Sunday, July 12, 2009

When These Guys Aren't Available...

I used to feel a bit guilty about taking my car to the local car wash when I have a perfectly good right arm, water hose and driveway.

But, in fact, a car wash can be a better environmental choice.

When you wash your car in the driveway or street, contaminants such as grease and brake dust (as well as the detergent itself) flow into storm sewers, which discharge directly into our waterways. Car washes, on the other hand, are required to drain their water into sanitary sewers (which direct sewage to treatment facilities) or they filter and reuse it.

Water efficiency is also a benefit of many commercial car washes. Car washes use approximately 50 to 75 gallons of water per car (assuming the water is not being recycled); using the self-service bay consumes only 15 gallons.

A typical garden hose with an average flow rate of seven gallons per minute would exceed a car wash’s water consumption after two minutes (self service) or seven minutes (automated) if the hose were left running.

Even armed with this info, I'm still feeling a bit wasteful of my own energy and resources at the idea of the local car wash and I like washing my car (probably because I rarely wash it - no one has written WASH ME - or something worse - in the dust yet but it really needs a good washing) and it is my intention this year to take better care of the things I value. So...

1. I'll be washing my car in the grass rather than in the driveweay. Grass and gravel help filter contaminants from your wash water so they don’t end up in the storm sewer.

2. I bought a water-saving hose nozzle and I will be using it very sparingly.

3. I'm using biodegradable soap that is chlorine and phosphate free. It is citrus based. This doesn't lessen its immediate environmental impact but it will degrade over time.

4. I am thinking about my rain barrels- not sure about this yet, but I'm thinking..

5. I will dump my dirty soap bucket into a sink or toilet. These drain into the sanitary sewer (instead of the storm sewer).

6. I will check into waterless wash products. Several companies have developed nontoxic car cleaners that require no water; they are designed to be sprayed on and wiped off with a soft towel.

And, of course, the less I use my car, the less I will have to wash it, anyway.

1. Vintage Bicycle Cards by Orange Twist
2. Bikes Are Better Than Cars T-Shirt by Isotope
3. Hands Free Bag by LaTouchables
4. Sky Helmet by Belle Helmets
5. Recycled Bicycle Clock by PixelThis


Jennifer Mullin said...

I have the same guilty feelings when I bring my car to the carwash! I will have less after reading this. Your blog is always so interesting Cat and I love that you bring talk about so many "eco" issues.

pixelhazard said...

Oh I'd never really thought about drive way toxins and such when washing my car, not i'm conflicted.

p.s. that helmet is great but i'd be so paranoid a magpie would try and swoop into my head

glazedOver said...

As it happens, I actually just got my car washed last week (I never do; don't really mind a dirty car). I can't figure out if I feel better or worse about myself now that I've read this. :D