Remember that school science project that mixed baking soda with vinegar to create a "volcanic eruption"? The same two ingredients can be mainstays of a personal program to reduce pollution by substituting for harsh chemical cleaners that harm the environment. What's more, using baking soda dissolved in water or vinegar mixed with water are only two of the many suggestions that federal, state and local governments have to cut back on pollution and even save some money!
For example, the Department of Ecology for the State of Washington lists 10 ways to reduce air pollution. Among its recommendations are limiting use of gasoline-powered home equipment such as lawnmowers, leaf blowers and snow blowers and composting plant waste to reduce or eliminate use of chemical fertilizers. Many chemical fertilizers contain nitrous oxide, a so-called "greenhouse gas" believed to contribute to global warming.
Washington's state ecology agency also suggests homeowners make their homes as energy efficient as possible by installing insulation, weather-stripping and storm windows to reduce electricity use, since most power plants burn fossil fuels that add to air pollution. The agency also suggests planting trees to filter pollutants from the air along with trapping carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas.
To reduce pollution from automobiles, Washington state recommends simply driving less. Instead, travelers are encouraged to carpool, take public transportation, ride a bicycle or work from home via computers and the Internet. Drivers also are discouraged from buying a larger, more gas-guzzling vehicle than they really need. When lines are long at fast-food restaurants and other drive-in establishments, says Washington's ecology unit, drivers can park and go inside for business.
Across the country from Washington state, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection also features a helpful list of ways to reduce pollution. Among its suggestions are using natural ingredients such as vinegar and water or baking soda and water as a substitute for bleach to whiten and disinfect clothes, bathrooms and kitchens. As with that erupting science fair volcano, a clogged drain quickly responds to a treatment of pouring baking soda followed by vinegar and flushing with boiling water.
Another tip from New Jersey: To polish furniture, mix one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar with a pint of vegetable oil or mineral oil as a substitute for commercial chemical polishes. Like Washington state, New Jersey's environmental agency also recommends turning plant waste into compost and using it for fertilizer instead of chemical preparations. Other natural substitutes include using boric acid instead of pesticides to kill ants and roaches, along with washing kitchen counters, floors and cabinets with a mixture of water and vinegar in equal parts to keep away ants.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is charged with monitoring air quality throughout the United States, has several uncommon suggestions for reducing air pollution. For example, not many people know that recycling paper, plastic, glass bottles, cardboard and aluminum cans not only conserves energy, but it also reduces emissions from manufacturing of new products.
Planting deciduous (leaf-shedding) trees around the home offers another old-fashioned but effective way to cut back on energy use and air pollution. Leaf-shedding trees provide shade in summer that cuts down on heat inside the home, while in winter they drop their leaves to allow more sunlight in to warm the home.
Air, water and land pollution contribute to severe weather associated with climate change, wear out natural resources, cause disease and damage economies. That's why reducing pollutants in air, water and land should concern everyone.