Building a Greener Future in the St. Louis Region

Emily Andrews, executive director of the Missouri Gateway Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is stepping up in the fight for cleaner air by greening the region one building at a time.

Since its inception in 2001, the Missouri Gateway Chapter has worked diligently to initiate, develop and accelerate implementation of green building concepts that promote environmentally responsible, prosperous and healthy places to live and work. In almost two decades, the chapter has grown to more than 600 individuals representing an array of companies and organizations, all sharing a common vision to create a more sustainable Metro area.

Now in her 14th year with the council, Andrews initially joined as a coordinator and served as the chapter’s first full-time staff person, ultimately growing the position to an executive director role after just a few years. Her primary responsibilities with the USGBC include providing outreach, education and advocacy for green building principles and practices throughout the region.  Programmatically, she focuses on energy benchmarking campaigns, which is an effort to get buildings to take the first step in determining how to conserve resources, reduce operating costs and reduce environmental impacts by tracking their energy use and comparing it to similar buildings and to past performance.

“The interesting thing about working for USGBC – and the pun is actually intended here – is that you’ve got a roof over all of these different environmental issues that come together in one place where you can talk to people about them,” said Andrews.

Under her leadership, the USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter continues to evolve. The chapter began adding more technical sessions and detailed training opportunities to their robust calendar of events, as well as evening educational programs that are held on the second Tuesday of each month in locations around the St. Louis metropolitan area. In-depth seminars are also offered throughout the year that cover a wide-range of topics for business professionals and individuals who are implementing and applying green building practices and principles.

“We want to see every building be a green building, because we all deserve to live, work and learn in environmentally responsible and healthier spaces,” said Andrews.

Other ongoing activities hosted by the Missouri Gateway Chapter include various workshops, lectures and building tours, as well as the Green Schools Quest, an innovative program we’re excited to highlight in a future blog post!

When it comes to cleaning the air in the St. Louis region, Andrews believes that green building techniques play a vital role in helping reduce emissions that lead to poor air quality.

“Perhaps the biggest connection is that all the energy used in buildings – with a few exceptions – is created by burning things, like coal or natural gas, and that creates air pollution that contributes to ground level ozone and particulate matter,” Andrews noted. “By promoting energy efficiency, we’re having a direct impact on both outdoor and indoor air quality.”

Promoting the construction of new buildings in places that have access to services like public transportation and are in walking distance to restaurants, banks, shops, etc., also has a big impact on air quality by eliminating the need for individuals to hop in their vehicles for short trips.

In addition to her work supporting environmental initiatives with the USGBC, Andrews is a co-chair of the Energy and Emissions Working Group of the OneSTL initiative and currently serves on the Forest Park Advisory Board. She also serves on another city appointed board, the Clean Energy Development Board, which oversees the implementation of the Set the PACE St. Louis program that helps homeowners and commercial, industrial and multi-family property owners access affordable, long-term financing for smart energy upgrades to their buildings.

For more information on green building and the USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter, visit To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, check out our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Greening Your ‘Mardi Pardi’ Celebrations

The crown jewel of the Soulard Mardi Gras season is just days away, and while green is one of the three prominent colors you’re guaranteed to see during the Grand Parade, the event is notoriously known for being anything but. While revelers from far and wide gather to watch krewes ride nearly 100 floats that will bring the theme of The Blues – Music, Hockey, Skies, Seas and more to life, you can do your share for cleaner air by keeping green on your mind this year in the midst of all that blue.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to go green during one of the largest Mardi Gras celebrations outside of New Orleans. You might even be surprised at how simple it can be to adopt just one of many possible eco-friendly actions to have a significant impact on improving the region’s air quality and helping people all over St. Louis breathe easier.

An expected 10,000,000+ strands of beads will be thrown to thousands of people lining the parade route on Saturday, Feb. 22. And sure, they make for a great souvenir, but these popular accessories made up of cheap plastic strings and other toxic materials like polystyrene and lead also pose an unnecessary threat to the environment. Instead of littering the streets or tossing them into trash cans, consider recycling your beads by dropping them off in a marked five-gallon bucket at one of the following locations: St. Louis Earth Day – Recycling Extravaganza, Soulard Farmers Market, Joanie’s and Joanie’s To Go, Shameless Grounds or Great Grizzly Bear. Or if you’re someone who loves Pinterest and channeling your crafty side, you may want to try your hand at reusing the beads in your next project, such as framed wall art or a decorative lampshade.

More than 10 tons of trash in the form of non-biodegradable Styrofoam cups, aluminum cans and glass bottles typically get left behind on parade day also, eventually winding up in landfills. Rather than tossing these items in the trash or on the street, keep an eye out for recycling containers along the parade route to properly dispose of waste and ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To help eliminate multiple vehicles on the road converging in Soulard, Metro is making it easy to get to the fun and festivities and offering a way to reduce transportation-related emissions. For just $5, riders can let the good times roll and avoid the hassles of parking and congestion by taking advantage of the MetroBus Mardi Gras shuttle. It will operate every 10 minutes from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. between the Civic Center MetroLink Station (near the Enterprise Center) in downtown St. Louis and the Soulard neighborhood.

We encourage you to incorporate sustainability into your favorite Mardi Gras celebrations this year to help fight for cleaner air, because that’s something everyone can celebrate! To learn more about the link between living greener and our air quality, visit our website tips section at, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Spotlight On: The City of Alton

For more than a decade, local businesses and municipalities have been working towards integrating sustainability measures into their everyday practices through the St. Louis Green Business/Green Cities Challenge. This month, the Clean Air Partnership is thrilled to shine a spotlight on the City of Alton, Illinois for their green efforts and commitment to being a great city in which to live, work and play.

Alton continues to pursue various strategies to be a more sustainable community, such as offering curbside recycling at no charge to residents and promoting the installation of energy efficient lighting and solar panels. In 2019, the city received the Award of Achievement in the Green Cities Challenge, where participants address sustainability within the range of operational requirements unique to local governments. Participating municipalities also incorporated a sustainability policy and practice fundamentals, including addressing measures defined by OneSTL, the regional plan for sustainable development.

Last year, Alton encouraged its residents to decrease energy use through the installation of solar panels with their Power Hours event. In addition, the city reduced zoning requirements on residential small solar system restrictions, allowing more residents to set up solar panels on top of their homes. Alton’s public works department also started a project to replace current high intensity streetlights with LED lighting. Annually, this project will save 18,403.770 in kilowatt hours, or $14,744.30 in electricity costs.

Other exciting initiatives include a $500,00 Great Streets planning grant the city received last February that will allow Alton to create places that improve the atmosphere of the downtown corridor. In doing so, downtown will be more walkable, which will help eliminate the use of multiple vehicles on the roads and reduce auto emissions to help keep the air quality in healthy ranges. These improvements will be enjoyed by and made accessible to all people, regardless of age or mobility.

Looking to the future, Alton hopes to see the addition of roof-top gardens throughout the city. AltonWorks, a social impact company with a vision for the revitalization of downtown Alton, set a goal to be the healthiest and happiest community along the Mississippi River in 10 years. After being named one of the “Top Ten Places to Retire” by AARP and “Best Place to Retire” in the state of Illinois by Forbes Magazine, they should be well on their way to reaching that goal!

Registration for the 2020 St. Louis Green Business/Green Cities Challenge is now open. For additional information on the sustainable efforts underway by the City of Alton and how your municipality can get involved in the Challenge, subscribe to the bi-monthly E-Newsletter or visit

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: PGAV

In 2020, the St. Louis Green Business Challenge is celebrating 11 years of providing organizations of all types and sizes across the St. Louis metropolitan region with a clear and measurable road map to more comprehensive green business practices. This month, the Clean Air Partnership is delighted to continue to shine a spotlight on this premiere program and its tremendous impact on the environment, as well as one local company that is stepping up to fight for cleaner air in a big way.

Founded in 1965, PGAV Destinations is one of the world’s largest independent design firms, serving as a leading master planner and designer of theme parks, zoos, museums, aquariums, heritage sites, destination retail and brand-based experiences. Using intuition, intellect and imagination, the company is devoted to helping its clients create enduring memories in the minds of their visitors.

A proud participant of the St. Louis Green Business Challenge and a leader of sustainability, PGAV works to fulfill this responsibility by engaging its team on the topics of sustainability and global stewardship. As a company with local, national and global influence, PGAV’s Green Team exists to educate, advocate and empower its people, clients and partners to positively affect global health. In 2019, the company received the Achievement Award in the Star Circle of Excellence and an Award of Merit at the Leader Level – Tenant Category for the greatest gain from their baseline to final point totals during the Challenge.

To raise visibility for their green efforts, PGAV developed a logo and graphic palette that is used on all communications and internal signage throughout their offices. Other green innovations include a PGAV Bike Day, where the company hired VeloFix to provide free bike repairs to employees on-site. Employees also ran a bike repair and maintenance workshop to encourage alternative modes of transportation to help take vehicles off area roads and reduce emissions that lead to poor air quality. This past May, nearly 15% of employees participated in National Bike to Work Day, and that inspired additional group bike rides over the summer and fall months.

Several other noteworthy accomplishments in sustainability helped PGAV place high in the 2019 Challenge. The company’s continued transition to paperless accounting has helped decrease paper usage by nearly 50%, collectively saving over 255,000 sheets. Since last May, the company began offering junk mail list removal services for corporate and personal mail to significantly cut back on the amount of waste acquired, ultimately removing 224 names from 125 different mailing lists. Furthermore, PGAV has composted over five tons of organic waste since partnering with STL Compost in June 2018!

Registration for the 2020 St. Louis Green Business Challenge opens on Feb. 4. For additional information on the sustainable efforts underway by PGAV and how your company can get involved in the Challenge, subscribe to the bi-monthly E-Newsletter or visit 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.