July 19, 2010 @ 4:54 am

By Jeanne Roberts

So you’ve decided to go “green” right down to your choice of an auto repair specialist. How do you know if the mechanic or garage you have chosen is as “green” as you would like?

The Green Business Program has some questions you can ask to confirm your car repair firm’s environmental practices, for example:

1. Do they measure and record their water and energy use, have water recycling plans in place and use energy efficiency measures (like LEDs in place of fluorescent tube lights)?
2. Do they use a water-based or microbial auto parts washer rather than the typical solvent-based washer?

3. Do they order oil and other auto fluids in bulk, rather than in individual pints, quarts, etc?

4. Do they use hand-operated spray bottles in place of aerosol cans?

There are other environmental measures auto repair shops can take as well, like container recycling and the use of pet- and kid-safe propylene glycol-based antifreeze instead of the older and highly toxic ethylene glycol. By and large, most reputable auto repair firms and individuals are aware of their environmental impact and work hard to minimize it.

For example, many repair shops use rebuilt parts not merely because they are lower in cost, but because recycling them eliminates the need for more (and increasingly scarce) natural resources like steel and rubber. Keeping these parts in circulation also helps extend the lifetimes of the nation’s almost 3,100 operating landfills, and rebuilt parts come with a warranty that, penny for penny, meets or exceeds that provided by new equipment.

A prime example of the auto repair industry’s environmental consciousness is Bumper Doc, which repairs and rebuilds plastic bumpers at a surprisingly reasonable cost (compared to new, or OEM, bumpers).

In addition, BumperDoc uses paintless repair techniques, and – when painting is unavoidable – uses a water-based paint system developed by Sherwin Williams. (You might not know this, but unused oil-based paints are one of the major sources of contamination in groundwater supplies.)

Nor is BumperDoc the only one greening its image. Cardoorglass.com uses recycled materials to protect glass during shipment and Maplewood Transmission , a Minnesota-based shop, has a parts recycling program that is the key to its advertising campaign, “Think green and save money”.

Jeanne Roberts is a freelance writer on environment and sustainability issues. Her most recent book, Green Your Home: The Complete Guide to Making Your New or Existing Home Environmentally Healthy approaches environmentalism from a consumer’s perspective. You can follow Jeanne on Twitter and find her on Facebook.

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