A foamy, clean-smelling mixture travels down your driveway into the street storm drain – you think that it’s clean and perfectly safe for the environment. After all, it’s soapy, unsoiled water that’s ending up in our streams and rivers, right? Wrong. Conserving water might be your biggest concern when washing your car in the summer months, but there are many other factors to consider, as well.
This liquid blend picks up dirt particles, oil and maybe pesticides from your lawn, as well as chemicals from conventional cleaners, and enters local streams and lakes. This can have a major negative impact on the environment and even fish and other marine life.
In order to avoid contaminating our natural water supplies and to conserve water in general, consider these tips when washing your car:
Since one home car wash can use up to 160 gallons of water, think about investing in a rain barrel. One rain barrel alone can hold up to 500 gallons of water. No “new” tap water will be wasted. Also if possible, use a low-volume, water-saving hose nozzle.
When picking a place to wash your vehicle, the driveway – which is a non-porous surface – is not ideal. If you can move the car onto your lawn, or another porous surface, the water will be able to be absorbed into the land, instead of running off into the storm drains. If you have some money to spend, consider investing in a porous concrete and vegetation-filled walkway and driveway. This way, your lawn won’t suffer the impact of the heavy automobile, but you’ll get the same absorbing affect.
When choosing cleaning supplies, always buy organic, naturally derived and eco-friendly products, such as those by Seventh Generation, or a glass cleaner by Method. These biodegradable formulas, often made with citrus-based solvents, won’t contaminate the runoff water or your lawn like chemically-derived cleaning agents would. You might even be able to make your own, safe cleaning products using basic items from your kitchen, such as baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice (note the acidic pH, this is the cleaning agent).
If you need to get rid of older, dried spots and dirt off your car, you can purchase a sponge made from natural fibers, which is also biodegradable and won’t scratch surfaces. Make sure to reuse it many, many times!
The absolute best thing for you to do is to buy waterless car cleaning products such as Eco Touch or Freedom; or use a steam-cleaner. These will eliminate the usage of water altogether.
When drying your car, either from washing it with rain water or wiping away the waterless car detergent, use durable microfiber towels instead of paper towels (saving trees and reducing 3000 tons of waste per day).
If you wish to go to a car wash instead of doing it on your own, that would be a great choice! Commercial car washes are required by the International Carwash Association, to reuse their rinse water over and over again [USA], and to treat it before discharging it into the environment. The machines they use also monitor the amount of water released for each wash – this saves ‘needless’ water.
Whether you’re up for some soapy fun and like washing your car at home, or you’d prefer a hassle-free way of someone else doing it for you (even if it’s a machine), cleaning your car can certainly be eco-friendly. Please consider these options the next time you ‘suds up’ your car or visit your local car wash, and save the Earth from some not-so-friendly toxins.
Source: EcoPlum (Mike Greenwald)
South Africa’s commercial car wash regulations are not comparable to those of Europe and the USA. However, whether commercial or private, washing cars can have a serious impact on the environment if not done in an eco-conscious way. In South Africa’s rural areas, cars and pick-ups can often be seen at the edge or even in rivers while the owners wash them. This is very bad practice as oils and other contaminants enter the water system and may harm humans and the ecosystem. In urban areas, any reduction in stormwater runoff is good for the environment.
Water Rhapsody Water Conservation Systems and Yes Solar Mpumalanga offer eco-friendly rainwater collection systems, rainwater tanks, grey water recycling, swimming pool backwash recycling, water-saving toilet flush mechanisms and high quality Solsquare solar water geysers.
Contact us for a FREE QUOTE on a solar water heater, rainwater harvesting system (see rainwater FAQ), gray water recycling system or water tank (we are authorized South African JoJo Water Tanks dealers and supply the full range of JoJo water tanks and JoJo tank stands). Our water tank prices are hard to beat in the Mpumalanga & Limpopo Lowveld.
Water conservation and renewable energy such as solar energy are two issues that affect the global community; make a difference and start conserving water and switch to renewable energy today. Another way of reducing your carbon footprint is to switch to green insurance, now available in South Africa.