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WNY GOING GREEN: REDUCING AIR POLLUTION

Friday, 05.13.2011 / 4:01 PM / Blue & Gold Make Green
By Michael Jafari  - Graduate Assistant (2010)
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WNY GOING GREEN: REDUCING AIR POLLUTION
Air pollution is arguably the most harmful pollution in the earth’s environment.  Besides having long-term effects on our air and destroying the earth’s ozone, it can have negative consequences on our health by releasing multiple carcinogens into our oxygen stream.  Unfortunately, most of our methods of transportation are the leading causes of air pollution.  There are, however, ways we can slow down the emissions of harmful gases into the environment.

One of the biggest sources of fuel emissions are from large cargo boats.  An average cargo ship that comes from China can take anywhere from four to 11 days to get to its destination point in the United States.  Most products that come from overseas come in large bulks are transferred by use of a giant cargo ship, which means a high amount of fossil fuels enter our air supply.

According to an article from The Guardian, a low-grade ship bunker fuel that powers cargo ships contains up to 2,000 times the sulfur content of diesel fuel used in U.S. and European cars, and emission control is almost non-existent. In addition, U.S. academic research shows that pollution from the world’s 90,000 cargo ships leads to an average of 60,000 deaths a year in just the U.S. and costs up to $330 billion per year in health costs from lung and heart disease. It also contributes significantly to global warming, but about six times less than land-based transportation.

Although the ships release unhealthy carcinogens into the environment, the cargo ship companies have taken precaution in hopes of creating a greener earth.  With fossil fuels serving as the number one source of air pollution combined with the price of gas, ship companies may have found the solution that could be the best of both worlds. 

The ship industry may have discovered a breakthrough, as recent studies show that slower boat speeds burn much less fuel.  Ships are now using a method called “slow steaming,” which reduces a ship’s speed from 25 knots to 20 knots.  Some companies have even gone so far to lower their ship speeds to just 12 knots (14 mph), which is a new method called “super-slow steaming”.  The speed of the ships is similar to the speed of clipper ships in the 19th century, but by these ships reducing their speeds by 20%, they are taking less fuel consumption by almost 40%. 

While the cargo ship industry has taken measures to save the environment, there many ways Americans can do the same.  One of the best ways Americans can save energy is by purchasing locally-produced goods that are not made overseas.  While it may sound a little confusing, it’s important to consider how much energy it takes for products from China or any other country to be shipped to the United States.

One of the ways to do this is to avoid buying produce from overseas in favor of local produce.  By purchasing local produce such as strawberries, oranges, apples, watermelons, corn and other foods, you are halting the process of the cargo ships coming from overseas while helping out your local farmers. 

In addition, you are improving your health, as most local produce does not contain the harmful preservatives that foreign produce may require in order to stay fresh.  Although local produce may rot quicker, adding that extra freshness to your body will have a long-term positive effect on your body. 

Avoiding overseas produce is a great step in preventing air pollution, but the same could be said for other consumer goods that are made overseas.  While we are reliant on some items that are made across the world, choosing American-made products over foreign ones is another way to help prevent air pollution.  There are exclusive items that are only made overseas, but if you have the option of choosing  an item that was made locally, you are making a decision that is better for the environment.

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