Reducing Your Transportation Footprint for Memorial Day Weekend Travels

With Memorial Day just around the corner, a record number of drivers are expected to hit the road for the three-day weekend, according to the latest AAA forecast. The long holiday weekend, marking the unofficial start of summer vacation season, will see the second-highest travel volume on record. Regardless of what your weekend plans entail, it is important to keep in mind that traveling can negatively impact the environment.

Fortunately, there are a variety of ways that area residents can incorporate sustainability into their holiday celebrations by making a few small changes to the way that we travel. Commemorating Memorial Day in an eco-friendly manner is a perfect way to honor our country and pay our respects to those who serve and protect our great nation. With that in mind, here are just a few of the many ways you can reduce your transportation footprint this weekend to help improve the region’s air quality:

  • Travel Light – Greener travel starts before we even leave the house. The more weight trains, planes, and automobiles have to carry, the more fuel they use, and the more harmful greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. As a result, these emissions have a negative impact on the climate – including worsened air quality – that pose many threats to human health. Be conscious of how much you are packing to lighten the load and help keep the air quality in healthy ranges.
  • Turn Off and Unplug – While you may feel more comfortable leaving on a light or two in your absence, that doesn’t mean that you have to leave computers, tablets and other electrical devices on that still use electricity when plugged in, even though they may be idle. Do a walk-through of your home before you leave to turn off and unplug any unnecessary electronics because energy production is a key source of air pollution. Doing so will help clean the air by reducing harmful emissions!
  • Choose to Travel by Bus or Train – If possible, consider traveling by bus or train to your destination. These are the greenest options and can offer a certain level of convenience, particularly if the weather and roads are bad along your travel route. If you must fly, check to see if you can get an affordable nonstop flight to help improve the air quality by cutting back on carbon emissions that come from takeoff and landing. Buses, trains, hybrid cars, and coach seats on narrow jets weigh in with the smallest carbon footprints.
  • Properly Maintain Your Vehicle – If you are traveling by your own personal vehicle, routine maintenance steps like checking engine performance, keeping tires properly inflated, replacing air filters and changing oil regularly are all ways to help reduce emissions and fuel consumption, saving money at the pump and cleaning the air. Following the speed limit also saves fuel and prevents unnecessary air pollution.
  • Make Your Stay a Greener One – If your travel plans include staying at a hotel, consider some simple practices to minimize energy use during your trip like taking short showers, turning off any lights or electronics before leaving the room, keeping the thermostat at a reasonable temperature, and reusing sheets and towels instead of having them washed and changed every day. Otherwise, plan on staying with friends or family to cut back on cost and reduce energy use.

A few small changes are all it takes to help people all over the St. Louis region breathe easier during one of the busiest travel times of the year. For more tips, visit www.cleanair-stlouis.com, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

St. Louis Area Escapes Being Listed Among “Most-Polluted” U.S. Cities

The American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report is out, and it reveals the number of people exposed to unhealthy air increased to nearly 141.1 million, rising from the 133.9 million in the years covered by the 2018 report (2014-2016). For the third consecutive year, the St. Louis region has escaped being ranked among the top 25 most-polluted cities in the U.S., but the fact that many counties in the St. Louis metro area still had multiple days when the air quality was unhealthy means that there is still much work to be done to protect our local communities from the growing risks to public health resulting from increased levels of ozone and particle pollution.

Far too many cities across the nation saw an increased number of days when ground-level ozone reached unhealthy levels and particle pollution soared to often record-breaking levels in some areas. Altogether, 43.3 percent of the population is exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution, and while we may not be among the most polluted cities in this year’s ‘State of the Air’ ranking, poor air quality remains a problem that affects everyone in the St. Louis area.

The report reveals that as climate change continues, cleaning up these pollutants will become ever more challenging, ultimately making it harder to protect human health. Increased heat in 2017, the third warmest year on record in the U.S., likely drove this increase in ozone as warmer temperatures stimulate the reactions in the atmosphere that cause ozone to form.

“As we prepare to settle into summer when we’re at greater risk for higher levels of ozone pollution in our region, it’s important to keep in mind children, older adults and those who suffer from lung diseases that make them especially vulnerable to poor air quality,” said Susannah Fuchs, Director, Clean Air for the American Lung Association in Missouri. “While the fight for cleaner air presses on, we encourage area residents to remain steadfast in their efforts to take voluntary steps to reduce emissions because those actions play a critical role in improving air quality conditions and lung health of our region.”

The 2019 air quality forecasting season commenced on May 1st, along with the Clean Air Partnership’s seasonal outreach to educate St. Louis residents on the health effects of air pollution and the steps they can take to keep air quality in healthy ranges. With transportation-related emissions being one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, actions like taking transit, carpooling, vanpooling, telecommuting, avoiding idling our vehicles and combining errands into a single trip can help reduce emissions when poor air quality is forecasted.

For additional information on the health effects of poor air quality and tips for doing your share for cleaner air, visit www.cleanair-stlouis.com, like the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or follow @gatewaycleanair on Twitter. To access the American Lung Association’s 2019 State of the Air report, visit www.lung.org.