If you must drive, a few simple things can make your ride greener and healthier and help save money in the process.
KEEP IT CLEAN
Wash your car at the many commercial car washes that recycle their water. If you wash your car at home, do so on the grass but not on your septic drainfield. Use plant-based soap and water instead of a chemical cleaner. Soapy, oily runoff from streets and lawns is a major source of pollution in Puget Sound, so keep wash water on the car and allow it to filter into the lawn rather than reach pavement. Only rain should go down a storm drain. When cleaning the inside of your car, keep in mind that many auto products are hazardous. Simple homemade cleaners are less expensive and do not give off dangerous fumes or leave harmful residues. Gentle soaps, vinegar, and baking soda will take care of most issues. Clean interior car door panels, consoles, and seating with a damp, soapy cloth rather than with a harsh cleaner. Some window cleaning chemicals can cause headaches and nervous-system damage. Make your own safer window cleaner by adding a half cup of white vinegar to two cups water and a few drops of pulp-free lemon juice in a clean spray bottle. Apply the cleaner with a lint-free cloth and you will have shiny windows without the harsh smell and effects of ammonia.
When it comes to scents, avoid car air fresheners many contain toxic chemicals like benzene and phthalates that have been associated with respiratory problems and cancer. The best way to avoid needing an air freshener is to keep your car clean, remove or fix sources of moisture in the interior of your car, and open the windows frequently to air out the vehicle.
Keep your tires properly filled with air to save money on gas.
Make sure your gas cap seals properly to avoid vaporized fuel loss. Regular oil and oil filter changes will improve your cars efficiency and help extend the life of your vehicle. Request re-refined motor oil at your auto-service or do-it-yourself shop. It has the same properties as new oil but uses much less energy to produce because it is made from recycled oil. Using it creates a market for this recycled product and reduces the need for new oil supplies.
Safely dispose of unwanted auto care and other hazardous products free at HazoHouse at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center on Hogum Bay Road, off I-5 Exit 111 in Lacey. It is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays through Tuesdays. They also accept used motor oil for recycling.
These practices will improve your gas mileage; the environment and your budget will benefit as well.
For resources on transportation choices in Thurston County, check out http://thurstonheretothere.org/
Dr. Diana T. Yu is the Health Officer for Thurston and Mason counties. Reach her at 360-867-2501 or firstname.lastname@example.org.