A Breath of Fresh Air: 4 Ways to Combat Air Pollution

Air. We can’t live without it.

But over the past 200 years, humans have done a pretty terrible job of taking care of this necessary resource.  Our burning of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution has released all sorts of pollutants into our air, leading to everything from acid rain to lung cancer. Although air pollution in the USA has gotten better since the 1990’s, it continues to be a problem throughout our planet. 

Here at the Office for Sustainability, we are dedicating the month of February to Air Pollution Awareness and Prevention. Check out these 4 easy ways you can personally reduce air pollution.

1. Change Up Your Commute

A sizable chunk of one’s personal air pollution comes from the vehicle they drive. Reducing your emissions is as easy as rethinking your commute to school. Simply carpooling divides each trip’s impact by at least half. The U of A is also equipped with a free, reliable bus system that takes carpooling to a new level – all while saving you gas money.  Click here to see the schedule and routes of the buses.
Another way to commute is by bike. The City of Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas have both been awarded for their bike-friendly efforts, and Fayetteville itself features an extensive trail system, as well as free bike repair stations throughout the campus and city. Click these links to see a map of all bike parking on campus and here to read more about bikes on campus.

Last but not least, you can commute with your own two feet. Walking is a zero impact way to travel – and some studies even claim walking could be part of the key to a healthy and long life.

2. Clean Your Plate

People don’t usually equate the food they eat with air pollution, but in reality, agricultural production is one of the largest users of fossil fuels in the modern world. Most agriculture also uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the production and use of which contribute greatly to air pollution. Add that an estimated 30-40% of all food produced in the US never gets consumed, and the way one eats suddenly jumps to the top of the “impactful habits” list.

There are two easy ways to reduce your diet-related pollution.  One is to modify your diet to exclude foods with higher impacts. Some foods, like many meats, have a much higher carbon footprint per pound than others, and reducing or even eliminating these items from your diet can go a long way towards lowering your personal impact.  Secondly, you can reduce your own personal food waste. This is as simple as using your groceries before they go bad and eating left-overs from meals. Start by checking out this easy guide to using your fridge smarter to begin preventing personal food waste.

3. Ditch Your Disposable Water Bottles

A liter of bottled water requires two liters of oil to make, the process of which releases many pollutants into the air.
Add this to the emissions produced by transporting the product, and the air pollution impact of a little bottle of water starts to get big. Tap water, on the other hand, is not only as clean and safe as bottled water, but it has relatively zero impact.  To eliminate the dirty habit of drinking bottled water and save yourself some serious cash in the meantime, start bringing a reusable water bottle to campus. The U of A is covered in water fountains and bottle re-fill stations where you can top off on agua for absolutely free.

4. Lower Your Home Energy Use

In Arkansas, most of the electricity we use is generated by burning coal, the “dirtiest” of the fossil fuels. Therefore, cutting down on your electricity use also means cutting down on your air pollution footprint. This can be as simple as heating/cooling your home more efficiently, changing your light-bulbs to LEDs, washing your clothes on cold instead of warm or hot, and unplugging appliances when not in use.

Want more tips on how to live responsibly? Check out this post for 10 Easy Steps to Make your Semester more Sustainable
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