Sustainable City - How To Breath Easy In Smogtown

Photo: "Smog." by Flickr member FireinCairo

It often seems that our three levels of government are from separate planets when it comes to dealing with city issues. However, this week the Federal Health Minister, the Ontario Environment Minister, and the Toronto Medical Officer of Health came together to announce the launch of the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI).

When Kari first reported the announcement in May, I was bit confused because we already had something called the Air Quality Index (AQI). I think it's great that this new index is more scientifically advanced than the last one, but something's still missing. These government agencies need to work towards telling the public what can be done to breathe easier when it's hot, hazy and humid - more "do's" and fewer "don'ts".

With that in mind, I present to you a few quick tips to make life in smogtown more tolerable, after the jump:

The easiest place to start is in the home. Because you're advised against using your air conditioner on smog days, opening windows to air out your place actually brings tonnes of dirty air inside. To counter the dirty air, get yourself some plants and grow your own clean air! Not only do all plants trade carbon dioxide for oxygen (free oxygen is way better than paying for it) and help cool the air in the process, but some plants are especially good at removing pollution from the air. The best part is it only takes about one plant for every 100 square feet of space. Here's a top 10 list of plants that are easiest to grow and best suited to air purification:

- Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea erumpens)
- Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
- Corn plant (Dracaena massangeana)
- English ivy (Hedera helix)
- Peace lily (Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa')
- Pot mum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
- Snake plant (Sansievaria trifasciata)
- Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
- Transvaal daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)

Since we spend most of our waking life working, bringing some of these plants to work is also a good idea. Better yet, tell the boss that having plants around makes people feel happier, healthier, and more productive and maybe your employer will foot the bill.

Finally, if you own your own home, give LEAF (Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests) a call and have them check out your yard. For a very reasonable price they'll come to your home, tell you which trees or shrubs are best suited to your property, and they'll event plant them for you, too. LEAF claims that three properly placed trees can reduce home cooling costs by up to 40%.

It really can be easy to live green and breath easy even during the smog days of summer!


Sustainable City is a new weekly column that explores current events and environmental issues in Toronto that impact the health and well being of urban city dwellers.

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