Ten Ways to Clear the Air
First published in Corporate Knights, Sept 2005
1. Drive smarter
The less fuel you use, the less pollution your car or truck will release – it stands to reason. I know, you’ve heard it all before – but that doesn’t stop it being true. You’ll also save money, and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
Most fuel efficient vehicles: www.oee.nrcan.gc.ca/autosmart.
Kyoto fuel efficiency chart: www.earthfuture.com/senergy/KyotoCharts/metric
2. Make 5% of new vehicles ultra-clean by 2012
The vehicles are out there – hybrid gas electrics, electric vehicles, compressed air vehicles, but it seems the auto-companies would rather our children got asthma from SUV emissions than do what it takes. By setting a standard we create a level playing field, and give them an incentive to compete for the market. California’s already doing it. We should do it for the whole of Canada.
California’s Zero Emissions Vehicles Alliance: www.zevnow.org
3. Circle the cities, and charge
London’s doing it, in the UK – they were so fed up with the traffic congestion, they drew a ring around the city, and now it costs drivers $10 to cross the line. The result has been a 20% drop in traffic, and an income of $220 million a year to be spent on improving public transport. Vehicles are charged electronically, and alternative fuel vehicles are exempt. Paris and other big cities are looking at doing the same. Next stop, Toronto?
London congestion charge: www.bbc.co.uk/london/congestion/payment.shtml
4. Cut diesel emissions
Diesel vehicles are 3 percent of the vehicles on the road, but they generate 30 percent of smog-forming nitrogen-oxide emissions, and are responsible for half of the soot that’s found in many urban areas - a key component of smog. Diesel fumes also cause cancer. California has regulations that will see a 90% reduction in emissions by 2010.
Diesel pollution: www.sierraclub.org/cleanair/factsheets/diesel.asp
Green diesel technology vehicles: www.greendieseltechnology.com
5. Goodbye coal, hello wind
It’s time to phase out the use of coal to generate electricity – it could be done by 2007 by substituting with natural gas. Coal may be cheap, but is cheap what matters when you are having an asthma attack, or when your child is? There’s plenty of energy in the wind, and other clean renewables. If you live in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia or PEI, an additional $5 to $15 a month will buy you green energy from solar, wind or geothermal, instead of coal, oil or gas.
SaskPower Green Power: www.saskpower.com/services/greenpower/greenpower.shtml
Nova Scotia Green Power: www.nspower.com/GreenPower
PEI, Maritime Electric: www.maritimeelectric.com/greenpower.html
6. Yank the cross-border pollution
It’s coming up from the south – fully half of Ontario’s smog comes up from US coal-fired power plants in the Ohio Valley and the Cleveland and Detroit areas. Can Ontario’s new government succeed where the previous one failed?
Canadian smog facts: www.ec.gc.ca/press/smog2_b_e.htm
Canada’s smoggiest places: www.cangeo.ca/Magazine/Mj00/smog.html
7. Live clean
You’re only making things worse if you use a 2-stroke gas lawnmower or leaf-blower. Fatty acids from beef grilled outdoors on barbecues are also part of the problem. If your home and your electrical appliances were more efficient, too, you’d use less power, which would mean less coal being burnt, and less smog.
Toronto’s response to smog: www.city.toronto.on.ca/health/smog
Air Quality Ontario: www.airqualityontario.com
8. Retrofit the suburbs
Just imagine, if every suburb had its own leafy village centre, with a café, bakery, newsstand, grocery, and some small commercial businesses. Imagine if it became a regular meeting place for neighbours, with pleasant walking and cycling paths to get there. Less driving, less smog. It’s just waiting to happen.
Transforming Suberbia into Superbia: www.terrain.org/articles/13/superbia.htm
Superbia – 31 Ways to Transform Suburbia: www.newsociety.com/News/sup.html
9. Walk, cycle, enjoy
Imagine if everywhere we lived there were safe, off-road cycling and walking routes, connecting the places we wanted to go. It’s already happening in Britain, and it’s being planned in the USA. It takes money and commitment – but so do most things.
Britain's Sustrans: www.sustrans.co.uk
USA’s National Bicycle greenway: www.bikeroute.com
10. Call your lawyer
Surely, it’s only a matter of time before a group of parents whose children have asthma hire an environmentally minded lawyer and start a class action suit against the governments, industry and auto companies which have dillied, dallied, and generally not done what it takes to clean the air. Any volunteers?
Guy Dauncey is the author of Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change and Earthfuture: Stories from a Sustainable World (New Society Publishers). He is a self-employed activist and eco-consultant, who lives in Victoria, B.C.. His website is www.earthfuture.com.