What is World Environment Day?
World Environment Day is an awareness day organised by the United Nations held on 5th June every year. It encourages action to protect our environment – from the individual scale to the international scale. Since 1974 when it began, it has become a global event celebrated in over 100 countries.
Each year there is a theme to draw attention to an issue that needs tackling to improve the world we live in. This year’s theme is air pollution. It was chosen by the host country China, where the official celebrations take place. Themes from previous years include Beat Plastic Pollution (2018), Connecting People to Nature (2017) and Zero Tolerance for Illegal Wildlife Trade (2016).
Why air pollution?
National Geographic defines air pollution as a mix of particles and gases that can reach harmful concentrations both outside and indoors. Common pollutants include soot, smoke, methane, carbon dioxide and pollen.
Poor air quality kills people. It is estimated that there are 4.2 million deaths every year as a result of exposure to outdoor air pollution, and 3.8 million deaths every year as a result to household exposure to smoke from dirty cooking stoves and fuels such as biomass, kerosene and coal. Air pollution has been linked to higher rates of heart disease, cancer, strokes and respiratory diseases such as asthma.
Another reason why air pollution is an important topic to consider is the harm it does to the environment. Carbon dioxide is closely associated with burning fossil fuels which contribute to climate change. Other greenhouses include methane (released from landfills and livestock), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which were banned in the 1980s (used in aerosols and fridges), and sulfur dioxide (released from industrial activity that involves the burning of fossil fuels containing sulfur, and is also emitted by volcanoes). Sulfur dioxide is the cause of acid rain, but also the particles reflect sunlight creating a cooling effect.
Airbourne pollution particles can harm forests and crops, deplete soil nutrients and even cause damage to monuments and statues.
What can you do?
You can join the UN campaign. Post a picture of yourself wearing a mask on social media and state the action you’ll take to reduce air pollution. Tag three others (individuals or companies) and challenge them to do the same.
On World Environment Day, take a photo or video or yourself fulfilling the action and share it to social media.
But don’t let it stop there, consider if you could extend this practice throughout the rest of the year and beyond! And better still, could you commit to other ways of reducing air pollution?
Suggestions for reducing air pollution:
- Turn off lights and other electrical appliances when they are not in use.
- Combine your errands for fewer trips
- Walk, cycle, carpool and take public transport instead of driving
- Drive an electric car when you need to drive
- Use a renewable energy source instead of fossil fuels e.g solar power, wind power
- Only run the dishwasher and washing machine when they are full
- Ensure your tyres are properly inflated, and your car is well maintained
- Use environmentally safe paints and cleaning products
- Mulch or compost leaves and garden waste
- Buy local produce – or grow your own!
- Plant a tree
- Dry your clothes on the clothesline
- Use both sides of the paper
- Choose products with minimal packaging
- Quit smoking
- Put another layer on, or grab a blanket before turning up the heating
- Buy items made from recycled materials
- Use reusable batteries
- Buy reusable items such as water bottles, coffee cups, straws and sporks
This is just a selection of ways you can take to reduce your air pollution. What will you be doing on World Environment Day?