Air pollution: it’s a huge, dizzying, often-invisible environmental problem. So what can we actually do about it day-to-day?
The big things that can be done to clean our air, such as a potential petrol and diesel car ban by 2030, are ultimately jobs for the government. There are however plenty of small things you can do to make sure your pollution footprint is as small as possible.
Here are a few tips you can use today.
Buy organic when you can
This is a great thing to do as part of a sustainable lifestyle, but particularly to keep certain pollutants out of the air. Organic products are likely to have been grown and processed with less pesticides, resulting in less chemicals being released into the air.
Prioritise cycling and walking
Even in highly polluted cities, the benefits of cycling and walking outweigh potential health damage from exposure to the air, according to recent research by the University of Cambridge.
Avoiding high streets or busy roads when you’re out and about (at a minimum) can also make a huge difference to the quality of the air you breathe in. This is because air pollution is super localised, meaning that it doesn’t spread to adjacent (quieter) streets as easily as you might think.
A wood burning oven or stove is not your friend
Although trendy and a fun way to cook your food, the pollution released by a wood burning oven/stove is a key contributor to air pollution. In 2016, a government survey found that wood burning stoves were creating over a third of all the particle pollution in London throughout the year.
So if you can avoid using these, do. If you can’t, use them sparingly and always make sure you’re using approved dry logs or briquettes. Whatever you do, don’t use damp wood as it produces considerably more pollution.
Use cleaning products sparingly when possible
According to Ethical Consumer, the ingredients that go into our cleaning products – carcinogens, solvents and other harmful and corrosive chemicals – make up one of the biggest sources of indoor pollution.
So, while it’s important to keep your home clean, don’t overuse the stuff.
...And when you do, go for liquid cleaner, not a spray
Avoiding cleaning sprays minimises the polluting chemicals that escape into your indoor air, according to Sarah MacFadyen, Head of Policy at the British Lung Foundation. Use liquid cleaners that can be poured straight on to a surface or J-cloth.
Watch out for car idling
Leaving your car engine running while stationary releases an unnecessary amount of harmful chemicals from car exhausts such as nitrogen dioxide and toxic hydrocarbons into the air, making a large impact on air pollution levels.
So for the good of others and the air around you, always turn your engine off when you’re parked.
Reduce the number of deliveries you get by using click and collect services
By opting to collect your spoils from the nearest store or collection point, you are helping cut down on the number of delivery vehicles on the roads, which release their own pollutive chemicals into the atmosphere.
Plus, it’s a healthier option for both your body and the planet.