Clean Air Initiative - Air Pollution: What Can We Do About It?

11/01/03 by Halley Brantley

Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The cartoon character could have been talking about air pollution.

The sad fact is that humans have a staggering impact on air quality. The average American is responsible for about 20 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year -- more than individuals in any other industrialized country.

We can, however, do something about it -- beyond supporting clean air legislation. Relatively small alterations in our lifestyles can positively affect both the environment and our family’s health.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers a number of things we can do to lessen air pollution. Here is the EPA’s list, found on the site

In Your Home


  • Use compact florescent lights with energy-efficient lighting and other energy-efficient appliances.
  • Turn off appliances and lights when you leave the room.
  • Use the microwave to cook small meals. It uses less power than an oven.
  • Plant deciduous trees around your home to provide shade in the summer and to allow light in the winter.
  • Recycle paper, plastic, glass bottles, cardboard and aluminum cans. This conserves energy and reduces production emissions.
  • Reuse materials like paper bags and boxes.
  • Properly dispose of household paints, solvents and pesticides. Store these materials in airtight containers.
  • Paint with a brush, not a sprayer.
  • Keep wood-stoves and fireplaces well maintained.
  • Purchase “Green Power” for your home’s electricity.
  • Have leaky air conditioning and refrigeration systems repaired.
  • Cut back on air conditioning and heating use.
  • Turn your thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer.
  • Insulate your home, water heater and pipes.
  • Have air conditioning systems checked in the spring and heating systems checked in the fall.
  • Follow professional advice on how to check filters monthly.

In Your Car

  • Drive less, especially during peak traffic periods on hot days.
  • Use public transportation, walk or ride a bike.
  • Shop by phone, mail or Internet.
  • Telecommute.
  • Combine your errands into one trip.
  • Avoid revving or idling your engine over 30 seconds.
  • Avoid waiting in long drive-through lines. Turn off your car and go in.
  • Accelerate gradually, maintain speed limit and use cruise control on the highway.
  • Follow your owner’s manual on recommendations for maximum economic efficiency.
  • Use an energy-conserving (E.C.) grade of motor oil.
  • Minimize your use of air conditioning.
  • Get regular engine tune-ups and car maintenance checks.
  • Use EPA-certified facilities for air conditioner repair.
  • Find out if materials are recycled when you change your tires or change car fluids. Ask before your car is serviced and consider going to a facility that is environmentally friendly.
  • Replace your car’s air filter and oil regularly.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated and aligned.
  • Repair all vehicle leaks.
  • Fill your gas tank during cooler evening hours to cut down on evaporation. Avoid spilling gas and don’t “top off” the tank.
  • Replace gas tank cap tightly.
  • Look for the most efficient, lowest-polluting model of vehicle.
  • Don’t ignore the “check engine” or “service engine soon” light if it comes on.

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