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LOS ANGELES -- BP's newest gas station has gone green -- environmentally that is. The station, dubbed "Helios House," features a metal canopy covered in triangles of uncoated, recyclable stainless steel. The rooftop holds 90 solar panels and a rainfall collection system that irrigates drought-tolerant plants nearby. Low energy lighting illuminates the cars which drive on the gas island, which is made of concrete mixed with bits of recycled glass, reported The Los Angeles Times.
Helios House -- derived from the oil company's sunburst logo -- opened Friday for motorists in the area, but only those that can use traditional hydro-carbon-based fuels. No alternative fuels such as biodiesel are available at the station, but may be installed later, the report stated. The station, made of earth-friendly farmed wood and reduced pollution paint, replaces a Thrifty station that was operated on the property.
"The whole site is really a lab," Ann Hand, senior vice president for global marketing and innovation at BP, told the paper. "Everything we have on this site is about reuse. My hope is that people will see that they can do little things ... to move up to a greener lifestyle."
Employees at the station will check tire pressure on cars and give advice that properly inflated tires boost gas mileage. In addition, they will distribute energy-saving tips printed on recycled paper embedded with flower seeds, which will sprout when the card is planted in the ground, the report stated. The fuel dispensers are equipped with screens that will show environmental videos to customers while they pump gas.
"This is just the starting point," Hand said. "Day one is not the final product." BP will encourage operators of its Arco and Thrifty branded stations to adopt some of the green practices showcased at Helios House, Hand said.
Construction on the gas station was hidden behind nylon shades covered with pictures of giant grass blades. Word about the station spread online after BP advertised on www.Craigslist.com, seeking "smart, ethical, conscientious team members to educate consumers about taking small steps in the right direction to help reduce their impact on the environment," the report stated.
Critics acknowledged the 'green' stance, but emphasized more should be done. "It's better than doing nothing. But it's not the kind of leadership that we ultimately need from big, big companies like BP," said Bernadette Del Chiaro, clean energy advocate for the Los Angeles-based Environment California. "I'm not extremely impressed."
"It's hard to critique it because it's more than other oil companies are doing, but it's really not getting us 'beyond petroleum,'" she continued. "It's kind of green-washing for a product that is extremely dirty."
"It's not a PR stunt," BP’s Hand said. "Even though we've had a series of unfortunate events, you've got to keep looking forward and innovate. We know it's a bit of a paradox, but we don't think that's an excuse to do nothing."
Helios House is scheduled to receive certification as the nation's 735th green building by the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington-based nonprofit group, council spokeswoman Taryn Holowka told the Times.
"This goes beyond adding a solar panel to the roof and putting in a low-flow toilet," Lockwood said. "If they're willing to take this first step, then I think we should be cautiously optimistic."