How You Can Help Limit Pollution on This Pollution Prevention Week

September 19 through the 25 is Pollution Prevention Week. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency uses this week to highlight the best ways to keep pollution from entering the environment before recycling, treatment, or disposal. Though many of these practices are in the hands of businesses, rather than individuals, there are a few things you can do to help.

Reducing Air Pollution

truck releases exhaust pollution into air
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / TOA555

Air pollution comes from a variety of sources, including vehicle emissions, fuel oils and natural gas to heat homes, landfills, and by-products of power generation. So what can you do to help limit your contribution in these areas? There are many ways you can do your part.

  • Conserve energy at work and at home
  • Use transportation other than your car when you can and combine errands into one trip when you do drive
  • Purchase equipment with the ENERGY STAR label
  • Wash laundry in cold water and line dry
  • Set your thermostat to a warmer temperature in the summer and a cooler one in the winter
  • Add insulation to your home
  • Keep each of your engines, from car to boat, in good working order
  • Avoid idling your car and accelerate slowly
  • Do your lawn care with electric or manual equipment
  • Mulch and compost yard waste
  • Don’t burn garbage
  • Plant and nurture trees
  • Eat locally and shop at farmers markets
  • Buy products from sustainable sources
  • Use environmentally safe cleaning and paint products

Reducing Water Pollution

culvert releasing possible pollution into water
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / NATALIE SCHORR

Water pollution happens when toxic substances from farms, towns, and factories dissolve into our water bodies and mix with them. This can be harmful to humans, plants, animals, and the environment. Fortunately, there are some things you can do at the individual level to keep our water clean and safe.

  • Don’t pour fat, oil, or grease down your sink
  • Don’t flush medications down the toilet
  • Be careful what you flush down the toilet in general
  • Make use of hazardous material collection days, don’t pour household chemicals down the sink
  • Take it easy on detergent and bleach while doing laundry
  • Cut back on pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers
  • When you wash your car, do it where the water won’t flow into the street
  • Make sure you properly collect and dispose of used motor oil
  • If have an oil spill, cover it with kitty litter or sand and sweep it up once solid
  • Pick up your pet’s waste before it can be swept into a storm drain

Reducing Soil Pollution

Plastic bottle sitting on soil
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / LOVELYDAY12

Soil becomes contaminated when naturally-occurring levels of certain substances are higher than they should be or when unnatural substances are present. This can be due to industrial waste dumping, poor farming practices, land development, waste disposal, and excessive pesticide or fertilizer use. Pollution in our soil can harm the environment, plants, people, and even our water supply. What can you do to minimize your own contribution? There are a few options.

  • Limit use of herbicides, fertilizers, and pesticides
  • Embrace natural ways to deter pests and weeds
  • Take it easy with winter salt
  • Limit your waste
  • Properly dispose of hazardous materials

Reducing Your Waste

As you can see from the prior lists, reducing your waste helps keep our air, water, and soil healthier. Landfills are the third-biggest human-caused contributor of methane emissions in the United States, waste permeates our waterways, and plastics pollute our soil. So what can we do?

How to Minimize Plastic Waste

  • Go shopping with reusable bags and keep them in your car to avoid forgetting
  • Drink water with a reusable bottle and work/cafe coffee with your own mug
  • Nix the plastic produce bags at the store
  • Choose foods that don’t come in plastic packaging
  • Invest in longer-term sustainable food storage items, rather than zipper baggies
  • Use toiletries that don’t come in plastic bottles
  • Use beauty and cleaning products without microplastics
  • Wash clothes less frequently and run full loads with shorter cycles to minimize microfiber pollution
  • Clean a beach or river with friends
  • Push corporations to use less plastic and support those that do
Beach polluted by plastic containers
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / OLEZZO

How to Minimize Food Waste

  • Use ingredients you already have to make meals before buying more
  • Don’t purchase food you’re unlikely to finish, including bulk items
  • Make a meal plan with a detailed shopping list and stick to it
  • Choose uglier produce that may not be purchased
  • Differentiate between “best by” dates and “use by” dates
  • Make sure you’re properly storing your food
  • Utilize your freezer to make food last longer
  • Be creative with leftovers so you finish them
  • Compost
  • Donate food that may end up being wasted
Food waste being swept into garbage
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / GPOINTSTUDIO

Minimizing Electronic Waste

  • Use devices as long as you can
  • Take good care of your devices to extend their life
  • Get your devices repaired if possible
  • If you do upgrade when your old device still works, donate it
  • Recycle your electronics
Pile of electronic waste
PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK / MARU54

More Pollution Prevention Resources

For more information on what you can do as an individual, or as a business owner, check out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

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