Management: Running a 'Green' Automotive Repair Shop

Management: Running a ‘Green’ Automotive Repair Shop

In the immortal words of Kermit T. Frog, "It ain't easy being green!" Well, it turns out, that may or may not be completely accurate, at least when it comes to running a green automotive repair shop. With the current economy, as well as lots of new legislation, not to mention incentives from state and local governments, it is getting easier all the time to run a green shop.

In the immortal words of Kermit T. Frog, “It ain’t easy being green!” Well, it turns out, that may or may not be completely accurate, at least when it comes to running a green automotive repair shop. With the current economy, as well as lots of new legislation, not to mention incentives from state and local governments, it is getting easier all the time to run a green shop.

Before you all start groaning about “dang tree huggers,” let’s look at the facts surrounding “going green.” First off, generally what we are talking about here is implementing processes, equipment, products and procedures that minimize, reduce or eliminate harmful effects on the environment. This can include air quality, water quality and soil contamination.

Now, regardless of your political or philosophical views regarding the environment, there are some other green reasons to consider this viewpoint, and they all have pictures of dead presidents on them. That’s right, running a green shop can save you, the shop owner, money. Now you’re interested right? OK! Let’s look at a few things that can make a difference in your personal bottom line.

Scrap Metal
I don’t have to tell you this, but you generate a lot of scrap metal as a shop owner. Old exhaust parts, body panels, brackets — there are lots of items that are scrap metal that are valuable.

Do you have a recycling solution in place? Aluminum, steel and copper are the three most valuable scrap metals you should be collecting and selling to the scrap yard. This is a great first step in reducing the amount of metal that ends up in the land fills.

Waste Oil
Do you live in a climate where it gets cold in the winter? Are you throwing away hundreds of gallons of oil every year that could be used to heat your shop in the winter? There are heaters designed to heat single bays all the way up to an entire garage. Generally, these heaters have an ROI or return on investment that can pay for themselves in as little as two seasons of use. So, the next time that oil dealer starts to back up and take the waste oil, ask yourself, “Is there a better solution?”

You spend a lot of money every month on the electric bill to light your shop. Are the light bulbs and fixtures you are using “green”? Not the color, but the efficiency is what I am talking about. There are some amazing new products on the market today that are high efficiency, longer lasting and draw a lot less energy than conventional incandescent or even fluorescent lighting. LED lighting is just one example of new lights that are available for shop use.

Aerosol Cans
This is a little gold mine you might not even think about. Properly disposing of aerosol cans can be time consuming and expensive to do correctly. There are now tools available to help you properly drain the can by puncturing it. This allows you to capture the solvents in a receptacle and then you can add this metal to your recycle program! Over time you will be amazed at how many cans you use in a single year.

Solvents/Parts Washers
This is an area that you can make a big difference in both for the environment and your wallet. Petroleum-based solvents are caustic, odorous and can be dangerous due to fire concerns. As a shop owner, for many years your only choice to dispose of parts cleaner legally was to pay a waste hauler to take the fluid.

Today, you have several other choices. The first is aqueous-based parts solvent. Water-based cleaning solvents have been proven to be extremely effective when used properly. Some of these fluids need to be heated to work well, while others can be used at ambient temperatures, but may take longer than conventional fluids to work. The benefits are: safer work environment for the technician, less caustic fluids making their way to ground water and reduced cost of operation based on less expensive solvents. This is a great option to consider.

So it turns out that not all bugs are bad. Really! Consider Bioremediation.

The definition of this is any process that uses microorganisms or their enzymes to return the environment altered by contaminants to its original condition. In this situation, the “environment” is actually the fluid in the tank of the parts washer. This special heated fluid is basically an incubator for microorganisms to live. When the technician puts dirty parts in the fluid, the microorganisms begin to destroy the grease and contaminants via their enzymes. They “eat” the grease. How cool is that? Again, this prevents solvents from entering the water table and can reduce operating costs for the shop owner.

These are just a few ways in which shop owners can make their shops more green, and make themselves some green in the process. 

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