Spotlight On: The City of Alton

As cities, businesses and individuals in the St. Louis region make strides toward becoming better stewards of our environment, the Clean Air Partnership continues to recognize some of the great work and innovative initiatives underway, with a particular focus on those that are helping to reduce air pollution in the St. Louis area. This month, the Clean Air Partnership is recognizing the City of Alton for its efforts.

Over the past few years, Alton’s dedication to improving air quality in the area and becoming more eco-friendly has been well documented as the city has worked to balance energy efficiency with historic preservation – a combination of two of the city’s values. The city has been an active participant in the Green Cities Challenge component of the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, demonstrating its commitment to pursuing various strategies to be a more sustainable community.

Specifically, in the City of Alton, energy efficiency improvements were implemented as part of the community’s Climate Action Plan. Efficiency measures were identified based on a previously completed Greenhouse Gas inventory, an evaluation that had identified specific causes of air pollution and potential strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Sustainable accomplishments made by the city include reducing energy consumption at the Alton Public Works building over a three-year period from 579,000 kWH to 372,155 kWh, as a result of lighting upgrades and other energy-efficient strategies. At the wastewater treatment plant, a $41,000 grant covered the cost of updating every light inside and out to LED bulbs.

The city also began offering curbside recycling to all single-family households, which over the longer term can have a positive impact on air quality since recycling reduces energy use and prevents air pollution by reducing the need to burn fossil fuels to extract, transport and process raw materials.

The city’s Cool Cities Committee continues to progressively approach the goals of climate protection and energy efficiency within the government and jurisdiction of the City of Alton.  Exciting initiatives in the works include plans for a possible 2.5 megawatt solar array to be built in the city.  A solar array is a number of solar panels arranged in a group to capture maximum amount of sun light to convert it into usable electricity. In exchange for leasing the ground for the project, the city would get two 25,000 watt solar arrays to generate power for the city that could result in an estimated $200,000 in savings on energy costs over 15 years.

The city is also looking into constructing a resource recovery facility, which would take in bio solids such as waste from treatment plants, food waste, fats, oils and grease, etc., and process it to make methane. The methane would then be upgraded to make natural gas that could be injected into the natural gas grid, enabling the city to collect renewable ID numbers (RINS) that can be sold to companies required to to produce a certain amount renewable fuels.  If approved, it would be the first plant of its kind being built for this purpose and would have the potential to remove 200,000 tons a year from landfills, significantly reducing the greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint.

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. For more information on the St. Louis Green Business Challenge website at


Making the Case for Carpooling

A new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey has revealed that Americans spend an average of 17,600 minutes driving each year. That’s almost 300 hours or the equivalent of more than 12 days! With vehicle emissions being one of the top contributors to poor air quality, all this time behind the wheel is taking a big toll on the environment and the lung health of individuals nationwide.

According to the U.S. census, much of the time behind the wheel is spent driving to work, with Americans spending an average of 25 minutes commuting to work every morning; and 75% of Americans make that trip alone each day. Commuting to work with a friend, significant other or coworker can help reduce some of the negative lung health and environmental factors associated with driving, while also yielding a host of other benefits that go beyond better air quality.

Fewer emissions and less traffic – For starters, more people in carpools doesn’t just reduce the amount of ozone forming vehicle emissions in the air by keeping some cars off the road, it can also reduce traffic congestion resulting in a less stressful commute for all.

Increased social interaction – As an added bonus, spending time in the mornings with other people on your daily commute offers opportunities for face-to-face social interaction, something we could all use a little more of in our technology driven lives where texting and social media are the primary methods of communicating. That interaction is especially beneficial to those with depression according to Psychology Today.

Lower commuting costs – Carpools are also a cheaper alternative to driving solo to work every day. Double up with even one other person to share the ride and you’ll be able to cut your weekday fuel costs and parking fees in half while also reducing wear and tear on your vehicle if you take turns driving. Add a third or fourth carpooler and you can save even more!

With all those advantages, maybe now is the time to say goodbye to your solo commute and say hello to some new carpool buddies.

For more information on alternative transportation options that can help improve our region’s air quality, explore our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @gatewaycleanair.