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Choose an eco-friendly auto body or repair shop
By choosing an eco-friendly auto body or repair shop you can be assured that your car's spent unsavories and other toxic substances don't find their way into landfills or local waterways. In addition to following environmental regulations established for the auto repair industry, eco-friendly auto shops often observe other green business practices.
How to choose an eco-friendly auto body or repair shop
Examples of green do-goodery performed at auto repair shops include using biodegradable cleaners to tackle spills, keeping parking lots and service bays clean to prevent rain from carrying toxic waste into storm drains, recycling oil, and taking extra precautions to prevent storage receptacles from leaking hazardous materials. These are the characteristics to look for when seeking out a green auto repair or auto body shop.
Finding an earth-conscious body shop may consist of a few stops and starts, but with a little legwork, you should be able to find a service provider that will leave your prized vehicle and the earth in good working order.
- Check with green business associations. Contacting your local green business association is a solid start in seeking out an eco-friendly auto body or repair shop. Although your town, county, or state may not have an established green business association, they have sprung up in many areas in recent years. Auto body and repair businesses commonly have relationships with and have been certified by these associations given the amount of hazardous waste that they generate. Examples of green business associations include the Eco-Logical Automotive Services Program in always-progressive Oregon, the San Francisco Bay Area’s Green Business Program, and the Arizona Green Business Automotive Program.
- Call around if there isn’t a reliable resource like a green business program in your area. Ask potential auto body and repair shops about their methods of waste disposal and if they're involved in an oil recycling program. If you're considering having your car painted or touched up, ask if they use low- VOC paints. Your queries may result in an awkward moment of silence or a decidedly non-green response but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
One way to decrease the effects of your vehicle repair work is to lower the frequency of auto shop visits. Although this notion may not sit well with auto-philes, you should perhaps reconsider and adjust your driving habits. After all, it can be assumed that frequent use is the primarily reason your car needs a little TLC in the first place. For example, opting to join a car sharing program or choosing Pay As You Drive (PAYD) auto insurance are both methods of decreasing emissions, traffic congestion, and fossil fuel usage. It’s also estimated that a 10 percent drop in driving results in a 17 percent drop in motor vehicle crashes. Don’t want to spend money on—and harm the environment by remedying—the aesthetically unpleasing results of a fender bender? Drive less!
Choosing an eco-friendly auto body or repair shop helps you go green because...
- They take extra preventative measures to ensure that hazardous materials such as chemical solvents, motor oil, and antifreeze are properly used, stored, and disposed of; this decreases the risks of water, air, and landfill contamination.
- They adhere to environmental standards established by the auto repair industry and the government and are often certified by green business associations.
The improper disposal of motor oil, antifreeze, lead-acid batteries, and other components associated with routine automobile upkeep are a major contributor to pollution, while the domestic automotive repair industry—repairs performed in autos shops and at one's home—is the leading source of small-quantity hazardous waste.
In the case of motor oil, it's estimated that 180 million gallons of spent motor oil are disposed of in an unsafe manner each year. Groundwater contaminated by 1 quart of oil can affect up to 250,000 gallons of drinking water. When recycled, 2 gallons of motor oil can produce enough electricity to power a home for one day or watch TV for 180 hours straight.
Although more and more auto shops are becoming truly eco-friendly, the total number is small. A study conducted in 2001 by the Coordinating Committee for Automotive Repair (CCAR)-GreenLink estimated that less than 5 percent of auto repair shops completely followed US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-established environmental and safety regulations.
- volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Organic solvents that easily evaporate into the air. VOCs are emitted by thousands of products including paints, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials, and furnishings and they may cause immediate and long-term health problems.
- Bay Area Green Business Program - Becoming a Green Auto Repair Shop: Information on environmental standards required of auto shops by the Bay Area's Green Business Program
- Coordinating Committee For Automotive Repair (CCCAR)-GreenLink - Consolidated Screening Checklist For Automotive Repair Facilities Guidebook: Want to check out the federal environmental guidelines and regulations established by the EPA for auto shops? Peruse this checklist.
- Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center - Do-It-Yourself Automotive Repair Quiz