Clean Air and Air Quality
Clean air is a health issue, an environmental issue, a climate change issue and a social justice issue. The Puget Sound's air quality is affected by a variety of factors--weather conditions and geography can play a big part--but while we can't control the weather, we can control many of the sources of pollution that contribute to poor air quality. The City of Seattle works closely with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to help ensure that our air is clean to breathe.
Below are listed the major sources of air pollution for the Puget Sound and how you can help reduce them:
Cars, trucks, SUVs and boats--they all contribute to air pollution in the Puget Sound. In fact, over half of the emissions in Seattle come from these sources. You can help by driving less, choosing more efficient vehicles, using alternative fuels, like biodiesel, and not idling your engine while stopped for prolonged periods of time.
- Maritime and air transportation
Ships, planes and trains make up a fifth of the emissions in the Puget Sound. Visit the Puget Sound Maritime Air Forum and the Port of Seattle sites for more about what is happening to reduce pollution from these sources.
- Outdoor burning
It is illegal to burn garbage, and there are better ways to handle yard waste than to burn it. If you live outside the city of Seattle, which recycles yard and food waste, try chipping and mulching yard waste, or composting it.
- Home heating
There are a lot of heating choices--which ones are the best for air quality? To find out, check out this chart showing the annual fine particle pollution produced by uncertified woodstoves, EPA-certified woodstoves, pellet stoves, oil furnaces and gas furnaces. Manufactured logs burn more cleanly than wood, but if you do burn wood, make sure it is dry and burn small, hot fires to avoid smoldering and excess smoke.
- Yard care
Gas-powered yard maintenance equipment is responsible for more air pollution in the summer than you'd think, contributing about 13% of the ozone that can lead to smog. You can help by using electric or manual mowers, raking instead of using leaf blowers, and even reducing the amount of lawn you have to mow. Northwest Natural Yard Days each spring is a great time to get deals on electric and push mowers.
What the City of Seattle is doing to improve air quality
When the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency declares a Smog Watch during the summer, the City activates its Smog Watch plan:
- lawn mowing in Parks and other open spaces is curtailed;
- employees are urged to reduce driving
- re-fueling stations limit their hours to the cool hours of the day (except for public safety vehicles.)
Anti-idling signs have been posted at key places, such as the Ballard and Fremont bridges and many Seattle parks. The City partners with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to get the word out.
Seattle’s Clean and Green Fleet
One of the best things the City can do to protect and improve air quality – and to encourage smart fuel and vehicle choices in the community – is to make our own vehicle fleet a model of environmental best practices.
Here are a few things the City has done to green our fleets
- Since 2003, 78 percent of the City's new light-duty vehicle purchases have been hybrid or biodiesel vehicles.
- In 2001, the entire diesel fleet was converted to cleaner ultra-low sulfur diesel. And work started on retrofitting 400 of the City’s heavy duty trucks with emission control devices. These two measures cut toxics and particulates by about 50% per vehicle.
- In 2002, the fleet was downsized by 200 vehicles, returning it to 1998 levels.
- At least half of all compact cars purchased by the City each year use alternative fuels or get at least 45 miles per gallon.
- The diesel fleet now uses a blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% ultra-low sulfur diesel. greenhouse gas emissions.
- Personal mobility vehicles – Segways™ - are used for jobs like water meter reading. Segways have zero emissions, cost $3/year to recharge and, in some cases, replace the use of a car.
- In 2011,the City is adding 35 all electric vehicles to its fleet.