractive,” Uden says. “We spend a huge amount of money on energy to run the dealership. If we can reduce our costs and lessen our impact on the environment, why wouldn't we do that?”