clean air solutions

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FACT:

While the air quality in our region is 8th worst in the nation according to the American Lung Association (ALA), there is hope. Many opportunities exist to put southwestern Pennsylvania on the path to clean air.

JOBS AND THE ECONOMY

In Pennsylvania there are twice as many clean energy jobs than jobs in oil and gas, and that number is growing. Creating a clean economy will have a tremendous impact on the quality of our air.

A clean air economy includes building a new workforce with jobs in solar, wind and other clean technologies. It also includes transitioning to electric cars, buses and trucks, improving bicycle lanes and providing more public transportation options.

WHO IS ENFORCING THE LAW AND PROTECTING OUR AIR?

Allegheny County Health Department

The ACHD oversees the regulation of the top polluters in the county. Its stated mission is to protect, promote and preserve the health and well-being of all Allegheny County residents, particularly the most vulnerable.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

The DEP’s mission is to protect the state’s air, land and water from pollution and to provide for the health and safety of its citizens through a cleaner environment.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. EPA mission is to protect human health and the environment. The agency is responsible for writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress.

TAKE ACTION AT HOME

Do a Home Energy Audit

When your home uses energy, it directly or indirectly creates air pollution. Reducing its energy use reduces these pollutants. A home energy audit is the first step to assess how much energy your home consumes and how it can be more efficient. An auditor will pinpoint where your house loses energy, determine the efficiency of your heating and cooling systems and show you ways to conserve hot water and electricity.

In the Pittsburgh region, you may be eligible for a free home energy audit provided by your gas company. If you don’t qualify for a free audit, Conservation Consultants (CCI) will do a walk-through home audit.

 

TAKE ACTION AT HOME

  • Do a Home Energy Audit

    When your home uses energy, it directly or indirectly creates air pollution. Reducing its energy use reduces these pollutants. A home energy audit is the first step to assess how much energy your home consumes and how it can be more efficient. An auditor will pinpoint where your house loses energy, determine the efficiency of your heating and cooling systems and show you ways to conserve hot water and electricity.

    In the Pittsburgh region, you may be eligible for a free home energy audit provided by your gas company. If you don’t qualify for a free audit, Conservation Consultants (CCI) will do a walk-through home audit.

     

  • Buy Clean Energy

    Coal-fired electric plants – the source of most of Pennsylvania’s electricity – emit fine particulates, mercury, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, a precursor to acid rain. Many local utilities offer the option to buy clean energy. Find out more information about buying clean energy and look for programs certified renewable by a third-party source.

  • Ride a Bike

    Biking is a fantastic way to keep the air clean and get exercise. A short, four-mile round-trip by bicycle keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe. According to the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, 40 percent of all trips are within two miles of the home and 50 percent of workers commute five miles or less to work. Give biking a try with these great resources made available by Bike Pittsburgh, including maps, cycling events and a bike to work guide.

  • Clean Your Commute

    Motor vehicles emit pollutants that contribute to asthma, heart disease and lung cancer. Sixty percent of the pollution created by automobile emissions happens in the first few minutes of operation before the car’s pollution control devices can work effectively.

    Save money and improve your health by carpooling, taking public transit, walking or biking. Or consider buying a hybrid or electric vehicle.

  • Avoid Burning

    Burning garbage, wood and yard clippings outdoors releases toxic particles into the air that are harmful to the health of you and your neighbors. Residential fuel combustion (largely wood burning) accounts for 20 percent of the fine particle pollution in Allegheny County. Avoid the use of wood-burning fireplaces, woodstoves and outdoor wood-fired boilers – and use natural gas or propane if you must barbecue. Click here for  information from GASP on the health effects of exposure to wood smoke.

  • Plant a Tree

    Trees absorb particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and ground-level ozone. A healthy tree converts these gases into about 260 pounds of oxygen a year, more than half what the average human breathes in a year. Planted near a house, a tree reduces cooling costs in the summer by providing shade and lowers heating costs in the winter. Keep the trees you already have in good condition by pruning them regularly. Learn more at TreeVitalize Pittsburgh.

  • Buy Local

    The average store-bought food item travels 1,500 miles to your table. Cut harmful emissions by buying local grown produce and locally raised meat or growing your own food. Also support businesses that sell locally manufactured goods. The less distance your food and other products travel, the less pollutants are emitted transporting them.

  • Choose Non-Toxic

    Many household chemicals, such as paints, pesticides and cleaning products, are made with solvents that have adverse health effects and cause indoor air pollution. These toxic chemicals enter the air when they are sprayed (as in cleaning products) or when they evaporate (as in drying paint). Select products that are water-based or have low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

  • Protect Indoor Air

    You may not know it, but air pollution can enter your indoor environment from the outside. Cleaning products, gas appliances, candles and smoking can also lower air quality inside your home, office or school. You may want to consider indoor air filtering to protect against infiltration from outdoor particle pollution. For more on monitoring your indoor air, contact ROCIS.

  • Unplug

    Even when they are turned “off,” electrical equipment such as televisions, computers and cellphone chargers draw energy off the grid. This  burns fossil fuel unnecessarily. Unplug your electronic devices when not in use or use power strips as a central “off” switch for these devices.

  • Raise Your Voice

    You don’t have to be alone in your fight for clean air. Get your friends and family to join. Urge your local school district to retrofit diesel buses.Volunteer for organized efforts to secure cleaner buses and garbage trucks. Report air quality problems or excessive bus idling to your local health department. In Allegheny County, you can call the Allegheny County Health Department hotline at 412-687-ACHD to submit an air quality complaint or click here to register a complaint online.

  • Measure Your Footprint

    Understanding how much you contribute to air pollution will motivate you to practice clean air habits. Join Climate Reality’s 100% Committed and reduce your own footprint while helping others to do the same.

  • Conserve Electricity

    Minimizing electricity consumption lowers the amount of fossil fuels burned to provide electricity. Purchase energy-efficient appliances and compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use one-fourth the energy of incandescent bulbs. Insulate your home and replace drafty doors and windows. Look for Energy Star qualified products. Keep your thermostat low in the winter. In the summer, turn up your air conditioner to 78 degrees or use fans if you can.

  • Tune Up Your Car

    Cars today are much less polluting than in the past, but there are more cars on the road now – and we drive more. Sure, your vehicles engine is clean when you buy it, but it should stay clean to reduce pollution. Change your air filter and oil regularly; if the oil is low or dirty, the engine heats up, which makes it wear out faster and increases emissions. A well-maintained car lasts longer, gets better mileage and causes less pollution.

     

  • Use Less Water

    Wasting water is like sending energy down the drain. Thats because water utilities use tremendous amounts of energy to treat and deliver water. Letting your faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 14 hours, according to the EPA.

    Wash your clothes in cold water (unless you have a grease stain or other special consideration) and only do full loads of laundry and dishes. Switch to a front-loading washing machine and make sure all your water-using appliances are Energy Star qualified models and WaterSense products. Capture water in a rain barrel for your garden and replace your sprinkler with a soaker hose. If you water your lawn, do so in the morning or evening to prevent evaporation. Fix dripping faucets and other household leaks. Get a dual-flush toilet and install faucet aerators in your bathroom and a low-flow showerhead.