WEST ORANGE, NJ - When people think of Earth Day, they probably don’t think of an Auto Repair Shop leading the effort to protect the environment in Essex County, but that is exactly what Select Towing and Auto Repair in West Orange has been doing since 2001.

Over one billion people worldwide are expected to participate in Earth Day, which first took place on April 22, 1974. 20 million people across the United States rallied to take action to protect the environment, and this year, clean-ups, tree planting, rallies, other environmentally aware events will continue to address those issues.

When Select Towing and Auto Repair moved into their current location at 52 Washington Street in 2001, owner John McElroy, in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Protection, completely remediated the facility. Underground oil drums and tanks were removed – “a graveyard,” noted McElroy. Once the DEP certified the remediation, McElroy did not stop there in his plan to make Select a certified “Green” facility.

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McElroy took the Alternative Press on a tour of its repair shop. The first stop was to view the Advanced Concepts Technology Oil and Water Separator. The separator only allows water into the shop’s sanitary sewers, separating out the oil into a separate container where it is later removed.

The next stop was to view the lift controls that operate the hydraulic vehicle lifts. McElroy explained that typically oil leaches into the ground during repairs. At Select, each lift has a self-contained unit that prevents leaching and ground contamination via containers housed under metal panels. “Absolutely no oil gets into the ground here,” said McElroy.

Directly outside the garage, a huge pile of tires awaited delivery to Hillside, NJ, where they would most probably be turned into shredded material used in playground surfaces. Another large pile of metal, which will eventually make its way overseas to be melted down and used for various products, stood nearby.

The last stop was to view the third floor of the facility, where McElroy explained the workings of his solar panel system and its operation. “We’re getting about 86% of our power from the solar panels,” he noted.

"Ideal output is about 35-40 kilowatts, and our system is operating at 48.5 kw today. Cool, sunny days are optimal for energy retention,” said McElroy. The unit has been in place for two years and McElroy plans to expand it in the near future so that it will provide 100% of Select's power.

Select received its green recertification in November of 2010, and they have continued the recertification process every two years. Certification is difficult to obtain and to maintain, and Select is currently the only authorized Green Auto Repair facility in Essex County. It’s an accomplishment worth acknowledging not only on Earth Day, but every day of the year.

For more information on Select Towing and Auto Repair, visit their website at http://www.selecttowing.com/.

To find out more about NJ State Green Automotive Repair Certification, go to http://www.njgreenautorepair.org/.