Earth Day Checklist: 5 Ways You Can Help the Planet and Lung Health by Reducing Air Pollution
Clean, healthy air is essential to protecting public health and the environment. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, send people to the hospital, shape how kids' lungs develop and can even be deadly. Thanks to safeguards put in place under the Clean Air Act over the last 49 years, our country has made progress in cleaning up and limiting harmful air pollution. But there's still much work to do before everyone has healthy air to breathe. You can help by taking steps to reduce air pollution in your day-to-day activities. We've got five tips to get started.
1. Use less energy at home.
A typical household in the U.S. uses about 11 million megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity per year to operate lighting and appliances. To generate electricity (and other sources of energy) to heat, cool and power your home, power plants burn fuel that can release harmful pollutants into the air. By reducing energy use in your home, you can help improve air quality outside.
Here are some ways to be more energy efficient:
- Set your thermostat to save on heat and air conditioning.
- Switch off the lights and use more energy efficient bulbs.
- Make sure your house is well insulated and weather-tight.
- Choose energy-efficient appliances.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has more tips to curb energy use at home.
2. Walk, bike, carpool or use public transit.
Transportation affects the air we breathe. Cars, SUVs and trucks travel trillions of miles in the U.S. each year, and tailpipe emissions are the source of significant air pollution that can harm your health. To get us from place to place, most vehicles burn gasoline or diesel fuel, which release pollutants into the air. More electric vehicles are coming on the market now, fortunately, but they are still not an option for everyone.
Finding an alternative to driving your car can help curb some of that pollution. Try walking or biking if you can (be sure to pay attention to the air quality outside). Carpool. Or use public transportation, such as buses, subways and commuter trains. If these aren’t available, ask your local leaders for alternatives to driving, including more sidewalks, bike lanes and mass transit options.
3. Don't burn wood.
Burning wood—such as in woodstoves, hydronic heaters and other appliances used to heat homes—produces emissions that are harmful to human health and can worsen air quality both indoors and outdoors. In fact, burning wood is a major source of particle pollution (soot) in many parts of the country. Here are some options that can help you reduce pollution from wood burning:
- Find alternative ways to heat your home, such as solar panels and electric or geothermal heat pumps.
- Switch to cleaner devices such as natural gas stoves and heaters, and make sure they are fully vented to the outdoors.
- Replace your old wood-burning device with an EPA-certified appliance. The EPA adopted new standards for cleaner and more energy efficient wood-burning devices in 2015.
- If none of these options work, use pellets or dry wood for a cleaner and more efficient burn.
4. Ditch the gas-powered lawn mower.
Use hand-powered or electric lawn care equipment rather than gasoline-powered. Old two-stroke engines like lawnmowers and leaf or snow blowers often have no pollution control devices. They can pollute the air even more than cars, though engines sold since 2011 are cleaner.
5. Join the fight for healthy air.
We fight because dirty air harms our health and can threaten life itself.
Policies and laws from Congress, the White House, and the EPA along with state and local initiatives can have a huge impact on the air quality in your community.
Help us advocate for stronger clean air standards, lower power plant emissions, and cleaner fuels and vehicles.
Did you know? More than 4 in 10 people live where pollution levels are too often dangerous to breathe. Our annual State of the Air report takes a look at air pollution in cities and states across the country.
Related Topic: Healthy Air