Since the dawn of Industrial Revolution, air pollution has become a great problem in most urban centers. While it may be near impossible to totally eradicate it, we can do something to help reduce air pollution in our area.
Air pollution is a socio-political, economic, and environmental problem. It has already taken its toll on humans, animals, plants and the environment. We may not be able to stop it altogether. But we can, at least, reduce its impact. Here are some helpful tips on how we can make our lives in the urban centers better.
Drive less. Cars and trucks produce a large amount of nitrogen dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide, as we know, contributes to the formation of photochemical smog. Breathing in a raised level of this gas increases your risk of acquiring respiratory diseases.
To mitigate the issue of nitrogen dioxide emission, try adopting some measures.
Minimize the use of your vehicle
- Walk or use your bike. If your regular destination – grocery, office, gym, or school – is close enough, try walking or cycling. It’s good for your health, too.
- Combine errands as much as possible. It does not only save you gas, but also your energy.
- Use public transport. Take advantage of public buses, trains, or subways for your commute.
- Carpool. Join or set up a carpool with your officemates or neighbors to minimize the number of cars on the road. This also means fewer trips being made.
Keep your car in good condition. Proper maintenance of your car reduces emission and improves its mileage.
- Tune-up and change its oil regularly.
- Make sure that the tires are inflated at the correct pressure. This allows the engine to work better.
- Submit your car for smog and emission tests to ensure it’s not emitting too much pollution.
- Go over your car’s manual or consult your mechanic for specific maintenance instructions.
- Observe gas refueling instructions for efficient vapor recovery. Make sure not to spill fuel. And, always tighten your gas cap.
- As much as possible, pump gas in the morning or evening when the temperature is cooler. This will prevent sunlight from interacting with the nitrogen dioxide emissions.
- Avoid excessive idling of your car. Idling also causes another form of pollution – that is, noise pollution. Noise pollution may not harm your body, but it can annoy your neighbor.
Choose a hybrid or electric vehicle. If you’re planning to purchase a new car, choose a hybrid or electric-powered unit. It does not emit as much pollution as a traditional vehicle. Some electric-powered cars decrease the consumption of fuel. While others don’t even need fuel at all.
Avoid products high on VOC content. As much as possible, use water-based or solvent-free paints and environmentally-friendly cleaners. When shopping, look for “green” products that don’t contain VOCs. However, if these were not available, choose items that indicate “low VOC”.
VOC refers to volatile organic compounds that include a variety of chemicals. Some of these chemicals have short- and long-term adverse effects on human health. VOCs are emitted by many common products, such as:
- Your typical nail care items ( like ethyl alcohol, acetone…)
- Adhesive removers (methylene chloride)
- Aerosol spray products (butane)
- Building materials and furnishings
- Home paints, paint strippers, and other solvents
- Stored fuels and automotive items
- Cleaners and disinfectants
- Wood preservatives
- Hobby supplies
- Graphics and craft materials like permanent markers, glues, adhesives, and photographic solutions
- Dry-cleaned clothing
- Office equipment and supplies, such as photocopiers, printers, carbonless copy paper, correction fluids
VOCs stored indoors are ten times higher in concentration compared with those kept outdoors. If you have VOC-containing products at home, make sure you seal their containers properly. This is to prevent the chemicals from evaporating into the air. Most importantly, store them in a well-ventilated area. In case you can’t avoid VOC products, purchase in small quantities that can be used quickly and don’t necessitate storage.
Don’t burn leaves, trash, and other materials. Instead, mulch or compost the leaves and your other yard waste.
Take a stand. Organize or encourage your local community to actively participate in undertaking smog reduction initiatives.
- Stop smoking. Tobacco or cigarette smoke is one of the major air pollutants. When the number of smokers decreases, air pollution also decreases. So, air quality gets better. Start with yourself, if you’re a smoker! Or, discourage a family member from the habit.
- Lobby or sign a petition. If your country has not yet imposed an anti-smoking law, consider lobbying to pressure your lawmakers to make one. You may also utilize the online petitions to urge local politicians and business leaders to go for air quality control.
- Promote your stance and be consistent with it.
- Be actively involved in your community’s energy conservation programs.
- Buy local. When you buy from the nearest farmer’s market or stalls, you considerably reduce the cost of transport. And so, you help reduce emissions. Also, purchase products from companies that are conscious of protecting the environment.
Conserve energy wherever you are – at home, at work, or anywhere else. Make it a habit to turn off the lights, electric appliances, computers, and other electric-driven items when not in use.
Use energy-efficient lights and appliances. When buying your home or office equipment, choose the ones that bear the Energy Star label. The Energy Star-labeled products help minimize greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. Refrain from using incandescent light bulbs. Instead, use any of those energy-efficient halogen incandescents, LEDs, and CFLs. I’m sure these products are readily available at a local hardware store near you.
For your heating and cooling appliances, choose the one with energy-saving thermostats that automatically reset temperatures when you are not at home.
Refrain from using gas-powered yard equipment. Instead, use eco-friendly or electric-powered hedgers, trimmers, lawn-mowers, and any other lawn implements.
By being conscientious, we can make a marked difference for our environment and for our health. It’s one thing to be protesting on the streets and calling on our government to do something. But it’s more prudent when each citizen did his share in helping reduce air pollution.
For more information about smog and its effects, check the article, What you need to know about smog.