Wrapping Up Air Quality Forecasting in 2019

As a driving force in the fight for cleaner air in the St. Louis region, the Clean Air Partnership is best known for its daily air quality forecasting. The forecasts take place over the summer months and utilize 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. While this forecasting season began with news that the St. Louis region had once again escaped being ranked among the top 25 most-polluted cities in the U.S., we still struggle with unfavorable air quality, as St. Louis ranked 29 in the nation overall for most ozone-polluted cities.

However, a look back over the past several months reveals that our air quality remained pretty healthy during the peak ozone season. Green was the dominant color with 148 days where the air quality was good, followed by 62 yellow or moderate air quality days. Even though we experienced four orange days where the conditions were unhealthy for sensitive populations, we actually cut this number in half from last year and had ZERO red days all summer!

Despite the fact that this is positive news for the region, there is still much work to be done in the fight for cleaner air to protect our local communities from the growing risks to public health resulting from increased levels of ozone and particle pollution. The Partnership encourages area residents to remain steadfast in their efforts to take voluntary steps to reduce emissions year-round, such as taking advantage of the region’s public transit system, carpooling, vanpooling, telecommuting, avoiding idling our vehicles and combining errands into a single trip. Together, we can continue to make great strides in improving the quality of the air we all breathe!

Rest assured, air quality forecasting will resume in May 2020. In the meantime, individuals can get a head start by signing up to receive the daily forecast in their email inboxes via the Environmental Protection Agency’s EnviroFlash air quality alert system. For more information on the health effects of poor air quality and tips for doing your share for cleaner air, visit our website, like the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or follow @gatewaycleanair on Twitter.

Guide for Greener Holiday Shopping

Before we know it, the biggest holiday shopping weekend of the year will be here in the blink of an eye. Between Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, the anticipation continues to build as deals are revealed through TV commercials, print ads and social media, all inspiring consumers to fill their carts and to take advantage of unbeatably low prices on the items on everyone’s wish lists. Despite the excitement of holiday bargain shopping, it is important to be aware of the negative impact your purchases may have on air quality and the environment, and to be open to greener alternatives.

Environmentally friendly behavior starts with buying decisions. Whatever your shopping plans entail, there are numerous ways to step up to do your share for cleaner air and reduce your carbon footprint while grabbing the great deals:

  • Bring reusable shopping bags – Holiday shopping is great fun but also a huge producer of plastic shopping bags. Consider keeping reusable bags in your car so they’re always available and you don’t have to worry about forgetting them at home. By using a reusable bag, you’re not only reducing the amount of non-renewable resources necessary to produce plastic bags, but also helping to clean the air by cutting down on the thousands of bags that end up in landfills.
  • Shop locally – Whether you’re heading to the mall for Black Friday or a local family-owned shop for Small Business Saturday, the less you have to drive, the better for the environment. Every gallon of gas saved keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and not driving store-to-store will help to reduce harmful emissions that lead to poor air quality. Also, if you’re planning to host a festive holiday dinner this year, consider shopping for sustainable produce from your local farmers. Not only does local, organic food taste better, but you’ll also be doing your part for the community and the planet.
  • Shop smarter online – For those who want to get the goods but avoid the lines, Cyber Monday offers all the benefits of Black Friday shopping, but from the comfort and convenience of your home. Opt for a stress-free shopping experience this year to reduce environmental impact and improve air quality. Online shopping is an increasingly popular option, as U.S. shoppers spent a record $126 billion on online shopping during the holiday season last year. It’s also considered by many to be a greener alternative as goods are often stored in and shipped from one central location, reducing fuel consumption from large transport trucks. To further reduce excess packaging, try consolidating all of your online orders to one store!
  • Look for environmentally friendly products – When making your purchases, especially big-ticket items, try to find the best green alternatives. Look for electronics and appliances that use less energy by checking for the ENERGY STAR® mark. ENERGY STAR certified products use less energy than standard models, ultimately saving you money on your utility bill while helping to protect the environment and clear the air. You can also make sustainable decisions about your purchases by choosing products made from eco-friendly materials, such as organic cotton or recycled plastic. And remember, giving the gift of your time or a shared experience may be among the greenest options of all.

A few small changes are all it takes to help people all across the St. Louis region breathe easier this holiday season. To learn more, visit the tips section of our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Celebrate Recycling Day Today and Every Day

It seems only fitting that the sole nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting recycling in the United States falls in between Halloween and Thanksgiving, two holidays known for creating an excess amount of waste and having an adverse impact on the environment. Each year on November 15, millions of people across the United States take part in America Recycles Day, a day which was created to raise awareness about recycling and the purchasing of recycled products. Though the national recycling rate has increased over the past 30 years to 34% of all waste disposal being recycled, there is still much work to be done.

Created by the National Recycling Coalition in 1997 as a way to educate people about the importance of recycling for both the environment and the economy, America Recycles Day has grown into a nationwide phenomenon. On this day, thousands of events are held in cities across the United States to call attention to the importance of recycling and encourage individuals to sign the pledge, confirming a commitment to recycling and buying products made from recycled materials, with the hope that occasional recyclers will make it an everyday habit.

Luckily, there are countless ways for residents right here in the St. Louis region to take action in the fight for cleaner air by committing to reduce, reuse and recycle on America Recycles Day and in all aspects of daily life. 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. Avoiding disposable items such as paper plates, cups, and utensils is a step in the right direction for cleaner air, as well as bringing your own reusable tote bags to the store to purchase groceries.

When presenting gifts during the next wave of holidays that are just around the corner, consider gifting experiences instead of things. And when you are gifting a physical item, consider opting for newspapers, old posters or reusable gift bags instead of wrapping paper. If you choose to buy gift wrap, look for recycled content gift wrap paper whenever you can find it.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than 60% of the waste that ends up in trash bins can be recycled. While cardboard, paper, food boxes, mail, beverage cans, plastic bottles and caps are among the most common items that you can put into the curbside recycling bin, what you can recycle depends on the recycling company serving your area. Be sure to check with your local recycling center to find out what you can and cannot recycle and make sure that you have the correct disposal containers available to ensure your efforts are being put to good use and heading to the recycling center, rather than the landfill you’re working so hard to avoid.

You can do your share for cleaner air and live a recycled lifestyle by taking the #BeRecycled pledge at www.americarecyclesday.org. The more material that gets properly recycled, the less that goes into landfills, ultimately reducing greenhouse gas emissions for cleaner air. For more great tips on how to achieve cleaner air year-round, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Spotlight On: Forest Park Forever and World Wide Technology

As the Clean Air Partnership works to inspire area residents and businesses to take voluntary steps to help clear the air, we continue to recognize the ongoing efforts and initiatives of participants in the 2018 St. Louis Green Business Challenge (GBC). These organizations are committed to cleaning our region’s air and achieving their goals while keeping a focus on sustainability. This month, we are shining a spotlight on Forest Park Forever and World Wide Technology. Both organizations worked hard to achieve the Leader Level Award of Merit and Achievement Award in the Star Circle of Excellence in last year’s challenge and continue to make clean air a priority throughout their business practices.

A private nonprofit conservancy, Forest Park Forever has spent the past 33 years partnering with the City of St. Louis and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry to restore, maintain and sustain Forest Park. In doing so, they have raised $100 million to restore several landmarks such as the Emerson Grand Basin, the Boathouse and the Jewel Box. Along with the preservation of the park, they also provide information and guides for its 13 million annual visitors, as well as an array of educational opportunities for all ages.

With the help of student volunteers, the nonprofit has successfully been able to catalog and track the park’s 273 organisms and also expand its conservation efforts. And, when it comes to their commitment to clean air, Forest Park Forever has led additional efforts throughout the past year, including a plan to introduce their first electric utility vehicle to reduce the park’s carbon footprint.

Since its founding in 1990, World Wide Technology has become a leader in the technology industry, generating more than $11 billion in annual revenue. With its global headquarters located right here in St. Louis, the company is a proud fourth-year participant in the GBC.

In 2018, World Wide Technology made giant strides in its sustainability efforts. Among these are the MoDOT Adopt-A-Highway Area Beautification Program, the Electronic Waste Drive and the Collection and Recycling of Plastic Lids & Caps for the Buddy Bench Program. The company has also implemented several programs and green business practices, such as a composting program and a water bottle refilling station, which has eliminated approximately 382,470 plastic water bottles from the company’s waste since they were installed! By the end of last year, the company resolved to replace most, if not all, non-recyclable paper cups.

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 ongoing sustainable efforts by Forest Park Forever and World Wide Technology, and how your company can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, visit http://stlouisgreenchallenge.com.