Why Clean Air Starts with You (and Me!)

In my journey as Mrs. Green, I have learned so much about so many things. Most recently, I have been educating myself about the important work of Pima Association of Governments (PAG.) Without going into too much detail, they are a regional planning organization whose divisions include transportation, energy & sustainable environment.  Translation?  They work to improve the quality of our lives.

This Summer they are working in cooperation with the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ) to launch an air quality campaign called Clean Air Starts with Me. And so it does.  To me it’s quite obvious why we should care about air quality – as in we breathe it.  But what can we, as good stewards of the earth, actually do about it and how can we make a difference?  Answer?  LOTS!

Here are Ten (10) easy to follow tips for all of us to consider.  And I mean EASY.

1. DURING THE SUMMER, gas up your vehicle in the evening. Ground level ozone is formed when volatile organic compounds from gasoline fumes combine with other pollutants and react with intense sunlight. If you gas up in the evening when sunlight is less intense, you lessen the chance of creating ground-level ozone. (And in summer this just makes sense anyway.  You don’t bake yourself.)

2. Keep your automobile well maintained. Cars that are tuned, with properly inflated tires and new air filters, not only use less gasoline, but they also run cleaner. (Translation? Saves you money)

3. Use less electricity. Turn out the lights and use energy-efficient appliances. Unplug charges and other items that use electricity even when in the off mode. Generating electricity is one of the biggest sources of emissions that contribute to air pollution. (In summer, wear less and in winter, put on a sweater.)

4.”Trip-chain” by organizing and combining several errands into one outing. Try to organize multiple stops all into one trip. It will save wear and tear on the car and keep the car from experiencing cold starts. (You can make this fun and minimize your time in the heat.)

5. Avoid using gas-powered lawn, garden equipment, and leaf blowers. Some gasoline-powered lawn mowers emit as much pollution in one hour as a car driven for over 8 hours! (Great new options on the market including battery operated.)

6. Try not to “top-off” the tank when gassing up a vehicle. Gasoline spillage evaporates into the air and helps to form ground-level ozone. Topping off occurs when people want to squeeze an “extra few cents” of gasoline into a tank that’s already full. (Honestly? Makes me sick if gas gets on my hands when pumping.  Smart enough to know this is not a good thing.)

7. Drive less. Combine trips, walk, bike, carpool or vanpool, and use transit, or other alternatives to driving. Vehicle emissions are a major source of air pollution in Pima County. Support plans that provide ways to get around that don’t require a car, such as more sidewalks, bike trails and transit. (Mr. & Mrs. Green carpool with friends whenever we can – it’s more fun.)

8. Avoid idling. Turn the engine off at schools, drive-through windows, etc. An idling engine wastes gasoline and emits pollution into the air. (Mrs. Green’s does this!)

9. Avoid charcoal lighter fluid. When lighting up that BBQ, limit lighter fluid use by using propane, natural gas, charcoal chimneys, or electric charcoal starters. Charcoal lighter fluid evaporates when it burns, causing chemicals to rise into the air and mix with other pollutants to form ozone. (Mrs. Green’s take on this one? I cannot stand the taste of food barbecued using lighter fluid. You can start a little fire under the charcoal with paper & twigs. Not nasty, not harmful.)

10. Limit use of oil-based paints. Solvents and oil-based paints contribute to ground level ozone. Traditional water-based paints have very low levels of solvents that evaporate into the air compared to oil-based pain.(Please pay attention to this one. Oil-based paints off-gas forever & can be really harmful to your health.)

How great and easy are these green tips for all of us to practice in our every day lives?  Small steps, big impact.  To your clean air-quality health.