Grassroots is a feature of the Gannet-Daily Record and staff there interviewed owner John O’Connor what it means to be a green shop, and what he’s going to do with all that old stuff (hint: it won’t end up in a landfill!).
Grassroots: What makes your auto repair shop “green?”
John O’Connor: We have been recycling since before it was cool to recycle. We always recycled oil, antifreeze, refrigerants, tires, water pumps, alternators and starters. We go beyond the requirements, though. For example, we crush the used oil filters we take off our customers’ cars. By crushing them we squeeze the oil out to recycle it and then ship them to a recycler who strips the steel can off and incinerates the paper element. We haven’t thrown a oil filter in the Dumpster in 20 years.
What is GARP?
The N.J. Green Auto Repair Program is run by the Green Auto Repair Council. It is a voluntary certification program which is partnered with the state DEP as well as several automotive associations. The GARC established an evaluation program that a shop owner uses to review their operation. They look at our procedures and how hazardous or environmentally nasty stuff is contained. After the owner submits a self evaluation, the GARC comes to inspect and recommend areas of improvement. The scoring is tough and in order to re-certify they look for continuous improvement.
How did you get into all this?
I always recycled — after all I’m part of the Woodstock generation! I got involved with the GARC when I received a call from Mike Coppola at AAA after he heard about a similar program starting in Arizona that he had seen. Coppola, Jim Dodd from J.D. Auto in Dover, Jim Kowalak from Morristown Toyota and I met at AAA in Florham Park and cooked it up. We met for probably two years before it started to grow a life of its own. I can’t lay claim to the idea but I was there in the beginning. I have just rejoined the council.
We even get extra use out of a car at the end of its service life. Before sending it to the junk yard to be recycled we give it to the Fire Academy and they use it to train firefighters and emergency responders in how to extract accident victims from cars.