Greening Your Memorial Day Weekend Cookout to Help Clear the Air

While Memorial Day weekend may have a different look this year with no big parades or neighborhood block parties due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, there are still ways to celebrate the holiday while sheltering in place and obeying social distancing guidelines. Breaking out the grill for a cookout at home is a fun and leisurely way to get outdoors and spend time with the family; however, grilling poses a unique set of environmental challenges and oftentimes comes with a hefty price tag for the environment.

Fortunately, there are a variety of ways area residents can take a greener approach to cooking outdoors by igniting a few changes to the way you grill and the kinds of products you buy. Commemorating Memorial Day in an eco-friendly manner is a great way to honor the brave men and women who have served and continue to serve our country. With that in mind, here are a few tips to consider for reducing environmental impact this weekend to help improve the region’s air quality:

  • Opt for a gas grill – When it comes to the grill itself, you have options to reduce your carbon footprint. From an air pollution standpoint, natural gas and propane grills burn the cleanest in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter. They also leave behind less waste than charcoal or wood grills. If you must use a charcoal grill, avoid using petroleum-based lighter fluids and self-lighting charcoal that release petrochemicals into the atmosphere, and opt for an electric charcoal starter instead.

  • Avoid disposable dishes and utensils – When shopping for supplies, look for recyclable or compostable plates, cups and utensils rather than the kind that end up in the trash. Otherwise, instead of buying tableware for one-time use, opt for your favorite set of dishes for the cookout this year. While this may lead to a little extra time spent at the kitchen sink, this small change can help save you money in the long run and keep the air quality in healthy ranges.
  • Choose locally grown produce – Consider sourcing as many of your ingredients as possible locally to help reduce emissions produced by large transport trucks. The less your produce has to travel, the less waste is produced, and the smaller the impact on the environment. Since consumers can easily access local homegrown produce without having to leave their own community, many shoppers are also able to walk or bike to their local market instead of driving, which helps to minimize car use and cut down on emissions that lead to poor air quality.
  • Set up recycling containers – Even if you’ve closely followed these tips, you’ll still probably end up with items to recycle after your barbecue. You can do your part to keep waste at a minimum by putting out labeled bins for recycling. If your area doesn’t take mixed recycling, include a label for items that can go in the bin: glass only, cans only or paper only. If you compost, consider setting up covered bins for food scraps, charcoal ashes and other biodegradable items, too.

Take action for cleaner air by making sustainable choices this Memorial Day and continue to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle to help people all across St. Louis breathe easier every day, not just on special occasions. To learn more about the link between living greener and our air quality, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

7th Annual Green Schools Quest Honors Champions for Sustainability in the St. Louis Region

The U.S. Green Building Council–Missouri Gateway Chapter (USGBC-MGC) announced on Friday the winners of its 2019–2020 Green Schools Quest. Like the Clean Air Partnership, the Green Schools Quest is focused on encouraging and inspiring voluntary steps to help improve the environment and air quality in the bi-state area, and we’re pleased to highlight its tremendous impact by recognizing the impressive accomplishments of this year’s winners and participating schools.

This innovative program challenges public and private school students at the pre-K, elementary, middle and high school levels within the St. Louis metropolitan area to devise and implement the most creative, effective and no or low-cost sustainable practices for their schools. With the help of Green Mentors, who are professionals with an interest or expertise in sustainability, participating schools formed a Green Team and had the opportunity to engage in projects fitting their schools’ unique needs and resources. Green Teams then documented their overall impact, such as energy and resource savings or increased biodiversity, and submitted their final project for judging by an impartial panel.

“The Green Schools Quest is a unique way to engage the K-12 schools and the future leaders of our region, and it’s also a great way to involve our members who are really passionate about sustainability and green building and the mission of the organization,” said Emily Andrews, executive director of the USGBC-MGC. “Having that connection has been a lot of fun and seeing what the students come up with is always the most rewarding as they work to create greener, healthier learning environments.”

For the 2019-2020 school year, 2,000 students representing 68 St. Louis-area schools worked on Green Schools Quest projects from October to March. Collectively, the projects implemented by this year’s participants positively impacted more than 45,000 students, faculty and community members. A national panel of judges selected the first, second and third-place winners in the elementary, middle and high school categories. Trophies and cash prizes of $600, $400 and $200 will go to the top three finishers in each category. Winners were also chosen by a local panel of judges for five spotlight awards and $100 cash prize, including Rookie of the Year, Sustainability Champion, Judges’ Choice, Innovation, and Focus of the Year.

In the elementary school category, Crestwood Elementary School in the Lindbergh School District received first place recognition for their project, A Green Wave of Change. With a focus on rolling out education in waves that will help the students, community and school make better choices, students created bulletin boards, PowerPoints and videos that were presented to every classroom and the district’s board of education members to engage them in a recycling program. Rogers Middle School in the Affton School District was awarded first place for their project, RMS Earthletes Make Long-Lasting Change, which established a daily use waste station in the cafeteria, banned single-use plastics being used and sold, and strengthened the existing single-stream recycling system throughout the school. Principia Upper School, located in Town and County, Mo., worked to support students as change agents by introducing them to the UN Sustainable Development Goals through their winning project, the Impact Challenge. The project culminated with an event showcasing the good work done by all and highlighting the top projects from each grade level.

Due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, the USGBC-MGC had to cancel its Green Schools Quest awards ceremony, but to publicly recognize all 68 schools that participated, the organization has also created an assortment of video compilations to be released each day this week and remain available to view here.

For a full list of winners and to learn more about the Green Schools Quest and this year’s final projects, 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.

Spotlight On: Commerce Bank

As cities, businesses and individuals in the St. Louis metro area make strides toward becoming better stewards of our environment, the Clean Air Partnership continues to recognize those that are helping to take action for cleaner air in the region. This month, we are shining a spotlight on Commerce Bank for their green innovations, achievements and corporate responsibility to reduce environmental impact.

Commerce Bank is a proud participant of the St. Louis Green Business Challenge and received the Achievement Award in the Star Circle of Excellence and Award of Merit at the Leader Level – Owner Category in 2019. When it comes to keeping our planet healthy and clean, Commerce Bank aims to be as efficient as possible, measuring their consumption and waste each year to ensure the company remains mindful stewards of the Earth’s resources and encourages its customers, employees, suppliers and communities to do the same. The company’s Corporate Social Responsibility report from last year noted that their “Green Team” is focused on monitoring paper consumption, energy usage and green cleaning supplies usage in its offices, as well as brainstorming solutions and implementing change in the areas where they feel they can do better for the environment.

Last year alone, the company decreased its printer usage by 13%, which ultimately led to a 27% decrease in overall paper usage. After taking inventory last fall, the company also discovered that its list of unused office supplies resulted in over $11,000 in savings. While these impressive accomplishments saved Commerce Bank money, they also condensed the amount of supplies needed to be manufactured, reducing harmful emissions and preserving valuable resources.

To further reduce environmental impact, the company has been working to decrease energy consumption by making the switch to LED lighting. As a result, the new Commerce Connect Branch is operating with 100% LED lighting, all lighting on the 12th floor of its corporate headquarters has been updated to LED, and an additional 10 Commerce Bank branches have switched to LED signs, too. With the lifespan of LED bulbs lasting 25,000 hours compared to 1,200 hours for an incandescent bulb, these eco-friendly updates will allow Commerce Bank to significantly reduce their energy consumption in the offices and improve air quality.

At the company’s Vandeventer-Chouteau branch, Commerce Bank updated their Rainscapes Report to help reduce storm water runoff on the property and store it for future use. Additionally, electric vehicle charging stations were installed in the parking garages, making it possible for more employees to drive electric vehicles to work and do their share to reduce emissions from gas-powered engines.

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 additional information on the sustainable efforts underway by Commerce Bank and how your company can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, visit

St. Louis Once Again Avoids Landing on “Most Ozone-Polluted” U.S. Cities List

The American Lung Association’s 2020 State of the Air report is out, and the data reveals that more cities across the U.S. experienced high ozone days and increased levels of particle pollution compared to the years covered by the 2019 report (2015-2017). For the fourth consecutive year, the St. Louis region escaped being ranked among the most ozone-polluted cities in the U.S., however, the area ranked 25th on the list for most-polluted cities by year-round particle pollution.

In a concerning trend attributed to record setting heat, St. Louis and far too many other cities across the nation saw a spike in high ozone days, short-term particle pollution and increased levels of year-round particle pollution. The three years covered in this report (2016-2018) ranked among the five hottest years on record globally, showing evidence that a changing climate is making it harder to protect human health and putting millions more people at risk. Altogether, 45.8 percent of the population is exposed to unhealthy air, and St. Louis residents are among those affected.

“While it’s encouraging that the St. Louis metro area remains off the list of the 25 most ozone-polluted cities in this year’s report, we are far from a clean bill of health for lung health in our region,” said Susannah Fuchs, Director of Clean Air for the American Lung Association in Missouri. “As we prepare to settle into the summer months when we’re at greater risk for higher levels of ozone pollution in our region, the Clean Air Partnership urges area residents to continue their efforts to take voluntary steps to reduce emissions. Those actions play a critical role in improving air quality conditions and helping people across the region breathe easier, which is especially important for children, older adults and those who suffer from lung diseases.”

That call for voluntary action has been the constant drum beat for the Clean Air Partnership for 25 years as it has been a champion for cleaner air in the St. Louis region. And in this milestone year, the Clean Air Partnership is holding steadfast to its mission of educating the St. Louis metropolitan area about the health risks associated with poor air quality and the impact of everyday actions on the environment.

Air quality forecasting season resumed May 1st,  and while weather conditions do play a significant role in our region’s daily air quality, we are reminded that transportation-related emissions have always been one of the biggest contributors to air pollution. The season may start with fewer automobiles on the road as the region continues to respond to COVID-19, but there are still a variety of things people can be doing to augment the benefits that the increased telecommuting may yield for our air quality this year. Actions like walking and biking more, combining errands into a single trip, opting for electric vehicles, and avoiding vehicle idling can all help reduce emissions on any given day.

For additional information on the health effects of poor air quality, tips for doing your share for cleaner air and to sign up for the daily air quality forecasts, visit You can also like the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or follow @gatewaycleanair on Twitter to stay up to date. To access the American Lung Association’s 2020 State of the Air report, visit