Spotlight On: The City of Edwardsville

Participants in the St. Louis Green Business/Green Cities Challenge have been working hard to integrate eco-friendly measures in order to reduce their environmental impact and improve the region’s air quality. As part of the 2019 Green Cities Challenge, nine municipalities incorporated innovative and environmentally friendly practices into their local governments, and this month, we are thrilled to shine a spotlight on the City of Edwardsville for their commitment to pursuing various strategies to be a more sustainable community.

Many of the city’s green innovations last year focused on the importance of recycling and reducing waste. Edwardsville rolled out a variety of programs and educational resources throughout the city, including recycling flyers to place in residents’ City Water Bills and detailed recycling information in vendor applications for City Park events. They even brought recycling education into classrooms at local schools to instill green habits early on with the hope that students will make it an everyday habit.

Last October, Edwardsville City Council adopted a Single Use Bag Fee Ordinance that will go into effect on July 1, requiring a 10 cent per bag fee for disposable plastic and paper checkout bags at all retail businesses greater than 7,000 sq. ft. Because plastics bags are produced from non-renewable resources and remain as litter in the environment, the ordinance is being put in place to encourage the use of reusable bags to help clean the air by cutting down on thousands of plastic ones that end up in landfills.

Furthermore, the Single Use Bag Fee Ordinance inspired a Bag-Share program created by the regional action group, Bring Your Own, providing residents an outlet to reduce single-use waste and help others to do the same. Launched in partnership with local community retailers and institutions, the program distributes baskets labeled “Take a Bag, Leave a Bag” at various participating locations where shoppers can take clean, reusable bags if needed or leave an extra they might have. Due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and the state’s recommendation that shoppers no longer use reusable bags for the time being to protect both shoppers and cashiers from spreading the virus, the program is temporarily on hold.

In terms of collaboration, Edwardsville teamed up with the City of Glen Carbon on the mayor’s letter that calls for a decrease in plastic straw consumption by only providing straws per request in restaurants to raise awareness about the damage caused by disposable single-use plastics. Additionally, Edwardsville collaborated with the Beautification Tree Commission on the Heritage Tree Initiative with plans to spotlight the aesthetic and environmental benefits of mature trees throughout the city.

Other noteworthy accomplishments by Edwardsville in the Challenge include expanding their Green Team, increasing solar installation to support the Grow Solar regional effort, supporting major conservation purchases in the city and surveying policies in preparation of further sustainability improvements moving forward.

For additional information on the sustainable efforts underway by the City of Edwardsville and how your municipality can get involved in the Challenge, subscribe to the bi-monthly E-Newsletter or visit www.stlouisgreenchallenge.com. To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, explore our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Celebrating 50 Years of Earth Day

April 22nd officially marks 50 years of celebrating Earth Day, and in honor of the holiday, now is the perfect opportunity to take action for a “greener” world. While volunteering to pick up trash on the side of the road, collecting recyclables and getting outside to enjoy the warmer spring weather are oftentimes popular Earth Day activities, there’s so much more that we can do to help protect and restore our planet the other 364 days of the year.

Simple, eco-friendly lifestyle changes can go a long way when it comes to saving the earth and helping people all across the St. Louis region breathe easier. Here are some helpful tips to consider for celebrating Earth Day each and every day to keep the air quality in healthy ranges:

  • Shop greener – As quarantine periods wear on, shopping for essential items like groceries, baby products, pet supplies and cleaning agents online is a greener alternative and ideal for staying safe during these unprecedented times. Try consolidating your online orders to one store to reduce excess packaging and fuel consumption from large transport trucks to keep the air clean. When it comes to your household products, replace single-use, disposable items with “green” products that are reusable, sustainably sourced or made of recycled materials.
  • Ditch the plastic bottles – At this very minute, people around the world are buying a million plastic bottles, and most of these bottles will end up in landfills or in the ocean. Not only does the production of plastic water bottles contribute significant amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, their litter lingers for years on end. Instead of buying single-use bottles, consider purchasing a reusable water bottle you can take with you and refill as needed to cut down on unnecessary waste and help improve air quality.
  • Avoid idling your vehicle – Idling engines produce thousands of tons of toxic pollution, including air toxins which are known to cause cancer, respiratory and reproductive effects, birth defects and various other health concerns. For every 10 minutes your engine is off, you’ll help to prevent one pound of carbon dioxide from being released into our air. Experts also note that 10 minutes of idling a day wastes 27 gallons of fuel a year, thus, choosing not to idle is another great way to save fuel and money!
  • Turn off lights and appliances not in use – Computers, tablets and other electrical devices still use electricity when plugged in, even though they may be idle. Once you wrap up working from home for the day, be sure to power down your computer and unplug any unnecessary electronics. Additionally, if you have to leave the house, do a walk-through to turn off all the lights, as energy production is a key source of air pollution. Doing so will help clean the air by reducing harmful emissions!

Although the current stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements have resulted in the postponement of the St. Louis Earth Day Festival this year, area residents can take their celebrations one step further by participating in a series of virtual events at https://earthday-365.org/, happening now thru April 26.

To learn more about the link between living greener and our air quality, visit our website tips section at www.cleanair-stlouis.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Spotlight On: Environmental Operations, Inc.

For more than a decade, the St. Louis Green Business Challenge has helped businesses of all types and sizes move our region to a leadership position in sustainability. As these organizations continue to serve and better their communities, The Clean Air Partnership is thrilled to shine a spotlight on Environmental Operations, Inc., this month for their recent achievements and green innovations.

In 2019, 61 companies, nonprofits, institutions and governmental bodies participated in the Challenge, integrating sustainability measures into the kinds of everyday operational practices common to every business. Last year, Environmental Operations, Inc., received the Circle of Excellence Achievement Award and secured the third place title at the Leader Level – Tenant Category for having the greatest gain from their baseline to final point totals during the Challenge.

Environmental Operations, Inc., (EOI), is a nationwide leader in guiding environmental projects of all sizes from inception to successful completion using an innovative, investment-minded approach. Located in the City of St. Louis, EOI provides a range of environmental engineering, consulting and contracting services for development projects. The company understands the importance of limiting environmental risk, and unlike many environmental firms, they share the risk and reward of environmental solutions with their clients. The company also has made great strides in implementing strategic and environmentally friendly measures in its own daily operations.

Among their extensive list of accomplishments includes cleaning out overstocked kitchen and cleaning supplies and replacing them with reusable, greener options. EOI removed single-use items such as plastic water bottles in conference rooms and substituted them with water glasses and pitchers. Additionally, the office switched to default double-sided printing, with the exception of certain state and federal documents, and swapped out regular paper towels for unbleached and recycled-content products.

EOI continually strives to make sustainability a focus of their company culture. Staff members volunteer regularly for organizations such as Zero Waste Ambassadors at the Missouri Botanical Garden and the St. Louis Area Food Bank. Employees have also participated in neighborhood clean-ups for Earth Day and company picnics aimed toward zero waste by composting food and recycling beverage containers. Other green initiatives include in-office collections of employees’ batteries, Styrofoam and electronics for proper recycling.

To further reduce environmental impact, the company implemented a new, paperless HR portal system and timekeeping system. Both are designed to safely handle important employee documents and materials, all while minimizing printed record keeping to help increase company efficiency and improve air quality.

For additional information on the sustainable efforts underway by Environmental Operations, Inc., and how other organizations can get involved in the Challenge, subscribe to the bi-monthly E-Newsletter or visit www.stlouisgreenchallenge.com. To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, explore our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Greening Your Spring Cleaning

While spring is in the air and warmer weather we’ve longed for has finally started to roll through the region, the ongoing impact of COVID-19 has required us to practice social distancing and spend some quality time indoors. Despite these current challenges, it’s good to remember that, when it comes to air quality, we can always continue to do our share for cleaner air.

With all this extra down time, there’s no better time than now to break out the mops and brooms, shoo away the cobwebs and tackle annual spring cleaning. By making environmentally conscious choices in the way you clean, you’ll also help make your home (and the planet) a healthier place to live and breathe for all. Here are some helpful tips to consider for greening your spring cleaning with the region’s air quality in mind:

  • Clear out the clutter – Spring cleaning is the perfect time to go through closets and get rid of the things you no longer need or use. Rather than dumping everything into plastic trash bags, take a few extra minutes to dispose of them responsibly and sustainably. Keep items out of overcrowded landfills by asking family and friends if they have use for any of your unwanted items or donate them to charity once the stay-at-home orders have been lifted.
  • Ditch the paper towels – Because they cannot be recycled, an estimated 6 million pounds of paper towels wind up in landfills every year. Consider substituting specially-made, washable cleaning and dusting cloths that are available in all types of fabrics, from cotton to microfiber. Better yet, you can take green cleaning one step further by opting for rags from cut up old clothes, towels or sheets that can be washed and reused any time instead of paper towels to reduce waste and save money on paper products.
  • Make your own all-purpose cleaners – Cleaning and sanitizing high-touch surfaces in our households are a top priority right now, and while you may be using stronger disinfectants on those surfaces, you still have plenty of options to make your own homemade cleaning solutions for areas of lesser concern. Consider creating your own products by mixing a little warm water with either baking soda or white vinegar for the perfect all-purpose cleaner. When replacing cleaning products, don’t just throw the old ones in the trash. If they’re too toxic for your home, they won’t be good for the drain or the landfill either.
  • Reuse and repurpose items around the house – If you’re willing to get creative, the possibilities are endless! For example, an old toothbrush can be used to clean small corners, old socks can be used for dusting, and old towels can even be sewn into a make-shift Swiffer mop cover. You can also reuse newspapers by balling them up and scrubbing the windows with them and sanitize dirty sponges by popping them into the dishwasher – all are steps in the right direction for cleaner air.

It only takes a few small changes to incorporate more sustainable and eco-friendly choices into our spring cleaning routines to help reduce harmful emissions and keep the air we breathe in healthier ranges. For more great tips on how to achieve cleaner air year-round, visit http://cleanair-stlouis.com/air-quality-tips/.