Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Living the Green Life

Be a Friend of the Environment: Working Together for Clean Air

Air Quality Awareness Week graphic

May features Air Quality Awareness Week (AQAW). This year, the week runs May 1st through May 5th. The theme for this year is "Working Together for Clean Air" and includes daily areas of focus. Themes of this year's Air Quality Awareness Week and on-going DEC-related efforts:

Preventing Wildfires and Smoke

Working together, we can prevent dangerous wildfires and the damage to property, habitat, and air quality they cause. Ninety-five percent of all wildfires are started by humans. One way you can help is to comply with the spring burn ban which runs annually from March 16 through May 14. Burning trash is never okay because of the toxic emissions it can produce; it is also illegal in NYS to burn trash any time of year. Learn more about the problems with burn barrels and how to build a safer campfire to prevent wildfires.

Asthma and Your Health

anti-idling graphic

An estimated 1.4 million adults and over 390,000 children in NYS suffer from asthma (leaves DEC's website). By taking simple steps in our own lives, we can decrease the number of asthma attacks caused by poor air quality. World Asthma Day is on May 2nd. As warmer weather arrives - keep an eye on the Air Quality Index (AQI) forecast and sign up to receive Air Quality Index Alerts directly to your email inbox. If the AQI is high (marked as unhealthy for hazardous groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy, or hazardous) for your area, a child with asthma should play indoors instead of outside due to their sensitivity to poor air quality.

Air Quality and Transportation

Gasoline and diesel powered vehicles produce fumes which negatively affect air quality. It is important to turn off your vehicle's engine when parked to prevent excessive idling exhaust. Simply turning off your engine while waiting in line at the drive-thru or school pick-up line can make a big difference in the air quality in your neighborhood. Taking small steps can add up to big changes if we work together. Air-friendly ways to get around:

  • walking;
  • biking;
  • using electric-powered vehicles such as buses and cars;
  • carpooling; and
  • combining trips when running errands.

Air Quality and Climate

A healthy climate includes good, clean air. Poor air quality can make climate change worse. Often, sources of air pollution are also sources of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases and particles emitted from poor combustion can absorb heat and warm the earth even faster. By working together to improve air quality, we can reduce emissions of air pollution and greenhouse gases to help the earth and its atmosphere.

Participatory Science

DEC is involved with local communities to monitor air quality. This entails the use of a special vehicle which travels through designated areas to take air quality readings. DEC has also been hosting a variety of meetings across the state as part of the 2022-23 Statewide Community Air Monitoring Initiative (PDF). Keep an eye on DEC's Calendar of Events and take part if a local meeting comes to your area. With your input - we can keep working together to protect New York's air resources.

Resources - DEC's website is a valuable resource on New York State's air. You will find information on:

DEC provides an abundance of information regarding our state's air resources. More information is available on the federal level from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (leaves DEC's website). Learn more about Air Quality Awareness Week (leaves DEC's website) as we promote "working together."

Did you know that?

  • In 2020, transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 20% in New York State (PDF). During the COVID-19 pandemic, New Yorkers limited their travel and stayed home. The effects of this led to a significant short-term drop in vehicle pollution emissions.
  • Trees clean our air:
    • a mature tree can absorb up to 50 pounds of carbon dioxide each year;
    • a tree's leaves can trap particulate matter pollution on their leaves; and
    • the shade provided by a tree can lower cooling energy needs and reduce heat island effects.
  • Major sources of air pollutants:
    • on- and off-road vehicles and power equipment;
    • power plants that burn oil, gas or coal; and
    • industries that manufacture chemicals and other goods.

Be a Friend of the Environment

International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) (leaves DEC's website) - mark your calendars and remember to turn your compost pile as ICAW is this month, from May 7-13. New to composting? Check out DEC's website for information on how to get started with home composting. This year's theme is "For Healthier Soil, Healthier Food…Compost!"

Spring into planting - looking to plant flowers. Why not create a pollinator garden? Pollinators help our environment, and they can use our help as well - and one way to do that is through growing pollinator-friendly plants. And keep an eye out as National Pollinator Week is typically celebrated in June. Remember, it is not just bees - bats, butterflies, certain birds and more comprise the pollinator community.

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) Notification - HABs season begins in May. Learn how to identify HABs and how they should be avoided by people and pets. DEC provides a page where you report HABs you spot and notify us accordingly.

Yard sale season - spring is here and that means yard sales. Have items you are looking to get rid of - which still may be useful to others? Then consider having a yard sale. Also, if you have friends and neighbors who are also looking to sell - consider a multi-family or community wide sale as those typically bring in more shoppers. In need of items yourself? Before buying new, look to see if you can find those items at a yard sale. If you conduct a sale and have items left over - remember to donate them to a local charity or thrift store instead of discarding the items in the trash. Reuse and repurpose wherever possible. Another plus - having a yard sale can bring in some money, and shopping at yard sales can result in financial savings. Either way, reusing helps our environment.

Spring cleanup - raking, mowing, tending to trees and bushes are all ways we clean up in the spring from winter's remnants. Remember not to burn brush - keep our air clean. Many local communities offer curbside pick-up where lawn debris is often composted. Speaking of clean-ups on a larger scale, DEC oversees environmental cleanups year-round of contaminated areas throughout our state as part of the Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP). Interested in learning more? Check out the BCP program information on the DEC website for local clean-up community updates, fact sheets, and more.

Happy camper - looking to pitch a tent and enjoy camping in the great outdoors this spring/summer? Remember to "Love Our NY Lands" and follow the principles of "Leave No Trace" - and help keep our campgrounds clean. Carry out what you bring in and get ready for those campfire moments and memories.

Like our yard sale tip? Then visit this page again next month, when we explore tips to take when thrift shopping. Remember, we must keep "working together for clean air." Share your air quality related concerns and questions with us using #LiveGreenNY. We would love to hear from you!