Greening garages

How maintenance shops are deriving savings and benefits from becoming environmentally responsible


Some of its green processes “are a product of waste minimization efforts,” he says. “Many other areas are really a matter of economics.

“In-floor heat provides a better heat source for our shops when cold vehicles are pulled in all winter long. Retrofitting our shop lights to new fluorescent technology provides a brighter working environment with less energy consumption.”

Blaine Brothers, too, is retrofitting with new energy-conserving lights and will receive rebates from utility companies for installing them.

“Investment in computer technology allows us to be more efficient with resources too,” Gray says. “E-mailing invoices and statements saves paper and mailing costs. Customers also remit payment faster, increasing cash flow. Mechanics use a barcode gun to scan on and off of jobs. Their time is summarized by the computer system without needing time cards or manual entry.”

Parts flyers can be e-mailed instead of printed and mailed. The accounting system sends reports to PDF files for archiving instead of printing paper reports to put in boxes for storage.

The company recycles used oil, batteries, steal, aluminum, cardboard and paper. It privately labeled its own biodegradable truck wash soap. It reduced use of aerosol sprays by using refillable squirt bottles and uses parts washers with water and detergent instead of solvents that generate waste.

“Quite honestly, investing in these areas provides a cost savings that pays off in the long run,” notes Gray. He figures the greening efforts are producing monthly savings of $2,600 from recycling, $300 from in-floor heat; $150 from changed lighting; $300 from document archiving and $500 from barcode time entry.

Caledonia Haulers, Caledonia, MN — This food grade tanker carrier’s vehicle maintenance shops started recycling filters and recycling and burning waste oil for winter heat more than 10 years. It began a more concentrated greening effort a little more than a year ago. It joined the SmartWay Transport Partnership in April.

In addition to recycling and burning waste oil for winter heat, “the shop has moved to a virtually paperless computer system which saves huge on paper waste and printer inks - more than $1,900 annually,” says Linda Joy Vinson, maintenance manager. “We have started to take our damaged plastic bumpers and have them repaired to make good parts instead of scrapping them and adding them to landfill.”

Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MDT), Urbana, IL — The district instituted green practices more than a decade ago, including beginning using soy biodiesel fuel and “stinger” system to keep air pressure up on its vehicles to reduce idle time by 5 to 7 minutes at start-up. Its maintenance facilities have been heated by a burner fueled by waste oil for more than 10 years and has been recycling for a dozen years.

“There is a systematic approach to environmentally-sensitive practices,” says MDT’s marketing director Jan Kijowski. “The maintenance team uses only green-certified cleaning supplies. There has been significant reduction in water use from the institution of a wash-only-as-needed policy for bus cleaning and installing low-flow water nozzles. There are plans to replace the wash bay with a unit that will employ water recycling.

Electrical consumption has been reduced by switching from fluorescent bulbs to LED lights and low-mercury bulbs, using motion detectors light switches and establishment of an if-not-needed-turn-it-off policy.

The MDT recycles virtually everything for which there is a recycling program: aluminum cans, plastic bottles, scrap metal, office paper, cardboard, antifreeze, Freon, printer cartridges, alkaline batteries, newspapers from incoming coaches and used oil filters. It recently purchased a fluorescent bulb crusher that captures and filters the mercury from these bulbs.

The district is in the process of upgrading its fleet with diesel-electric hybrid vehicles, Kijowski says. This summer its plans to install a geothermal heating and cooling system, a white roof which reflects sunlight and helps reduce energy use in hot, sunny weather and permeable pavers to reduce groundwater runoff.

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