Sunday, June 19, 2011

June Conservation Tip


Our kids have chores, and one of these chores is washing the car(s) whenever they are dirty. Recently our older son came up to me, after cleaning the Prius, and complained that washing the car at home really would harm the environment. How could I, trying to be so environmentally savvy, let him do it, he wondered?
Always highly suspicious when it comes to discussing chores, I asked him what he meant.  
The points he made, that the waste water from the wash, containing the soap, oil and more would run off unfiltered and could possibly harm the environment and that the common garden hose would waste a lot of water, sounded plausible, but I wasn't completely convinced yet.
So I did some research, and that is what I found:

"Few people realize that washing our cars in our driveways is one of the most environmentally un-friendly chores we can do around the house. Unlike household waste water that enters sewers or septic systems and undergoes treatment before it is discharged into the environment, what runs off from your car goes right into storm drains -- and eventually into rivers, streams, creeks and wetlands where it poisons aquatic life and wreaks other ecosystem havoc. After all, that water is loaded with a witch’s brew of gasoline, oil and residues from exhaust fumes -- as well as the harsh detergents being used for the washing itself."  [1]
[1] Eco-friendly car washing 

"The average homeowner uses 116 gallons of
water to wash a car! Most commercial car
washes use 60 percent less water for the entire
process than a homeowner uses just to rinse
the car." [2]

"Among the many impacts of motor
vehicles on our environment, car
washing has been noted by water
quality experts as a serious contributor
to water pollution." [2]

"The phosphates from soap can cause excess
algae to grow. Excessive algae smell bad, look
bad, and harm water quality. As algae decay,
the process uses up oxygen in the water that
fish need." [2] 

[2] KSMO

"The Clean Water Act requires professional car washes to pipe their dirty water to water treatment facilities or into state-approved drainage facilities designed to protect the environment. Automatic and self-serve car washes also use water efficient equipment such as computer controlled systems and high-pressure nozzles and pumps, allowing them to clean cars thoroughly while conserving water." [3]

"soap is for dishes not for fishes" [3]
[3] Images Auto Spa

OK, I'm convinced now.

However, if you HAVE to wash your car at home, here some tips to minimize your impact on the environment:
  • only use biodegradable, phosphate free and water based cleaners. 
  • use as less water as possible, turn the water off in between rinses or use a spray gun. Use a bucket whenever possible. Then drain the bucket into a sink or toilet.
  • wash on an area that absorbs water, such as grass or gravel. This can help filtering the water before it goes into the groundwater. Do not wash the car on the street where it drains into a storm drain and leads directly and unfiltered to the next waterway.

Having said this....Happy Fathers Day...;-) 

1 comment:

  1. Interesting stuff, Susanne!
    Thanks for pulling this together. It's quite c onvincing and off I go to the commercial car wash!