You hear so much about green cars these days, from the ubiquitous Prius to the rarified Tesla. But what if you want to take matters in your own hands, but aren’t, shall we say, mechanically inclined? Green Drop Garage in Portland, Oregon is an unusual amalgamation of things, something that should be replicated widely, if we’re to decrease our automotive impact on the planet on a useful scale.
While Green Drops is most known for doing conversions on automobiles to run on vegetable oil, skipping the hippie homebrew path in favor of “…a purpose-built and fully automated, reliable system” coupled with “the support and information necessary to make your veggie conversion a positive and successful experience,” it’s what else they do that bridges the gap between DIY minded tinkerers and the rest of us:
Green Drop regularly offers classes in automotive maintenance and repair, from the basics to more advanced, even offering people the chance to take their car in and work on it in the shop under mechanic’s supervision. Further, they offer women-only classes, empowering women who might be intimidated by the garage to understand car maintenance.
That a shop would host classes that could put it out of business speaks well to Green Drops’ interest in being a true benefit to the community. By having an increasing number of cars being kept at optimum running condition, it will not only save the owners fuel, it will reduce emissions, a benefit for all.
Stepping outside the typical auto shop boundaries, Green Drop makes available to rent a 60kW diesel generator, originally used for military purposes, now vegetable oil powered. That’s powerful enough to run a fairly large sized event. Beyond its immediate reduced environmental impact, this highly visible demonstration of the capability of vegetable oil as fuel source is likely to draw in people who would never previously have looked into this eco-friendly option for their vehicle.
An “Only in Portland” thing?
In something perhaps uniquely applicable to Portland, this week Green Drop began offering customers the option to trade for their oil change, but for a very specific set of things: Vinyl records to play on its new record player. Craft brewed beer. Home baked food. I say, change the options to suit the community you’re in if you need to, but it’s a brilliant way to develop closer connections with and greater loyalty from customers. For a low ticket item such as this, it’s worth the small investment of resources to do it.
After one year in business, the signs are clear: Now expanding another 1000 square feet, Green Drops has struck a chord, destined for an ever larger impact.
Readers: In what ways does your or other businesses you’ve seen expand the typical boundaries in their category in how it interacts with and serves its customers?
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.