I was doing a little bit of grocery shopping at the local Tesco’s (not by choice by the way – just happens to be the only place to buy food on the way home from our chicken-shed office), and noticed for the first time the car wash there at the edge of the gargantuan car-park.
The building in question proudly proclaimed “This car-wash collects rainwater to wash cars with. Tesco. Caring for our environment”. Great, eh? Where will the eco-warrior-ism end? “We stone our adulterers with locally sourced stones.” “We use only organic maidens to feed our dragons.” “We use the sun to dry out our clothes.”
Frivolity aside, the text misses the point completely – washing oversized machines with even bigger ones is never going to be a good thing, regardless of where the water came from. This kind of “we’re socially responsible” diversion is shabby and misleading, and (I hope) it fools no-one. A car-wash is fundamentally a needlessly wasteful way of cleaning a car. Compare it with a bucket of water, sponge and half an hour’s work in the sun, and the common sense winner is obvious. In fact, the two are analogous to a car and a bike – the former, a polluting and dangerous way of getting from A to B, the latter slower, but ultimately sustainable.
This brings us round neatly to what Tesco should be doing, which is to turn swathes of the car-park space into bike stands. If you’ve been following Mick’s posts on The Ultimate Utility BikeTM, you’ll know just how much stuff you can carry around with the right bike – easily a week’s shopping, and perhaps more.
Conservatively assuming each car-space can take on average two bike stands (and hence four bikes), the supermarket would only need a quarter of the space for its pedalling customers than it does for its petrol-driven ones. The more bike space there is, the more likely it is people will cycle to the shops. The more people cycling, the happier and fitter we’ll all be.
Then Tesco could claim legitimately that they care for the environment. Let’s hope we live to see the day.