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How Can We Reduce Our Contribution to Air Pollution?
Across Kent and Medway, important sources of air pollution include:
Road traffic, especially freight and diesel vehicles. These are a source of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.
Sea traffic, freight port activity and passenger ferries. These can produce nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide.
Domestic use of solid fuels for heating. This produces particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide.
Farming activities such as animal manure storage, handling and spreading. This releases ammonia into the air: ammonia reacts with other pollutants to form particulate sulphate and nitrate which contribute to PM10 and PM2.5.
Find out how to reduce your exposure to air pollution and what difference that will make in our Health section.
Travel sustainably. Try to drive less if you can. Walk, cycle or use public transport, especially for short journeys.
Find out more about alternatives. Take a look at our sustainable travel section for more options and information in Kent and Medway.
Many people still need to drive – especially if they are less mobile or live in a rural area. Here are some tips for greener driving:
Shifting to a higher gear at the right time.
Switch your engine off if you know you won't be moving for a minute or so and making sure the auto stop system is in use for newer vehicles.
Stick to the speed limits – at 70mph you could be using up to 30% more fuel than at 50mph.
Air conditioning and other on-board electrical devices (like mobile phone chargers) increase fuel use, so only use them when necessary.
Check your tyres regularly and keep them at the correct pressures. Under-inflated tyres can increase your fuel use.
Remove roof boxes and bike racks when they aren’t needed, they increase the weight and air resistance, so your car uses more fuel.
Remove unnecessary items from the boot, these add to the weight and reduce fuel efficiency.
Live sustainably; shop local, buy locally produced food and goods. This will help reduce your travel and the amount of freight on the roads and sea.
Keep warm at home, but don’t waste energy. 21°C is comfortable for most people. Get a smart meter if you can.
If you have a wood burning stove or open fire:
Only use your stove when you need to, especially if is not your only form of heating.
Avoid burning when air quality is likely to be poor, such as in still weather.
Don’t burn treated wood, old furniture or household rubbish on your open fire or your stove – these can release toxic pollutants into your home!
Keep your stove well maintained and serviced regularly.
Get your chimney swept regularly by a qualified chimney sweep (up to twice a year if needed).
Check whether you are in a Smoke Control Area.
Avoid lighting barbecues in very hot, still summer weather and bonfires in cold, still winter weather. Rather than burn garden waste, you may be able to compost it, or use your Council garden waste collection service.
If you use solid fuels for heating, check before buying that the fuel is of an approved type for your area. If your house has an oil-fuelled boiler, get it serviced regularly, so that it operates efficiently and uses no more fuel than necessary.
What Can We Do About Climate Change?
Air quality and climate change are two different environmental issues, but they are linked. It takes energy to produce food, treat our drinking water, heat buildings, manufacture the things we use, and move all these goods and us around. Much of this energy still comes from the burning of fuels; this produces carbon dioxide (CO2), which contributes to climate change and usually some air pollutants (such as NOX and PM10). This leaves behind our ‘carbon footprint’ which is a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted into the atmosphere through your daily activities. Everyone can make small changes to their daily routine which can add up to a big difference.
Here are some ideas for things we can do:
Aim to drive and fly less, if or when you can. Use sustainable transport choices for day to day life, commuting and holidays.
Make sure your home is well insulated and the boiler well-maintained.
Stay warm but don’t overheat your home. 21° C is comfortable for most people.
Turn off unnecessary lights and switch off electrical equipment (such as televisions and computers) when you have finished using them.
Boil only as much water as you need, above the kettle’s minimum line. They use a lot of energy for such a commonly used small appliance.
Avoid wasting food, it takes energy to produce and dispose of. Consider composting.
Consider reducing the amount of animal products (particularly red meat) in your diet. Livestock farming is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, especially methane.
When washing clothes, wait until you have enough washing for a full machine load and wash at 30C.
Dry clothes outdoors if possible, rather than using a tumble drier.
When buying electrical items, choose energy-efficient models.
Avoid buying items with excessive amounts of packaging.
Shop wisely, sustainably, and local. Think before you buy.