Spotlight On: The City of University City

As temperatures begin to cool off with autumn’s arrival just days away, the importance of keeping the region’s air clean still remains high. This fall, the Clean Air Partnership will continue to show appreciation for local organizations and municipalities that are stepping up to take action for cleaner air by working towards a more sustainable future, benefiting those who live and work in their communities.

University City, Mo., is one of the oldest suburbs in the St. Louis metropolitan area and has been a proud participant of the St. Louis Green Cities Challenge for several consecutive years. Known for its rich history dating back to the late 1800’s and named after the community’s proximity to Washington University, the city has become a center of learning and culture, as well as an area of prosperous commercial activity. Through participation in the Green Cities Challenge, Univeristy City ensures that consistent standards are applied to its planned economic development projects, which is essential as they continue to redevelop existing spaces and create new ones within the community.

Among their impressive green innovations to receive recognition in the 2019 Challenge was a major campaign for recycling anti-contamination featuring custodian training, staff education, mass digital information coverage and audits of residential carts. These initiatives have all contributed to lower rates of contamination, which is also a win for the region’s air quality! Prior to 2008, University City processed its own recyclables and sold the sorted materials to vendors. With a recent grant from the Solid Waste Management District, an evaluation of the city’s former Materials Recovery Facility assessed feasibility to renovate the space with new recycling equipment and process curbside recycling again.

During the Challenge, University City added a much-needed city-staff Green Team to lead interdepartmental sustainability. The Green Team’s first line of work included a survey and audit of each department to identify opportunities to reduce waste and improve collaboration. This year, the city set goals for installing water bottle fill stations in city buildings, supporting Earth Day related events and furthering education and outreach for city departments on recycling.

To further reduce environmental impact, University City signed the Mayors for Solar Energy commitment that is helping city leaders take concrete steps toward brighter, healthier futures. This pledge includes the endorsement of solar energy for local residents, easing the permit process and leading by example. University City is also a part of the regional Grow Solar St. Louis program, which promotes education and group purchasing discounts for residential solar power.

Another noteworthy accomplishment of University City was the purchase of five electric vehicles for use by property inspectors. This resulted from a financial analysis that showed the long-term payback would surpass the purchase of gasoline or hybrid vehicles. The city anticipates expanding the fleet if the electric vehicles are successful in saving money and reducing overall emissions.

For additional information about the ongoing sustainable efforts by University City and how your municipality can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge/Green Cities 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.

Alternative Transportation Options Available in the Region to Celebrate Car-Free Day

While Car-Free Day celebrations will have a bit of a different look this year due to social distancing and mask requirements, people are still encouraged to be less dependent on their vehicles and try alternatives such as walking, biking, utilizing public transit or maybe even carpooling with other household members. Though our cars are convenient and offer a number of benefits, they also contribute a dangerous amount of pollution. Having a day off from driving is highly recommended to raise awareness about these concerns and help reduce harmful emissions.

Vehicle exhaust produces thousands of tons of toxic pollution, including nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds that contribute to the formation of ozone smog and particulate matter, which makes it especially hard for sensitive populations to breathe. These factors led to September 22 being designated Car-Free Day each year with the goal to take heat off the planet and our lungs by alerting individuals of the impact traffic has on quality of life in the region. The day is also designed to inspire lasting change for our communities to live more sustainably year-round, not just on special occasions.

In the St. Louis region, the following options are available for area residents to ditch the keys and be car-free to help take vehicles off area roads and reduce the emissions that lead to poor air quality:

  • MetroTransit – The region’s public transit system offers great alternatives for the work commute or an option to hopping in your car for short trips. Serving St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Clair County, Ill., Metro Transit allows riders to walk to a nearby stop, or park and take a train or bus, or a combination of the two, to get where they’re going – safely, comfortably and conveniently. Those who live in Madison County, Illinois will find Madison County Transit to be another great alternative. Both have various measures in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep riders and operators safe.
  • Ridesharing – This year as COVID-19 persists, we recommend those considering carpooling limit their pool to other members of the same household who may be able to ride together. But looking to the future when carpooling with co-workers or others commuting to the same general area is once again safe, RideFinders offers a free carpool and vanpool ride matching service. Ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft match drivers of private vehicles to those seeking transportation, too.
  • Walk or Bike – Walking and biking are excellent ways to burn calories instead of burning gas. Not only do they serve as eco-friendly ways to run errands and get around town when weather conditions are favorable, but experts also note that if just 1% of those who drive chose to walk or bike regularly instead, automobile emissions would fall 2-4%.
  • Telecommute – The power of telecommuting to reduce auto emissions was clear across the country and around the world earlier this year as stay-at-home orders led to much lighter traffic and cleaner air in countless locations. As the region continues to open back up for business and traffic ramps back up, so does the potential for increased emissions that contribute to ozone formation. For those that have the ability to work from home, continuing to telecommute is encouraged.

You can do your share for cleaner air by taking the pledge to be car-free on September 22 and beyond to help St. Louisans breathe easier! For a host of additional tips on how to achieve cleaner air all year long, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.