Wrapping Up Air Quality Forecasting in 2020

Our daily air quality forecasting wrapped up Sept. 30, and we’re happy to report that, as we reflect on this season, ozone pollution levels in our region improved significantly compared to the prior year. While the potential for poor air quality conditions is higher during the summer when overall weather patterns, amount of sunshine and wind levels all play a significant role, this summer’s air quality was likely impacted by the fact there were fewer cars on the roads as COVID-19 kept many people working remotely and kept the auto emissions that can contribute to the formation of ozone pollution in check.

As a driving force in the fight for cleaner air in the St. Louis region, the Clean Air Partnership’s daily air quality forecasting takes place over the summer months and is based on the air quality index, utilizing 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. A look back over the past several months reveals that our air quality remained relatively healthy during the peak ozone season. From the beginning of May through the end of September, green was the dominant color with 95 days where the air quality was good, followed by 54 yellow or moderate air quality days. While we experienced 4 orange days where the conditions were unhealthy for sensitive populations, we actually matched last year’s number and had ZERO red days all summer long!

Even though this is positive news for the region, there is still much work to be done in the fight for cleaner air and it’s important the fight continue year-round. Fortunately, there are many voluntary measures we can take to help people all across the St. Louis metro area breathe easier. With the state and region gradually opening back up for business, traffic continues to ramp back up and so will the potential for increased emissions. Since those transportation-related emissions are one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, the choices people make on how to get around are especially crucial when it comes to the quality of our air.

With that in mind, actions like walking and biking instead of using a vehicle for short trips, combining errands into a single trip, not topping off your gas tank and avoiding vehicle idling are always great options for reducing the amount of ozone-forming emissions generated on any given day. Additionally, there are many other eco-friendly lifestyle changes unrelated to commuting that individuals and businesses can consider any time of year to positively impact air quality and improve lung health. These changes include efforts to conserve energy, recycle, reduce waste and reuse items.

You can continue to learn more about health effects of exposure to air pollution and actions you can take to reduce emissions by visiting www.cleanair-stlouis.com and the American Lung Association’s website, liking the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or following @gatewaycleanair on Twitter for insightful tips and more.

Make Eco-Friendly Choices the New Normal for Halloween

The end of the month is creeping closer and closer, and while the spookiest time of year can also be a real fright-fest for the environment, there’s another monster lurking this Halloween. Due to the ongoing effects of the coronavirus, traditional trick-or-treating and Halloween parties may have a different look this year, but that doesn’t mean the holiday has to be canceled all-together.

Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways families can have fun while avoiding the scare of being exposed to or spreading the virus, and they involve activities that will also largely benefit the region’s air quality. Here are some helpful tips to consider for safely greening those spooky festivities, all while keeping your little ghouls and goblins happy this Halloween:

  • Host a Virtual Costume Party or Parade – Halloween during a global pandemic poses a great opportunity to get creative and maybe even invent some new traditions. Use video chats for online parties with family and friends, participate in a virtual costume contest, play games or pick a spooktacular movie to watch at the same time online. Outdoor costume parades are another option that can allow for everyone to stay at least six feet apart and wear face coverings. A family scavenger hunt for treats in your home or yard can also be a fun alternative if trick-or treating isn’t available in your neighborhood.

  • Create Your Own Homemade Costumes – Store-bought costumes are often made up of nonrecyclable, petro-chemical based plastic and synthetic fibers that release harmful toxins in their creation and breakdown. With a little creativity, left over boxes, paper bags, fabric and other items around the house can be upcycled into costumes at little or no cost and make for a much more air quality-friendly option. If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out Pinterest for countless ideas for turning different materials into homemade costumes that the planet and your wallet will thank you for!
  • Choose Eco-Friendly Decorations — Make a dent in the waste this Halloween by creating your own homemade decorations with recycled household items. Solar-powered or LED lights will also help to conserve energy, as will refraining from using inflatable, ghostly creatures that require running electricity to operate. Doing so will help save on electricity costs and cut back on emissions to help clean the air.
  • Green Up Your Halloween Pumpkins – Don’t let your jack-o’-lantern end up in a landfill once Halloween is over. Remember to compost your pumpkins to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions that result from rotting in landfills. Once you’ve carved your pumpkin, save the pulp from inside for pies, muffins, soup and other tasty recipes, as well as the seeds that make for a sustainable fall snack when roasted with a bit of oil and salt.

Do your share for cleaner air with the health of the community in mind this Halloween by taking proper precautions and incorporating sustainability into your favorite celebrations. To learn more about the link between living greener and our air quality, visit the tips section of our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Spotlight On: The City of Wentzville

While the recent drop in temperature means we can all look forward to breathing a little easier over the next several months, the importance of keeping the region’s air clean still remains high. This fall, the Clean Air Partnership is pleased to continue highlighting local businesses and municipalities that are working to make sustainability a top priority to help people all across the area breathe easier.

With the charming characteristics of a small town but all of the amenities of a dynamic suburban environment, the City of Wentzville continues to build a better future for its constituents with new residential and commercial growth. As an active participant in the Green Cities Challenge, Wentzville has also further solidified its commitment to incorporating sustainability measures into their everyday operational practices. In 2019, the city received an Award of Achievement for advancing their green efforts by implementing a sustainability policy and practicing fundamentals, including addressing measures defined by OneSTL, the regional plan for sustainable development.

Among their impressive green innovations to receive recognition in the 2019 Challenge was the exponential growth of its Green Team, which established a new mission statement to focus on educating and supporting the community in taking action to practice more sustainable habits. Wentzville’s Green Team sponsored the 2nd Annual Zero-Waste Luncheon for 275 city staff members, resulting in 72 lbs. of material composted. All of the cans, cups and food containers were either recycled, reused or composted, leaving behind only the gloves used to handle food to throw away. Green Team members also served as Recycling Ambassadors to educate city employees on recycling “do’s and don’ts” to reduce office contamination. Collectively, these initiatives and the employees’ hard work contributed less waste in our landfills, which is a win for cleaner air in the region!

Additionally, Wentzville created a “Cans for Change” program across four city buildings that collected more than 380 lbs. of aluminum cans to be recycled and help fund various Green Team initiatives. The city also hosted several green presentations and Lunch-and-Learn events for city staff on a wide-range of sustainability topics.

To further reduce environmental impact, Wentzville enhanced the importance of curbside recycling. This effort virtually eliminated contamination from 14,000 homes. Other noteworthy recycling innovations include multiple electronics recycling and shredding events, which resulted in 82,000 lbs. of e-waste diverted from the landfill.

For additional information about the ongoing sustainable efforts by the City of Wentzville and how your municipality can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge/Green Cities Challenge, subscribe to their bi-monthly E-Newsletter or visit www.stlouisgreenchallenge.com. 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.