With the issues of air pollution and carbon footprints at the forefront of our minds nowadays, it is important to find effective ways that will enable you to reduce them. It is a fact that each time you mow the lawn, turn on a household appliance, or even turn on a light, you’re polluting the air around you.
Generally, any substance that people introduce into the atmosphere and that has damaging effects on both the environment and on living things is considered as air pollution. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, trucks and cars account for almost one-fifth of American emissions – producing approximately 24 pounds of CO2 for every gallon of gas used.
There are three main substances that contribute to the people-driven pollution of our air:
- Carbon dioxide. This greenhouse gas is the main pollutant that is currently warming the Earth. Carbon dioxide is considered to be a pollutant when created by power plants, planes, cars, and other human activities that depend on the burning of fossil fuels such as natural gas.
- According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, more than 60 percent of the world’s methane emissions come from human activities. In the United States, natural gas and petroleum systems are the largest source of methane emissions from industry.
- CFCs were once used in aerosols and refrigerants; however, they have been banned due to their depleting effects on the ozone layer.
To curb the issue of air pollution and a carbon footprint on a personal level, activities such as flying less, car-sharing, and recycling can reduce a person’s carbon footprint. There are many simple steps you can take in your everyday life to help improve the quality of the air you breathe:
In the Home
There are many ways that air quality can be improved within the home. By reducing energy consumption, you can help reduce your air pollution footprint. Also, if less electricity, gasoline, and natural gas are used, your bills will be cheaper, and fewer pollutants will be released into the atmosphere. Try to incorporate as many of these tips as possible into your daily routine:
- Always use a fan instead of air conditioning.
- Remember to turn the lights off when you leave the room.
- Replace regular energy-sapping incandescent lights with compact florescent bulbs.
- Look into alternative energy solutions like wind and solar power.
- Ask your energy supplier for a home audit to see where you can make energy savings.
- Use a push lawnmower rather than one that is electrically-powered.
- Always recycle organic materials, plastic, paper, and metals.
- To save energy, program your thermostat to 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months, and 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.
- Use an EPA-approved fireplace or wood stove on days with healthy air.Don’t heat your home with a gas stove.
- Practice water conservation in the bathroom, kitchen, and garden.
- Insulate your home so you don’t need to use as much heating on cold days.
- Use energy star appliances.
- Ensure your gas heaters and appliances are maintained and inspected on a regular basis, to ensure they’re working correctly and not leaking or overusing gas.
- To minimize your contribution to air miles in terms of your carbon footprint, shop locally from farmers’ markets and local food producers.
- Get into the habit of keeping reusable and durable grocery bags in the car.
- Purchase products from sustainable sources, such as hemp, latex, and bamboo.
- Insulate your water heater and any hot water pipes that are accessible.
- Use natural cleaning products in the home and use natural pet care products.
- Plants some trees! These help filter the air and can also provide shade to the home when planted in the right place. This can help curb the need for air conditioning and fans.
On the Road
With so much air pollution coming from trucks and cars, it is imperative to reduce the carbon footprint of your personal vehicle for the sake of the planet. To help do this, you can:
- Use public transport whenever possible.
- Better still, ride your bike or walk.
- Rather than taking many trips spread over different days, organize your errands and condense them into one trip.
- Always obey the speed limit.
- Accelerate gradually when driving.
- Keep your car use to a minimum.
- Ensure your vehicle is always well-maintained, and that your tires are correctly inflated.
- Don’t overload your vehicle as this will make it work harder and produce more emissions.
- Don’t idle your car for more than 30 seconds.
- When purchasing a new vehicle, consider buying an electric model with zero emissions or a fuel-efficient, low-polluting vehicle.
- To stay cool while driving, open the windows rather than turning on the AC. If you must use it, shut it off when the car reaches a cool enough temperature.
- During the winter months, use a block heater to warm the engine before you start it as a cold engine will emit more exhaust fumes and will burn more fuel.
In the Workplace
Focusing on reducing air pollution is something that can also be done in the workplace. Considering you probably spend a large portion of your time at work, these suggestions will help keep your work space environmentally friendly:
- If you have the option to telecommute, do so. This saves using transport to get to your workplace, as well as providing you with the freedom of working from home.
- Carpool if possible.
- Begin a recycling program in the workplace and ensure everyone is aware of it.
- Bring a cold lunch to work.
- Photocopy and print on both sides of paper.
- Rather than switching on the lights when you turn up to work, open the blinds instead.
- Always turn off your office equipment when it’s not in use.
- Dress for the weather – bring a sweater for when it’s cold, so you won’t need to use unnecessary energy by turning up the heating.
- Encourage your organization to develop a greenhouse gas inventory. This will help measure and manage the climate change impact of your organization.
Through making some small changes to the way that you live your life, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint, and can help maintain the environment and climate for many years to come.
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