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Driving A Car While Going Green: Small Choices That Have A Big Impact

Let's face it. Cars aren't really environmentally friendly. From manufacturing to cleaning, they require a host of fossil fuels and specialized cleaning products to keep them running well and looking good. However, even when you do hit the road with four (or more) tires, there are still some small choices you can make to prevent yourself from becoming an environmental Big Foot. 

1. Have Professionals Do Oil And Fluid Changes

If you're handy with a wrench, you might feel comfortable changing your own oil and antifreeze. But, disposing of these fluids can actually be pretty difficult. Also, when you change fluids yourself, you run the risk of spilling. Run-off can leech into the soil and harm local wildlife. In fact, anti-freeze is deadly to most animals, and even children. Even anti-freeze mixed with water can have some pretty serious negative consequences. In an auto-shop, all disposal will be taken care of according to regulation, and some oil may even be recycled. 

2. Go To Commercial Car Washes

But wait! Don't commercial car washes use harmful detergents, and waste valuable fresh water? Well, there's more to the story.

Even if you use green-based detergents, washing your car in your driveway can be dangerous. The excess water runs into the storm drain, which does not usually get treated at local water treatment facilities. The detergent may not be a problem, but mud, heavy metals, and salts that your car picks up from the road are definitely worrisome. Storm drains usually direct water into local rivers and lakes, or into the ocean. 

A commercial car wash, on the other hand, must follow some pretty strict guidelines for waste water disposal, including:

  • Filtering out large particles, such as pieces of metal or clumps of mud or oil
  • sending the water, not to the storm drain, but a local water treatment facility, which can clean the water well enough that it can be used again.
  • Drying out the "sludge" that is left over after filtration and taking it to local special waste processing plant. 
  • Hiring a car wash pit cleaning service that handles all leftover waste, and removes built up chemical and soap scum — leaving less behind to go down the drain. 

Also, because commercial car washes must handle large quantities of water, it is better for the planet to support the business. They have a few methods for water conservation, including:

  • Reusing filtered water for a few washes. Some car washes have reclamation systems and oil filters that help with water recycling. That means that washing your car in a car wash uses less water collectively than if you washed it with your garden hose. In fact, by choosing a car wash, you can save over 50 gallons of water from becoming waste. 
  • Increasing water efficiency. Car washes have to pay for water, just like you pay for water use in your own house. Therefore, many car washes use low-flow, low pressure nozzles and hoses. They also stay on top of maintenance, as worn out or broken parts decrease overall system efficiency. 
  • Using less detergent in the water, which requires a shorter rinse time.
  • Using water-softeners. Soft water leaves less sediment behind when it dries. This helps the environment in two ways: it decreases the need for soap, and it helps extend the time needed between washes, as no spots will be left behind post-wash.

​3. Keep It Efficient 

Your choice of car has a lot of pull when it comes to using less fuel, but a few other tweaks will help reduce your consumption of limited resources, including:

  • Proper tire care. Rotating your tires every six months and keep good tire pressure helps to decrease friction, which means you need less fuel to drive the same distance. In addition, your tires will last longer, so it's a win-win for you and the globe.
  • Following the speed limit. Driving faster burns more fuel to go the same distance. Give yourself an extra five minutes to get somewhere and the world will thank you.
  • Using the AC sparingly. Running the AC reduces fuel efficiency, so if you can, keep the windows cracked to catch a breeze instead. 

Small, everyday choices are what create the future of the earth. Even if you have to drive, being mindful about the little things will make a difference for everyone.