EnvironmentLifestyle

About Clean Air

I had the opportunity to be part of this meetup to discuss clean air

If you were asked to mention one thing you are currently doing to promote clean air in your community, what would that one thing be? At a recent Accra Konnect meetup in Accra, the topic for discussion was centered around clean air, and each one of us present was asked to share with the group what we are doing to reduce air pollution, consequently promoting air quality. Some attendees mentioned they usually use reusable bowls to buy food. That way, they do not have to take single-use plastics that may end up being burned or mismanaged after use. Others said they practice waste segregation. By doing this, it becomes easier for the waste collectors to take what they need from the lot for recycling before the waste collection companies come for the rest. Another person said she has resorted to indoor gardening to make sure that the air around her space is clean enough for her inhalation. The two gentlemen were quite radical. They said that anytime they spotted someone burning waste in their communities, they put out the fire with water. This action has drawn the attention of the community leaders to make sure open burning becomes a thing of the past. There was also a mention of carpooling, where people living in the same neighborhood and working at the same location use one person’s car to and from work, thus reducing the number of cars on the street and consequently vehicular emissions.   

It was great hanging out with all of these people who are passionate about clean air

There were a lot of other interesting things that people brought up for discussion on how we can all contribute to clean air, but one common practice that stood out for me was the use of tote bags and reusable shopping bags for shopping. This is where I would like to focus my attention. For some time now, there have been many conversations and campaigns to sensitize people to use shopping bags that can be used repeatedly when they go shopping. To find a lot of people saying they do that now is quite impressive. This means that somehow, the behavioral change we seek is taking place. Personally, it doesn’t have to be the whole community acting before you realize that the message is making an impact.

That said, there is hope for the rest of the behavioral changes we have been advocating. When one of the BarCamp participants mentioned the stoppage of single-use cup usage at their workplace, I was impressed, and I could relate to that. When I began working with the Mountain Research Institute (MRI), one of the things we used to do was keep water in a dispenser and keep single-use disposable cups for drinking. We realized it wasn’t a sustainable practice, so we agreed that each member of staff should use one disposable cup a day.

Burning waste is a major cause of air pollution in Ghana

Even that was not sustainable. Now, everyone comes to work with their reusable cups or bottles. We also have mugs in the office for tea, and we have drinking glasses for visitors as well. For over a year now, we have not bought or used any disposable cups or spoons in the office. I did not even think that this was one of the ways I contribute to clean air, but yes, it is.

Lately, there have been a lot of discussions on air quality, clean air, air pollution, and other issues related to the nature of the air we breathe.

Air quality is the condition of the air in terms of the number of pollutants it contains. It is a measure of how clean or polluted the air is, and it is determined by various factors such as the presence of pollutants like particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and others. Poor air quality can have significant impacts on human health, leading to respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, and other health issues. It can also harm the environment, affecting ecosystems, vegetation, and wildlife. Air pollution has both natural and human-induced causes. Naturally, wildfires, whirlwinds, volcanoes, and others affect air quality. Anthropogenic causes also include emissions from industrial activities, construction activities, emissions from vehicles, agricultural activities, construction works, open burning of waste, and household activities like cooking, among others.

We can shop with reusable shopping bags to prevent carrying so much single use plastics home

One important thing we need to note about air pollution is that it knows no boundaries. It is influenced by various factors, such as activities from industries, transport and vehicular emissions, energy production, waste management, and natural processes.

Poor air quality has adverse effects on human health; it can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. In the short term, being exposed to high levels of air pollution can cause shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing and intensify existing health conditions such as asthma and allergies. In the long run, people who are exposed to air pollution are at a higher risk of chronic respiratory diseases, heart disease, stroke, and even premature death.

The Clean Air Fund, together with the Environmental Protection Agency, has been monitoring air quality in Accra for some time now and suggesting to people living around these areas how to improve the air quality. This is important because quality air is a necessity for all. It is also a public health and environmental protection

You can buy food with your own food container

concern.

Sometimes, we think that improving air quality can only be done through ‘big’ measures such as reducing emissions from vehicles and industrial sources, promoting clean energy sources, implementing air quality regulations, and raising awareness about the importance of air quality management. However, small practices like buying food in your own (reusable) bowl, using improved cookstoves or LPG for cooking, shopping with reusable bags, waste segregation at source, avoiding open burning of waste, keeping plants in our spaces, carpooling, and drinking from reusable cups and glasses are all ways to ensure that we are all contributing to quality air. Sometimes, you have no idea how the little effort you put in will go a long way toward contributing to the solution. In all this, we should not take awareness creation for granted. Just as people are beginning to shop with reusable bags, we can also get people to change their behaviors and take practical and convenient steps that can help reduce air pollution in our communities. If we want to think broadly, then we can also increase our green spaces and encourage urban planting. We need to think green in whatever actions we want to take to help promote good air quality.

We can start by sorting our waste ay source

When we put in these efforts to address air quality issues, we help to create a healthier and more sustainable community. We also protect the well-being of current and future generations. We are all part of the solution to this issue of air pollution, making sure that the air we breathe is of good quality. Remember that polluted air knows no boundaries. CHEERS!!!

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