Think Green

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How to cut back on air pollution

While smog is perhaps the most glaring form of air pollution, there are many more visible and invisible substances that qualify as air pollution introduced into the atmosphere. One of the problems with combating air pollution is that so many human activities involve the burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline and natural gas, and the burning of these fossil fuels contributes heavily to air pollution. But there are small steps people can take that, if adopted on a wide scale, can help to reduce air pollution and combat climate change.

* Ride a bicycle whenever possible. Instead of driving on short trips when running simple errands, ride your bicycle if it's feasible to do so. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas associated with automobiles, and driving less means less carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere. When running relatively easy errands, such as visiting the grocery store to pick up a forgotten item or dropping off one or two shirts at the dry cleaner's, take a bicycle instead of driving. Riding a bicycle is not just good exercise, but eco-friendly exercise as well.

* Take public transportation. Rather than driving your own car to work every day, utilize public transportation if doing so is feasible in your town or city. Riding public transportation will cut back on your contributions to air pollution, and many people find commuting to work via public transportation is less stressful than driving their own vehicles. When taking public transportation, riders can unwind with a good book or watch their favorite shows on a laptop, smartphone or tablet, which is much more relaxing than sitting in a traffic jam with white knuckles gripping your steering wheel.

* Fill up at night. You can even reduce your contributions to air pollution by filling your vehicle's gas tank at certain times of the day. When combined with hot temperatures, gas fumes can create ground-level ozone that contributes to air pollution. If morning or afternoon temperatures are warm, fill up at night to reduce the likelihood that your trip to the gas station creates ground-level ozone.

* Improve fuel economy. You can do more to reduce air pollution when behind the wheel than just filling up at night on hot days. The United States Environmental Protection Agency notes that a 1 percent increase in fuel economy is equivalent to a 1 percent decrease in carbon dioxide emissions. When driving, you can increase fuel economy, which also will save you money at the pump, by driving the speed limit and avoiding rapid accelerations and hard braking.

* Stop heating and cooling an empty house. It's great to walk into a warm house on a cold day and equally as enjoyable to enter a cool home during the dog days of summer. But heating and cooling an empty home wastes energy. The EPA notes that saving energy can reduce carbon emissions, so before leaving for work in the morning, set heating and cooling systems so they are not turning on and off when no one is home. Lower the thermostat during daytime hours in the winter when no one is home, and in the summer set the timer on your air conditioning unit so it turns on a few minutes before you arrive home and isn't cooling an empty home and wasting energy all day.