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to air quality newsletters.
current air quality in Wisconsin.
Contact information
For more information, contact:
Craig Czarnecki
Public information specialist
Air Program

Spring: Do a little, save a lot!

The days are warm and the nights are cool. The trillium and tulips are emerging from the soil and spring has arrived. This is a great time of year to make choices that will improve our air quality and the environment.

Spring is a season of new growth. This is your opportunity to grow yourself and think about ways you could make little changes on how you grow or buy the food you eat, how you take care of your lawn, or how you commute to work or school everyday. It could be as simple as changing a few light bulbs at home or deciding to bike more often during the week. Any changes you make, it's all good and it all adds up to a healthy environment and cleaner air for everyone.

Buy local

Buy local food

Vegtables at local farmer's market
Vegtables at local farmer's market.

Purchase local produce and help reduce air emissions! Fresh produce travels over 1,500 miles on average before being eaten [exit DNR]. That's approximately the mileage of a drive from Wisconsin to Arizona! Tractor trailers, which haul much of our produce, get about six miles to a gallon of diesel fuel. Even though they can hold a lot of veggies per load, think about how the emissions add up. For example, each gallon of diesel fuel emits 22 pounds of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.

Driving a tractor trailer 1,500 miles (not including idling time) emits about 5,550 pounds of carbon dioxide, which is almost the same as what an average passenger car emits in seven months! Other air pollutants released in vehicle exhaust include nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and particle pollution.

Wisconsin is lucky to have farmers markets around the state where we can buy fresh produce directly from growers. Find out about farmers markets [exit DNR] in your area.

Grocery stores are carrying more local produce because of consumer demand. Ask your grocer where the store's produce comes from and let her know you prefer local products.

Grow your own

Grow your own

Rock herb garden
Rock herb garden.

Spring is a time for new beginnings.

If you've never tried growing your own food, why not start this year? No matter your amount of time, money or outdoor space, there is a garden that can suit your lifestyle. Growing your own produce has many benefits:

  • It couldn't be fresher!
  • You can try heirloom varieties that most grocery stores don't offer.
  • Having your children help you in the garden and feeding them homegrown produce will encourage them to have healthier diets.
  • You will know how the plants were treated, for example, with or without synthetic chemicals.
  • You can save money on your grocery bill and on gasoline for trips to the store.
  • You will be less reliant on far away producers and the complex transportation system to feed your family.
  • You will reduce emissions by lessening the energy needed for packaging, processing, and storing your food, as well as the amount of miles your food travels to your plate. In addition, artificial fertilizers, pesticides and meat production can be energy-intensive to produce; you can further limit emissions by using organic gardening practices and shifting your diet to contain more of your homegrown vegetables and less meat.

Spring cleaning your garden? Compost the dead plant debris rather than burning it.

Use your lawn mower to mulch the accumulated leaves and use them as mulch on the garden. Or, if available, get shredded bark from your town, city or county rather than buying the mulch that has been trucked from afar.

"Green" lawn care

Practice "green" lawn care

Man mowing lawn
Mow your lawn early or late in the day, if possible.

Keep in mind the following energy and emission saving tips as you care for your lawn.

  • Replace gas-powered equipment such as mowers and leaf blowers with electric, rechargeable, or manual equipment.
  • If you are using gas-powered equipment, fill and use it in the evening hours, and buy a spill-proof, low-emitting gas can.
  • Keep mower blades sharp and undersides clean - Your lawn will look better and your mower will be more efficient.
  • Use lawn clippings as mulch for your garden. It will help you save on clipping disposal and buying mulch.
  • Don't burn leaves or trash. Compost or recycle instead.
  • If you must water your lawn, do it in the evening or early morning. Mid-day the water will evaporate faster, preventing grass roots from soaking up the water necessary for growth. To stay green, established lawns need about one inch of water per week in total, split over two or three applications. You may want to purchase or make a water gauge to measure the amount of water (including rain) that falls on your lawn each week to help you avoid wasting water.
  • Set up barrels to collect rainwater for the lawn or garden. Using rain barrels will not only reduce the amount of water, energy, and cash (for water pumping and/or treatment) that you spend on your lawn, it will also decrease the amount of stormwater runoff polluting our streams and lakes.
  • Mow less. Ask your local nursery for slow-growing, drought resistant grass and seed mixtures.

Save energy at home

Save energy at home

Save energy at home
Save energy at home.

  • Conserve energy by turning off lights when you leave a room and turning off computers and televisions when not in use.
  • Purchace energy efficient lighting or use natural lighting whenever possible.
  • Find apliances for your home that include the Energy Star [exit DNR] label.
  • Install windows that are energy efficient.
  • Buy green power, energy made by using renewable energy such as wind, solar, geothermal or hydropower
  • Make sure there's plenty of natural ventilation to cool your house as the weather warms up. You may want to open windows at night for the naturally cooler air and close them during the day to keep the cool air inside.
  • Control the moisure entering your house by providing suffient landscaping drainage and gutters. A dehumidifier may help make the climate of your house feel cooler.
  • Use window shades to keep sunlight from warming the house too much during the day.
  • Provide landscaping to create a microclimate around your house. Trees and shrubs can increase shade or provide a windbreak.

For more information about conserving energy at home and reducing your carbon footprint, Focus on Energy [exit DNR] is a helpful place to look.


This video shows you some ways to save energy around the house.

Travel wisely

Travel wisely

Woman on a bike.

Spring is a great time to get outdoors after a long winter. Perhaps you can consider biking when you commute to work or run errands around town. Below are some other suggestions on ways to improve air quality:

  • Ride your bike or walk instead of driving. It's a great way to travel and it can help you and the air get in shape. Vehicles on the road create more than 25 percent of all air pollution nationwide and are a huge source of global climate change emissions.
  • Combine errands into one trip. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer multi-purpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm. You will also avoid retracing your route and reduce the distance you travel, not only saving fuel but also wear and tear on your car. Your budget will thank you!
  • When driving, anticipate stops and slow down gradually. It takes 20 percent less gas to accelerate from 5 mph than from a full stop.
  • Get rid of the junk in your trunk! The weight of that extra cargo makes engines work harder, burning more gas, releasing more emissions. You get 4 percent less gas mileage for every 100 pounds of excess weight carried in your car. That can cost you about a dollar every time you fill up your gas tank.

To learn more about eco-driving, visit or eXtraordinary Road Trip [exit DNR].


Learn some eco-driving tips in the video below.

Last revised: Wednesday December 19 2018