Cars are dirty; mechanics have the dirty job of fixing them. If we do our jobs properly, the car will be less harmful to public health than when it first came in. But what is the impact from the shop itself? What is the occupational hazard in serving the machine or the shop?
Room For Improvement
Enter the hybrid, and enter Luscious Garage. We treated San Francisco’s Clean and Green Cert as requisite to opening for business. By our 5 year anniversary we were certified as a B Corporation. Our efforts are not for any third party recognition, however, and span every aspect of shop operations.
In The Office
Our online, paperless administration Hyspace—custom built by LG, first of its kind for the industry—eliminates piles of paper and toner. Remaining supplies come from The Green Office. Furniture is second-hand; the floor is made of recycled tire. Other green suppliers and services have favored nation status (from New Resource Bank to Green Postcards).
Shop and Office
We buy and maintain only energy-efficient appliances, purchasing second-hand when possible. Most of our equipment (from computers to oil drains) is purchased second-hand through Craigslist. We recycle nearly everything—all fluids, metal, packaging, and parts (with help from EcoHaul and Evergreen Environmental)—working with suppliers towards a zero-waste goal. (Seriously, we produce nearly zero trash. We even compost.) We buy parts and supplies locally whenever possible and in bulk, minimizing packaging and shipping. We keep things clean and organized with forethought and human attention, not with plastic, toxic chemicals, or cleaning devices that plug into the wall.
In The Shop
We do not spoil cars with disposable items, excess fluids, gratuitous parts, or chemicals. We advocate services that keep the car on the road as long as possible and with the least environmental impact—be it from carbon, toxics, or trash. Some stuff is easy: we brew our own windshield wash (one cup of vinegar to one gallon of water), keep the floor and ourselves clean to eliminate the need for paper mats or seat covers. Some things are more difficult, with no renewable choice, for the car (like gasoline) or the shop (like air hose), but we actively seek alternatives. Case in point: we found a local bulk-oil supplier for re-refined motor oil (both 5W30 and 5W20 grade, ILSAC GF-4 standard), liberating oil changes from virgin crude.
Renewable power is a major agenda for LG. We begin with strict energy conservation: the shop enjoys natural light though our handsome skylights and windows; high-efficiency fixtures are controlled through light sensors (to turn off when sunlight is sufficient) and thoughtful task lighting aids in shadow and night hours. Insulation and venting (for the building as well as staff) remove the need for heating or air conditioning; we use plants to filter the air naturally (see B.C. Wolverton). The second tier is a 2.8kW solar array. It charges our electric tools, which we proudly use in lieu of pneumatics (they are also far more efficient and keep the noise down.) For filling tires and the occasional stubborn fastener, we have a high-efficiency air compressor.
Read more on our original solar effort (since expanded)
85% of San Francisco’s water comes from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir; to conserve this precious resource, LG relies on a 3000 gallon tank that “harvests” rainwater from the roof. The toilet, laundry machine, and spigots are fed from the rain barrel (it’s quite large); only two sinks (in the bathroom and kitchen) are hooked directly to city water, for hand washing and drinking. When the tank gets low (late summer) it defaults back to city water. In turn we defer the vast majority of our fresh water consumption (and the attendant carbon footprint) for 8 months of the year.
Toxic chemicals are the grounds for professional auto service. We are trained in handling sick cars, their leaks and emissions; diligence in keeping these substances under control makes the biggest impact and cannot be overstated. Our floor is non-porous; we use rags to collect any residues; a dedicated rag service launders them off-site so the chemicals are removed responsibly. We use the following cleaning products (in order of greatest consumption): hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, Oil Eater, Simple Green, and Dr. Bronners. Aerosols are strongly avoided; just one example is brake cleaner, an industry staple; our substitute is pure acetone (the majority ingredient in most aerosol products sold to auto repair), purchased in bulk, in a recyclable metal container, applied topically (with rags) rather than spray. Our hot water parts washer (Wave Jet by EnviroQuip) is plugged in only on the rare occasion we need it, and was purchased second hand.
Last But Not Least
Our floor is densified concrete, not an epoxy surface, dramatically reducing VOCs, particulate matter, and maintenance. Other building materials are renewable and non-toxic. To recycle hybrid batteries, we started a relationship with AERC Recycling in Hayward. To discourage driving, employees are reimbursed for public transportation and can park bicycles indoors. To support electric vehicles, the shop offers Level 1 and 2 charging via PlugShare. (We also host regular EV meetings.) The shop car is a plug-in hybrid, for gas free errands and shuttles.
Bottom line: we pay attention to what we’re doing, which makes a dramatic difference in keeping the shop clean. Unavoidable toxics, emissions, and debris are controlled and contained. At first glance visitors often think we just scrubbed the floor; in truth we mostly sweep and only spot-mop after clearing any soiled area with rags. The cleanliness allows us to get in your car without paper mats or seat covers; the air smells fresh, not like a shop; we don’t need shelves of disposable cleaning products. Though we are more attentive, the work progresses faster, healthier, and at lower cost.