Cleaning the Air… What You Can Do

Behind the Wheel

On hot, sunny days, when conditions are conducive to smog…

  • Consider ways to limit your driving. If it’s practical, walk, share a ride, ride a bike or use public transportation. And avoid unnecessary trips by combining errands.
  • Don’t let your car idle for long periods of time when stopped in traffic or waiting in line at a drive-through window. Turn off the motor — even if it is just for a few minutes.
  • Avoid driving during rush hour, if possible. Your employer already may encourage flexible work schedules, which can cut auto emissions — not to mention stress and commuting time.


  • Keep your car well tuned, clean your fuel filters, reduce unnecessary weight and monitor your gasoline mileage. These simple steps will help keep your car running efficiently — which not only reduces pollution but also saves you money!
  • Have your car’s emission controls checked yearly to ensure they are working properly.
  • When filling your gas tank, don’t pull the vapor-catcher back from the nozzle, and don’t “top off the tank” by pulling the nozzle out. This will help minimize emissions.
  • Save fuel and minimize emissions by avoiding sudden acceleration and unnecessary braking. Drive at steady speeds and don’t rev the engine when idling.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated, balanced and rotated. This will not only boost gas mileage but also extend the life of your tires. Remember that radial tires produce less air pollution than bias-ply tires.

At Home

Conserving energy saves you money and reduces pollution created when electricity is generated. Conserve by:

  • Turning off lights.
  • Selecting energy-efficient appliances.
  • Insulating and weatherizing your home.
  • Keeping windows closed when the heat or air conditioning is running.
  • Using air conditioning only when it’s necessary.

Other tips:

  • Avoid using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment on hot summer days when smog alerts are forecast. Running a gas-powered lawn mower for one hour emits the same amount of pollution as driving your car from Washington, D.C., to New York City and back.
  • Never burn leaves, branches and other debris in your yard. Burning this material produces harmful emissions that can contribute to smog and other types of air pollution.
  • Participate in recycling programs. Recycling keeps trash out of incinerators and reduces emissions associated with burning solid waste.

Progress Against Pollution

Twenty-five years ago, we knew far less than we do today about how our actions can affect the air around us. Smokestacks pumped large volumes of pollutants into the atmosphere without restraint, cars were designed with little attention to emissions, and gasoline was gasoline. We, as individuals, also were less concerned about our own actions and their impact on the environment, including air quality.

Since that time, however, we’ve made major progress in reducing air pollution. Here are several examples:

  • Since 1970, Americans have cut releases of air pollutants by more than 50 million tons. If you put that many tons into dump trucks lined up bumper to bumper, they would stretch from Baltimore to Dallas the long way — around the world!
  • It would take 20 of today’s new cars to generate the same amount of pollution as one mid-1960s model car. In another 10 years, thanks to new automotive and fuel technologies, it will take 33 cars to produce the emissions of one mid-1960s model.
  • Compared with just 10 years ago, America’s largest cities are recording dramatically fewer days on which air quality exceeds federal standards.
  • One major pollutant, lead, is nearly gone from our air. Since the mid-1970s, levels of airborne lead are down 96 percent. If you reduced the United States by 96 percent, you’d be left only with Montana.

Despite these achievements, there’s still room for improvement. Everyone can help make a difference in this effort. Just consider this:

  • If only 100 employees commuted to work in pairs instead of driving alone for only two weeks of the year, they would save 75 pounds of hydrocarbons, 30 pounds of nitrogen oxides, 550 pounds of carbon monoxide and 500 gallons of gasoline. Imagine what we can achieve if we all do our part.

Click here for information on recycling in your area from the United States Environmental/Recycling Hotline.