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This is a guest post by Sarah Harris
The old tradition of you and your kids washing the family car in the driveway on a Sunday afternoon is slowly turning into an environmental nightmare. While most do not realize what harm this simple household chore can inflict on the environment, rest assured that it’s not worth the small amount of money saved on taking the car to a commercial car wash. Simply put, the water that runs off your dirty car goes directly into storm drains, which then runs into rivers and streams and eventually pollutes the oceans and its millions of aquatic inhabitants. Unlike excess water waste from your home, that goes through treatment before it is discharged into the environment, water from washing the car, which contains elements of gasoline, oil, and exhaust fume residue, all go straight into our delicate environment.
Although reports differ, the estimate is that the average home car wash uses 100 gallons of water. A commercial car wash is estimated to use around 45 gallons per car. If you must wash at home, there are a few things you can do to help counteract too much water usage. First, use an adjustable hose nozzle. These cost a mere $10 and allow you to adjust water pressure and most importantly the amount of water by shutting off when it’s not being used. Second, park your car either on a lawn, gravel, or dirt surface. This allows the runoff to soak into the grass keeping it green, or if it’s gravel, to easily percolate into the soil below. This should only be done with environmentally safe detergents and cleaners.
Again, if the absolute need arises to wash the car at home, there are now options to wash without using water at all. Lucky Earth and Eco Touch offer products that require no additional water. They are easy to use, typically by spraying the dirty area and wiping clean with a cloth. While this may not be the best approach with a car covered in mud and dirt, it’s a great solution for mildly grimy cars. And in addition to using no water, these products are all safe for the environment as well as the consumer. And remember, by not washing your car at home, or using better methods of doing so, you can very easily add to a wide variety of simple ways to practice sustainable living. Living our lives never again has to mean trampling the abundant environment we all use and cherish.