What You Can Do to Reduce Pollution from Vehicles and Engines, Transportation, Air Pollution, and Climate Change, US EPA


Drive Less

Fewer miles driven means fewer emissions.

  1. Walk or bike when you can.
  2. Use the bike-share programs if your city or town has them.
  3. Take public transit when possible.
  4. Carpool with friends instead of driving alone.
  5. Use ride-sharing services.
  6. Plan ahead to make the most of your trips and “trip chain.” If your grocery store is near other places you need to visit, do it all at once.
  7. Work from home periodically if your job allows it.

Drive Wise

The way we drive can reduce emissions from our vehicles.

  1. Drive efficiently – go easy on the gas pedal and brakes.
  2. Maintain your car – get regular tune-ups, follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, and use the recommended motor oil.

Choose Fuel Efficient Vehicles

When shopping for a new car, look for fuel efficient vehicles with low greenhouse gas emissions. These cars can help the environment while potentially saving you money on fuel costs at the pump. Follow these tips:

1. Use EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide to learn about vehicles that are more efficient and less polluting, including:

  • Electric vehicles;
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles;
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles; and
  • Cleaner burning gasoline vehicles.

2. Use the EPA’s Fuel Economy and Environment Label to compare different vehicle models and find the most fuel efficient and environmentally friendly vehicle that meets your needs. This information is also available on the joint DOE and EPA website fuel economy.gov.

Don’t Idle

Unnecessary idling of cars, trucks, and school buses pollutes the air, wastes fuel, and causes excess engine wear. Modern vehicles do not require “warming up” in the winter, so there is no need to turn on the engine until you are ready to drive.

Reducing idling from diesel school buses prevents children from being exposed to diesel exhaust, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and saves money on fuel . EPA’s Clean School Bus Program includes information and resources that can help you reduce school bus idling in your community.

Optimize Home Deliveries

When getting home deliveries or shopping online, consider asking to have all your packages sent in one shipment and with minimal packaging. For scheduled home deliveries, try to be flexible by choosing longer time windows so delivery trucks can optimize their routes and avoid extra trips.

Use Efficient Lawn and Gardening Equipment

Gas-powered engines in lawn and garden equipment emit significant amounts of pollutants.

  1. Use a manual (reel) mower for small lawns.
  2. When shopping for mowers and garden equipment, look for new technologies such as electric and battery-powered machines that are quieter and pollute less than gas-powered ones.
  3. Properly maintain lawn and garden equipment — tune mowers and change the oil as needed.
  4. If you are purchasing commercial grade landscaping machinery, a number of products are now available with advanced emissions reduction technologies including catalysts and electronic fuel injection that result in significantly less pollution.

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The 5 Most Important Things You Can Do for the Environment

Environmental issues like water scarcity require serious action

If you feel you’re not doing enough for the environment by replacing your incandescent light bulbs with LED lights and composting your kitchen scraps, maybe you’re ready to make a deeper commitment to environmental stewardship.

Some of these strategies may seem a little radical, but they are among the most valuable actions you can take to protect and preserve Earth’s environment.

Have Fewer Children—Or None

Overpopulation is arguably the world’s most serious environmental problem because it exacerbates all of the others. The global population grew from 3 billion in 1959 to 6 billion in 1999, an increase of 100 percent in just 40 years. According to current projections, the world population will expand to 9 billion by 2040. This represents a slower growth rate than that of the last half of the 20th century, but it will nevertheless leave us with many more people to accommodate.

Planet Earth is a closed system with limited resources—only so much fresh water and clean air and only so many acres of land for growing food. As the world population grows, our finite resources must stretch to serve more and more people. At some point, that will no longer be possible. Some scientists believe we have already passed that point.

Ultimately, we need to reverse this growth trend by gradually bringing the human population of our planet back down to a more manageable size. This means more people must decide to have fewer children. This may sound pretty simple on the surface, but the drive to reproduce is fundamental in all species. The decision to limit or forgo the experience is a difficult one for many people because of emotional, cultural, and religious traditions and pressures.

In many developing countries, large families can be a matter of survival. Parents often have as many children as possible to ensure that some will live to help with farming or other work and to care for the parents when they are old. For people in cultures like these, lower birth rates will only come after other serious issues such as poverty, hunger, poor sanitation, and freedom from disease have been adequately addressed.

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In addition to keeping your own family small, consider supporting programs that fight hunger and poverty, improve sanitation and hygiene, or promote education, family planning, and reproductive health in developing nations.

Use Less Water—And Keep It Clean

Fresh, clean water is essential to life—no one can live long without it—yet it is one of the scarcest and most endangered resources in our increasingly fragile biosphere. Water covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, but most of that is salt water. Freshwater supplies are much more limited and today a third of the world’s people lack access to clean drinking water.

According to the United Nations, 95 percent of the cities worldwide still dump raw sewage into their water supplies. Not surprisingly, 80 percent of all illnesses in developing countries can be linked to unsanitary water.

Especially if you live in a dry climate, you should use only as much water as you need, avoid wasting the water used, and strive to protect water supplies.

Eat Responsibly

Eating locally grown food supports local farmers and merchants in your own community as well as reducing the amount of fuel, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions required to move the food you eat from the farm to your table. Eating organic meat and produce keeps pesticides and chemical fertilizers off your plate and out of rivers and streams.

Eating responsibly also means eating less meat and fewer animal products such as eggs and dairy products, or perhaps none at all. Eating less meat is a matter of good stewardship of our finite resources. Farm animals emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, and raising animals for food requires many times more land and water than growing food crops.

Livestock now uses 30 percent of the planet’s land surface, including 33 percent of farmland worldwide, which is used to produce animal feed. Every time you sit down to a plant-based meal instead of an animal-based meal, you save about 280 gallons of water and protect anywhere from 12 to 50 square feet of land from deforestation, overgrazing, and pesticide and fertilizer pollution.

Conserve Energy—And Switch to Renewable Energy

Walk, bike, and use public transportation more. Drive less. Not only will you be healthier and help to preserve precious energy resources, but you’ll also save money. According to a study by the American Public Transportation Association, families that use public transportation can reduce their household expenses by $6,200 annually, more than the average U.S. household spends on food every year.

There are dozens of other ways you can conserve energy. You can turn off lights and unplug appliances when they are not in use and substitute cold water for hot whenever practical. Other small steps you can take include weather stripping your doors and windows and not overheating or overcooling your home and office. (An added bonus is that a good office temperature also boosts productivity.) One way to start is to get a free energy audit from your local utility.

Whenever possible, choose renewable energy over fossil fuels. For example, many municipal utilities now offer green energy alternatives so that you can get some or all of your electricity from wind, solar, or other renewable energy sources.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Many human activities—from using coal-fired power plants to generate electricity to driving gasoline-powered vehicles—cause greenhouse gas emissions that heat the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

Scientists are already seeing significant climate changes that point to the likelihood of serious consequences. Some scenarios foresee increasing drought that could further reduce food and water supplies and, at the same time, rising sea levels that will submerge islands and coastal regions and create millions of environmental refugees.

Online calculators can help you measure and reduce your personal carbon footprint, but climate change is a global problem that requires global solutions and, so far, the world’s nations have been slow to find common ground on this issue. In addition to lowering your own carbon footprint, let your government officials know that you expect them to take action on this issue—and keep the pressure on until they do.


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3 responsibilities every government has towards its citizens

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The oldest and simplest justification for government is as protector: protecting citizens from violence.

Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan describes a world of unrelenting insecurity without a government to provide the safety of law and order, protecting citizens from each other and from foreign foes. The horrors of little or no government to provide that function are on global display in the world’s many fragile states and essentially ungoverned regions. And indeed, when the chaos of war and disorder mounts too high, citizens will choose even despotic and fanatic governments, such as the Taliban and ISIS, over the depredations of warring bands.

The idea of government as protector requires taxes to fund, train and equip an army and a police force; to build courts and jails; and to elect or appoint the officials to pass and implement the laws citizens must not break. Regarding foreign threats, government as protector requires the ability to meet and treat with other governments as well as to fight them. This minimalist view of government is clearly on display in the early days of the American Republic, comprised of the President, Congress, Supreme Court and departments of Treasury, War, State and Justice.

Protect and provide

The concept of government as provider comes next: government as provider of goods and services that individuals cannot provide individually for themselves. Government in this conception is the solution to collective action problems, the medium through which citizens create public goods that benefit everyone, but that are also subject to free-rider problems without some collective compulsion.

The basic economic infrastructure of human connectivity falls into this category: the means of physical travel, such as roads, bridges and ports of all kinds, and increasingly the means of virtual travel, such as broadband. All of this infrastructure can be, and typically initially is, provided by private entrepreneurs who see an opportunity to build a road, say, and charge users a toll, but the capital necessary is so great and the public benefit so obvious that ultimately the government takes over.

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A more expansive concept of government as provider is the social welfare state: government can cushion the inability of citizens to provide for themselves, particularly in the vulnerable conditions of youth, old age, sickness, disability and unemployment due to economic forces beyond their control. As the welfare state has evolved, its critics have come to see it more as a protector from the harsh results of capitalism, or perhaps as a means of protecting the wealthy from the political rage of the dispossessed. At its best, however, it is providing an infrastructure of care to enable citizens to flourish socially and economically in the same way that an infrastructure of competition does. It provides a social security that enables citizens to create their own economic security.

The future of government builds on these foundations of protecting and providing. Government will continue to protect citizens from violence and from the worst vicissitudes of life. Government will continue to provide public goods, at a level necessary to ensure a globally competitive economy and a well-functioning society. But wherever possible, government should invest in citizen capabilities to enable them to provide for themselves in rapidly and continually changing circumstances.

Not surprisingly, this vision of government as investor comes from a deeply entrepreneurial culture. Technology reporter Gregory Ferenstein has polled leading Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and concluded that they “want the government to be an investor in citizens, rather than as a protector from capitalism. They want the government to heavily fund education, encourage more active citizenship, pursue binding international trade alliances and open borders to all immigrants.” In the words of Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt: “The combination of innovation, empowerment and creativity will be our solution.”

This celebration of human capacity is a welcome antidote to widespread pessimism about the capacity of government to meet current national and global economic, security, demographic and environmental challenges. Put into practice, however, government as investor will mean more than simply funding schools and opening borders. If government is to assume that in the main citizens can solve themselves more efficiently and effectively than government can provide for them, it will have to invest not only in the cultivation of citizen capabilities, but also in the provision of the resources and infrastructure to allow citizens to succeed at scale.

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Invest in talent

The most important priority of government as investor is indeed education, but education cradle-to-grave. The first five years are particularly essential, as the brain development in those years determines how well children will be able to learn and process what they learn for the rest of their lives. The government will thus have to invest in an entire infrastructure of child development from pregnancy through the beginning of formal schooling, including child nutrition and health, parenting classes, home visits and developmentally appropriate early education programmes. The teenage years are another period of brain development where special programmes, coaching and family support are likely to be needed. Investment in education will fall on barren ground if brains are not capable of receiving and absorbing it. Moreover, meaningful opportunities for continuing education must be available to citizens over the course of their lives, as jobs change rapidly and the acquisition of knowledge accelerates.

Even well-educated citizens, however, cannot live up to their full potential as creative thinkers and makers unless they have resources to work with. Futurists and business consultants John Hagel III, John Seeley Brown and Lang Davison argue in The Power of Pull that successful enterprises no longer design a product according to abstract specifications and push it out to customers, but rather provide a platform where individuals can find what they need and connect to whom they need to be successful. If government really wishes to invest in citizen talent, it will have to provide the same kind of “product” – platforms where citizens can shop intelligently and efficiently for everything from health insurance to educational opportunities to business licenses and potential business partners. Those platforms cannot simply be massive data dumps; they must be curated, designed and continually updated for a successful customer/citizens experience.

Finally, government as investor will have to find a way to be anti-scale. The normal venture capitalist approach to investment is to expect nine ventures to fail and one to take off and scale up. For government, however, more small initiatives that engage more citizens productively and happily are better than a few large ones. Multiple family restaurants in multiple towns are better than a few large national chains. Woven all together, citizen-enterprise in every conceivable area can create a web of national economic enterprise and at least a good part of a social safety net. But government is likely to have to do the weaving.

A government that believes in the talent and potential of its citizens and devote a large portion of its tax revenues to investing in its citizens to help them reach that potential is an attractive vision. It avoids the slowness and bureaucracy of direct government provision of services, although efficient government units can certainly compete. It recognizes that citizens are quicker and more creative at responding to change and coming up with new solutions.

But government investment will have to recognize and address the changing needs of citizens over their entire lifetimes, provide platforms to help them get the resources and make the connections they need, and see a whole set of public goods created by the sum of their deliberately many parts.


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