Hawthorne Auto bucks 'dirty' industry image with green practices
By Matthew Kish
Hawthorne Auto Clinic's green reputation caught the attention of the Think electric car company. The shop is the exclusive provider of warranty service for the EVs in Portland.
When it comes to sustainability, auto repair shops aren’t known as leaders.
The businesses go through barrels of oil and chemicals on a daily basis. Not to mention, they revolve around fixing up fossil fuel-burning cars with internal combustion engines.
Liz Dally and Jim Houser, co-owners of the Hawthorne Auto Clinic, want to change that image.
“Auto shops have a reputation as being polluters,” Houser said when the business was certified as an Eco-Logical Business by the Pollution Prevention Outreach Team. “We want to correct that image. Many shops are doing work, like us, to properly handle environmental issues.”
Hawthorne Auto Clinic was the first auto repair shop to win the certification.
The business is also a finalist for sustainable operations in this year’s Sustainable Business Oregon awards. According to the city of Portland’s Sustainability at Work program, Dally and Houser have taken numerous steps to reduce the company’s environmental footprint.
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The most visible efforts: solar panels and bike parking — at an auto shop. It also has a garden.
- The company purchases all fluids in bulk, such as oil and antifreeze.
- Hot water, not chemical solvents, are used to clean auto parts.
- It recycles parts and fluids, including motor oil, antifreeze, batteries, tires, scrap metal, filters and plastics.
- Customers get transit passes while cars are being repaired.
Houser is also the chairman of the board of directors of G.O. Garage Parts Inc. an auto parts buying cooperative. Hawthorne Auto Clinic seeks out products made from recycled materials and offers remanufactured starter, alternators, and other automotive components.
“Maybe the most impressive to me is their continued effort to improve sustainability even though they are already recognized as a leader in the national auto repair industry and a leader locally among businesses generally,” said Kim White, who serves as Hawthorne Auto’s sustainability adviser through the city’s Sustainability at Work program.
“They don’t see their sustainability work as a way to set themselves apart from competitors but rather as responsible stewardship and a way to explore what’s possible for them and therefore the entire sector,” White said.
Hawthorne Auto’s green efforts helped attract the attention of the Think electric car company. Think awarded an exclusive maintenance contract to Hawthorne to perform warranty service work on the 20 Think City electric cars that were delivered to Portland in May.
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