Tops June Green Tip: Limiting Outdoor Air Pollution

It’s summer again! With our increase in travel and outdoor activities this time of year, we often use more energy, which leads to poor air quality. Here are some facts to help us be more environmentally friendly by reducing our energy use, and thus reducing our negative effect on air quality:

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  • According to the California Air Resource Board, more than 95% of Californians live in areas that fail to meet federal or state air quality standards, which is an increasing health hazard to us and our environment. Motor vehicles are responsible for more than half of the air pollution in California. While it’s true that cars are cleaner than they used to be, most new vehicles are still not clean enough to counteract the amount of driving Californians do. So, if we want cleaner air, we have two choices – drive less or drive a vehicle that is less harmful to the environment.
  • How can I drive less? Public transportation is an environmentally friendly way to get around. And the health benefits are easily measurable, e.g., public transit users are more active than others. Individuals who use public transportation get over three times the amount of physical activity per day of those who don’t (approx. 19 minutes, rather than 6) by walking to stops and final destinations. In addition, public buses keep air cleaner. Buses, especially diesel and electrically powered vehicles, produce less pollution than cars per passenger mile by utilizing advanced technologies and higher standards. From 1992-2009, buses using alternative fuels (such as natural gas) jumped from 2 to 30 percent and electric rail transit increased from 29 to 34 percent of passenger miles.
  • What are the benefits of carpooling? According to rideshare.com, every car emits its own weight in carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year! Carpooling reduces that amount significantly. You’ll save money, fuel and stress when you share the commute, trips to concerts and festivals, conferences, and family gatherings and more.
  • How can I cool off without fossil fuels? One suggestion is to use awnings. According to the Washington Post, The Department of Energy estimates that awnings can reduce solar heat gain—the amount temperature rises because of sunshine—by as much as 65 percent on windows with southern exposures and 77 percent on those with western exposures. Planting trees and vines around the home can reduce heat gain by 50%. Cooking hot food outside keeps ovens and burners from adding to the indoor temperature.
  • Eat local. We’ve said it before and will say it again, eating food grown near you can have health benefits for you and the environment. According to NRDC, “how far your food travels has serious consequences for your health and the climate.” So shop at your local farmer’s markets, eat food in season, and get more information at: nrdc.org/foodmiles .

We appreciate your attention to this subject and invite your questions and comments. Write to the author at jude@fratesconsulting.biz .

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