Being kind to the environment doesn’t need to end when you leave home. As consumers we have control over what happens to the earth as a consequence of our purchases.
Auto repair is one instance when our choices can have a positive impact. This can be as simple as letting our desires be known to the repair facility. Here are some suggestions:
Request recycled motor oil. There are recycled formulations of motor oil that fulfill all of the requirements of the car manufacturers. These motor oils are made from 50 percent recycled product and therefore offer you a chance to reduce the burden posed by the 3 billion quarts of motor oil used each year in the U.S. Don’t look for a break on the price since the recycled product is usually the same price as virgin motor oil.
Choose a remanufactured part over a new one. You can bypass all of the impact that manufacturing a new part entails by buying a refurbished unit. You will be trading all the energy consumed in smelting, forging or casting a virgin part for the less intrusive process of cleaning, testing and renewing the components of the remanufactured one.
Choose the repair over the replacement. You will have to find an old school shop to avail yourself of this advice. But there are still shops that are willing and able to repair an alternator or a radiator, if they are able to find the parts. When you do find that shop, besides stepping into a time warp, you will be saving all of the environmental capital expended on producing the replacement. The repairer, on the other hand, is trading his expertise for some well-earned labor income and helping the planet to boot.
Choose a shop with a waste oil heater. Many shops are heated with oil obtained from oil changes. What more efficient reuse of your used oil could there be? It never leaves the site so there is no environmental impact due to transportation and the heat it provides displaces all the refining and transportation costs of fuel oil.
Go paperless. Ask the service writer to wipe his feet prior to driving your car and forget about the paper floor mat. Request that your invoice be e-mailed to you rather than be given a hard copy and pay in cash to avoid a credit card slip. Here’s the big one, if you’re up for it, request that the packaging from the repairs be put in your trunk so that you can recycle it at home. Be forewarned that everything from spark plugs to struts are individually wrapped.
The auto repair process is an unlikely place to look for chances to be green, but they are there if you make the right choices and let your preferences be known.