New Year, New Resolutions to Do Your Share for Cleaner Air

While every year we look at January 1 as a symbol of a fresh start and a chance to have our “best year yet”, this mindset feels more important than ever before as we move into 2021. Even though many of the challenges presented in 2020 have rolled over into the new year as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, now is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past year and look at the things we can control as we determine what changes to make to improve ourselves and our communities going forward.

Making the choice to go green in the new year and resolving to adopt some eco-friendly actions can result in multiple positive changes to your wallet, your health and the region’s air quality. By adopting just one of many green lifestyle changes and incorporating sustainability into your daily routine, you can have a significant impact on helping people all over the St. Louis region breathe easier in 2021. Here are a few simple tips to consider for greening your New Year’s resolutions :

  • Walk, Bike or Take Public Transit – Since transportation-related emissions have always been one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, the choices people make on how to get around considerably affect air quality and the health of the region. Actions like walking and biking instead of using a vehicle for short trips or taking public transportation are all great ways to reduce harmful auto emissions to help keep the air quality in healthy ranges.
  • Green Your Home – When your appliances have reached the end of their useful lives, opt for new ones that are Energy Star® rated to maximize efficiency. Switching out incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, putting timers on lights and investing in smart power strips will also help to eliminate unnecessary electricity use. While reducing and reusing are the most effective ways to save money and natural resources, recycling is another vital piece of greening your home by helping to keep waste out of landfills and turning glass, paper, plastic and other items into new materials. Set up separate recycling bins in your home so it’s easy for all family members to participate and consider purchasing recycled products to help clean the air.
  • Think Globally, Buy Locally – Locally grown food offers countless benefits and also helps to reduce environmental impact. Imported food is often shipped hundreds and sometimes even thousands of miles to arrive at the supermarket. The greater distance the food has to travel, the more fossil fuels are consumed. Buying local produce reduces the amount of travel time for big transport trucks, ultimately improving the air quality by cutting back on air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Go Paperless When Possible – Because we live in a digital world, there are many places where you can opt out of paper — whether it’s your credit card bill or receipts at your favorite store. If given the option, sign up for online banking or choose email versions of receipts when shopping. If your job requires you to use paper, encourage co-workers to print on both sides of a sheet or use the back side of old documents for scrap paper or drafts to further reduce waste. Cutting back on your paper consumption not only helps save trees, but also cuts back on air pollution and water consumption associated with producing and transporting paper.

For more great tips on how we can all work together to achieve cleaner air in 2021, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair. Have a happy and healthy New Year!

Celebrate Sustainably This Holiday Season to Reduce Environmental Impact

Like nearly everything else in 2020, holiday festivities this year have been anything but ordinary. However, one thing that remains the same is the season of giving continues to be a time of excess, which can wreak havoc on air quality and the environment.

From all the wrapping paper, plastic packaging, cardboard shipping boxes and various other holiday trash, a million extra tons of garbage will be added to the landfill in the coming weeks. But thankfully, there are several ways to combat unnecessary waste and help keep the holiday spirit alive, even in the midst of a global pandemic. Here are some insightful tips to keep in mind for incorporating sustainability into those treasured holiday traditions:

  • Choose Your Tree Wisely – While it’s not the most traditional option, buying an artificial tree that can be used for years to come is an energy efficient choice. If this option is unalluring and you choose to buy a real tree – assuming you can still find one given the shortage this year – opt for a living one that can be planted outside or kept as a houseplant after the holidays. If you don’t choose artificial or a tree to plant in your yard, once the holidays wrap up, dispose of your tree at a chipping facility or look for holiday tree composting drop-off locations in your neighborhood to do your share for cleaner air.
  • Decorate with LED Lights – Traditional incandescent strands use approximately 80% more energy and are far less reliable than their LED counterparts. While LEDs may be a little more expensive, they last up to 10 times longer and will ultimately save you money on your electric bill, too. Rather than keeping your house lit up 24/7, also consider connecting lights to a timer so that they only turn on during certain evening hours to further conserve energy.
  • Green Your Holiday Dinner Table – Though you may only be hosting a holiday feast for your immediate family members this year, sourcing as many of your ingredients as possible locally helps to cut down on emissions produced by large transport trucks. The less your produce and supplies have to travel, the less waste is produced, and the smaller the environmental impact. Likewise, consider swapping out disposable plates, cups, napkins and silverware for your favorite set of dishes this year instead to take green dining one step further.
  • Gift Greener – If you still have some last-minute shopping to do, consider gifting an experience to loved ones to reduce excess waste and help improve air quality. Additionally, buying gifts from local businesses that follow social and environmental practices or supporting local artists, craftspeople or farmers will largely benefit the region’s air quality. Newspapers, old posters, maps, reusable gift bags or scrap fabric lying around the house also make for beautiful, personal, and unique gift wraps. If you choose to buy gift wrap, look for recycled content gift wrap paper whenever you can find it.

Adding “green” into not only your decorations but also your celebrations this holiday season can make all the difference in helping people across the St. Louis region breathe easier. To learn more about the link between living greener and our air quality, visit the tips section of our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Spotlight On: The City of Wildwood

Like the Clean Air Partnership, the City of Wildwood focuses on quality of life based upon careful stewardship of the natural environment and ensures that this legacy is passed on to future generations. This is a result of planned, responsible, sustainable growth through citizen and business partnerships that respect the natural qualities of the land and air quality in the region. Wildwood’s commitment to its residents remains unchanged, as does its philosophy of service and planning tomorrow today.

As one of the largest municipalities in Missouri and St. Louis County, in both population and land mass, Wildwood has shown that it’s possible to develop businesses and build homes while protecting the beauty and space of its land. The city has further solidified its commitment to incorporating sustainability measures into their everyday operational practices as an active participant of the St. Louis Green Cities Challenge, a program of the Missouri Botanical Garden that delivers triple bottom line results (financial, social and environmental) to municipalities across the St. Louis region. In 2019, Wildwood was recognized with the Award of Achievement for working with a menu of fundamental sustainability policy and action options geared toward greening municipal business operations, including various resources to educate and engage residents.

Over the course of the Challenge, Wildwood installed a 150-plot community garden on City Hall grounds and created a Parks and Rec App that connects residents to city and state parks and conservation areas within the city. Users are granted access to trail maps, pavilion rental, events and recreation programs with registration of the app. A Wildwood Trail Guide was also developed to connect residents with city parks and trails, as well as to businesses in the Town Center. Additionally, the city replaced 92 ash trees with tree species native to Missouri to eliminate the threat of emerald ash borers, which are invasive jewel beetles responsible for the destruction of tens of millions of ash trees across the country.

To further reduce environmental impact, the city began gathering data for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Better Buildings Through Benchmarking program to measure the efficiency of City Hall, which was LEED Certified in 2013. Through a grant from the Missouri Department of Conservation, the city also filled tree wells along Taylor Road with structural soil when new trees were planted. This helped reduce compaction and allowed for increased root growth for healthier street trees, which also positively impacts the region’s air quality!

For additional information about the ongoing sustainable efforts by the City of Wildwood 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.

Spotlight On: Missouri American Water

With a commitment to environmental sustainability through internal and community actions, Missouri American Water continues to deliver clean, safe and reliable water for its more than 1.5 million customers. While it may not seem like these actions directly relate to air quality, you might be surprised to learn that the company is making massive strides for cleaner air in the region by preventing air pollution, promoting sustainability and enhancing the natural environment.

Missouri American Water strictly follows regulations that are set by local authorities as well as federal standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to not only ensure the highest quality of water, but to exceed the environmental expectations of its stakeholders and establish new benchmarks by which others in the industry will be measured. Because of their everyday work with the Missouri River, Missouri American Water maintains a special responsibility for river and watershed stewardship. This is reflected in the events and scorecard tasks they chose to make a priority during the 2019 Green Business Challenge, where the company received the Star Circle of Excellence Achievement Award and secured the third-place title at the Champion Level.

Among Missouri American Water’s impressive accomplishments to receive recognition in the Challenge was the continued partnership with Missouri River Relief, Open Space Council, Great Rivers Greenway and Missouri Stream Team to sponsor and participate in river clean-up events at St. Joseph, Parkville, Brunswick, Jefferson City, Fenton and various other St. Louis County locations. The company hosted an employee electronics recycling event where over 2,000 pounds of eWaste was recycled, including cell phones, digital cameras, computer equipment, a water heater and more. Moreover, Missouri American Water continued support for Missouri Prescription Pill and Drug Disposal (P2D2), a nonprofit that provides environmentally safe alternatives to disposing of medications in sewer systems or the landfill, which is also a win for the region’s air quality!

Other noteworthy innovations include year-round customer education covering topics from seasonal water conservation to preventing plumbing leaks. These special outreach efforts helped introduce global campaign resources like Imagine a Day Without Water, National Fix-a-Leak Week and more to the region. Missouri American Water also hosted a Biodiversity Lunch-and-Learn where almost every employee in attendance downloaded the citizen science app iNaturalist to explore plant and animal species at work and at home.

Additionally, Missouri American Water donated $10,000 to Missouri River Relief toward a motor for their new 28-foot boat, which was constructed especially for the group’s extensive public engagement clean-ups. River Relief’s work supports water quality for three Missouri American Water treatment plants that draw water from the Missouri River, their shared conservation focus.

The Clean Air Partnership is pleased to recognize the efforts of organizations such as Missouri American Water that continue to make sustainability a priority and help people all across the region breathe easier. For additional information on how your company can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, 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.

Ramping Up Efforts to Reduce, Reuse and RECYCLE for Cleaner Air

America Recycles Day is right around the corner and particularly worth celebrating this year because, even during a global pandemic, recycling is one of the easiest ways to help the planet and improve air quality. Now in its 23rd year, the annual celebration held on November 15 is dedicated to educating people about the importance of recycling to our economy and environmental well-being, as well as helping motivate occasional recyclers to make it an everyday habit and commit to purchasing recycled products.

While Americans have drastically improved the recycling recovery rate over the last 30+ years to 34%, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there is still much work to be done. Thankfully, there are several ways for residents right here in the St. Louis region to take action for cleaner air by committing to reduce, reuse and recycle on America Recycles Day and in all aspects of daily life. Here are some helpful tips to consider for incorporating green into your day-to-day routine:

  • Stay informed about recycling services in your community – Understanding what can be recycled in your area is key to ensuring that anything you sort and place in your recycling container with the intention of it being sent to your local recycling center actually makes it there. It’s also important to identify the wide range of materials that can be recycled through your curbside recycling program. These consist of obvious materials such as paper, plastic and glass, as well as less obvious materials, including most forms of metal and even food waste.
  • Repurpose and reuse old items – In the general consumption of goods, we oftentimes ignore the fact that a major portion of our waste can be reduced or reused before resorting to recycling. Shopping at or donating to secondhand stores are great ways to prevent unwanted items from ending up in the landfill, reduce wastage of energy and resources on the production of new clothes and help save you money. With the holidays coming up, gifting used items from a secondhand shop or using recyclable materials around the house like old fabric, maps, newspapers or magazines for gift wrap are also easy ways to significantly reduce waste.
  • 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 substantial 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. If you still prefer a single-use water bottle, make sure it gets properly recycled once you’re finished with it.

Do your share for cleaner air and start your journey to a recycled lifestyle today by taking the #BeRecycled pledge at www.americarecyclesday.org. For more great tips on how to reduce environmental impact and achieve cleaner air year-round, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Wrapping Up Air Quality Forecasting in 2020

Our daily air quality forecasting wrapped up Sept. 30, and we’re happy to report that, as we reflect on this season, ozone pollution levels in our region improved significantly compared to the prior year. While the potential for poor air quality conditions is higher during the summer when overall weather patterns, amount of sunshine and wind levels all play a significant role, this summer’s air quality was likely impacted by the fact there were fewer cars on the roads as COVID-19 kept many people working remotely and kept the auto emissions that can contribute to the formation of ozone pollution in check.

As a driving force in the fight for cleaner air in the St. Louis region, the Clean Air Partnership’s daily air quality forecasting takes place over the summer months and is based on the air quality index, utilizing a color-coded system designed to keep area residents informed about ozone pollution levels in the region and how those levels can affect their health. A look back over the past several months reveals that our air quality remained relatively healthy during the peak ozone season. From the beginning of May through the end of September, green was the dominant color with 95 days where the air quality was good, followed by 54 yellow or moderate air quality days. While we experienced 4 orange days where the conditions were unhealthy for sensitive populations, we actually matched last year’s number and had ZERO red days all summer long!

Even though this is positive news for the region, there is still much work to be done in the fight for cleaner air and it’s important the fight continue year-round. Fortunately, there are many voluntary measures we can take to help people all across the St. Louis metro area breathe easier. With the state and region gradually opening back up for business, traffic continues to ramp back up and so will the potential for increased emissions. Since those transportation-related emissions are one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, the choices people make on how to get around are especially crucial when it comes to the quality of our air.

With that in mind, actions like walking and biking instead of using a vehicle for short trips, combining errands into a single trip, not topping off your gas tank and avoiding vehicle idling are always great options for reducing the amount of ozone-forming emissions generated on any given day. Additionally, there are many other eco-friendly lifestyle changes unrelated to commuting that individuals and businesses can consider any time of year to positively impact air quality and improve lung health. These changes include efforts to conserve energy, recycle, reduce waste and reuse items.

You can continue to learn more about health effects of exposure to air pollution and actions you can take to reduce emissions by visiting www.cleanair-stlouis.com and the American Lung Association’s website, liking the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or following @gatewaycleanair on Twitter for insightful tips and more.

Make Eco-Friendly Choices the New Normal for Halloween

The end of the month is creeping closer and closer, and while the spookiest time of year can also be a real fright-fest for the environment, there’s another monster lurking this Halloween. Due to the ongoing effects of the coronavirus, traditional trick-or-treating and Halloween parties may have a different look this year, but that doesn’t mean the holiday has to be canceled all-together.

Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways families can have fun while avoiding the scare of being exposed to or spreading the virus, and they involve activities that will also largely benefit the region’s air quality. Here are some helpful tips to consider for safely greening those spooky festivities, all while keeping your little ghouls and goblins happy this Halloween:

  • Host a Virtual Costume Party or Parade – Halloween during a global pandemic poses a great opportunity to get creative and maybe even invent some new traditions. Use video chats for online parties with family and friends, participate in a virtual costume contest, play games or pick a spooktacular movie to watch at the same time online. Outdoor costume parades are another option that can allow for everyone to stay at least six feet apart and wear face coverings. A family scavenger hunt for treats in your home or yard can also be a fun alternative if trick-or treating isn’t available in your neighborhood.

  • Create Your Own Homemade Costumes – Store-bought costumes are often made up of nonrecyclable, petro-chemical based plastic and synthetic fibers that release harmful toxins in their creation and breakdown. With a little creativity, left over boxes, paper bags, fabric and other items around the house can be upcycled into costumes at little or no cost and make for a much more air quality-friendly option. If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out Pinterest for countless ideas for turning different materials into homemade costumes that the planet and your wallet will thank you for!
  • Choose Eco-Friendly Decorations — Make a dent in the waste this Halloween by creating your own homemade decorations with recycled household items. Solar-powered or LED lights will also help to conserve energy, as will refraining from using inflatable, ghostly creatures that require running electricity to operate. Doing so will help save on electricity costs and cut back on emissions to help clean the air.
  • Green Up Your Halloween Pumpkins – Don’t let your jack-o’-lantern end up in a landfill once Halloween is over. Remember to compost your pumpkins to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions that result from rotting in landfills. Once you’ve carved your pumpkin, save the pulp from inside for pies, muffins, soup and other tasty recipes, as well as the seeds that make for a sustainable fall snack when roasted with a bit of oil and salt.

Do your share for cleaner air with the health of the community in mind this Halloween by taking proper precautions and incorporating sustainability into your favorite celebrations. To learn more about the link between living greener and our air quality, visit the tips section of our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Spotlight On: The City of Wentzville

While the recent drop in temperature means we can all look forward to breathing a little easier over the next several months, the importance of keeping the region’s air clean still remains high. This fall, the Clean Air Partnership is pleased to continue highlighting local businesses and municipalities that are working to make sustainability a top priority to help people all across the area breathe easier.

With the charming characteristics of a small town but all of the amenities of a dynamic suburban environment, the City of Wentzville continues to build a better future for its constituents with new residential and commercial growth. As an active participant in the Green Cities Challenge, Wentzville has also further solidified its commitment to incorporating sustainability measures into their everyday operational practices. In 2019, the city received an Award of Achievement for advancing their green efforts by implementing a sustainability policy and practicing fundamentals, including addressing measures defined by OneSTL, the regional plan for sustainable development.

Among their impressive green innovations to receive recognition in the 2019 Challenge was the exponential growth of its Green Team, which established a new mission statement to focus on educating and supporting the community in taking action to practice more sustainable habits. Wentzville’s Green Team sponsored the 2nd Annual Zero-Waste Luncheon for 275 city staff members, resulting in 72 lbs. of material composted. All of the cans, cups and food containers were either recycled, reused or composted, leaving behind only the gloves used to handle food to throw away. Green Team members also served as Recycling Ambassadors to educate city employees on recycling “do’s and don’ts” to reduce office contamination. Collectively, these initiatives and the employees’ hard work contributed less waste in our landfills, which is a win for cleaner air in the region!

Additionally, Wentzville created a “Cans for Change” program across four city buildings that collected more than 380 lbs. of aluminum cans to be recycled and help fund various Green Team initiatives. The city also hosted several green presentations and Lunch-and-Learn events for city staff on a wide-range of sustainability topics.

To further reduce environmental impact, Wentzville enhanced the importance of curbside recycling. This effort virtually eliminated contamination from 14,000 homes. Other noteworthy recycling innovations include multiple electronics recycling and shredding events, which resulted in 82,000 lbs. of e-waste diverted from the landfill.

For additional information about the ongoing sustainable efforts by the City of Wentzville and how your municipality can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge/Green Cities Challenge, subscribe to their 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.

Spotlight On: World Wide Technology, Inc.

As a leader in technology solutions with its global headquarters located right here in St. Louis, World Wide Technology, Inc. is making massive strides for cleaner air in the region with a commitment to preserve the environment by building a better, cleaner future.

A proud supporter and fifth-year participant in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, WWT received the Star Circle of Excellence Achievement Award and secured the second place title at the Champion Level in 2019. Challenge Champion companies are those that completed work with the Leader scorecard in past years and commit to continued implementation of deeper sustainability strategies within their organization. The scorecard guides advanced efforts such as completing a greenhouse gas inventory, reducing energy use by at least 25%, and striving toward a 75% or greater waste diversion rate.

Among WWT’s impressive accomplishments to receive recognition in the 2019 Challenge was the establishment of new Green Teams, both nationally and internationally, to update all members on local initiatives and brainstorm ideas for events to promote sustainability. WWT also implemented sub-committees to focus on green education for employees and rolling out a new recycling center for the St. Louis location.

WWT introduced a number of new partnerships to help work towards sustainability, including one with Goby, Inc. to validate and improve the accuracy of their energy and water usage. The company also partnered with Bayer to host the third annual Greenwood Cemetery Clean-Up where volunteers cleaned and maintained the historic cemetery. Another collaboration with Adonis Recycling collected more than 12,800 pounds of employee E-waste, which also helped to improve the region’s air quality!

To further reduce environmental impact, WWT expanded their composting program to include coffee grounds, coffee stirrers, coffee filters, tea bags and hot cup sleeves in all of the company’s St. Louis offices. Digital Media Signage Boards, flyers and posters were also put on display to educate WWT’s employees about the importance of composting. Since last July alone, WWT composted more than 7,544 pounds of waste, with the total amount of waste composted exceeding four tons. Other green activities included a series of “Lunch and Learns” to educate employees about recycling and sustainable initiatives both at home and in the workplace, featuring St. Louis Composting, Forest Park Forever and TREX.

Additionally, WWT hosted an Earth Day Vendor Fair and America Recycles Day Event to promote volunteer opportunities and environmental education for all employees. The company also introduced a “Mug Shots” campaign where employees posted selfies with their favorite mugs to encourage the use of reusable mugs instead of disposable ones.

The Clean Air Partnership is pleased to recognize the efforts of businesses such as World Wide Technology, Inc., that continue to take action for cleaner air by channeling their time and energy towards practicing sustainability. For additional information on how your company can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, 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.

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.