These tips to be a greener driver, can help you get around safely and cheaper, and help to save the planet too. It’s nice to be car-free but often not possible in the real world for most of us. Until town planners design mixed-use communities (making it easier to walk or cycle places), you can use these tips. Also read: how to keep wildlife safe near roads, greener motorways & service stations and ways to use less oil.
- Cutting Your Car Use is a nice illustrated book with 100 tips, by a traffic reduction consultant. Find ways to reduce or give up your car.
- Co-Wheels rents cars by the hour, so each car is used by around 20 people a day, in effect removing 19 cars off the road, and freeing up parking spaces. There are many companies nationwide, many have pet-friendly, child-friendly and disabled-friendly vehicles.
- ETA (Environmental Transport Association) offers breakdown cover for cars and bicycles, with profits campaigning for sustainable transport. It also has local mechanics for used car safety checks.
- Click Mechanic employs local mechanics to come to you to repair/service cars. This avoids high prices used to rent big showrooms, the company has good reviews.
- Replace toxic air fresheners with charcoal-based PURGGO or Moso Bags (good to remove lingering cigarette smells). Scent (real essential oils in a wooden tube that attaches to the air vent) or Purple Frog (an organic ‘tree freshener) are better than those toxic tree fresheners, but avoid near pets, children or allergies).
- Oil & antifreeze are lethal to pets. (the latter has a sweet taste, campaigners want a bitter substance added to make it unpalatable). Have your mechanic change it ideally. If you do this yourself, use a funnel and choose propylene glycol (still keep locked away but it’s safer than ethylene glycol – think ‘P’ for protect to remember the difference). If you have a spill, confine pets and soak up with paper towels (use gloves). Then use sand or kitty litter to absorb the rest (keep a spill kit on hand). After cleaning with soap and warm water, experts say to hose the rest into the lawn to allow soil to filter toxins (this is not ideal, but this is to avoid harming pets (by leaving it) or marine life (by hosing it down sinks or drains). A good lesson to let your mechanic change it next time. Read more on antifreeze spills.
Wash Your Car (naturally)
Driveway car washes cause mini oil spills, as untreated oily water goes down drains. Use a professional car wash that recycles the water instead. If you wash your own car, then there are greener ways to do this.
Eco Touch is a waterless biodegradable car wash that cleans and polishes your car in one (it also offers other car-cleaning items like dashboard wash, carpet cleaner and leather trim cleaner – including in ‘catering sizes’ for car wash companies). To use, just spray on, leave for a bit then wipe off (work in straight lines, to avoid swirl marks). If you are going to use water to wash your car, at least tip the water down the toilet where water is treated, instead of down the drain. Supermarket car washes don’t have regulations to filter the water and the suds often attract thirsty animals like foxes or feral cats.
Unless you are using a compostable cloth to wash your car, any other cloth like e-Cloth will need to be laundered with a Guppyfriend (which collects plastic fibres), it would not stop oil being released from the machine, down the drain. You can use it for 2 years after washing, just don’t use fabric conditioner as this reduces absorbency. The car-cleaning bundle includes a window genie for streak-free finish, a duel action mitt (good for crevices like around the gearstick), a dry-shine cloth for chrome & mirrors and a dual action sponge for exteriors (they suggest water, but see above for why this is not good – you can also use this to clean dashboards, trim and other interior surfaces).
If you car is really dirty, obviously you are best visiting a professional car wash that recycles and treats the water. Waterless car wash is only for light cleaning. The other issue is that you may end up with an oily Microfiber cloth and you have to bin this.
- Curbing Traffic: The Human Case for Fewer Cars In Our Lives is a book inspired by a couple who packed up from Vancouver and moved to Delft in The Netherlands, who had become unofficial ambassadors for the city, after the publication of their first book. In this book they chronicle their experience of treating cars as visitors, rather than owners of the road. They weave their personal story with interviews from experts to experience life living in a city designed for people. And how this has had led to happier children and older people, freed from isolation and dependency. And how investments are more than just getting from A to B but about increased happiness and inclusion and wellbeing. The resulting place is child-friendly, connected, trusting, feminist, quiet, therapeutic, accessible, prosperous, resilient and age-friendly.