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You experience breathing problems. At first sporadically. Then, regularly. One day the pain is unbearable. You are admitted in a hospital where you are given oxygen. You are then able to breathe comfortably. Would you consider this the new normal and move around with an oxygen cylinder or you would work to get your health back on track?
The need for air masks indicates that we have reached a critical point as a species and planet and that fresh air has become difficult to come by. We don’t recognize it as critical because we are walking around with the mask and not lying on a hospital bed. Human beings can put on an air mask. What about animals and birds who are breathing the same air as us?

Cows breathe in toxic air. Does not need much imagination to understand that this would impact the quality of the milk? Poultry farms, where chicken breathe toxic air. Would the chicken be healthy? I cite these examples because we relate with threats to human health more readily that those that impact other species. When concerns regarding soil pollution impacting food surfaced a section of the population could choose to buy and consume only organic food. Water is purified before consumption. What about that element which we cannot see – AIR? Today, treating the symptoms by way of air purifiers is a big business. It is an urgent requirement in many cities across the world. In order to save the planet from becoming a toxic gas chamber we need to address the causes.

How to ensure fresh air

The current state of the environment is an outcome of ignorance and inaction. Ignorance of the causes and inaction towards the solutions. Every human being has the power to contribute towards a sustainable planet. You may be a business leader, student, housewife, government, employee, etc. Through your everyday actions you can make a difference to the environment. In India alone, we are 1.20 billion+ people . Small actions done daily = BIG change.
Here , I would like to share 10 simple actions that each one of us as individuals can take to contribute to cleaner air . The good karma of this will result in cleaner land and water. Better health and quality of life for you and your loved ones. Here are the 10 best ways for clean and fresh air and environment:

1. Walk / ride a bicycle/ use public transport / car pool. Vehicular pollution is a big contributor to air pollution. By walking and cycling we will reduce pollution and do ourselves a huge favor by way of better health and reduced medical bills. Where walking or cycling is not an option please consider public transport or car pooling as much as possible.

2. Reduce single use / limited use plastic. There is unavoidable waste e.g. primary food packaging. There is highly avoidable waste – plastic bags taken while shopping. A neighborhood of 1 lakh homes sends out a minimum of 15.76 crore polybags / year into landfills. Then, we use vehicles to transport this avoidable waste to landfills – adding further to vehicular pollution and congestion on roads. Waste is often burned in neighborhoods. Fires happen at landfills. When plastic burns it releases toxicity in the air. Fine particles that cannot be seen by the human eye. This toxic waste enters the bodies of all living beings in the vicinity.

3. Turn off lights and electrical devices – when you leave a room. The electric energy used to light our homes, offices are generated from power plants that combust fossil fuels to generate the energy. Turning off electrical appliances conserves precious energy thereby reducing the electricity demands, cutting down air pollution.

4. Use energy efficient light bulbs and appliances.

5. Use Clean Energy – Solar / Wind. In the long run this will save you money while improving air quality.

6. Reuse and repair – this approach is not just planet friendly. It is also wallet friendly , fosters creativity , supports small businesses who repair objects.

7. Each time you buy something you are voting for the kind of world you want to inhabit. Buy Quality products that will last longer. Brands will understand that they will need to offer you products that offer economic and planetary value. Not just the cheapest deal of the season for a product that needs to be junked within a year.

8. Wash clothes with cold water and dry them outside in the air. Washing clothes with cold water saves the energy that could have been used for heating whereas line drying the clothes uses the sun’s natural energy instead of using a dryer.

9. We spend most of our time in enclosed spaces – homes, school/ college, office, restaurants, malls, etc. Use water-based paints, natural cleaning & aroma products. Water-based paints and cleaning products contain low VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), thus reducing air contamination. VOCs can cause respiratory distress; skin and eye irritation; headaches; nausea; muscle weakness; and even more serious ailments and diseases.

10. Plant and nurture trees. They are the best air purifiers known to mankind. Small, doable everyday actions that will yield rich dividends by way of cleaner air.

Each one of us can make a difference. Together, we make a change for fresh air.

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Savitha Rao

About Savitha Rao

Savita Rao is an ardent environment and sustainability professional. She is also involved in international marketing. She has worked closely with organizations involved in sustainable lifestyle. She is the founder of Clean Planet - focused on sustainability and women's empowerment. Founder of Civic Campaign. Acknowledged by Giants International with Woman Achiever Award in 2016. Supported SwachhAbility Run - a movement by Kargil War Veteran Major DP Singh.