Reduce Air Pollution from Vehicles: How You Can Help

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Air pollution is something we can all live without. Yet, many do not know that vehicles are a major cause of our air pollution nor do they know how they help reduce air pollution. Learn how to reduce your eco and carbon footprints and improve our air quality with this key air pollution information and list of ways you can help reduce air pollution from vehicles so we can all breathe easier.

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What Is Air Pollution?

In a nutshell, air pollution is the presence of harmful or excessive substances in our atmosphere that have harmful or poisonous effects.  Sources of air pollution include particulates, biological molecules, and gases like carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons, to name a few.

Air pollution knows no boundaries – it can travel from country to country making air pollution a global issue, not just a local issue.

The Effects of Air Pollution

Air pollution is known to have negative impacts on environmental and human health. It has been determined that air pollution exposure contributes to human conditions such as eye irritation, skin diseases, headaches, asthma, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. In a recent study, it has also been linked to increasing the chance of getting virus infections like Covid19.

This same pollution also causes harmful effects on birds and wildlife and can be stored in our soils, water, forests and snow packs having farther reaching negative effects in our food, water and eco systems.

Additionally, air pollution helps trap the heat in our atmosphere contributing to global warming, which causes climate change effects like heat waves, draughts, sea-level rise, flooding, and increased instances and intensities of hurricanes.

How Do Vehicles Cause Air Pollution?

As stated in the Reduce Outdoor Air Pollution environmental sustainability initiative, a vehicle that runs on fossil fuels, when burned, emits dangerous emit dangerous greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions – carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide – into our atmosphere producing air pollution.

The EPA states that the transportation sector alone is responsible for producing over 55% of total nitrous oxide (NO), 10% of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and 10% of particulate matter (PM) emissions in the U.S.

Cars stopped in traffic increase Air Pollution from Vehicles
Cars contribute to air pollution, Photo source: Canva

Why Reduce Air Pollution from Vehicles?

Well, it’s a no-brainer. Once we reduce our transportation based on fossil fuels, the resulting air pollution will greatly decrease. When the air pollution is reduced, our environmental health and human health will improve and climate change effects will decrease.  So, as soon as we eliminate our dependency on fossil fuels, the better.

Reducing air pollution also improves our economy.  Thanks to the Clean Air Act of 1970 the EPA has touted “major successes”, such as lead reduction from our air, spurring innovation and adoption of modern automotive technologies, and providing a 1:9 ratio in cost savings in public health, the environment, productivity, and consumer savings.

Additionally, the EPA’s transportation emissions reductions initiatives have resulted significantly better air quality and better health for Americans. By 2030, the EPA states vehicle air quality emissions standards should prevent 40,000 premature deaths, 34,000 avoided hospitalizations and 4.8 million work days lost annually!

In short, want a better economy? Get our transportation off fossil fuels.

18 Ways You Can Reduce Air Pollution from Vehicles

Wondering what you can do to reduce air pollution from vehicles in your daily life?  Here are 18 ways you can help spare the air and improve your health and finances.

1 – Work from home!

One of the easiest ways to take your fossil fuel car off the road is to work remotely from home, even if just for one or two days a week.  Five days a week would be better.

With today’s technology available, it is known people can be productive from home so taking commuters off the road will improve our air quality. Many cities cited this with the Covid19 pandemic and shelter-in-place mandates.

Working from home also saves money on gas, car maintenance, and automobile insurance premiums. Ask your employer to implement remote working capabilities. This could reduce their overhead costs.  If your employer is not willing, perhaps look for a position with a company that will. The number of employers offering remote-from-home positions is growing.



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2 – Walk or ride a bike

Another way to take your car off the road is to walk and/or bike more, whether to work or running errands.

Ask your employer to provide employee benefits to those who walk or bike to work. This could lead to reduced company insurance and parking costs.

Bicyclist riding through town is Reducing Air Pollution from Vehicles
Bike! Photo Source: Canva

3 – Take public transportation

Public transportation like buses and rail transit are beneficial to reducing air pollution by taking cars off the road while reducing traffic congestion. Rail transit produces little to no air pollution and if buses can run on alternative fuels, like in Los Angeles, all the better.

Public transportation bus Reduces Air Pollution from Vehicles
Take public transportation, Photo Source: Canva

4 – Carpool / Use Rideshares

Check with your municipality or employer to see if they promote a carpooling or rideshare service, like RIDESolutions.  These are a convenient way to commute with others to work, or even run errands, reducing the number of cars on the road.

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5 – Avoid idling your car  

Did you know that modern car owner’s manuals recommend not idling your car to get the best economical performance? Additionally, it’s estimated that 6 billion gallons of gas and 30 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are produced from idling cars. Yikes! If you’re not moving, turn your engine off. If you want the radio on while you text, keep your battery on.

6 – Avoid the drive thru

Speaking of idling, avoid the drive thru! You really don’t save any time, plus you’re spending money on wasted gas while producing air pollution. Get some exercise – park the car and walk into the establishment.

7 – Slow down

Studies show that vehicles driving at slower speeds reduce CO2 emissions.  Be safe, spare the air and obey the speed limit.

8 – Maintain your vehicle

Make sure to get your vehicle tested every year, including emissions testing, do not top off your gas tank, and keep your tires properly inflated.  Under inflated tires not only cause you to use more gas, but “every litre of fuel consumed by a vehicle results in 2.4 kg of carbon dioxide”, contributing to air pollution.

9 – Drive wisely

Before you drive, map your route wisely. Ensure your driving schedule is limited, do all errands at once, and plan ahead to make a ‘smart loop’ so as to drive less distances between stops and shortening your route overall.

10 – Upgrade to a plugin hybrid, electric, or hydrogen vehicle

Some states offer rebates on purchasing an electric vehicle and/or solar for solar energy storage. Going solar at home ensures your electric vehicle charges from clean energy not coal-fired power plants.

There could also be incentives for purchasing a hybrid or hydrogen vehicle.  These vehicles will not only reduce air pollution, but also provide savings on gas and vehicle maintenance.  Check here for a full state and federal incentives offered, calculate your return on investment (ROI) and how much money you’ll save overall while doing your part to reduce global warming.

If you’d like more information on the difference between the types of clean energy vehicles, use the EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide.

EV car charging reduces Air Pollution
EV Charging, Photo Source: Canva

You give the above list a ‘thumbs up’ but want more options?  Can’t really take advantage of some of the above options because they don’t apply to you financially or logistically?  Well, get ready to flex your vocal and voting muscles because here are more – and equally important – ways you can help to reduce air pollution from vehicles by demanding them from your local and state representatives and federal government:

11 – Ask for more roundabouts

Roundabouts keep cars moving instead of idling at lights and stop signs. 

12 – Ask for more walking and bike paths

13 – Ask for better community safety

More safety watch organizations and law enforcement can provide for a safer communities where kids can to walk to school so parents do not have to drive them.

14 – Ask for cleaner and extended public transportation systems

Los Angeles buses run on clean fuel. Does your city’s?

15 – Ask for regulations so all delivery companies and transportation companies must employ clean energy vehicles.

16 – Advocate for more charging stations in your city and county

17 – Demand the federal government eliminate subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and put those subsidies towards clean energy research and design.

18 – Demand regulations on all auto manufacturers to implement a plan to move away from producing fossil fuel vehicles to producing only clean energy vehicles that are financially affordable.

Person casting ballot can vote to Reduce Air Pollution from Vehicles on ballot measures
Vote! Photo Source: Canva

As of March 2020, President Trump has announced he is rolling back clean air standards that will, “allow vehicles to emit about a billion more tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide – equivalent to roughly a fifth of annual US emissions.” This, during a global, Covid19 pandemic where people are having a hard time breathing. Huh?

To make it worse, President Trump has also proposed to loosen rules on coal plants’ waste regulations, making President Trump slash your air and water quality. Why?

To ensure the fossil fuel industry makes more money?  To ensure insurance, medical and pharmaceutical industries boom because more people will be financially dependent on them due to poorer health?  To ensure the old-school automobile companies can continue to make money because they are too lazy to change the way they engineer and manufacture a vehicle? It can’t be to help the economy – recall what the EPA said about cleaner vehicle emissions?

Whatever the reason, it is clear that polluted air costs everyone more in social and financial costs, such as medical bills and expensive gas.  These costs are your costs.  Demand better environmental regulations so you don’t foot the bill with your health and wallet.

Don't forget to grab your FREE Outdoor Air Quality Tips Checklist below!
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Gwen is the Founder of CORR Concepts and a Sustainability professional with an MBA in Sustainable Enterprises and LEED AP ID+C accreditation from the GBCI. She is also the Founder of the solo travel blog. As a Sustainability professional and Earth Steward, environmental sustainability and biodiversity protection is her "religion" while travel is her passion.

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