Car repair is historically regarded as dirty work. How else would a term like “Grease Monkey” happen? But in the bay garages of the Organic Mechanic, auto technicians are fighting that perception – and winning.
For a more than decade, Organic Mechanic’s sign has hung above Haywood Road, drawing attention, and customers, for its commitment to “Responsible Automotive Service and Repair.” At first glance, the name may seem like a nod to Asheville’s inclination for natural and locally produced fare. But the Organic Mechanic is dedicated to living up to the name, finding every opportunity to shrink the impact of the business on the environment, beginning with the problem of oil.
From its beginnings, the Organic Mechanic took steps to reduce and eliminate runoff from oil and other fluids that can contaminate groundwater. When the company moved to its 568 Haywood Road location in 2009, that effort expanded with the installation of a type of concrete in the bays and parking area that filters and breaks down any oil that may spill.
“The whole parking lot acts like a Brita filter,” says Service Manager Shane Sharkey. “Fluids that would otherwise go into the ground go into the concrete, get trapped and are broken down by microbes.”
In that same spirit, the Organic Mechanic technicians use a water-based parts cleaner that employs a bacteria that actually eats oil.
Any water that does escape winds up in retention ponds in order to keep pollutants out of groundwater and streams. “We’re cleaning up the industry,” Sharkey says.
“Really, it’s a mindset, it has to start with that,” says owner Charlie Wilson. “If you can make small changes across a wide range of categories, it can make a big difference.”
Once the ball gets rolling, he says, more and more opportunities for sustainable practices reveal themselves. The shop recycles everything that can be recycled, including used motor oil. Where most of the disposed oil in the United States is burned for asphalt or heat, the Organic Mechanic uses a company that picks up and refines used oil into reusable motor oil and also recycles used oil filters. Then they bring it around full circle by primarily using recycled oil in the shop for oil changes.
Photo by Alice io OglesbyShare this article to...