Green automotive department leads industry

By Daniel Hernandez , Advocate Staff

Often, when people think of the automotive industry they think of all the carbon pollution produced by gasoline emissions, oil contamination and tire waste.

However, in recent years, this hasn’t exactly been the case.

With the rise of improved technology, the automotive industry has moved on to cleaner and greener methods for working with cars.

The automotive department at Contra Costa College is one of the most ecologically friendly departments in all of the Bay Area.

“The fundamentals class is where they (safety procedures) come in first. All of that has to be covered — the hazardous waste and how it’s handled,” automotive professor Mark Christensen said.

The department is certified by The National Institute For Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) that gives recognition to educational departments and technicians who perform at industry level standards. Some ASE requirements for certification include supervision, finances and facilities.

Through funding and sponsorship, the CCC automotive department is able to utilize specialized tools and processes that create a safer learning environment for students working in the shop.

Christensen said, “We have to stay current in our field of training so we have to maintain ASE certification.”

The process of certification is one of the crucial things the professors must pass in order to teach automotive courses.

“When there are updated training courses available to us, we take them,” he said.

Students also update safety procedures to keep classroom practices on par with industry standards.

Every two semesters students take a course, given by a second party, for updated training on shop safety. This is one way the automotive department continues to be conscious about the environment and the protection of its students.

Automotive 101 is the course where students learn the basics of auto engineering and industry standard shop etiquette.

One thing automotive professor Bobby Sturgeon points out about that class is their spill kit.

“Everything is recycled, even an oil spill. A common practice is to put some absorbent down and that does absorb the oil but then you have contaminated absorbent,” Sturgeon said. “So, we vacuum the spill and recycle the oil.”

When contaminated fluid is collected, it is sorted out and placed into 55-gallon drums that are periodically collected by a hazardous waste service to be recycled.

Automotive major Enrique Covarrubias said, “We’re aware of our area and what we’re doing. We have our safety sheets too.”

Cars that are found in the lot behind the Automotive Technology Building are broken down into different segments for demonstrative purposes in the shop.

“There’s an air conditioning class where we spend time talking about how air conditioning (and heating) systems work,” Christensen said. That class focuses on the environmental effects of a faulty

AC system because contaminated refrigerants that get released into the atmosphere are a hazard to the ozone layer.

This also gives students a chance to use some of their equipment.

“We actually have a special refrigerant recovery machine that is able to recover refrigerants that have been contaminated in a vehicle,” Sturgeon said.

After the department is done with the cars and engines they use, they send them to facilities where they are crushed and recycled along with boxes and wires they toss out.

Through a partnership with Toyota, the department receives new vehicles and equipment to work with.

“We’re creating what’s called the T10 Program and it’s to (help) students and to give them jobs that are better than entry level. They’ll receive training, certified by Toyota, that will allow them to take jobs that are better paying and more complex,” Sturgeon said.