Green auto repair

Green “before it was cool”

Art’s Automotive has always done our best to be an environmentally friendly auto repair shop. We applied for an EPA number before an EPA number was required. In fact were the 100th business in California to receive an EPA number. Our EPA number is 100! In case you’re wondering what the number is for, it’s for tracking waste back to the responsible party. We volunteered for that 36 years ago, before we had to. Nothing will make you consider exactly what your contractor is going to do with your waste than linking the waste to your business before sending it down the line.

Our commitment to become a green auto repair shop didn’t stop with our early adoption of an EPA number. We switched to low VOC aqueous solvents before it eventually became required. For a while we were Berkeley’s only alkaline battery recycling collection center due to our good intentions and poor research. We’ve developed internal policies for dealing with small spills with minimal generation of hazardous waste. We built our own equipment for draining and collecting the last few drops of lubricant left in bottles so we can recycle the bottles and reuse the lubricant for non-automotive applications. And we get a good deal of our power from a photovoltaic system we has installed in 2003.

Hippy’er than thou

This photo was not staged. I noticed that this in the employee break room one day. There was a stack of new paper cups that we use for customer coffee, but at least one employee here takes reuse seriously, opting to wash his cup rather than use a new one. Probably Brad. He’ll call the police if you put a soiled napkin in the garbage instead of the green waste.

Obviously I’m just kidding here. Small gestures are cool, but systems and policies are far more important. As Kenny Roberts, three time 500cc motorcycle world champion is reported to have said, “Go fast in the fast parts”, which in my mind means this: focus your efforts where they’ll make the most difference. Don’t spend too much time shaving a tenth of a second off a slow corner, instead work on shaving a couple seconds off a sweeping turn.

We’ll hold off on upholstering bamboo chairs with alpaca fur for our waiting room in favor of buying motion sensor light switches that turn off when nobody’s in the room.

A disposable paper coffee cup sitting in a dish draining rack

Bay Area Green Business Program

Art’s Automotive has been evaluated and approved by the  Bay Area Green Business program. The Bay Area Green Business Program is not a just “green washing” agency. Becoming a Green Business requires a commitment to conserve resources, prevent pollution, and reduce waste. The green business program has been a huge help to us in becoming a green auto repair shop.

The Bay Area Green Business logo. Blue, green, and white
Continued improvement is the goal

However, a simple pledge is not all that’s required. In order to become a green business, you must have several agencies inspect your operation and verify compliance environmental regulations (of course!). They also check to see if the best environmental practices are in place. Here’s the best part: the inspectors will also suggest ways to improve, and there’s always room for improvement no matter how green you are. An environmentally friendly auto repair shop is a shop that’s always improving.

This inspection process is repeated yearly, which ensures continued vigilance and progress. The Bay Area Green Business program is entirely voluntary. The choice to allow outside inspections, and install more efficient lights, printers, toilets, faucets, is your own. Based on our experience, many of the upgrades will pay for themselves with reduced energy, water, and paper cost.  If you’re interested in becoming a green business, you’ll find the program website here. We’ve listed the basic requirements from the Bay Area Green Business website below.


Verify compliance with existing regulations

To be a green business the first step is to make sure you’re in compliance with all regulations for your industry or business. Kind of obvious I suppose. Next, you’ll need to go beyond compliance and adopt greener practices. The Bay Area Green Business Program can help with this. It’s not like they come in an tell you all the stuff you’re doing wrong. Well, I mean they do, but it’s not a closed book test with no opportunity to study. They whole point is to get businesses to be greener.

 

What do they look at?

How you use water

Things like water flow restrictors, water saving toilets, water leaks, etc. We actually had some issues with the water flow restrictors, because we need to fill bottles, tubs and the like. Time is money and waiting forever for a bucket to fill is annoying. Solution? Install a separate high flow tap for filling containers while installing restrictors on taps used for hand washing. That kept employees from removing the restrictors to fill and bucket, then forgetting to put it back on.

Solid Waste Reduction & Recycling

Experts evaluate what you’re throwing away. In Berkeley, things are separated out into several different containers for pickup.

  • Plastic, glass, and metal
  • Cardboard and paper
  • Green waste and food-soiled paper and cardboard
  • Plain old garbage

We also have a large amount of metal scrap. Far too much for Berkeley to collect in their tiny bins. For this we use a contractor who comes by to collect the metal and take it to a recycling facility.

In addition to recycling, the program advises on way to reduce waste. Printing less, using paper goods such as boxes and bags more than once before putting them in the recycling.

Finally, they suggest using products made with recycled content wherever possible.

Energy Conservation

We installed solar panels in 2003, and that certainly reduces our reliance on fossil fuels like natural gas for our electricity, but our solar system doesn’t supply enough for all of our electrical needs, so conservation is also important.

Currently we’re in the middle of a 100% LED conversion for our lighting. This one is a no-brainer. The LED light are SO much brighter and use so much less energy than the T8 bulbs we’re replacing. Not only that, the maintenance is much lower. T8 bulbs don’t last long, the the ballasts fail almost as fast as the bulbs. We’re not throwing working bulbs and fixtures out, but as they fail, we’re replacing them. And we’re moving the higher energy use fixtures into lower use locations for semi-retirement.

Finally, we look for stuff that just doesn’t need to be on or in standby.

Pollution Prevention

We’re a regulated industry and there are many rules about what to needs to be done in many cases. That said, regulators can’t imagine every scenario, nor are regulators necessarily familiar with the best practices in every single industry. Certainly they know the rules and goals, but not necessarily the best way to achieve them in every type of business. No disrespect intended. Really.

There are a lot of industries and a lot of processes and there’s always more than one way to work withing legal requirements. It’s kind of like the exercise where one person writes instructions on how to make an peanut butter and jelly sandwich and another makes it, following instructions literally, but not using any of their prior knowledge about the construction of a PB&J. If you’ve never done it, the bread usually ends up on the table jelly side down. Pollution prevention relies on good actors, both in industry and in regulation. We do the very best we can to reduce pollution and have written policies in our employee handbook which we discuss during our Friday meetings.

We only have one planet. Let’s all do our part. If you’d like to bring your car to an environmentally friendly auto repair shop in Berkeley, give us a try.