‘Grease Goes Green': Chapel Hill Tire Honored for Sustainable Business Innovations

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(Carrboro, NC) – Chapel Hill Tire co-owner Marc Pons says auto repair, once considered a “dirty” industry, is today among the nation’s most eco-friendly.

Not only do most auto shops recycle automotive fluids and used parts, but they also keep cars running at peak efficiency, causing less damage to the environment. What’s rare is an auto shop that invests in solar energy and recycled products.

In July, Pons received the Green Plus North American Sustainable Enterprise Award for making environmentally friendly changes at Chapel Hill Tire Car Care Centers in Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Chatham County.

The award is sponsored by the Durham-based Institute for Sustainable Development, which Pons learned about as a Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce board member.

The nonprofit institute works to help small businesses focus on people, planet and performance – the “triple bottom line,” said Kirsten Hausman, director of client relations and communications. Public and private partners include the Durham and Chapel Hill-Carrboro chambers, Duke and UNC.

Chapel Hill Tire’s most extensive changes are to the Carrboro shop, which made its official debut Aug. 26 at the chamber’s Business After Hours event.

Pons said the Green Plus certification process helped him see new ways Chapel Hill Tire could give back. The business has a long history of community outreach, including support for the ArtsCenter, Rainbow Soccer League, Builders of Hope and the CORA Food Pantry in Chatham County.

Solar array: The centerpiece of the Carrboro store’s renovation is an 82-panel solar array on the roof. It will generate about 21,000 kilowatt hours a year, said Strata Solar project manager Jay Cobb.

For comparison, that’s about twice the energy the average U.S. home uses annually.

Strata Solar, formerly Solar TechSouth, is a local company specializing in residential and commercial solar options. Architect Jack Haggerty designed the new Carrboro store, working with Strata Solar to install the 16.4 kilowatt photovoltaic solar system.

Chapel Hill Tire saves about $400 a month by selling the power to Duke Energy, Pons said. The project also qualifies for federal renewable energy tax credits of nearly 65 percent, he said, and will pay for itself in five years.

In the meantime, it has saved the shop enough money to hire five new employees and build three new state-of-the-artwork bays.

Pons said they had wanted to give the shop, built around 1905, a modern appearance. When Walker’s Auto Parts moved out in 2008, they saw an opportunity.”

Please click here for the full article by Tammy Grubb for The Chapel Hill News.

Institute for Sustainable Development


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