What you can do to reduce smog

What you can do to reduce smog



What you can do to reduce smog

The detrimental effects of smog on our health are well-documented. By taking action, everyone can play a part in making Canada's air cleaner. Learn how to change your home, transportation and consumer habits and help reduce air pollution.

A large amount of air pollution comes from power plants, industrial sources and motor vehicles. The choices that individuals make every day either increase or decrease air pollution from these sources and thereby threaten or protect their own health. Individuals have the power to change their home, transportation and consumer habits to help reduce air pollution. By taking action, everyone can play a part in making Canada's air cleaner.

Getting around
Transportation is one of the biggest contributors to smog. When, where, how, why and what you drive all play important roles in affecting air quality. Here are some suggestions on how to be more environmentally friendly when you need to get somewhere.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Drive less, especially during peak traffic periods or on hot sunny days.

Why? Auto emissions contribute directly to smog. In Canada, cars account for 19% of the nitrogen oxides (NOx), 37% of the CO and 23% of the volatile organic compounds (e.g., benzene) released each year as a result of human activity.

Did you know? On average, each one of the 16 million cars and light trucks on Canada's roads adds more than 5 tonnes of pollutants annually to the air we breathe.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Use public transportation instead of your car. Walk or ride your bicycle. (But be careful about over-exerting yourself on a smoggy day.)

Why? One car commuter uses as much energy driving a car for four years as a transit rider uses in 40 years.

Did you know? Each person using public transit for a year instead of an automobile can save nearly a tonne of pollutants, including CO2, from going into the atmosphere.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Carpool to work.

Why? Carpooling with one other person immediately halves your car's emissions.

Did you know? On average, a carpool saves 2,000 litres of gasoline each year.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Use an alternative fuel.

Why? Alternative fuels have fewer impurities than gasoline and produce less CO and other emissions that contribute to smog formation.

Did you know? More than 30,000 vehicles operate on natural gas in Canada. There are nearly one million natural gas vehicles worldwide, and the market is growing.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Avoid idling. If you are going to be stopped for 10 seconds or more, except in traffic, turn your car engine off.

Why? It has been estimated that 3% of Ontario's fuel is wasted by idling. An idling diesel engine will burn about 2.5 litres of fuel per hour. An idling gasoline engine will burn about 3.5 litres of fuel per hour.

Did you know? Just 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting your engine.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Get engine tune-ups and car maintenance checks as advised by the car manufacturers' maintenance schedule.

Why? If all drivers maintained their cars regularly, together we could reduce NOx by 12% and VOCs by 30%. Ontario has set a goal of reducing these two pollutants by 45% from 1990 levels by the year 2015, and has proposed accelerating the NOx target to 2010.

Did you know? Keeping your car well-tuned not only helps the environment, it also saves you money. You can save an average of $90 in fuel costs a year by maintaining your vehicle.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Keep your vehicle's tires properly inflated.

Why? Inflated tires cut down on "drag," thereby saving on fuel and harmful emissions.

Did you know? Just one tire under-inflated by two pounds per square inch will result in a 1% increase in fuel consumption.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Fill your gas tank during cooler evening hours to cut down on evaporation. Avoid spilling gas and don't "top up" the tank. Replace the gas tank cap tightly.

Why? Smog-related emissions don't just come from the tailpipe. Evaporation of gasoline from filling up the gas tank releases smog-causing VOCs into the air. Spillage is a major source of O3 pollution.

Did you know? Vapours from evaporating gasoline (those wavy lines that appear in the air while you are filling the tank) can account for two-thirds of the VOC emissions from gasoline-fuelled vehicles on hot summer days.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Consider fuel efficiency when purchasing a vehicle, and keep your vehicle well maintained. Check out the Auto$mart website to find out which vehicles are most fuel efficient.

Why? A large car that burns 14 litres of gasoline to travel 100 km will emit 60 tonnes of CO2 during its lifetime. A typical smaller car that burns 9 litres every 100 km will emit only 38 tonnes of CO2 over the same total distance. By choosing the more fuel-efficient car, you can save 22 tonnes of CO2 from entering the environment. The savings in fuel is about 8,800 litres, which translates into approximately $4,500.

Did you know? In 1990, North American sales of SUVs barely topped one million, but by 1995 sales had reached 1.7 million, and by 1999 three million of these heavy, less fuel-efficient trucks had been sold.

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At home
What you do inside your living space can have a big effect on the air quality outside it. Here are some choices you can make inside and around your home that will help you pollute less and save some money.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Be energy efficient. Monitor your energy use and try to reduce your consumption by turning off lights, updating some of your household appliances and products to low-energy models, and using your air conditioner wisely during the summer months. If you live in the Toronto area, Green$aver - a residential energy audit and retrofit organization - will come to your house and conduct an energy audit to test your home for energy efficiency. For details, call their office at (416) 203-3106.

Why? A large proportion of the Canadian energy supply comes from burning fossil fuels, a major contributor to smog. By cutting down your electricity use, you are cutting down on smog.

Did you know? Energy-efficient, compact fluorescent light bulbs require less energy and last 10 times longer than regular bulbs.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Purchase "green power" to meet your home's electricity needs. (Contact your power supplier to see where and if it is available.) For more information about renewable energy, see Pollution Probe's "Renewable Energy Primer" at

Why? Green power is energy that is generated from renewable sources, such as water, solar energy and wind. Green power does not create harmful smog emissions.

Did you know? On Canada's largest wind farm, Le Nordais on the Gaspé Peninsula, 133 wind turbines harness energy from the powerful winds off the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Reduce your outdoor use of VOC-releasing products such as oil-based paints, lawn pesticides, car cleaning solvents and waxes.

Why? These products dry through evaporation of the contained solvent, releasing strong-smelling VOCs, which contribute to smog formation.

Did you know? By 2010, solvent use in Ontario will contribute more than twice the amount of VOCs than from all transportation, which includes cars, trucks, aircraft and marine vehicles.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Keep woodstoves and fireplaces well maintained. If choosing one for your home, select a woodstove that comes equipped with an anti-pollution device.

Why? The burning of residential fuel wood is a significant source of air pollution in Canada. One way to minimize emissions from wood burning is to maintain a healthy fire. A chimney temperature of 150-200°C is considered to be optimum for combustion.

Did you know? Dark or smelly smoke rising from a chimney is an indication that the fire is not hot enough and is releasing large quantities of emissions.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Cut down on the use of small engine motors. These engines, which usually run on gasoline, are used primarily in lawn and garden equipment, such as lawnmowers, leaf blowers, chain saws, and lawn and garden tractors.

Why? Small engines at or below 19 kW (25 hp) contribute about 20% of VOC emissions and 23% of CO emissions from mobile sources.

Did you know? Manual push mowers available today are lightweight, at only 7-14 kg, versus the 20-30 kg models of the past, and feature metal handles instead of wood. Ideal for cutting small lawns, they are quiet, store easily and require no fuel.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Plant deciduous trees in locations around your home to provide shade in the summer, but to allow light in the winter.

Why? Properly sited trees reduce home air conditioning and winter heating needs considerably by providing shade and windbreak.

Did you know? Backyard trees may result in up to a 40% reduction in air conditioning needs, a 10% reduction in heating needs and a decrease in ambient air temperatures of up to 4°C.

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At work
Business and industry can also be leaders in the effort to ensure cleaner air. Read Pollution Probe's "S.M.A.R.T.Movement" manual at for ideas on how to implement some of the following suggestions at a workplace.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Promote telecommuting to employees. Also known as teleworking, telecommuting is when employees work from remote locations, usually from home.

Why? If one million Canadians telecommuted just one day per week, in one year they would save approximately 200,000 tonnes of air pollutants, $34 million worth of fuel costs and one billion kilometres of mileage, avoid the gridlock of an extra million cars on the road, and free up 50 million hours that could otherwise be spent with family and friends.

Did you know? More than 1.5 million Canadians, or 10.7% of the workforce, perform their jobs by telecommuting at least some of the time.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Remove parking subsidies and add parking fees to your workplace parking lot.

Why? Single-passenger driving can be reduced by as much as 30% by removing parking subsidies or charging for parking where it used to be free.

Did you know? Parking lots are expensive. Depending on where an office is located, employers can save between $30,000 and $200,000 annually by eliminating 50 employee parking spots.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Encourage and facilitate carpooling at your workplace.

Why? When more employees carpool, fewer parking spots are needed, freeing up valuable land space.

Did you know? Twenty per cent of Toronto Hydro employees joined a carpool program after the utility offered them guaranteed indoor carpool parking and reduced their parking rate.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Encourage cycling at your workplace by providing shower facilities and bicycle storage for employees.

Why? Making cycling to work as convenient as possible will increase people's desire to switch from driving alone in their motorized vehicles.

Did you know? The average cost to manufacture and install a post-and-ring bike stand accommodating two bikes is only $125. The cost for a high-security bike locker is only $1,000.

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What you can do to reduce smog