Shop-Ware Founder and CEO, Carolyn Coquillette, discusses auto repair at the intersection of Earth Day 2021. Prior to Shop-Ware she founded (and still owns) her own repair shop, Luscious Garage, the world's first to be certified as a Benefit Corporation.
When I started Luscious Garage I was committed to proving that auto repair could be profitable, inspiring to customers, and responsible for its environmental impact. Shortly after opening, my rep at a parts distributor dropped by to deliver a poster that exclaimed: “Auto Repair: We were green before it was cool!”
I remember the design as if it were yesterday. At the bottom, there was a frantic pile of splattered oil and car parts, out of which a bright green tree was growing. The leaf canopy opened at the top, and the copy was printed large across the middle, over the trunk. It was tone-deaf in so many ways. I held onto it for years; I found it so amusing and simultaneously troublesome.
My rep thought it was great and wanted me to like it. Surely in part because he thought my concept was pompous and absurd. (I mean "Luscious"? Come on.) San Francisco, to its credit, was the source of the cloud of 'smug' in the South Park Episode dedicated to hybrids, and I do respect people calling that out!
Within the auto industry, cars are typically considered a good thing. Don't bite the hand that feeds. But it's complicated for auto repair. Our job is to make owning a car less problematic, and that includes the ways that cars are hurtful - to people and to the environment. For folks working inside the business, it can be hard to square, but there is a lot to be said about what auto shops contribute to the cause. Of course, we're not actually green, we are less damaging, but that is still hugely important.
When cars wear out they make a mess but they also create an enormous amount of waste pretty much all of the time, just by nature of operating. Repair shops, both dealership and aftermarket, “take out the garbage” in so many ways. They're doing this for the manufacturers that get to sell their vehicles without having to take responsibility for their products' impact in service, out on the road, and at the end of life.
Hazmat manifests on hand at Luscious Garage
Auto repair shops carefully collect and dispose of countless amounts of:
- Motor oil
- Transmission fluid
- Brake fluid
- Differential oil
- Scrap metal
- Tires and other rubber materials
- Batteries and E-Waste
- Packaging material from everything exchanged on cars (all parts, fluids, etc.)
An auto shop's proper disposal of these materials keeps them from entering the environment. Take the motor oil, for instance. I remember my old boss back in Michigan telling stories about pouring used oil in a hole in the ground behind the shop. And how we would later add lye to the soil testing equipment when the EPA came by. People used to pour coolant down the drain and mechanics would clean their hands with gasoline (works great), so we've learned a lot on many levels.
Motor oil is not only collected, it can be re-refined. This has been a passion of mine since I opened my garage in 2007, and we still pour it. This is a great example of actual recycling and making use of existing materials without having to pump the new stuff out of the ground.
The ability of shops to easily and cost-effectively manage all the waste streams they are faced with depends on the engagement of their municipality, but there are activities within the aftermarket ecosystem that assist with this on extra levels. For instance, entrepreneurial haulers get paid based on the amount of waste material they collect. Additionally, there are dealer and vendor cores issued for sending a removed part back to the place from which it was purchased for disposal or remanufacturing.
This is a great segue to remanufacturing. Buying remanufactured parts, once prevalent, is the essence of the recycling concept and unfortunately, it is currently in decline. Dismantlers, now known as “recyclers”, such as LKQ and others, allow shops to purchase used parts and recycle on the front side of the repair. This is also helpful, but not an equivalent.
Of course, none of this works for small businesses unless it makes economic sense. For Luscious Garage, we wanted to attract the hybrid market in San Francisco. Was I motivated personally? Of course, and I’ve shared that in classes on how to develop a hybrid/EV/green-focused vertical at training events like VISION KC. You have to truly care about it before you hang that “green” shingle in the front of your business. Otherwise, customers will smell the “greenwashing” a mile away... just like the poster my parts rep gave me.
But my caring wasn't going to pay the bills. Our environmental concept had a market that we deliberately sought to capture, being that earnest solution, and without that, we could have recycled parts for 6 months before we ran out of money. If it doesn’t make financial sense, a business can’t follow it.
This is where the automotive industry deserves recognition for building green methods native to shop flows. Even if shops don’t necessarily associate these efforts with tree-hugging.
Whether you identify as an environmentalist or not, everyone on this planet needs this planet and needs a livelihood to support themselves and their family. I am proud of the automotive aftermarket’s efforts every day, every year, and throughout previous decades. Auto shops have helped manage the impact of automobility on our planet, and they will continue to play a central role as long as we continue to drive. While we dream of an all-electric future, the precedent of electronics is to simply throw the broken thing away. We cannot and will not do this with electric cars, and automotive professionals will make it possible.
Shop-Ware provides professional-grade business solutions to the automotive industry’s leading repair shops so they can run entirely on the cloud; phone optional, and paper-free. Connecting the aftermarket together, Shop-Ware’s ecosystem enables next-generation shop efficiency and customer satisfaction without compromise. Full-service onboarding and best-in-class support provide everything a shop needs to transform its business and stay competitive long into the future.
If you’d like to learn more about implementing Shop-Ware as the solution in your shop, request a demo.