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How You Can Help Lessen Smog, Bad Air

green prescriptionHow you live makes a difference to the air you breathe.

1. Automobile Advice

Let’s start with your vehicle. If you’re driving an SUV, it burns one-half to two-thirds more fuel than a regular car. As for cars, newer models can vary con­siderably on environmental and energy efficiency, so compare both fuel effi­ciency and emission controls before buying or leasing.

Technology can only help so much, though. We need to reduce the number of vehicles and the time they spend on the road. This is partly an urban planning issue, since the growth of suburbs has extend­ed commuting times. So we need to halt sprawl and encourage people to live downtown or close to where they work. To get people out of cars, you also need better public transit, as well as more bike lanes.

In the shorter term, what can you do now?

- Carpool, use public transportation, walk or bike (if it’s not a smoggy day). One car commuter uses as much energy as a transit rider uses in 10 years. Viewed another way, if you take public transit instead of a vehicle for a year, you can save nearly a tonne of pollutants, including carbon dioxide.

- Avoid idling. Canadian statistics show 3 per cent of fuel is wasted by idling.

- Tune up your car. If we all did it on a regular basis, we could reduce Nitrogen oxides by 12 per cent and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a key part of smog, by 30 per cent.

- Keep tires properly inflated. Each 5 per cent of under inflation in a tire translates into a 1 per cent increase in fuel consumption.

- Fill your gas tank in the evening, as this a major source of VOCs. If they combine with other gases in the sun, they create smog.

- Consider fuel efficiency when you buy a car. See www.fueleconomy.gov to check gas consumption and emissions.

- Buy a hybrid. Enjoy the sound of silence as you push the button that starts the electric-powered motor. They’re expensive, but what’s the price for breathable air?

- Retire the clunker. Google to find a local eco-friendly program that takes away energy-guzzling old vehicles. Many provide free towing; some even offer some money for your creaking car.

2. Hot Tips for the Home

Following are some suggestions to cut your energy use and improve the local air.

- Draft-proof your home. About 30 per cent of home heat is lost through cracks and crevices. Close the fireplace damper when not in use.

- Turn down your hot water temperature to 120 degrees F. You’ll cut energy demand by about 3 per cent and save a higher percentage on your energy bill. Also, insulate the pipes on the tank.

- Replace your old furnace. A 10-year­old clunker wastes 45 per cent of its heat. A new natural gas furnace is 98 per cent efficient.

- Wash clothes in cold water; don’t dry them until the dryer is full.

- Get a push mower and a rake. Stop using that gas-powered lawn­mower and leaf blower. Those off-road engines – powerboats, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, snowmobiles – are responsible for 20 per cent of pollution from mobile sources.

Next page: More Tips for Your Home

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