Cars and trucks are blamed for many of the world’s most serious environmental problems, from global warming to the oil spill in the Gulf. But though there are growing efforts to reduce automobile use through smarter urban design, alternative transportation methods, and more, cars and trucks are not disappearing from the roads anytime soon. It’s therefore important to reduce their environmental impact.
Believe it or not, one of the simplest way to reduce the environmental impact of cars and trucks (and save money at the gas pump!) is to keep them well-maintained. Auto repair shops can therefore play a significant role in reducing the environmental impact of driving.
If you love both cars and the environment, a great green business opportunity is opening an eco-friendly auto repair shop.
Eco-friendly auto repair shops work to reduce both the environmental impact of the cars and trucks they repair, and to reduce the impact of the shop itself.
Eco-friendly auto repair shops offer tune-ups designed to improve gas mileage and lengthen the working life of your automobile, conserving resources. They emphasis repairing, rather than replacing, damaged parts whenever possible, and help customers choose eco-friendly products such as non-toxic paints for the auto body.
Some eco-friendly auto repair shops specialize in servicing eco-friendly cars such as hybrids and electric cars. Some also assist with diesel conversions in preparation for using eco-friendly biodiesel.
Many eco-friendly auto repair shops place a high premium on customer education, and may even offer classes teaching basic auto repair and maintenance with a focus on improving gas mileage and reducing emissions.
There are also a number of ways auto repair shops themselves can go green. A few ideas include:
* Recycling used motor oil
* Using non-toxic degreasers
* Ensuring that there is no runoff of oil or other toxic materials into street or storm drains
* Using green building materials for the shop and office
* Purchasing wind or solar-generated electricity to power the shop
* Using recycled paper and eco-friendly inks to print brochures and other advertising materials
San Francisco-based Luscious Garage is an auto repair shop that’s put careful thought into every aspect of running the shop in order to make it as green as possible. The shop specializes in hybrid vehicles and does everything from brewing their own non-toxic windshield wash to using solar-powered, energy efficient tools and appliances to reducing, reusing, and recycling everything possible with the eventual goal of producing zero waste. Luscious Garage also places more focus on people than most garages – the open workshop allows owners to watch the repairs being done on their cars, while a comfortable waiting room offers free Wi-Fi, a library of books, and a children’s area with toys and games.
Green Garage, which has locations in Boulder and Fort Collins, CO, is another thoughtful eco-friendly garage that puts a lot of effort into reducing the environmental impact of both the garage and the cars it services. Green Garage offers free valet pick-up and drop-off services and a full line of services, including both routine maintenance and emergency repair, as well as specialty green tune-ups designed to improve gas mileage and performance while minimizing toxins and waste.
ShopHonest-1 Auto Care bills itself as the nation’s first eco-friendly auto case chain, and it has locations in Oregon, Arizona, Minnesota, New Jersey, Florida, and more. In addition to a full line of traditional services, Honest-1 offers a Eco-Tune-Up that includes a 21 point inspection, tire pressure evaluation, spark plug replacement, and more. Like Luscious Garage, Honest-1 places a premium on comfortable, family-friendly waiting rooms, including children’s play areas, complimentary internet, and clean restrooms.
With gas prices on the rise, owning a car is more expensive than ever. There’s gas bills, insurance fees, taxes, and maintenance to worry about, not to mention parking costs, interest on the loan, and the price of the car in the first place. As a result, more and more people are turning to public transportation for their primary means of getting around. For those days when you absolutely need a car, however, rental cars are no longer your only option. A growing number of people are turning to car-sharing as an alternative to the expenses of owning, renting, or leasing a car.
Car sharing is the auto equivalent of vacation time-sharing, without the pushy sales presentations. Members pay a yearly fee to the car-sharing company, and in exchange have access to a fleet of shared vehicles with as little as five minutes’ notice. Most car-sharing companies allow cars to be reserved on an hourly or daily basis, at rates of $5-15 per hour. These rates cover the costs of insurance, maintenance, fuel, and weekly cleaning for the cars.
In addition to saving money for their members, car sharing companies also benefit the environment. An informal study by a Canadian car sharing company found that for every shared vehicle owned by the company, an average of 8 private vehicles were taken off the road. Many car-share members also report increased use of public transportation and alternative means of getting around, such as bicycles, electric scooters, and rollerblades. In addition to reducing the number of cars on the road, many car sharing companies offer primarily hybrid cars and other fuel efficient vehicles.
Car-sharing companies may be either non-profit, such as the San Francisco Bay Area’s City CarShare program, or for profit.
Car-sharing businesses have relatively high initial costs thanks to the costs of purchasing, insuring, and registering cars. However, with good marketing, car sharing companies can start turning a profit within a year or two.
There are currently three major niches in the car-share market:
ZipCar is currently the largest and most widespread car-share company in the world. It is found in more than 50 cities in the United states, Canada, and the United Kingdom, as well as more than 100 college campuses. ZipCar also has a successful corporate car-share program, and reduces the environmental impact of its cars even further with its partnership with ZimRide, a ridesharing social network.
Connect by Hertz operates car-share programs in Canada, France, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, and more than 20 cities and college campuses in the United States, with a fleet of cars including the Toyota Prius, the Toyota Camry, and the BMW Mini.
BusinessExotic Car Share is a Chicago-based car-share program that targets a unique niche: luxury car sharing! Its fleet includes both modern luxury cars and classics, including the Corvette Z51 Convertible, the Ferrari 355 F1 Spider, and the Dodge Viper GTS Coupe.