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Hot tips for a cool summer


Doing little things can go a long way to having a cool summer. Below, you'll find some tips to help you and your family find ways this summer to help reduce pollution and learn about the environment.

Read the news release for more ideas

Protect Yourself from the Sun

UV Index The UV Index is a tool that provides a forecast of the strength of the sun's ultraviolet radiation for your community. Search for your local UV Index forecast by ZIP code.

Action Steps for Sun Protection By following a number of simple steps, you can still enjoy your time in the sun while protecting yourself from overexposure to the sun's harmful Ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Keeping Kids Safe from Sun and Smog Information about the health effects of exposure to UV radiation; the UV Index; the Air Quality Index. Actions you can take on ozone action days.

Sunscreen: The Burning Facts (PDF) (6 pp, 957K, About PDF) Here are some tips to teach you what you need to know about sunscreen.


Sunwise EPA has developed the SunWise School Program for grades K-8. SunWise Partner Schools sponsor activities that raise children's awareness of pollution and sun safety practices.

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Air Quality and How You Can Help

How Good is Your Air?

Before you go outside see how good or bad the air is in your community.

Health effects of ozone pollution. Did you know that 10 to 20 percent of all summertime respiratory-related hospital visits in some areas of the U.S. are associated with ozone pollution? Motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents are major sources of ozone, which usually forms in hot weather. Ozone pollution can affect anyone who spends time outdoors in the summer, particularly children, the elderly, outdoor workers and people exercising. Repeated exposure to ozone pollution may cause permanent damage to the lungs. Even low ozone levels can trigger health problems in some people when it is inhaled; these can include chest pains, coughing, nausea, throat irritation, and congestion.

How Your Actions Can Help: By making some fairly simple changes in your daily or weekly routine, you can help to clean the air. For instance:

  • Try taking an alternative form of transportation to work, such as a bus, train, bike, or even walking. This simple action can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 1,500 pounds each year.

  • Energy Star Logo

    Look for the "Energy Star" label when you buy new appliances. Depending on the appliance, products with this label will consume between 13% and 40% less energy than conventional appliances. Learn more about Energy Star products at energystar.gov.

  • Enroll in a green energy program. More and more utilities across the country are offering consumers the option of having some or all of their household or business energy purchased from renewable energy resources such as solar, wind and biomass.

Air Quality Information for kids in English and en español.

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For Travel and Commuting

Commuting It's summertime, which means that weather conditions are favorable for ground-level ozone formation. Emissions from motor vehicles are the primary source of ozone-causing pollutants, accounting for almost half of our air pollution. Because heat and sunlight are important factors in ozone formation, ozone pollution generally peaks during the months of April through October, on hot, sunny days with little or no wind and no precipitation.

Green Vehicle Guide Smog is at its highest levels during the summer. Tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks account for almost half of the air pollution in the United States. You may be surprised to know that you have cleaner more fuel-efficient choices in any vehicle size you need, even an SUV. Find out for yourself. Go to the Green Vehicle Guide to find the cleanest, most fuel efficient vehicle that meets your needs.

Fuel Economy To save gasoline and money during those long vacation trips, keep your car tuned, your tires properly inflated, and drive carefully. See the fuel economy estimates for all cars and light trucks going back to 1985 at http://www.fueleconomy.gov/.

Refueling your vehicle Gasoline vapors are harmful to you and the environment. Not only are they toxic to breathe, they contribute to ozone formation in the atmosphere. Since gasoline vapor production increases during the hot summer months, it is important to be careful when refueling your vehicle. Here are some simple measures you can take at the gas station:

  • Secure the gas cap after refueling to prevent vapors from escaping.
  • Avoid refueling on ozone action days.
  • If you must refuel on ozone action days do so in the early morning or evening.

Maintaining Your Vehicle - Watch your dashboard light to prevent pollution This summer, help prevent pollution by keeping your car in tip-top shape. If your car or light truck is a 1996 or later model, it is equipped with a sophisticated computer called the "Onboard Diagnostic" (or OBD) system that helps your engine to operate at peak efficiency and will alert you to any potential problems that could cause it to work harder, wear out faster and pollute more. If the OBD system detects problems, it will trigger a "Check Engine" light. Repair shops are able to check the computer to see precisely what is causing the problem, and can then make effective repairs.

During your summer vacation trips, if your "Check Engine" light comes on and stays on, don't panic. You and your car are not in immediate danger. The first thing you should do is check that your fuel cap is secured tightly: loose gas caps cause gasoline vapor emissions which trigger the light. If the cap is tight and the light still stays on, try to arrange for service when convenient. If the light is flashing on and off, this indicates engine misfire, a condition that can harm the engine. In this case, you can still drive safely but you should minimize your time on the road and avoid driving at high speed or carrying excess weight such as towing or carrying heavy equipment.

Making sure you service your vehicle whenever the Check Engine light is illuminated can help you:

  • Prevent more costly repairs.
  • Improve your vehicle's fuel economy.
  • Ensure that your vehicle is ready to pass an emissions inspection.
  • Reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants.

Questions and answes about OBD.

Recharging Your Car's Air Conditioner with Refrigerant When servicing automotive air-conditioning systems, vehicle owners generally have several options to recharge a/c systems with refrigerant. One option is to top-off your car's system with refrigerant, and another is to evacuate and recharge the system. Both of these options will provide cool air in the passenger compartment for some period of time.

Federal Recreation Areas Visit a National Park this summer. Check out this site that has one-stop access to federal recreation information.

National Park Service A guide to visiting national parks is found at the National Park Service Web site. Look at state Web sites to find State and local park information.

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On the Water

Boaters can help to prevent pollution The cooperation of individual boaters is essential in the effort to improve air quality and prevent pollution.

Sunscreen: The Burning Facts (PDF) (6 pp, 954K, About PDF) Here are some tips to teach you what you need to know about sunscreen

Check Local Beach Water Quality Conditions There are several things that you can do to improve the quality of water at the beach. For example, you can learn more about the quality of the water at your local beach, become involved as a responsible citizen to reduce pollutants that can wash into the water, and find out what state or local agencies or departments are responsible for protecting the quality of the water at your beach.

Photo of two men and boy fishing

Fish Advisories Fish can be an important part of a heathy diet. But some fish have harmful amounts of mercury. A guide to healthy eating of the fish you catch in several languages, including information for pregnant women.

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Conserving and Protecting Our Water Resources

During the summer it is especially important to conserve and protect water. Drought conditions in certain parts of the country and activities that increase its use can cause water to be more scarce.

Water Use It Wisely There are a number of ways to save water. See how to use it wisely at: http://www.wateruseitwisely.com/ Exit EPA Disclaimer 

Water Saver Home Learn what you can do to reduce water use in your home -- take a virtual tour of this Water Saver Home.
http://www.h2ouse.net Exit EPA Disclaimer 

Volunteer Monitoring Spend extra summer vacation time doing environmental volunteering. The summer growing season is when a lot of vegetative restoration activities (seeding, planting trees, aquatic grasses, removal of invasive species, etc) take place; most of these restoration activities rely primarily on citizen volunteers to succeed. Find out how you can get involved.

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In Your Garden

Lawn and Garden

A beautiful and healthy lawn is good for our environment. It can resist damage from weeds, disease, and insect pests. Pesticides can be effective, but need to be used according to the directions on the label and should not be relied on as a quick-fix to lawn problems.

Here are some tips to follow

  • Develop healthy soil. Make sure your soil has the right pH balance, key nutrients, and good texture. You can buy easy-to-use soil analysis kits at hardware stores or contact your local County Cooperative Extension Service for a soil analysis.

  • Choose the right grass for your climate. If your area gets very little rain, don't plant a type of grass that needs a lot of water. Select grass seed that is well suited to your climate and other growing conditions such as the amount of sunlight and rain your lawn receives. Over-seed your lawn each Fall by spreading seeds on top of the lawn. A thicker lawn helps to crowd out weeds. Your local County Extension Service can advise you on which grasses grow best in your area.

  • Longer is Better. Make sure the lawn mower blades are sharp. Grass that is slightly long makes a strong, healthy lawn with few pest problems. Weeds have a hard time taking root and growing when grass is around 2½ to 3½ inches for most types of grass.

  • Water Early. It is time to water if footprint impressions stay in the lawn and do not spring back. Water early in the morning and only for short periods for time so the soil may absorb the water. Longer grass has stronger roots and retains water better.

  • Correct thatch buildup. Thatch is a layer of dead plant materials between the grass blades and the soil. When thatch gets too thick, deeper than 3/4 of an inch, water and nutrients are prevented from getting into the soil and reaching the roots of the grass. Overusing synthetic fertilizer can create heavy layer of thatch, and some kinds of grass are prone to thatch buildup.

  • Recycle grass. Don't pick up the grass clippings after you mow. Clippings will return nutrients and moisture to the soil. Consider buying a mulching lawn mower. This will cut the grass clippings finer and blow them into the lawn.

  • Let your lawn breathe. Once a year, remove small plugs of earth to allow air and water to aerate the grass roots.

  • Invite a few weeds and insects into you garden. Think of you lawn as a small piece of nature where pests have their place. Often, nature provides its own pest control in the form of birds or other insects that feed on the insects we consider nuisances.

  • Use manual tools. Tools that don't require electric or gasoline engines are especially handy for small yards or small jobs. There are hand tools available that will meet a wide variety of lawn and garden needs, like lightweight, quiet, easy-to-use reel push mowers that generate no emissions.

Do you use pressure-treated lumber on your deck, fence, post or gazebo? Learn about CCA (chromated copper arsenate), a wood preservative that contains arsenic, and learn about alternatives to CCA.

Using and Storing Gasoline In the summer, lots of portable containers are used to store and transport fuels for lawnmowers, chainsaws and recreational vehicles. These portable containers can emit hydrocarbons; in addition, spills can leak into ground water. Here are some tips to follow to reduce these concerns:

  • Use Proper Containers Use only containers approved by a nationally recognized testing lab, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Containers should be fitted with a spout to allow pouring without spilling and to minimize the generation of vapors. Always open and use gasoline containers in a well-ventilated area away from children and animals.

  • Fill Cautiously Fuel equipment on a hard surface such as concrete or asphalt and use a funnel and/or spout to prevent spilling or splashing when fueling lawn and recreational equipment and always fuel outside where there is adequate ventilation to disperse the vapors

  • Store Carefully Store as little gasoline as possible and be certain to keep your gasoline container properly sealed. Store the gasoline in a cool, dry place and never in direct sunlight. Store at ground level to minimize the danger of falling and spilling. Do not store gasoline in a car trunk. There is a threat of explosion from heat and impact. Do not store gasoline in your basement.

  • Avoid Spills Avoid spilling gasoline on the ground, especially near wells. If a small spill occurs use kitty litter, saw dust or an absorbent towel to soak up the spill, then dispose of it properly

  • Dispose Properly Do not dispose of gasoline down the drain, into surface water, onto the ground, or in the trash. You should check with your town concerning using your local household hazardous waste collection for safe disposal of excess or old gasoline.

For more information see:

How to Use Insect Repellents Safely

Your Yard and Clean Air

Healthy Lawn, Healthy Environment (PDF) (19 pp, 1745K, About PDF) - Information about environmentally friendly lawn care.

Green Landscaping

Bringing conservation from the countryside to your backyard Exit EPA Disclaimer 

Tips for a Waste-Free Lawn and Garden

Learn How to Compost

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Using Pesticides Safely

If you decide that the best solution to your pest problem is a pesticide, follow these tips when selecting and using a garden product:

  • Identify the pest problem
  • Find the product that solves the problem
  • Buy the right amount for your needs
  • Read the label carefully and use the product the right way
  • Pay attention to warnings
  • Prevent harm to the environment - never pour lawn and garden products down a drain
  • Store and dispose of pesticides safely.
  • Learn more pesticide safety tips.

"Ten Tips to Protect Children from Pesticide and Lead Poisonings." This Spanish/English brochure outlines the ten most important steps you can take to protect children from accidental poisonings associated with the presence of lead and pesticides in the home. A "must" for parents.

Learn why children may be especially sensitive to pesticides.

More information:

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In and Around the House

Cool Change Campaign Keeping your house cool when it's hot is important because energy use increases in the summer.

Summertime Recycling Activities You can recycle all year long but in the summer there are special things that you can do in your yard such as composting.

Recycling Around the Home Learn how you can reduce, reuse, and recycle materials and decrease the amount and toxicity of the waste produced in and around your home.

When it is hot, postpone chores that use oil-based paints, solvents, or varnishes that produce fumes and, if you are barbecuing, use an electric starter instead of charcoal lighter fluid.

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Resources For Kids and Students

If you are looking for some interesting activities this summer that will help you learn about the environment, check out these cool educational and fun sites.

Air Quality Index The AQI uses colors, and numbers, and words to tell you about the air. En español

Darby Duck and the Aquatic Crusaders Become an Aquatic Crusader and join Darby Duck in the fight against water pollution!

Recycle City - There's lots to do here: people and places to visit and plenty of ways to explore how the city's residents recycle, reduce, and reuse waste.

Help Save Our Planet! Lead an alien expedition to Earth. Trail the Garbage Gremlin as an ace detective. Become a Planet Protector today!

Pesticides Information for Kids, Students and Teachers

Roaches are one of the most common household pests. Once they move into your home, they multiply quickly. That makes them even harder to control. En español

Find out more about EPA educational resources by going to the kids club, the students and teachers centers.

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