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Things to do to Spare The Air

Brochure featuring tips to improve air quality.  (English   Spanish)

Top 10 Tips

1. Drive less

Cars are the major source of air pollution in the Sacramento region. Before getting into your vehicle to run an errand, or go to work, consider alternative means of transportation. Can you get to your destination by walking, biking or public transit? If you leave your car at home one day a week, you prevent 55 pounds of pollution each year from being emitted into our air. And think of the money you'll save on gas, parking and car upkeep.

2. Take public transit

Take transit and let someone else deal with the traffic. Treat yourself to a stress-free commute. You'll also find that public transit can get you to events or weekend activities that might be in your plans. Call 511 or visit for information on how local transit can get you where you're going.

3. Carpool or vanpool to work a few days, or even one day a week

Share a ride. Whether you're driving to work, the gym, a baseball game or the park, find a carpool partner. Take turns driving and give yourselves a break from road-stress a few days a week. Also, many employers and counties have an Emergency Ride Home program that makes cars or taxi vouchers available to carpoolers/vanpoolers and transit-takers in case of emergency or a situation in which your original ride might be unavailable to you. Call 511 or visit to sign up online.

4. Sign up for Air Alert — your free air quality e-mail

Air Alert gives you Spare The Air advisories for ground-level ozone when the Air Quality Index (AQI) is expected to reach 127 or above, plus your choice of daily air quality forecasts and current conditions at monitoring sites in the region.

5. Refuel in the evening and never top off

Putting gas into your vehicle releases Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the air. Throughout the day, these VOCs mix with oxides of nitrogen (NOx), "cook" in the summer sun, and form ground-level ozone. Refueling in the evening decreases the opportunity for VOCs to create ozone.

6. Link your trips

Cold engines pollute up to five times more than warm ones. A cold engine is one that has been sitting for over an hour. When possible, link all of your errands together into one trip to minimize "cold starts". Postpone errands on a Spare The Air Day.

7. Telework

Why commute at all if you can arrange to work from home? You'll save commute time and expenses. Even if you do this just one day a week, you'll be making a difference.

8. Avoid consumer spray products

These aerosol products include hairspray, furniture polish, cooking sprays, bathroom cleaners, air fresheners, antiperspirants, insecticides, and hobby craft sprays. Hair spray alone contributes 12 tons of pollution per day. When buying consumer products, choose solids, sticks, and gels instead. They are more environmentally friendly.

9. It's ok to barbecue, but don't use charcoal lighter fluid

Use an electric starter or chimney briquette starter instead of charcoal lighter fluid. Better yet, replace your charcoal grill with a propane gas grill.

10. Do your garden chores gasoline-free

Avoid gas-powered yard tools such as mowers, blowers, edgers and trimmers — switch to electric-powered tools.

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Transportation Tips

  • Make fewer trips. Your car emits far more pollution in the first few minutes of operation before emission controls have warmed up and reached peak efficiency
  • Postpone errands on a Spare The Air day
  • Take your lunch to work and avoid a mid-day trip
  • Drive smoothly — this will save fuel and lower emissions
  • Start a parent carpool in your neighborhood to take the kids to and from school — it will decrease air pollution and traffic at the school site
  • Carpool or vanpool to work one day a week, or maybe two — call 511 to find a carpool partner or visit
  • Use public transit — pick up a transit schedule and use buses or light rail for some trips
  • Share a ride with a friend to social and recreational activities
  • Walk or ride a bike for short morning trips or where over-exertion isn't likely — unhealthy pollution levels usually occur mid-afternoon or later
  • Link your trips to avoid cold-starting your vehicle's engine
  • Purchase a low-emission vehicle. Visit to see the latest list
  • Avoid high speeds — the Department of Transportation reports that if speed limits were observed by drivers across the nation, approximately 71 tons of pollutants would not be emitted and about 4 millions gallons of gas would be saved
  • Refuel in the evening and never top off
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Car Care Tips

  • Give your vehicle regular tune-ups so the engine will pollute less, run smoothly and save you money
  • Change your vehicle's fuel filter and air filter at least once a year, or every 12,000 miles — a dirty air filter has restricted airflow causing the engine to operate less efficiently
  • Don't top off your tank when you refuel — it may cause spillage which then evaporates and contributes to smog levels
  • Refuel your vehicle after dark when temperatures are cooler and evaporative emissions can't react with sunlight to form ozone
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated — properly inflated tires reduce your vehicle's emissions by saving fuel
  • Use steam cleaners instead of engine degreasers to clean the engine
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Reduce Pollution at Home

  • Avoid the use of gas-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers, chain saws, trail bikes or all-terrain vehicles
  • Postpone outings on gas or diesel-powered boats because they are high pollution sources
  • Don't use charcoal lighter fluid to start your barbecue — use an electric or chimney briquette starter
  • Replace your charcoal grill with a propane gas-powered barbecue
  • Avoid the use of pesticides. If you must, use one that is applied in either a granular or water-based solution because they do not contribute to smog
  • Don't use oil-based paints — oil-based paints and varnishes contain a high percentage of solvents that evaporate into the atmosphere and contribute to our pollution problem. Use water-based paints whenever possible
  • Check the back page of The Sacramento Bee's Our Region section for the daily air quality forecast
  • Sign-up for Air Alert — your free personal air quality e-mail
  • Call (916) 874-4801 to hear the daily air quality forecast
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Reduce Wood Smoke Pollution

Wood smoke produces fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) pollution that affects the health of your family, friends and neighbors. It is a common source of odor, reduced visibility and health problems during the fall and winter months. In fact, it accounts for almost 50% of the particulate matter problem in Sacramento County from November to February.

Here's how you can reduce wood smoke when a daily restriction is not in effect:
  • Purchase a cleaner burning product, such as a natural gas fireplace insert – click here to get a voucher from the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District
  • Don't burn wet or moist wood
  • Burn only dry hardwood such as oak or cherry
  • Cover and elevate your stored wood to protect it from rain and moisture
  • Never burn garbage, glossy paper, painted or chemically-treated wood
  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned once a year
  • Burn manufactured firelogs when it is legal to burn – they are illegal to burn during a Stage 1 or Stage 2 day
  • Give your fire plenty of room – a fire with a good air supply produces less smoke
  • Don't build large smoldering fires
  • Make sure wood stove and fireplace inserts fit the heating needs of the home – don't buy more power than you need
  • Watch your chimney for smoke – if you see smoke then the wood is not burning efficiently
  • Wear a sweater on chilly nights instead of lighting a fire
If you live in Sacramento County, call 877-NOBURN-5 (877-662-8765) from November through February to Check Before You Burn. A recorded message will tell you the daily burn status.
For health effects information:
Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District - 916-874-4800
American Lung Association of California - 916-554-5864 (LUNG)
Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails - 916-444-5900

For fire safety information:
Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District - 916-566-4000
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