Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Winter Commuting: Cleaner Than a Car and Just as Warm

Snowed In Car
image by AMagill used under Creative Commons license

Winter’s cold temperatures sometimes prompt New Yorkers to take to their cars for commuting. Walking or biking to and from work can be unpleasant during this season, so people may choose the protection and warmth of their vehicles instead of alternate forms of transportation that offer the same virtues but are better for our air quality. We wanted to share with you a few of these options with the hope that, once you see how easy it is to switch, you’ll wind up driving your car less frequently.

1. Take Mass Transit

For those commuters who bike or walk to work during the warmer months, taking mass transit is a great option for the winter. If your office is near your home, you likely live in a more urban location and have many mass transit options. Biking or walking when it’s warm and taking mass transit when it’s cold could save you more than $13,000 a year in car-related expenses and can help reduce air pollution.

2. Carpool

If you must drive your car to and from work during winter, invite a few neighbors to ride with you if they work near your office, or share your car with co-workers you can pick up and drop off along the way each day. 511NYRideshare can help you set up your carpool and will introduce you to all the great benefits available to carpoolers. Carpooling is the perfect compromise because you get the benefits of riding in a car while reducing the number of vehicles on the road and, thus, the amount of air pollution generated.

3. Telecommute

Telecommuting is a great way to improve our air quality and it protects you during winter storms. Staying home is always the safest option at such times, so talk to your boss about whether telecommuting is a viable choice. Creating an emergency plan to work from home will keep you safer during winter and can keep you healthier during warmer months when Air Quality Action Days occur. Sign up to receive our Air Quality Action Day updates and you’ll be ready to telecommute when they are announced.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Brief History of Air Quality Regulations

1963 Car
image by Collector Car Ads used under Creative Commons license

Most of the articles we write on this blog are focused on how to improve air quality in the New York metro area now and in the future. This week, we provide some perspective on how we got to where we are in these endeavors.

Our country’s major legislative efforts to clean our air started more than 50 years ago. The Air Pollution Control Act of 1955 was the federal government‘s first attempt to control air pollution at its source. It funded research and helped to put a bigger spotlight on poor air quality as a national issue.

In 1963, the federal Clean Air Act was signed into law. It was the first piece of legislation to use the “Clean Air” title, and paved the way for other legislation to reduce pollution by motor vehicles. In 1965, the Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act was enacted as an amendment to the Clean Air Act. This amendment set federal standards for vehicle emissions for the first time; it sought a 72 percent reduction in hydrocarbons, 56 percent reduction in carbon monoxide and 100 percent reduction in crankcase hydrocarbons from their levels in 1963.

Since then, the Clean Air Act regulations have been credited with saving 11,700 lives from carbon monoxide-related premature deaths, according to a 2002 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Additional laws have addressed concerns about particulate matter, ground-level ozone and blood-lead levels, as the nation strives to provide cleaner air for everyone. At Clean Air NY, we believe that everyone can contribute by making small changes to everyday transportation choices. To learn more and to make your commitment to help improve our air quality, visit CleanAirNY.org.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

10 New Year’s Resolutions For Cleaner Air

If you’re a little late in making your New Year’s resolution and looking for some inspiration, we’ve got 10 environmentally friendly ideas for you that will help improve our air quality.

1. Don’t Top Off the Tank – Stop at the Click

Many people may not know that gas pumps are designed to stop filling the tank before they are entirely full for a reason. The pump stops with a click so there is enough headroom for the fumes from the gasoline to remain inside the gas tank instead of escaping out into the air. When you top off your tank, these fumes have nowhere else to go and are released into the atmosphere where they are baked by the sun and become pollutants. Stopping at the click is a very simple habit to adopt that will go a long way in reducing air pollution.

2. Combine Multiple Errands into One Trip

It may surprise you that something as simple as doing all your errands in one big trip, instead of multiple smaller trips, can improve our air quality significantly. You will help reduce air pollution from driving and save valuable time and money on gas. If you combine errands you drive fewer miles compared to taking multiple shorter trips. You spend less time driving and use less gas to get to your destinations. In addition, your car works more efficiently when the engine is warm. By doing consecutive errands, your engine will stay warm and your car will operate better than it would from a cold start.

3. Fill Your Gas Tank at Night

In the spirit of our first New Year’s Resolution on this list, if you fill up your gas tank at night, you further reduce the risk that gasoline fumes will leak into the air, get baked by the sun and become pollutants. No matter how careful you are, there is always the risk of fumes entering the air.

4. Take Mass Transit

Most people know mass transit is cheaper and better for the environment than driving, but few actually realize how much better it is and the huge amount of money they could save each year by ditching their car. Each year, an individual can achieve an average annual savings of more than $13,000 by taking public transportation instead of driving and by living with one less car. Each year, mass transit reduces carbon dioxide emissions by roughly the same amount as if the power was turned off to half the houses in New York State! That’s 37 million metric tons and 4.9 million houses per year, for those of you keeping track.

5. Join a Carpool/Vanpool

Holiday House LightsCarpooling is another great way to reduce your commute’s negative impact on air quality. Thanks to some great resources from 511NYRideshare, you don’t have to ride with a complete stranger or worry about being stranded if your ride home has an emergency. There is an online ridematching service to help you connect with other people in your area looking to carpool. Also, if your ride can’t pick you up, you can take a cab home and be reimbursed for your full fare, including gratuity. Carpooling also helps the environment. If one out of every 10 commuters in the New York metro area carpooled instead of driving just once a week, emissions of ozone precursors would be reduced by about 5,100 tons (the weight of an entire battleship) every week.

6. Ride Your Bike

Riding your bike is a great alternative to driving short distances and is great for your health and well-being. You will be making an effort to improve our air quality and you’ll improve your health. When billionaire Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, was asked how to be more productive, his answer was, “Work out.” He said exercise gave him at least four more productive hours per day. Obviously, bicycling is weather dependent, so it’s smart to have a backup plan for those cold, rainy days.

7. Telecommute

If you want to do something that’s good for your own safety as well as our air quality, consider setting up a telecommuting arrangement with your employer. If you can work from home, you’ll avoid the potential problems that come with winter weather now; you can also work from home on Air Quality Action Days (sign up for our updates!) when the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation predicts air quality will be in the unhealthy range. Telecommuting can help reduce pollution and benefits employers. Studies have shown employees who telecommute take fewer sick days and show significantly increased productivity.

8. Work a Compressed Week

Many employers now offer the option of working a compressed week. Instead of working five eight-hour days each week, employees can work four 10-hour days and have an extra day off. Such an arrangement gives employees more time to spend with their children, friends and families, and eliminates one round trip of commuting each week.

9. Maintain Your Vehicle

Looking for more ways to save money and to improve the air quality? Here’s another great tip — always keep your car tuned up and the tires properly inflated. A well-maintained vehicle produces 20 percent less ozone-related emissions, saves money on gas, and reduces traffic congestion from breakdowns. Properly inflated tires can save you around $75 each year.

10. Cut Back On Idling

Do you know how much gas you waste each year by allowing your engine to idle? It’s a lot: 24.5 gallons of gas a year, on average. That’s more than a full tank of gas for most cars. Cutting back on idling is like getting a free tank of gas each year, and it’s good for our air quality, too. If you’re going to be idling for more than 30 seconds, it is more fuel-efficient to turn your engine off. In fact, idling for 30 seconds or more uses more fuel than restarting your engine.