It’s mid-July, so we’re soon to launch into the scorching hot and smoggy dog days of summer. Because our valley is shaped like a punch bowl, pollution gets trapped close to the ground, especially during our 100-degree-plus days. This means, simply, that when it’s hot, we tend to breathe more poisonous air. This is bad for all of us, of course, but is especially awful for children because early exposure to smog in infant lungs has been proven to do long-lasting, irreversible damage.
Local governments and air-quality experts in our region have taken some steps to tackle the problem, and Sacramento Regional Transit has made some positive moves. Still, our elected leaders need to get far more aggressive in protecting our air. As smart-growth advocates have said for years, we should be growing in a manner that discourages sprawl by building along public-transit corridors and by vastly improving public-transportation options. Some of this is under way, but the need to step it up is urgent.
All that being said, the solution to our air-quality problem is not all about what our elected officials should do. We must take individual action, too. Here are 10 tips from a “Things to do to Spare The Air,” list compiled by the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District. Read and consider how you (in particular) can do your part.
(1) Drive less. Cars and other mobile vehicles are by far the leading cause of air pollution in the Sacramento region. “If you leave your car at home one day a week, you prevent 55 pounds of pollution each year from being emitted into our air.”
(2) Take public transit. Call 511 or visit www.sacregion511.org for information on how to get started.
(3) Carpool or vanpool to work—even one day a week.
(4) Sign up for Air Alert. Go to www.sparetheair.com to sign up to receive e-mail advisories on days when the ground-level ozone or particulate matter is expected to reach dangerous levels.
(5) Refuel in the evening and never top off. “Putting gas into your vehicle releases Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the air. Throughout the day, these VOCs mix with oxides of nitrogen (NOx), ‘cook’ in the summer sun, and form ground-level ozone. Refueling in the evening decreases the opportunity for VOCs to create ozone.”
(6) Link your trips. Starting up a cold engine (one that has been sitting still for more than an hour) gives off five times more pollution than starting up a warm one. Link your errands together to lessen the cold starts.
(7) Tele-work. “Even if you do this one day a week, you’ll be making a difference.”
(8) Avoid consumer spray products. Aerosol sprays contribute to pollution. “Choose solids, sticks, and gels instead.”
(9) It’s OK to barbecue, but don’t use charcoal lighter fluid. Use an electric starter or replace your grill with a propane-gas one.
(10) Do your garden chores electricity-free. “Avoid gas-powered tools such as mowers, blowers, edgers and trimmers—switch to electric-powered tools.”