Avibra was created with the specific mission of helping people live happier, healthier and more secure lives. We take our commitment to our community and the world seriously, and we’re always working to find new ways to make a real difference. Last month, Social Impact featured access to nutritious food. This month, the topic is pollution and air quality. We will also be donating to the Environmental Working Group, an organization dedicated to research and advocacy into toxic chemicals, drinking water pollutants and corporate accountability.

Pollution affects everything from the air we breathe to the water we drink to the soil our homes are built on and beyond. While we may think of cars as one of the main sources of pollution — and they’re no slouches — the problem goes further than that. There are contaminants that can be found in our water from agricultural runoff and even issues with noise pollution that can have measurable effects on health.

Air Pollution

Some of the top causes of air pollution include the burning of fossil fuels in engines (like the gas in cars), dust from road traffic, chemicals released by industrial processes, energy production from certain types of power plants, greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and methane from landfills. Essentially, it’s when we add chemicals, particulates or biological matter to the air that may be harmful to people or the environment. 

The good news is that this is an area where individuals can have an impact on the outcome. Vehicles that are more fuel efficient can help reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere. Hybrid or electric vehicles help reduce emissions even more, especially when paired with electric power that comes from renewable energy power plants (think hydropower or windmills). Steps like carpooling and using public transportation can help reduce the number of cars on the road, which helps with dust pollution.

Water Pollution

We’ve talked about issues with access to clean water before, and it’s a major problem in certain areas due to lead pipe issues and even just naturally occurring elements in the water supply. In addition to that are problems like industrial and farm water runoff. When a farm uses insecticides and pesticides on their plants and then waters them, that water picks up those chemicals and carries them into local water sources. That water is often the place towns and cities draw on for their residents to pipe into their homes. In addition, farming often loosens the soil. When it rains, that top layer of soil is carried away into local lakes, streams and rivers, creating cloudy water that disrupts local wildlife and aquatic plants. 

For industrial water pollution, it can be pretty straightforward. Improper disposal of chemicals can head directly (or indirectly) to local water supplies. Leaking sewers and sewage systems can also contribute to water pollution problems. Many of these issues aren’t ones that we can tackle directly, but it’s important to be aware of them and to understand the importance of preventing them. These pollutants can cause lifelong health problems for people exposed to them.

Soil & Land Pollution

Closely tied to water pollution is land pollution. Mining activities are one of the common causes, as it can lead to contamination of the surrounding land. The process of disturbing or deforesting large areas of land can also erode the soil, leading to the issues we mentioned above. 

Landfills are another big problem facing us in the US. We have a finite amount of space, and it can take a very, very long time to break down things like plastic. When people throw away toxic substances without realizing the damage it can cause, those toxic chemicals can also leech into the surrounding land. This is another area where the individual can really make a big difference. Make sure that you’re disposing of toxic waste properly, and try to reduce the amount of trash your household produces. Reuse items where you can, and if you’re able to always make sure your items are recyclable. Keep in mind that just because packaging has a recycle symbol on it doesn’t mean that it will actually be recycled. Reducing and reusing are still far more effective.

What We Can Do

Much of what the individual can do involves being a more conscious consumer and member of their community. That means identifying areas when you can cut down on driving, opting for purchases that have a smaller pollution footprint and trying to reduce the amount of things you buy that will end up in landfills. However, much of the pollution problems that we face go far beyond what choices we make as individuals. We can choose what type of food we eat, but we can’t choose whether or not we eat. We’re often limited in the options available to us for the power in our homes. These are larger problems that require advocacy and careful examination of the repercussions of different types of pollution done by companies and larger entities, which is what organizations like the Environmental Working Group do.