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Reschedule for the environment



How to make your day planner eco-friendly almost effortlessly.

As you read this, you can be sure that somebody in the Alamo City is bitching about a time restriction: downtown parking meters, juvenile curfew laws, expired coupons for free Victoria’s Secret cotton panties.

But a time restriction isn’t always the cattle prod mindlessly moving you along. Sometimes it’s the cattle guard keeping you from dumbly walking out in front of a car. Remember how important the tick-tock was in Gremlins? Don’t spill water on them. You could kill them with light. But above all, synchronize your clocks ’cause hell breaks out of a coccoon if you feed them after midnight. (Oprah has an earlier dietary deadline; in her magazine she says that she never eats after 7:30 p.m., “Not even a grape.”)

If there’s one helpful time restriction you should embrace this summer, say the good people who monitor San Antonio’s air quality, it’s “Don’t gas up during the sunshiney part of the day.”

You already know that the feds knighted cars/trucks as Royal Air Polluters (and if you didn’t know, that’s why TXDoT and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, organizers of the ongoing “Drive Clean Across Texas” public-education campaign, send press releases to the good people at the Current to tell you).

But did you know fueling up midday lets gas vapors escape into the air, which in turn react with sunlight and undergo a photochemical process that sounds as toxic as cooking meth? (At least that’s the way Peter Bella at the Alamo Area Council of Governments makes it sound. His agency supplies the environmental info for the “Drive Clean” campaign.)

Fossil fuels are part of a hardcore volatile organic compound group that you’ll also find in paints and lacquers, which, when heated, ratchets up ozone levels. This means you should only reenact the gas fight from Zoolander in the cool of early morning or in the evening; avoid the filling station around the hotbox heat of the day, Bella says, especially 4 p.m.

And Bella gives an extra reason to care about ozone levels: Forget your pollutant-triggered asthma, your blackened lungs yearning to breathe free; if the city doesn’t stay within acceptable pollutant limits, the feds can delay roadway grants until we do. Imagine, a hazy, windless city perpetually under construction ... Now go to the Valero under the cover of night.

Changing your fueling schedule is one thing. Then there’s that little matter of watering your grass between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., the knuckle-crackers over at the San Antonio Water System say. It’s year-round illegal for you to be out there in your orange Crocs with a waterhose midday.

“The `Edwards Aquifer Authority` officials say everyone using Edwards water has to reduce pumping,” says SAWS spokeswoman Anne Hayden. “So we as water utilities need to say to our citizens ... that these are the kinds of measures that should accomplish that.” Hayden is being polite. What she really wants to say is we’re entering our 16th month of drought conditions, water isn’t an infinite resource, more people are moving to San Antonio so we’ve had to accommodate more beaks (and water-main leaks), and if someone reports you to its Water Wasters hotline (227-6143) SAWS will play nice for a while, then it’ll give you a ticket (anywhere from $50 for first offenders to $2,000 for assholes). During the verboten time period, the evaporation rate is really high so only a little water returns to the ground (That’s why Texans like rain. We just can’t drive in it). And if things get bad, SAWS would enact a Stage 1 response, which would mean you could only water on an assigned day.

“It’s a team effort. And the vast majority of people are working together to achieve these ends,” says the ever-kind Hayden.

And by the way, British scientists from the University of Leeds want you to change your flight schedule. They recently published a study in the journal Nature that says the vapor trails aircraft make during night flights trap heat in the clouds, making the planet hotter.

“Night flights are twice as bad for the environment,” one of the study’s environmental scientists told The Guardian. “If the government wanted to reduce the likely impact of aviation on climate then it could ensure that more flew during the day.”

Of course, he was talking about the British government taking action, but here in America-land, we don’t need reason or law telling us what to do. But sometimes it’s nice when they help guide our timetables.

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