Pollution & air quality
Outdoor air quality
What you can do to improve outdoor air quality
There are many ways you can reduce outdoor air pollution. Here are some ideas:
Things you can do to reduce air pollution – on a smog day:
- Don’t idle your vehicle.
- Don’t use gas or diesel-powered equipment, including lawnmowers and barbecues.
- Turn off non-essential lights and electronics.
- Don’t use pesticides.
- Don’t paint.
Everyday things you can do to reduce outdoor air pollution – around home:
- Use paints with low volatile-organic compounds (VOCs) and avoid oil-based paint.
- Avoid using chemical products. If you do use them, make sure you seal the lids tightly.
- Use energy-efficient appliances.
- Reduce your heating needs by making your house more energy efficient. Find out about government programs that test your home’s energy-efficiency and give grants to help pay for the cost of improving your home’s energy efficiency.
- Choose a less-polluting home heating method.
- Keep your furnace, air conditioner and humidifier well maintained.
- If you need to use an air conditioner, set it at a moderate temperature, around 23 degrees Celsius. When you leave the house, turn the air conditioner down.
- In the winter, heat your house to 20 degrees or less when you’re up, lower when you’re in bed or out of the house.
- Turn off non-essential lights and unplug appliances when not in use.
- Avoid burning wood. If you have to burn wood, follow these precautions to reduce pollution.
- Don’t burn things in your yard. It’s especially harmful to burn garbage, plastics, cardboard, wrapping paper, particleboard, styrofoam, painted or treated wood, or wood taken from saltwater.
- Don’t use chimineas or other outdoor fireplaces.
- Garden without pesticides.
- Use hand-powered garden tools. Avoid using gasoline or diesel-powered equipment such as lawnmowers and leaf-blowers.
- Compost leaves, garden trimmings, and kitchen waste.
Everyday things you can do to reduce outdoor air pollution – getting around:
Everyday things you can do to reduce outdoor air pollution – on the road:
- If you do drive, plan ahead. Make one trip with several stops, instead of separate trips.
- Don’t idle. If you stop for more than 10 seconds, turn the engine off. Ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine 1.
- Avoid aggressive driving. Tests show that rapid stops and starts can increase fuel use by about 40 per cent – and only reduce travel time by about 4 per cent 2.
- Drive more slowly. Reducing your speed from 120 to 90km/hr will decrease fuel consumption by about 20%.3
- Use overdrive and high gears. Aim for the lowest engine RPM by selecting the highest gear for your speed, whenever possible.
- Be aerodynamic. Keep your windows rolled up when driving on the highway to cut wind resistance. Less drag means less fuel consumed.
- Minimize your use of air conditioning. Using your air conditioner in stop-and-go traffic can increase fuel consumption by as much as 20%.4
- Travel light. The heavier the vehicle, the more fuel it burns. Avoid unnecessary weight.
- Tune-up regularly. A tune-up can improve the fuel efficiency of your car by 15% and up to 50% if your car has not been regularly maintained 5.
- Check tire pressure. Properly inflated tires improve fuel efficiency. Driving your vehicle with just one tire under inflated by 6 psi can reduce the life of the tire by 10,000 km and increase fuel consumption by 3%, costing you extra money and releasing more pollution into the air 6.
- Make sure wheels are aligned and balanced, and ball joints or constant velocity joints are well lubricated.
- Have your brakes checked. Brakes that drag can decrease fuel efficiency by up to 40 per cent.
- Clean or replace spark plugs and oil filters; this will help keep fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions down.
- Gas up your vehicle before sunrise or after sundown.
- Take care not to spill gasoline when filling a tank. Don’t top up- when the gas pump automatically shuts off as you’re filling the tank, don’t add more gas. This could lead to a gas spill.
- Replace or service the exhaust gas recirculator (EGR) valve. It reduces the emission of a variety of greenhouse gases.
- Use a timed block heater in cold weather. A block heater warms the oil and engine coolant, making it easier to start your vehicle and improving winter fuel economy by as much as 10%7. Set the timer to turn the block heater on about 2.5 hours before you plan to start your vehicle. Avoid plugging the vehicle in overnight.
- Have your catalytic converter replaced or serviced regularly.
- If you’re thinking about buying a new car, pay close attention to fuel efficiency. Chose a car that’s fuel-efficient, buy a hybrid, or find a way of living without a car (car sharing, etc.)
Everyday things you can do to reduce outdoor air pollution – around work:
- Avoid using a vehicle to get to work. Try car-pooling, take public transit, walk, or ride your bike.
- Try teleconferencing and telecommuting, to avoid unnecessary travel.
- Turn off non-essential lights.
Everyday things you can do to reduce smog – in your community:
- Advocate for cleaner air – tell your elected officials at the national, provincial and local level that you care about clean air, and vote for parties and candidates who support clean air legislation
- Support and abide by laws intended to clean the air, like pesticide bans and laws against idling your car
- Lead by example
Things you can do to reduce indoor air pollution
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Compiled list of quick facts from Environment Canada's page on reducing air pollution