Steve Scauzillo: I'll take four quarts of animal fat and a tune-up

Source: Pasadena Star News.com

HAVE you ever had that experience where you walk into your auto mechanic’s shop and you’re stepping over muffler parts and tip-toeing around oil stains?

It’s like you’ve walked into the Stringfellow Acid Pits.

And if you’re the least bit environmentally conscious, you don’t want to know what chemicals they’re flushing from your radiator or what really happens with your car’s used motor oil.

Well, a company from Portland, Ore. – now there’s a green city if there ever was one – wants to change all that. That’s why they’ve opened Honest-1 Auto Care, marketed as yes, honest, but also environmentally friendly.

On Thursday, they opened the first green auto repair station in California at 780 N. Diamond Bar Blvd., in Diamond Bar. Coincidentally, its not far from one of the state’s largest and most powerful environmental agencies, the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

While the group claims to be straight with people about what repairs their cars need, or don’t need, a claim that can only be tested with word of mouth reviews, the other interesting aspect is its preference for environmentally certified oil brands and processes.

For example, when you go for the oil change, ask for the motor oil made from “American grown renewable animal fats.” That’s right. No actual petroleum based anything. No dinosaurs were killed in making this oil. Heck, I’d rather have the animal fat in the pistons and rods of my car engine than in the veins and arteries of my body.

The stuff, called G-Oil, is billed as the world’s first bio-based motor oil. For starters, you don’t have to feel guilty about the war in Iraq when you put five quarts of this stuff down your crankcase.

Or, if you don’t want to go all green, you can ask for the Eco Power Oil, which is made from used motor oil that has been stripped of contaminants. This twice-refined oil is “every bit as good as virgin,” say the ads, but is produced using 85 percent less energy than the stuff made from crude oil.

Oh yeah. Eco Power Oil reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent.

Again, you’re feeling guilty about the latest heat wave? Try some of this instead of your usual Quaker State.

“Motor oil never goes bad. If it is stripped of metals and contaminants and refined, it can be re-used,” said Braden Poole, operations manager for Honest-1 Auto Care, which, though started in Portland, is now based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

It’s real smart for Honest-1 to market themselves as green. Why? Because green sells. Lately, the only growth in the service and manufacturing industry seems to be solar panels for homes, water heaters and now, green-car care service.

Honest-1 is so excited about breaking into the California market it is working on adding electric charging stations for electric car owners.

“We are looking at ways to accommodate electric vehicles, too, as that business grows,” Poole said. “We want to be part of the California business scene.”

Finally, a company that wants to come to California. And guess why? Because of the state’s high level of environmental consciousness. Instead of knocking our state’s clean air and greenhouse gas reduction rules, politicians should be promoting them. They are a marketing tool.

Used motor oil, transmission oil, whatever else comes out of your car finds its way to a recycler. And not just any boat to China, Poole implied. “We use a collection of companies in which it is guaranteed it will be recycled,” he said.

Poole spoke directly to me about niche marketing. That is, selling to people who care about the environment. And to people who are uncomfortable stepping into a stereotypical mechanic shop.

So far, they’ve opened 31 locations since 2003. Twenty-two others are under development, Poole said.

Often, the company will retrofit an old building and save on materials. They’ve re-purposed Blockbuster Video stores and even old car washes, he said.

“We focus on conserving energy, using energy-efficient lightbulbs, using less water in our landscaping,” he said. “We’re trying to impact the environment in a positive way.”

No more slipping on oil stains. Heck, maybe no more oil, period. That’s the California way.

Steve Scauzillo covers the environment and transportation. He’s the current recipient of the Aldo Leopold Award for Distinguished Editorial Writing from The Wilderness Society. Follow him on Twitter @stevscaz/twitter.com or email him at steve.scauzillo@gmail.com.