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Living the Green Life

Be a Friend of the Environment: July 2021

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Here's a riddle for you -- what can you feel but not see or touch? It surrounds us and sustains us. Invisible but powerful. Silent but speaking volumes. Air -- a vital natural resource filling the atmosphere and playing a key role in our daily lives. With the hustle and bustle of the world around us, it is important that we take time to care for our air.

Ozone (O3) Awareness

Ground level ozone pollution (the bad type of O3), can negatively affect human, animal, and environmental health. It is effected by a variety of factors such as motor vehicle exhaust, evaporation of household solvents, evaporation of gasoline, and more.

It's important to understand how it forms so you can protect yourself, family, pets, and others. Be sure to check the air quality alerts before heading outside. You can also check out our interactive map to see what the current air quality is in your area.

person in the woods tending to the firewood in a campfire grill
Cook clean and safe in the great outdoors this summer.

You can help improve our state's air quality with a few simple habit changes to reduce your contributions to air pollution. When it comes to air, it is important to:

  • Check the Air Quality Index (AQI) forecast before heading outside for the day to protect the health of you and your family.
    Hiking with your four-legged friend(s)? Consider your pet's health as well. Take more breaks or leave them at home in a cool environment.
  • Protect kids with asthma. If the AQI is high -- keep children indoors with air conditioning or in a cooler environment.
  • Carpool or use public transportation to help reduce emissions in our air. Choose clean transportation options when possible. Use our fuel economy tips to save money at the pump.
  • Reduce electricity and fuel use. Turn off lights and appliances when not in use. This small action will reduce power generation and in turn power plant pollution.
  • Mow your lawn less, not only does it help our air by reducing the amount of emissions that are produced from your gas-powered equipment, but the lawns also absorb carbon, helping our climate change efforts.
  • Use manual or electric equipment for lawn and garden work.
    If you choose to use gas-powered -- use a funnel when refueling your equipment to reduce spills and smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • Use low-VOC products. Select lotions or pump sunscreens and bug repellents instead of aerosol sprays. Make your own natural bug repellent.

Practice air quality improvement ideas and share them with your family and neighbors at gatherings and with us on social media. Remember, you can always share with DEC using #LiveGreenNY.

If unhealthy ozone conditions occur, DEC issued alerts are available on the toll-free Ozone Hotline at 1-800-535-1345.

Did you know that?

  • A mature tree can absorb up to 50 pounds of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, in one year. Plant trees and shrubs to absorb carbon dioxide, and flowers in your garden to enjoy the cleaner air with your family.
  • Foliage cover in cities and around buildings decreases energy use with its cooling abilities and reduces particulate pollution.
  • Not all ozone is "bad." Ozone can be harmful at the ground level. But it is beneficial in the upper level of the stratosphere (the ozone layer) as it protects us from UV (ultraviolet) light.

DEC reminds you that clean air starts at home. Read more about air in New York State.

Be a friend of the environment -- July 2021 tips

a black cat laying on a plaid chair
Pets also need clean air. Keep them inside when conditions are unsafe.

Learn before you burn -- what you put in your fire matters. To reduce air toxins, use only unpainted, untreated wood in campfires and never burn trash. Garbage and items such as plastic containers/bags, should not be burned as the fumes and chemicals that are produced are not good for people or pets.

Check out these tips for a safe fire:

  • check the fire danger map to make sure it's safe to have a fire where you are.
  • don't burn on windy days.
  • campfires should be less than 3 feet high and less than 4 feet wide.
  • keep flammable objects and debris at least 3 feet away from the fire.
  • never burn household trash. This includes plastic, glass, and metal (like tin and aluminum cans).
  • burn only local firewood. (This also helps stop the spread of invasive species).
  • stay out of the smoke. Inhaling smoke is unhealthy for you and your pets.
  • keep water or a fire extinguisher handy.
  • never leave your fire unattended.

We don't recommend using a burn barrel for any materials, but if you do, never burn trash or fall leaves. Burning is allowed in certain towns in New York State for items such as brush -- outside of the spring burn ban (March 16 to May 14 annually).

Fireworks and safety -- Using fireworks at home is illegal. Fireworks which go astray or under the right conditions can start wildfires which destroy property. Fireworks are also detrimental to air. If you use sparklers (or other pyrotechnic devices of which only certain ones are legal under New York State law):

  • clear the area before use -- no debris or flammable items nearby.
  • put used sparklers in a bucket of water when you are done with them.
  • be safe and responsible -- remember to learn before you burn.

Best to play it safe -- consider attending a professionally coordinated fireworks display in your area. Celebrate our nation's history and the 4th safely!

Fuel up safely -- use a funnel or a spill-proof spout when refilling gas cans and lawn/garden equipment. Don't rush! Make sure you do not overfill. Refill over a concrete surface or another hard surface whenever possible. Also,

  • consider a gas can that seals automatically when the spout is not being used. Newer models keep the gas and vapors in -- where they belong.
  • store the gas can (and lawn equipment) out of direct sunlight, in a cool place.
  • do not tip equipment on the side when the gas tank is full.
  • avoid operating lawn and garden equipment on high ozone days.
a red electric car charging up at a station
Looking for a new ride? Consider electric options.

You're in the driver's seat -- keep your vehicle in excellent running condition, including maintaining proper tire pressure to maximize miles per gallon and reduce particulate matter emissions. Under-inflation of tires wastes 2 billion gallons of gas and adds up to 40 billion pounds of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere per year.

Be sure to re-visit this page next month when we explore green ways to prepare for going back to school with a focus on school supplies. Also, remember to share how you care for our air with us using #LiveGreenNY.