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  Special Feature

Going Green Makes Economic Sense
for New, Old Shops

Posted 6/10/2010
By Levy Joffrion

Any automotive repair shop – big or small - can go green.

World Wide Automotive Service in Bloomington, Ind., is recognized as both an automotive service and an environmental leader in Indiana. Its slogan: “Caring for the Car, the Customer and the Environment Since 1995.” The new facility opened in September 2009. A lot of research, planning and thought went into creating it. Don Seader says, “We wanted a light, airy, nice-to-work-in facility that at the same time incorporated everything possible to make it environmentally responsible.”

Bloomington residents got an opportunity to see it on Earth Day, April 17. World Wide was one of two businesses included on a citywide Green Building Tour. Visitors enjoyed lunch in the new building. Also in honor of Earth Day, World Wide Automotive purchased a Toyota Prius for shuttling customers – reducing, they estimate, their fuel cost for that service by more than 50 percent.

Can an existing shop "go green?" Oh, yeah! Can you build a new shop and incorporate "green" as part of it from the get-go? You better believe it!

Does going green make good business sense? Yes!

Following are examples of ASA-member shops that have gone green - one an existing shop, the other, brand-new. And both agree that going green pays.

The existing shop that decided to go green is Park Place Bodywerks in Dallas. It has done such a good job going green that it recently received AkzoNobel's FIT Sustainability Award 2010. AkzoNobel presented the award in recognition of Park Place Bodywerks' "efforts to identify and implement greener ways to work."

Existing Shop Goes Green

Eric McKenzie, center, director of Park Place Bodywerks, holds the FIT Sustainability Award 2010 presented to his firm by AkzoNobel. The award recognizes Park Place Bodywerks’ efforts to identify and implement greener ways to work. Left is A.B. Ghosh, general manager of AkzoNobel Car Refinishes Americas. On the right is Mike Shesterkin, sustainability officer for AkzoNobel Car Refinishes Americas.

The Dallas shop is proof that going green doesn't mean a company has to adopt fancy new products, revamp its computer systems or install high-tech stuff. Going green often means just tweaking what you're already doing.

It was just two years ago that Bodywerks, an 85,000-square-foot facility that repairs about 500 vehicles a month, decided to go green.

Ken Schnitzer, chairman of Park Place Dealerships, which owns Bodywerks, says going green was prompted by the realization that businesses and individuals throughout the nation are moving in this direction. Schnitzer says, "We decided to take a leadership position."

The company quickly formed a green team, of which Eric McKenzie, body shop director for Park Place Dealerships, is a member.

Becoming More Environmentally Friendly

McKenzie says the focus of the team is to search for any and all ways that Park Place can reduce, reuse and recycle to become a more environmentally friendly and responsible business.

"Since we began the team," says McKenzie, "we have kept 236,304 water bottles from landfills. We quit supplying bottled water for customers and employees, relying instead on filtered water systems."

Park Place Bodywerks also has:

    • Set up recycling bins.

    • Sent shredded documents to be recycled, thus saving, it estimates, more than 206 trees a year.

    • Recycled, in one year, 55,000 pounds of metal and 35 tons of cardboard, paper and aluminum.

    • Initiated a carpool and mass transit system program to reduce vehicle emissions.

    • Replaced all incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) where applicable.

    • Participated in a company-wide energy audit and made significant reductions in energy consumption as a result.

    • Worked with energy providers to see if it can successfully switch to an all-natural or mostly natural energy provider.

    • Made a commitment to build all new locations with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designations.

    • Converted to water-based paint. It did so because all automakers use water-based paints, and the systems are required in California and in some cities in Oregon and Washington. Park Place thinks Texas will ultimately require it. That's why it became one of the first luxury dealership body shops in the nation to switch from solvent-based paints to water-based paints - a less toxic, more environmentally friendly system.

Park Place Bodywerks is a huge Dallas body shop that is part of, and mainly does business with, Park Place Dealerships – which through its franchises sells luxury cars, including Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Porsche, Maserati, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Volvo. Park Place Bodywerks says it is the largest-volume body shop in the United States. It repairs about 500 vehicles a month.

McKenzie believes the water-based paints cause fewer health problems such as headaches among workers and will substantially reduce the amount of chemicals used in the paint process (although it uses water-based paints, the paints still get topped by conventional solvent-based clear coats).

In addition, Park Place Bodywerks has switched to propane-fueled leaf blowers, which have fewer emissions, and asked its landscape company to do the same. It also asked its cleaning company to switch to environmentally friendly cleaning products.

Park Place is making all these changes because it wants to be a good corporate citizen.

"The bottom line is even if we were not saving money - but we are - it's the right thing to do," says McKenzie.

Old Business, New Green Building

Two shop owners who totally agree with McKenzie and Schnitzer are Melinda and Donald "Don" Seader, AAM, of World Wide Auto Service in Bloomington, Ind.

Melinda and Donald Seader are the owners of World Wide Automotive Service. Their shop’s website – www.worldwideauto.net – in January of this year was named as one of AutoInc.’s Top 10 websites. Melinda spent several years running the county’s recycling and reuse centers while Don was an ASE master technician working at a local auto shop.

They opened World Wide Automotive Service in 1995 in a leased building. Then they combined Don’s expertise in automotive repair and Melinda’s experience in marketing and environmental management to build their “dream facility.” – photo by Chris Howell, courtesy of The Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.

They have employed green practices in their shop since it opened in 1995 in a leased building. Don's years as a master tech in California's strictly regulated facilities and Melinda's degree in environmental studies and time working at an environmental engineering firm had them well-versed in green business management. They incorporated many environmental practices in the leased facility. And building the new facility enabled them to incorporate even more green practices.

They've led the way among small businesses in their community since they first opened.

In 1997, their shop won the Governor's Award for Pollution Prevention. "We were the smallest business in the state of Indiana to ever win this award," says Don. In addition, they worked with the State of Indiana Department of Environmental Management to start the Indiana Five-Star Pollution Prevention Program for automotive shops.

The Seaders say Bloomington has a strong environmental ethic. "In fact," says Don, "many of our customers chose us based on our environmental practices."

With that in mind, they began construction on a new "green" facility after years of careful thought and planning for it. It opened this past September.

Photo Voltaic awnings provide solar energy that generates electricity for the building. Glass in doors and windows of building lets light in that helps warm the interior and saves a percentage of the energy cost.

"Our mission," says Don, "was to start with a blank slate and design a facility that could be a model for the aftermarket repair industry. The community was very excited about this project."

Don says, "We truly wanted our new facility to be an example of what small business is capable of doing in the environmental arena, particularly since auto-related businesses are often viewed as part of a dirty industry. In fact, our tag line is, 'If an auto shop can be green, any business can be green.' You can see step-by-step construction photos and read about our project - and all its green features - at www.worldwideautomotive.blogspot.com."

Green Features

Among the new facility's green features:

    • On-demand hot water.

    • The building was built with recycled and recyclable structural steel.

    • Dual flush toilets, which save water.

    • Touchless faucets.

    • Motion detector light switches in bathrooms.

    • High-efficiency T5 lighting.

    • Photo Voltaic awnings along the south side of the building, which help generate electricity for the facility.

    • Daylight and window views in all work areas.

    • "Cool Roof" roofing technology.

    • Low-VOC paints in office spaces.

    • In-slab radiant heating system.

    • Geothermal heating and cooling.

    • Programmable thermostats.

Ways to Save

Among ways World Wide Automotive Service conserves, it purchases all of its fluids in bulk. The shop used to purchase synthetic oil in bottles. Now it buys synthetic oil in 55 gallon drums and it has a pressurized, metered dolly to dispense the oil.

Like to Know
How to Be 'Green?'
Does "being green" sound good to you and you'd like to know more about how to "get there?" Google "How Can Repair Shops 'Green' Their Businesses?" It'll help you get started.

"We currently purchase around 80 gallons of synthetic oil in bulk every month," says Don. "That works out to 320 quart bottles a month or 3,840 bottles a year saved!"

The shop also purchases brake cleaner in 55-gallon drums; employs aqueous parts cleaning; has high-velocity hand dryers at all sinks, thus eliminating cloth or paper towels; recycles/reuses all packing materials; separates recyclables to maximize their future value; and has containment trays under all drums and under the battery storage area. In addition, the office, coffee area and breakroom use reusable versus disposable dishware.

"The average consumer is fast becoming aware of the impact vehicles, and all of the parts and fluids that go into them, have on the environment," says Don. "I believe that not only can we as automotive shop owners do our best to promote green practices but we can also lead the way among all small businesses as we have the capacity to make large changes in our day-to-day practices when it comes to energy and waste management."

Like McKenzie says, "It's the right thing to do!"

Darryl Allegree works in Zurich Services Corporation Risk Engineering. He can be reached at daryl.allegree@zurichna.com.

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