SALT LAKE CITY — As we move from January to February and the inversion continues throughout the Salt Lake Valley, it is a good time to step back and look at what we can do to help air quality. According to the Utah Division of Air Quality, vehicles are the number one contributor to poor air quality during the winter inversion. Although it's true that all driving affects the environment, there are things you can do to reduce the impact.
Here are a few tips.
Car upkeep and maintenance
Proper vehicle maintenance can help drivers save on fuel as well as reduce car emissions. A properly tuned engine will use up to 50 percent less fuel and will produce significantly fewer emissions. It is also important to replace your air filters when needed—clogged filters can cause an increase in fuel consumption. Check your oil and tires regularly. Clean oil contributes to better gas mileage and having properly inflated tires can decrease fuel consumption.
Slow down and conserve fuel
Your driving style can have a significant impact on the amount of gasoline used by your car. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that every five miles per hour driven over 60 mph is like paying an additional 24 cents per gallon for gas. Also, avoid making quick starts and sudden stops and go easy on the gas and brake pedals. Aggressive driving can lower a car's fuel economy by up five percent around town and 33 percent at highway speed. It also helps to reduce the weight of your car. Don't use the trunk as a storage unit and remove your roof rack when you are not using it. Using cruise control can also help you save fuel by maintaining a steady speed.
Always dispose of motor oil, tires and batteries responsibly by taking them to a local collection point for recycling. Dead automotive batteries are more than a nuisance. Each year, approximately 97 percent of vehicle batteries are recycled. However, the remaining three percent adds up to millions of pounds of lead and many gallons of sulfuric acid. These can be discharged into the environment.
Reduce your commute
Although commuting to and from work can be a necessary evil, there are things you can do to decrease the impact. Reduce your overall drive time by combining errands with your daily commute. If possible, leave earlier in the morning or later in the evening to reduce time spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Many companies will also allow their employees to work from home one or more days per week. If this is an option where you work, it is worth exploring.
Use public transit
When available, public transit may be the least expensive and most fuel-efficient way to commute. Salt Lake City has many options for public transportation. If using public transportation is not a viable option, consider joining a car pool or van pool. It can be as easy as talking to your neighbors or posting a notice on the company bulletin board. In addition to helping the environment this will reduce gas expense and travel monotony.
Everyone has a part to play when it comes to improving air quality and reducing the impact of the winter inversion.