Way Above and Way Beyond
By George Harvey
In many ways, the Paris Autobarn, in South Paris, Maine, is not all that different from other auto repair shops. The owners, Adam Baril and Tony Giambro, specialize in Subarus and Hondas, but they do all sorts of jobs on all sorts of cars. They change the oil, fix the leaks, swap out spark plugs, attend to problems with breaks and mufflers, and do many other common garage chores. They do these things, however, with an attitude that has transformed their business into an example for green operations.
Perhaps one machine can be taken as an emblem of what the business is all about. It is not a cheap machine and has limited usefulness. Its sole purpose is crushing oil filters. That might not sound like much, but the underlying importance is that nearly all the oil in the filter is extracted in the process, and this means that both the oil and the filter can be recycled. Otherwise, because the last bit of oil never drains out by itself, both the filter the oil in it would go to a landfill.
Between them, Baril and Giambro had about twenty years’ experience working on cars when they went into business together in early 2014. Their reason for starting out on their own was that they wanted a business that was environmentally and socially responsible. Doing that with a shop that services automobiles is not as simple as it might be for other businesses.
The building they operate in was less than five years old and was fairly efficient already, so the air sealing, and insulation, while not at the highest levels, were not problems of greatest concern. They had a pair of Mitsubishi air-to-air heat pumps installed. They also installed Energy Star rated insulated garage doors and set them to operate on remote controls so they could be closed as quickly as possible when cars are moved in or out. The windows in the building are also Energy Star rated.
Lighting was replaced with LEDs. In this case, the whole fixtures were replaced through a program run by Efficiency Maine. They were installed in great enough numbers and with care to placement so that the entire shop is brightly lighted.
The solar system was installed by ReVision Energy last July. Since that time, it has produced more electricity than the shop used, with the excess banked in a net-metering program. It is expected to generate well over 15,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. This offsets the equivalent of 25 barrels of oil.
The shop owns a dump truck with a gasoline engine. Baril and Giambro purchased a diesel-powered parts truck and will soon put its engine into the dump truck. They will be using a 99.9% biologically sourced diesel oil to operate this, produced by Maine Standard Biofuels. They look forward to getting a Tesla Model 3, when that model is available.
Their research into biofuels led them to another small organization in Ohio, Renewable Lubricants, which provides bio-based common weights of engine oil, transmission oil, and bar and chain oil.
Paris Autobarn can provide recycled engine oil. All the oil drained from engines is sent to the recycling facility that they buy from, and this greatly reduces waste by keeping the oil in a closed-loop system.
The oil filters they provide also reduce waste. The filter has slightly more complicated design than standard filters, putting a portion of the oil it gets from the engine through a super-fine filter. The effect of this is that while the filters need to be replaced about every 10,000 miles, the oil can keep going for 30,000 miles between changes. Again, waste is reduced.
Instead of washing parts in solvents, they have a non-chemical Smartwasher, which does ‘bioremediation’ by using organisms that consume petroleum products. This eliminates waste solvents and hazardous chemicals entirely.
The owners’ interest in helping customers has led to having a rack for bikes for a local bike share. The interest in bikes led to Paris Autobarn selling bikes with electric assists. This led to a general battery recycling program being part of the business. Additionally, they have installed a level-two charger for electric vehicles.
They support green organizations, including the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and the Center for Ecology-Based Economy. The focus is on sustainable food and transportation, but also on a sustainable way of life.
Summing up the Paris Autobarn approach, Tony Giambro said simply, “We try to be responsible for the products that we sell.”
They are proudly part of the EPA’s Green Power Partnership. They have also won the 2015 Environmental Excellence Award from the Governor of Maine.