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Lesson nine: How can we improve air quality?

This lesson explores the things we can all do to improve our air quality.  

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The biggest way to improve air quality is to reduce emissions. You can work out where the emissions come from by looking at an emission inventory (see lesson 8 for more about this).  

Emissions inventories record the things that emit pollution, how long they are used for, and how much pollution they emit. Reducing any of these three things will reduce emissions. 

Using vehicles and heating that produce fewer or cleaner emissions 

An effective way of reducing emissions is by using non-polluting vehicles and equipment. Electric cars and heat pumps use electricity which produces zero emissions, instead of petrol, coal and wood which can produce lots of emissions. 

There are many ways of making emissions cleaner. Hybrid cars produces less emissions by sharing the work between an electric motor and a petrol engine. Ultra-low emission wood burners burn wood more cleanly than standard wood burners. Burning wood pellets is a good way to reduce smoke, as well as using dry wood rather than wet wood. 

Cutting down your use of vehicles or heating 

Driving less and burning less wood also reduce emissions. Living close to school or work, means you don’t drive as far which creates less emissions. It also gives you the choice to walk, cycle, or use public transport like taking the bus or train reducing emissions even less. Working from home is another way to reduce emissions because you don’t have to commute.  

Having good insulation in your home means you don’t have to use as much energy to warm your home. Insulation works the same way as being tucked into a blanket, trapping all the warmth in and keeping the cold out. 

Reducing the amount of pollution that reaches your home 

Reducing emissions can’t be done everywhere, so another way to improve air quality is to try and reduce the amount of pollution around you. Building houses back from roads reduces the amount of traffic pollution that reaches the house. Building barriers such as walls or planting trees can also help to capture road pollution before it gets to the house. Another way to reduce the amount of pollution that reaches people is to have taller chimneys. Having taller chimneys releases emissions further away from the air that people breathe. 

Removing pollution once it’s there 

Once pollutants get into a building, ventilation is the simplest way to remove it. It can be as simple as opening a window for ten minutes or using a fan to blow the pollution back outside. Another way to remove pollutants from the air is to use a filtration system like an air purifier, but these can be quite expensive. 

Key summary points

Simple ways to improve air quality include: 

  • Replacing emission makers with zero-emission alternatives (like electricity or person power). 
  • Using low emission alternatives that use cleaner fuels. 
  • Burning wood/driving less or only when you need to. 
  • Separating emission sources from people or placing a barrier between them. 
  • Ventilating spaces with fresh air or using a fan. 
  • Filtering pollution out of the air. 

Activity: Clearing the air in your town – make a poster 

Use your creativity to make a poster about ways that you can improve air quality in your town.  

Start by watching the video and reading through the information above. Then pick three things that you have learnt that can improve air quality and put them on a poster that you can show others.  

Equipment: paper, coloured pens.


Quiz: How can we improve air quality 

Check out our air quality quiz over on Kahoot.   

The quiz works best on Kahoot, but if you prefer a text version, you can download it as a PDF.

Worksheet: How can we improve air quality 

Download worksheet


Principal Scientist - Air Quality