What could be more important than the air we breathe? Seemingly, many things! Because unfortunately lots of our everyday activities pollute air by their very nature. This pollution causes a whole host of issues for both ourselves and the environment, damaging trees and crops (which has a knock on effect to our entire ecosystem), and harming our bodies from the inside out. Basically it’s a bad situation all round, and one that’s far too common in modern day society.
So, what can we do about this issue? Luckily there are many ways that we on an individual level can help keep our air clean. To get started, try reducing these following 5 activities!
1. Burning wood
Whilst burning wood is necessary in several communities and parts of the world, for many it's something done purely for the fun of it rather than out of actual need.
Now, we’re not saying don’t have any cosy indoor or outdoor fires this winter (as always, it’s about reducing and not stopping completely, which isn’t sustainable) but do try your best to limit these. Burning wood releases several toxic pollutants into the atmosphere, including carbon, and contributes greatly to smog.
Here’s a change that’s not only great for clean air, but also fantastic for your body! Smoking, vaping and shisha, like burning wood, also release air pollution particles, meaning that by ditching the cigs this winter you’ll benefit both yourself and the planet.
3. Lighting Candles
Sensing a theme yet? Candles are one of the most popular home décor items, but can have an extremely negative effect on air quality (hard to believe for something that smells so good hey?). In fact, the gases and sediments that paraffin candles release into the air can be incredibly dangerous, and include soot carbon particles and carcinogens - these not only cause pollution but can also lead to deadly respiratory issues.
As a by-product of the petroleum industry, you should avoid paraffin candles at all costs for the sake of both your health and the planet. Chemical-filled artificial fragrances and cotton wicks laden with pesticides are also total no-go’s. Instead, opt for ethical beeswax, non-GMO soy or vegetable oil candles with natural dyes and essential oils.
4. Taking frequent transportation
Okay, so we know that this is the most obvious option possible, but that’s exactly why it’s worth mentioning! Vehicular transport is one of the main drivers of air pollution, especially in urban areas. Cars emit carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, which contribute to tearing holes in the ozone layer, as well as to smog and the various health issues caused by these.
While all this may sound super scary, fortunately it’s an issue that has (in theory) one of the simplest solutions – by taking public transit, walking or car-sharing whenever possible, as well as avoiding any unnecessary journeys, we can all help to reduce this major form of air pollution in a way that's realistic for us.
5. Throwing things away
Litter sent to landfill often ends up getting burnt, which as we know from the above examples releases toxins into the environment. This is not only terrible for the planet, but also creates a serious health concern when it comes to plastic waste, as the smoke from burning plastic releases black carbon into the atmosphere. Black carbon has links to respiratory problems, heart disease and brain cancer. Even the litter that does make it to landfill then sits for years and years generating and releasing methane.
While household waste is of course near-impossible to avoid completely, the most straightforward solution for this seemingly inescapable cause of air pollution is to incorporate more zero waste practices into our lives. Every little switch adds up, and for every item you either avoid, reuse or recycle, it’s one less contribution to landfill, and with that, air pollution!
The overarching theme from these damaging everyday activities, is that by following reduce, reuse and recycle principles, conserving energy, and incorporating more zero waste actions into our daily lives, we can play an important role in reducing air pollution. By cutting back where you can on these 5 everyday activities, you’ll be making a concerted effort to do just that!