5 more things you can do to improve air quality in your city (and live more sustainably)

Air pollution is an environmental issue that affects everyone. Here are five more actions you can take to help clear the air where you live, and live more sustainably in general. You can find the first part here.

Get a home energy audit

A professional audit provides a thorough assessment of your home’s energy use and recommendations for improvements to make it more efficient. Doing so will help you greatly reduce your carbon footprint. While audits can be costly, many utility companies offer it for free or at a discounted rate for existing customers. 

In particular, your auditor may suggest a change in your home’s heating system. Boilers are a key source of urban air pollution, emitting pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), hydrochloric acid (HCl), mercury (Hg), and particulate matter (PM2.5). Hence, an upgrade to the more-efficient condensing boiler or the most-efficient heat pump may be recommended.

In addition to the improvements suggested by auditors, here are some other ways you yourself can save electricity in your home:

  • Add insulation to your walls. They help save money on heating and cooling.
  • Install ceiling fans. They are a more energy-efficient alternative to air conditioners and help keep your home cool by circulating the air indoors.
  • Replace your incandescent light bulbs. Use energy- and cost-efficient alternatives such as fluorescent and LED bulbs instead. 
  • Skip your dryer. Hanging your clothes out to dry naturally helps save energy.

Automate your home and building operations

Energy generation today predominantly stems from fossil fuel power plants, which release air pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), greenhouse gases (GHGs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide (SO2), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The rise of smart devices has made it easier than ever to automate systems in your home to save energy, reduce air pollution, and subsequently save on your electricity bill. Areas that can be controlled include lighting, climate, sensors, entertainment systems, and appliances that can be easily controlled via your smartphone. This applies to both your home and your office.

Invest in energy-efficient appliances

Energy efficient appliances are a great way to save on your home bills and reduce household air pollution. Various governments have come up with their own energy efficiency rating systems to help buyers make informed purchasing decisions. The United States uses the ENERGY STAR symbol to identify energy-efficient products based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s evaluations. The European Union provides energy labels with a rating scale of A to G (most efficient to least efficient). These have proven to be incredibly effective. In 2018, ENERGY STAR certified products helped save consumers $20 billion and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 150 million metric tons. The EU energy labels help save households €285 a year and create €66 billion in additional revenue for EU companies.

In particular, you should consider replacing your gas stove with an electric one. Not only is it more cost-efficient to do so, gas stoves are a major source of household air pollution, producing pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), formaldehyde (CH2O or HCHO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter (PM2.5).

Reduce waste

Reduce, reuse, recycle! Cutting down on disposable items and plastic use reduces the waste that would otherwise have been lying in landfills or incinerated. Landfills are a source of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), while the burning of trash releases toxins such black carbon, dioxins, and furans into the atmosphere. 

In addition, letting organic waste compost underground in your garden will not only provide essential nutrients to the soil, but it will also reduce the methane (CH4) emissions that would have otherwise been generated in a landfill.

Use rechargeable batteries

Disposable batteries leach toxins such as cadmium, lead, and mercury into the environment. While most batteries can be recycled, the process oftentimes can fail to meet emission controls and waste management standards. Hence, rechargeable batteries are the best answer: they’re safe, reliable, long-lasting and despite the high initial cost, become very cost-effective soon after.

Reminder: Become an air quality sensor host

As mentioned in our last list: By volunteering to install an air quality sensor on your own premises, you help provide comprehensive air quality information for governments and fellow citizens in making decisions on improving the air we breathe. There are no costs incurred for becoming a sensor host aside from the sensors’ very low power consumption. The gathered air quality data will be publicly available on our air quality citizen portal. Join us in helping clear the air today!