Eco-friendly automotive repair shops
To be a sustainable automotive body and repair shop, you need to follow a thorough sustainability guide. By automotive body and repair shop, we are referring to facilities including service stations, vehicle fleet maintenance facilities, auto dealerships, and car washes.
A sustainable car repair shop cares not only about vehicle repair and maintenance needs, but also about the environment, social, and economic impacts of business operations. Green businesses strive to build long-term relationships while appeasing customers by helping them choose greener products. For instance, a sustainable repair shop can provide advice on better ways to conserve the road, improve catalytic converter or fuel injection systems, or lighten the load on a vehicle.
The ability to advertise as an environmentally friendly shop is a growing trend that can help set you apart from the competition. Taking additional measures to protect the environment and save resources can give benefits such as (as detailed by Bodyshop Business):
- Reduced operation, insurance, and waste costs,
- Increased property value,
- Easier employee recruitment,
- Reduced liability risk,
- Tax credits and other potential government incentives,
- Employee health and productivity benefits.
What is driving the change to create sustainable auto repair shops?
Auto body and repair shops emit a plethora of contaminants, such as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), particle pollution (dust), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These contaminants can contribute to health problems impacting shop employees, customers, and the local community.
Plus, like any organization, automotive body and repair shops need to take responsibility for their carbon footprint. US proposals require companies to disclose their climate-related risks and greenhouse gas emissions, which come as part of the push by President Joe Biden to address the global climate crisis.
Sustainability is also important along the supply chain. As natural resources become increasingly scarce, sustainable value chains are crucial for the automotive industry. Hence, creating transparency along the supply chain is critical for driving sustainable change.
These challenges represent just a handful of the environmental challenges the automotive industry faces, and are the driving force behind sustainable business development. Keeping these challenges in mind, the Green Business Bureau‘s 20 tip guide will help purpose-driven leaders such as yourself develop a robust sustainability program for your automotive body and repair shop.
20 tips for creating a sustainable auto repair shop
The following tips serve as a guide for the auto repair shop industry to become more sustainable in the following areas: Operations, customer engagement, energy reduction, smart purchasing, and waste disposal.
- Tip #1 – Establish effective energy-efficient practices: Energy-efficient practices can help you save money, increase the resilience and reliability of the electric grid, and provide environmental, community, and health benefits. Creating a workplace culture that emphasizes and takes pride in efficiency is a vital component of any energy conservation plan.
- Tip #2 – Keep a dry shop: During standard repair and maintenance, vehicle fluids may drip, spill, or otherwise enter floor drains and sinks in service areas. A dry shop management approach can minimize the wastewater produced by a shop through different strategies, including sealing the floor drains and using safety cans, drip pans, trays, and funnel drum covers when transferring fluids.
- Tip #3 – Use recycled water: A car wash that can wash up to 400 cars per day uses 48,000 gallons of water daily, which equates to more than 17 million gallons a year. If your facility has a carwash on site, using recycled water for these activities reduces the reliance on increasingly scarce and expensive surface water. It can also minimize groundwater overdrafts and reduce discharges of treated wastewater into rivers and oceans.
- Tip #4 – Use technology to increase visibility and transparency of the supply chain: On average, a car is made up of a staggering 30,000 parts. Process documentation will make it easier to track individual components and products as they make their journey from the supplier, to the manufacturer and then to the consumer.
- Tip 5 – Switch to a completely digital system: This will reduce paper waste associated with processing customer information, work orders, inspections, internal communications, emails, and invoices. A digitalized auto repair shop allows for the automation of customer relationship management during repairs and visits.
- Tip #6 – Use noise-reducing equipment: Most auto body and repair shops use pneumatic tools powered by loud air compressors. Generally, an air compressor can make up to 90 decibels of noise. According to the CDC, any noise above 70 decibels can damage hearing. To control workplace noise, choose quieter machines/equipment and adopt good industry practices to reduce workplace noise. This will positively impact the overall health and well-being of employees.
- Tip #7: Train your employees and yourself: This management strategy involves implementing a series of practices to generate less waste through practical employee training. Employees should be educated about the benefits of preventing pollution on the shop floor, know about Material Safety Data Sheets, be re-trained periodically to keep good practices in mind, and to be informed of new regulatory requirements.
- Tip #8 – Encourage customers to go green: Focus on customer education to build trust in your shop and deliver a better customer experience. This education should have a sustainability focus to help your customers make greener consumer decisions.
- Tip #9 – Start a green loyalty rewards program: Customer loyalty programs are long-term customer retention strategies. Data shows that customers spend 67% more when they are part of a sustained customer loyalty program. The longer the customers enjoy the loyalty programs, the more likely they stick to a particular brand and remain loyal. This can include customers earning points for partaking in green initiatives. For every certain amount of points earned, a discount or freebie can be included. You must support your customers who are making greener purchasing decisions.
Energy reduction tips
- Tip #10 – use solar power to meet electricity needs: Energy costs represent the third largest expense for auto repair shops, totaling more than $2 billion nationwide. Utility bills have long been an overlooked expenditure because of the limited alternatives to choose from. But solar power presents a unique, advantageous option to auto dealerships across the country.
- Tip #11 – Upgrade to retrofitted light fixtures: LED lights are not only energy efficient, but the fixtures are also customizable for brightness and direct light output. Brighter, more direct light effortlessly exposes warping, dents, and dings, which can streamline the insurance rebate process and eliminate the risk of a car being returned to a customer still damaged.
- Tip #12 – Install insulated garage doors: Bay doors open and close dozens of times a day as vehicles enter and exit, which increases heating and cooling loads. In some facilities, these doors are left open unnecessarily for long periods. Insulated doors are a more sustainable alternative, also providing security and energy-saving benefits.
Smart purchasing tips
- Tip #13 – Minimize packaging: Buying in bulk can save money, cut down on waste, save time, and ensure a steady supply of regular items.
- Tip #14 – Seal the shop floor with impervious material like an industrial acrylic floor system: A sealed shop floor is slip-resistant, can limit hazards, and reduce slips and falls in areas with high exposure to liquids and spills. The seamless surface of epoxy flooring is very easy to clean as it repels oil, grease, and water. Plus, it’s non-porous meaning that dust and dirt are easy to wipe away.
- Tip #15 – Choose suppliers that only provide environmentally friendly chemicals, cleaners, and products: Advancements in professional cleaning processes mean the use of environmentally sound chemical alternatives are making their way into the professional carwashing industry. Green cleaning is not only good for the environment, but it’s also beneficial to employees. Exposure to some traditional cleaning chemicals is detrimental to human health, leading to skin irritation, allergic reactions, and asthma.
- Tip #16 – Use bioplastics when available: An average car weighs 1,300 kg and the plastic content represents 12-15% of its mass. With this in mind, consider making the switch to bioplastics, which can provide comparable strength to metals for a fraction of the weight. Plus the material can be reused in other products once the vehicle becomes inoperable. And if these bioplastics are disposed of, they have a much lower carbon footprint than non-bioplastics or metals.
- Tip #17 – Switch to refillable bottles for cleaning supplies: Using refillable bottles can reduce operating costs by avoiding pricey aerosol cans and reducing solid and hazardous waste. There are two basic types of refillable spray bottles: metal, pressurized bottles that spray the product using compressed air, and plastic bottles that use a hand pump to spray the product. An additional benefit is that refillable spray bottles save space and reduce excess inventory.
- Tip #18 – Purchase aqueous cleaning parts: Aqueous cleaners are water-based solutions that are nonflammable and contain little to no VOCs. Instead of dissolving grease and solids, aqueous cleaners rely on heat, agitation, and soap action to break dirt into smaller particles. Although they clean differently, aqueous cleaners perform as well as solvents. Plus aqueous cleaning solutions can last longer than solvents. Further extending the life of an aqueous solution will save you money by reducing your chemical purchase and waste disposal costs.
- Tip #19 – Practice ethical disposal: Auto body and repair shops can discharge a variety of harmful emissions into the air, water, and land. These emissions can damage both the environment and people’s health through contamination by toxic materials. Air pollutants released by auto body workshops can include volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, and diisocyanates. Many of these wastes must be managed as hazardous, while others may require regulated waste management expertise to make that determination. Auto body shops should limit the release of VOCs, heavy metals, and diisocyanates with smart working practices.
- Tip #20 – Implement a comprehensive recycling system: Automotive repair facilities create waste materials including used motor oil, solvents, washer solutions, paints, antifreeze, used batteries, automotive fluids, and a host of others. These items should be regularly collected and recycled. Hard parts like engines, alternators, clutches, and transmissions can be sent back to the manufacturer (or a specialist) to be rebuilt or remanufactured. Go to the National Institute for Automotive Excellent Service for access to educational resources and assistance on various recycling programs.
Use the Green Business Bureau to develop a comprehensive sustainability plan
Our 20-tip checklist guide is designed to help you create a sustainable automotive body and repair shop. The initiatives given in this guide will develop a detailed foundation for your sustainability program, on which you can then build a more thorough green plan.
For a more detailed guide to sustainability, use the Green Business Bureau‘s EcoPlanner and EcoAssessment, which provide a plethora of green initiative ideas, ordered by cost and impact, allowing you to select the most relevant and effective green solutions for your business.
With GBB, once a green initiative has been successfully implemented, this is displayed on your personalized EcoProfile. You can use your EcoProfile to accurately communicate your green achievements to employees, investors, customers, and other stakeholders. GBB will work with you to help you implement sustainable practices for every area of your business. Plus, you can work towards gaining green certification, which will allow you to display GBB’s clickable Green Seal of approval on your website – to showcase your commitment to sustainability.
AUTHOR: Dot Bourgeois
Dot has a Bachelors of Science in Coastal Environmental Science from Louisiana State University and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Global Sustainability, with a concentration in Food Sustainability and Security with a Sustainable Business certificate at the University of South Florida. She is passionate about educating her friends, family, and the public about the environment and how easy sustainability can be. In her free time, she loves to spend time with her dog, cooking, and anything true crime!