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21 Ways to Clean the Air

Conserve Electricity

Most of our electricity in WNC comes from power plants that burn coal. Burning coal releases the pollutants that cause ozone, acid rain and haze. It also emits carbon dioxide which increases global warming and mercury. We should all do everything we can to conserve electricity.

  • Turn electric appliances off during peak times between noon and 5 p.m.
  • Always turn off lights when not in use. Use
    "Greenlights" or energy efficient lighting.  Replacing an old incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb can reduce energy consumption by about 75%.
  • Use the microwave oven for small portions or defrosting. It uses around 50% less energy than conventional ovens.
  • Install ceiling fans. They consume as little energy as a 60 watt bulb — about 98% less energy than most central air conditioners use. In the winter, a ceiling fan with a motor that runs in reverse can help save energy by pushing warm air down from the ceiling.
  • Whenever possible use cold instead of hot water. Insulate your water heater and turn the water heater thermostat down to 115 degrees.
  • Solar hot water heating systems have very short pay back periods and can save a lot on your energy bills. Passive solar design can reduce heating needs.
  • Install a programmable thermostat that automatically turns off your air conditioner or heater during the day when nobody is home.
  • Choose "green" products. Consider replacing old refrigerators and other energy-using appliances with newer energy-efficient models. For example, a gas stove with an electronic ignition system uses about 40% less gas than one with a pilot light. Look for the EPA's Energy Star now available on most appliances and home electronics as a way of knowing you are buying the most efficient products.
  • Insulate your home. The less energy used for heating and cooling, the less pollution from electric power plants and burning of natural gas. If you can't add attic or wall insulation, you can still caulk and weather-strip doors and windows and close off unused rooms. This not only saves energy. It saves money.
  • Do an energy audit - You can have a professional energy audit done of your home or you can do it yourself. For some tips on doing it yourself go to home can be given an energy star rating which can save you money on your electric bill -consult with your electrical provider.
  • Purchase GreenPower - It is now possible to purchase home-grown non-polluting North Carolina power. To learn more about the program go to To sign-up go you to electricity service provider’s customer service. (In Buncombe County you can sign-up at or call them at 1-800-452-2777.

Mobile Sources

Much of the pollution that contributes to global warming and ozone come from cars trucks and mobile engines including construction equipment and lawn equipment

  • Rideshare or use public transit. Even one day a week helps. If high ozone levels are predicted, try to carpool or ride the bus and postpone avoidable smog-producing activities.
  • Ride a bicycle or walk. Bicycling and walking are great for short trips. Human power produces no emissions and the exercise has health benefits of its own. And it's a great way to explore Western North Carolina.
  • Combine errands into one trip. Instead of hopping in a car whenever you need something, set aside time to plan your errands. Cluster as many as possible. This not only saves pollution, it saves time for you to do other things. Also, avoid idling your car for long periods of time. Vehicle idling produces large amounts of carbon monoxide and ozone precursors .
  • Keep your car engine well tuned. Untuned engines and clogged air filters waste gas and lower engine performance. They also cause increased emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, two of our most persistent smog problems. If you suspect that your car is polluting you can get a free emission check from the Clean Air Community Trust (
  • Conserve gasoline. It's a fact that speeding, stomping on the gas pedal and other things make your car burn more gas and cause more air pollution. Because gas mileage goes down at higher speeds, more carbon dioxide is produced, which contributes to global warming. Also, the more gas you burn, the more gasoline is refined, shipped in trucks and pumped, all of which increases air pollution. You can take other steps to improve mileage and reduce pollution such as keeping your tires properly inflated to reduce rolling resistance, keeping your windows closed while driving on highways to reduce aerodynamic drag, rolling down your windows at lower speeds to reduce air conditioner use and remembering to accelerate smoothly.
  • Never top off your tank. Spilled gas is wasteful, contributes to smog and fills the air with cancer-causing toxic pollutants such as benzene.
  • Ask your employer to consider flexible work schedules or telecommuting. Compressed work weeks, flextime and telecommuting via computer all reduce traffic congestion and its accompanying emissions. Many employers like the increased productivity and improved morale; employees like the flexibility.
  • Diesel Engines — Biofuel is slowly becoming available in our area by using it you can prevent pollution and reduce the consumption of gasoline.
  • Small engines — some lawn mowers are among the most polluting engines available. When purchasing your next mower consider up grading to a 4-cycle engine or to an electric mower. You can also consider how to transition in to a "No Mow Lawn" or other low maintenance lawn care so you can throw your mower away and do something else with your Saturday afternoons.

Stop Open Burning

It is against the law to burning anything other than vegetative material and even that releases carbon dioxide. There are alternatives to burning and we encourage you to use them. Burning trash and other things is illegal and can be extremely dangerous to your health. One families trash when burned releases more pollution than a well controlled big city trash incinerator.

Indoor Air Quality

Pollution inside a home or other building can actually be much worse than the outdoor air.

  • Don't allow smoking in your home Second hand smoke is a serious carcinogen
  • Prevent mold and mildew from growing, by keeping your home well ventilated and immediately addressing any water problems
  • Test for radon — high radon levels can be as serious as second-hand smoke
  • Use natural cleansers. The fumes from chemicals you use around your home also can pollute the air. Here are some natural alternatives:
    • Instead of lye-based oven cleaners, use water, baking soda, and very fine steel wool pads for tough spots;
    • For air fresheners, substitute herbal mixtures or vinegar and lemon juice;
    • Use herbal products that act as repellents or cedar chips or cedar oil instead of mothballs.
  • Choose lower polluting paints. Choosing the right paint can make a big difference in cleaning up the air. When you can, use paints with no volatile organic compounds, such as some latex paints. If you can't find paints without volatile organic compounds, choose a lower polluting variety. Try to purchase only what you need, but if you have some leftover, recycle it. Also, keep paint cans tightly closed when not in use, and clean up with water only, whenever possible. Discuss low-pollution options with the paint salesman.

Other important clean air actions:

  • Plant a tree. Trees add oxygen to the atmosphere, absorb some pollutants, cool temperatures and reduce dust. They also save energy and reduce global warming. A total of 300 trees can counterbalance the amount of air pollution one person produces in a lifetime.
  • Keep dust down. Airborne dirt and dust are recognized as a big health problem. If you're doing major construction or renovation, wet down or cover piles of dirt, roads, parking areas - anywhere dust can be kicked up by vehicles or blown around by the wind. Drive slowly on dirt roads and avoid using leaf blowers.
  • Barbecue with gas. The reformulated charcoal lighter fluids produce less pollution than ever before. A newspaper-ignited "chimney" produces even less pollution. But burning wood or charcoal briquettes still produces smoke and particle pollution, which has been linked to many different illnesses and can worsen chronic heart and lung disease. When you barbecue, the best bet is using clean-burning propane or natural gas.
  • Report industrial pollution. WNCRAQA's trained inspectors regularly check more than 350 area industries and businesses operating under WNCRAQA's permitting system. If you suspect a business or industry violating air quality rules, call us and we'll investigate.
  • Encourage local government action. Local official make all kinds of decisions that effect our air. Encourage your local officials to support alternative transportation and energy sources and make decisions that support healthy air. Building standards, green spaces, transit funding, there is much that can be done. It’s up to us to do it.