A Green Holiday is the Gift That Keeps on Giving

The next wave of holidays is right around the corner, and although we recognize this to be a wonderful time of the year, it’s also considered the most wasteful. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day alone, an added one million tons of waste will head to landfills each week.

While that may come as a shock, there are a variety of ways to combat unnecessary waste and help keep the holiday spirit alive. The more people that work to save energy and resources during the holiday season, the bigger the impact that can be made. Here are some 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, 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.
  • Green Your Holiday Dinner Table – Whether you’re entertaining the entire extended family for the holidays or just a few close relatives, 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. Also, consider swapping out disposable plates, cups, napkins and silverware for your favorite set of dishes this year instead.
  • Switch to Online or Recycled Greeting Cards – Take a greener approach to sending out season’s greetings to friends and family this year. Instead of paper cards, consider using e-cards or recycled paper cards to spread holiday cheer. E-cards are the optimal choice not only because there’s no paper needed, but also because there’s no delivery vehicle involved that contributes to harmful emissions. Reusing the fronts of old cards as holiday postcards or gift tags is another great way to help improve air quality.
  • Gift Greener – Since nearly 35% of Americans have an unused Christmas present collecting dust in their closet, consider giving the gift of an experience to loved ones this holiday season. In doing so, oftentimes you’ll also be supporting the local community by gifting items like tickets to local theater performances, concerts, sporting events, local attractions and museum memberships. Gifting a used item from a second-hand shop or looking for items in your own home for a holiday exchange are also great ways to cut back on cost and green your holiday shopping. Using recyclable materials like fabric, old maps, newspapers or magazines for gift wrap is another easy way to reduce waste.

Making a few small changes to go green this holiday season can make all the difference in helping people across the St. Louis region breathe easier. For more information, visit our website, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Make This School Year a Greener One

The summer days are drawing to a close, and many area students are already back in the classroom. While the cooler nights and more pleasant daytime temperatures on the way make it less likely that the quality of our air will be top of mind, the St. Louis area continues to struggle with  ozone and particle pollution, so it’s important to not lose sight of the fact that there are various things we can be doing during the school year to help keep the region’s air clean year-round.

The good news is all of us can play a role in helping to reduce emissions to improve our region’s air quality by practicing greener habits in our daily lives. Now that parents and kids are getting settled into their back-to-school routines, here are some helpful tips to consider for keeping the air clean:

  • Walk, bike or take public transit when possible: When weather conditions are favorable, kids that live close to school can replace car trips with walking, bicycling or using public transit to help reduce air pollution. Fewer vehicles on the roads result in less pollution in the air.
  • Nix bottled water: Did you know that up to 80 percent of water bottles in the United States never get recycled? Purchase refillable water bottles that you can fill up at any water fountain instead of throwing away a new bottle. This will help cut back on pollution caused from waste that ends up in landfills, making our air cleaner one less bottle at a time.
  • Limit waste at lunch: When packing a lunch for school, use sandwich containers rather than plastic baggies and consider investing in a reusable, insulated lunch box instead of brown bags that may also just get thrown in the trash.
  • Go paperless: Take down notes from class electronically to save money and eliminate paper waste to save a significant amount of energy that leads to cleaner air. Printing double-sided and using an online calendar or scheduler to keep assignments organized are also great ways to reduce paper consumption!
  • Power down: Computers, tablets and many other electrical devices still use electricity when plugged in, even though they may be idle. When you are not using your electronic device, turn it off and unplug the device because energy production is a key source of air pollution. Doing so will help clean the air by reducing harmful emissions.

The Clean Air Partnership is proud to play a role in raising awareness about all the ways we can reduce emissions. To access a wealth of air quality information and tips designed to help area residents do their share for cleaner air, parents and kids are encouraged to visit the tips section of our  website, like the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or follow @gatewaycleanair on Twitter.

Summer Hacks to help Clean the Air

The season of summer barbecues, vacations and days spent poolside is in full swing, but the hotter temperatures that make those activities such fun can also lead to an increased risk of poor air quality conditions. With that in mind, we’ve come up with a list of easy summer hacks to help reduce overall emissions and improve air quality:
  • Go old-fashioned and use a clothesline to finish up the laundry process. The scorching heat acts as a natural drying machine for clothes, reducing energy that would have been used from an actual dryer. Less energy used means reduced emissions and better air quality.
  • If you’re headed out on a summer vacation and find it necessary to rent a car, opt for a hybrid or flex-fuel vehicle. Every gallon of gas saved keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, reducing emissions to keep the air clean.
  • Hosting a summer barbecue? Make sure to use a gas barbecue grill instead of a charcoal grill. Charcoal grills release about twice as much carbon dioxide per hour as gas grills do. Using a gas barbecue grill this summer is a step in the right direction for cleaner air.
  • Use a reusable water bottle instead of multiple plastic bottles to keep hydrated in the grueling summer heat. A reusable water bottle will reduce waste outputs and less in landfills is better for cleaner air.
  • Avoid using a gas-powered lawn mower. In summer, grass seems to grow quicker than ever, but using a gas-powered lawn mower for one hour is equal to emissions released when driving a new car for 200 miles. If you must use a gas-powered lawn mower, make sure to mow before 10 a.m. or after 7 p.m. to avoid peak ozone formation hours.
  • If you’re a pool owner, use a pool cover whenever it is not in use. Pool covers provide insulation, reducing the amount of energy needed to keep the pool heated and warm if you want to extend its use into the late summer or early fall.
By making simple changes this summer, you can do your part to help reduce emissions and promote better air quality. For more great tips on how we can work together to achieve cleaner air this summer and year round, visit http://cleanair-stlouis.com/air-quality-tips .

Vehicle idling: Myth vs. Fact

As cooler, fall temperatures begin to settle into the region, you may be tempted to idle your vehicle more often than usual. Idling is one of the main contributors to air pollution, yet many misconceptions exist regarding the need to idle and the negative effects of idling on our air, our engines and our pocketbooks. Before you think about warming your car on a cold morning, or idling in a drive-thru or school drop-off zone on a chilly winter afternoon, make sure you can decipher what’s myth and what’s fact when it comes to vehicle idling.

Myth: Engines should be warmed up before driving, especially in cold weather.

Fact: Today’s electronic engines do not need long warm-ups, even in winter. No more than 30 seconds of warm-up time is needed in the winter. Easing into a drive is the best way to get a vehicle heating system to deliver warmer air faster.

Myth: Idling is good for your engine.

Fact: Excessive idling can damage your engine components, including cylinders, spark plugs and exhaust systems.  Fuel is only partially combusted when idling because an engine does not operate at its peak temperature. This leads to the build-up of fuel residues on cylinder walls that can damage engine components and increase fuel consumption.

Myth: It’s better to leave the engine running than shutting it off and restarting it because “cold starts” are hard on the engine and use more gas.

Fact: Frequent restarting has little impact on engine components.  Idling, however, forces an engine to operate in an inefficient and gasoline-rich mode that can affect the engine’s performance and reduce gas mileage. More than ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine.

Myth: It’s better to leave an engine idling because “cold starts” produce more pollution.

Fact: Driving a car immediately after a cold start allows the engine to heat up significantly faster, especially in newer models. When the car heats faster, its catalytic converter becomes more efficient at reducing emissions — by as much as 99 percent.

Explore our website for information on anti-idling initiatives, or additional steps you can take to help improve air quality. We also encourage you to like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @gatewaycleanair.