Spotlight On: The City of University City

As a returning participant of the St. Louis Green Cities Challenge in 2020, the City of University City remained committed to sustainable practices and programs that improve the health and quality of life of its community, restore and protect its natural resources and strengthen the economy.

University City is one of the oldest suburbs in the St. Louis metropolitan area and has been a proud participant of the St. Louis Green Cities Challenge for several consecutive years. Known for its rich history dating back to the late 1800’s and named after the community’s proximity to Washington University, U City has become a center of learning and culture, as well as an area of prosperous commercial activity. With the three P’s – People, Planet and Profit – at the core of their sustainability strategy, University City strives to remain environmentally and socially responsible while ensuring they make fiscally responsible decisions to implement various projects and programs.

During the 2020 Challenge, University City persisted with collections and public education during COVID-19 to inform residents of how to properly dispose of paint and other household hazardous waste, in addition to generating awareness for illicit stormwater discharge that would result from such waste. Moreover, the City Council established the Commission of Stormwater Issues to continue the study of this complex subject and provide recommendations for the design and implementation of projects and policies to protect the community from stormwater harm and to promote public health.

Another impressive accomplishment that helped earn the city recognition in the 2020 Challenge was a partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Blackbird Foundation to complete an audit of residential food waste in University City. The results from the audit will help to develop new educational programming on the importance of reducing food waste, which will also positively impact air quality in the region by limiting the amount of waste that winds up in landfills. An additional collaboration with Washington University’s Sustainability Exchange Program also led to long-overdue updates to University City’s Sustainability Strategic Plan, which was originally developed in 2010.

To further reduce environmental impact, University City formed a TreeKeeper volunteer group to focus on native planting and to remove honeysuckle and other invasive species that may pose a threat to air quality. In an effort to promote recycling and reduce paper waste, University City also established a program to eliminate delivery of paycheck stubs in envelopes for city employees by moving to electronic-only delivery and hosted a community paper shredding event, which recycled nearly six tons in total over the course of three hours!

Last but not least, University City continued to participate in the regional Grow Solar St. Louis program in 2020, which promotes education and group purchasing discounts for residential solar power, and the commercial Renew STL Solar program.

For additional information about the ongoing sustainable efforts by University City and how your municipality can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge/Green Cities 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.

“Be Merry on Metro” to Do Your Share for Cleaner Air

Tis the season for music, lights, Santa and gifts – and in the coming weeks this merriment will also be part of Metro Transit trips. Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT), Metro Transit, St. Clair County Transit District, Bureau of Transit Police, Metro Transit Public Safety, University of Missouri–St. Louis and AARP in St. Louis are teaming up to host “Be Merry on Metro” from Monday, Dec. 6, to Friday, Dec. 24, featuring a host of seasonal surprises at Metro Transit Centers and aboard MetroLink, MetroBus and Metro Call-A-Ride vehicles. With transportation-related emissions being one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, taking public transportation during the holiday season is a great way to reduce harmful auto emissions to help keep the air quality in healthy ranges.

This effort will kick off during the morning commute on Monday, Dec. 6, from 7:00 to 8:30 a.m. During this timeframe, representatives from the partnering organizations will be at select Metro Transit Centers handing out “Be Merry on Metro” branded sock hats – along with candy canes and a calendar showcasing all the fun planned for the month of December.

All “Be Merry on Metro” activities are tied to weekly themes and include Music & Lights from Dec. 6-10; Santa & Surprises from Dec. 11-17; and Opportunities and Appreciations from Dec. 20-24. The events will feature strolling carolers, a “Saturday Morning with Santa” event, special Ten Toe Express guided walking tours, promotion of job opportunities, holiday tunes at Metro Transit Centers and more.

Throughout the month, transit riders should also be on the lookout for “Gift of Transit” gift boxes wrapped in red ribbon randomly placed on MetroBus, MetroLink and Metro Call-A-Ride vehicles. If a transit rider finds a gift box, they can keep it and its contents. There will also be hundreds of gift box cutouts. If a transit rider finds one, all they need to do is look for their gift, which is attached to the back of the “Gift of Transit” cutouts. Transit riders can also participate in the Ugly Sweater contest by taking a photo of themselves wearing an ugly sweater, while traveling on transit, and posting it to social channels using #ToastyOnTransit. Participants will be entered to win a special prize package.

“The ‘Be Merry on Metro’ effort is rooted in the mission of all of our community engagement initiatives,” commented Kimberly Cella, executive director of Citizens for Modern Transit. “It allows us to interact with riders, strengthen relationships and reinforce our collective commitment to a safe, comfortable, customer-focused transit experience – all while spreading a little holiday cheer.”

Bi-State Development CEO Taulby Roach added, “In addition to thanking our riders, ‘Be Merry on Metro’ activities also afford us the opportunity to showcase our appreciation for our transit operators and let people know about the great career opportunities available through Metro Transit.”

For more information about “Be Merry on Metro,” visit, or Individuals can also follow this effort on social channels using #MerryonMetro. To learn more about the link between sustainable transportation and our air quality, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Spotlight On: Graybar

With a commitment to corporate responsibility serving as an expression of Graybar’s core values, the company strives to create a culture where employees feel a true sense of ownership for their results and can share in the success of the company, while also taking steps to make the world a better place. At the company’s corporate headquarters located in St. Louis, Graybar has set its sights on long-term goals that will make the company stronger and healthier for future generations, which also helped them to earn the esteemed title of Challenge Champion in the 2020 St. Louis Green Business Challenge. 

During the 2020 Challenge, Graybar worked toward creating a brighter, more sustainable future for the communities in which they live and work as part of their Champion Innovation Project – Sustainability Pivots to Service.  Here in St. Louis and at more than a dozen Graybar locations across the nation, company employees contributed $15,462 in cash and food donations to local food banks, which Graybar also matched with a cash donation through its recently launched “Empowering Our Communities” program. This initiative not only helps to feed those who are in need, but also helps to improve air quality by reducing that significant amount of food waste that might have otherwise gone to a landfill and generated harmful CO2 emissions. 

Other noteworthy sustainability initiatives spearheaded by Graybar’s Green Team – employees from various departments that conduct research, develop sustainable recommendations and share innovative ideas with the company’s Sustainability Committee – included a Print Release program that requires users to log in to a Print Release-enabled device to print their documents. This reduces the number of documents printed in error, saving both paper and toner. Additionally, machines are defaulted to print and copy double-sided, which further reduces paper waste and benefits air quality in the region. Supply Chain Waste Walks are another way the company helps clients identify opportunities to reduce waste in their own processes and procedures, uncover recycling opportunities and improve energy efficiency.  

Additionally, Graybar employees worked remotely from March through August last year, which benefitted the region’s air quality by reducing the number of cars on the roads and helped to reduce the amount of harmful greenhouse gas emissions emitted from motor vehicles. Energy tracking also reported that the company’s St. Louis facilities saved an impressive $73,468.33 in electricity costs by doing so! 

Looking to the future, Graybar plans to expand its focus on environmental service projects and continue the work stemming from the company-wide 150th anniversary service initiative. 

The Clean Air Partnership is pleased to recognize the efforts of businesses such as Graybar that continue to take action for cleaner air by channeling their time and energy towards practicing sustainability. For additional information on how your company can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, subscribe to their weekly 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.


Committing to Cleaner Fall Air for America Recycles Day

The sole nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting recycling in the United States comes at the perfect time – 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 nation take part in celebrating America Recycles Day, which is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of recycling and purchasing recycled products. 

Though the national recycling rate has improved over the course of the past 30+ years to 32% of all waste disposal being recycled, there is still much work to be done. Therefore, during the 2020 America Recycles Summit, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its first-ever National Recycling Goal to increase the national recycling rate to 50% by 2030. The agency recognized that collective commitments are best achieved when we have a common goal and has challenged businesses, communities and individuals to embrace this revolutionary goal to help collective efforts to improve the nation’s recycling system, create more jobs and conserve our natural resources. An added bonus of these efforts is the cleaner air that will result from a reduction in the need for power and for processing raw materials, which also reduces harmful air pollution. 

Here in the St. Louis region, area residents who are inspired by America Recycles Day to make a commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle in all aspects of daily life are also taking action for cleaner air. With that in mind, here are some helpful tips to consider for incorporating green into your day-to-day routine: 

  • Stay informed about recycling in your community – Understanding what can be recycled in your area is key to ensuring that anything you sort and place in your curbside recycling container with the intention of it being sent to your local recycling center actually makes it there. These items consist of obvious materials such as paper, plastic, glass and flattened cardboard, as well as less obvious materials, including most forms of metal and even food waste. For more details on what does and doesn’t belong in the blue bins, be sure to check out    
  • Repurpose and reuse old items – 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. Shopping at or donating to secondhand stores are great ways to prevent unwanted items from ending up in the landfill, reduce wastage of energy and resources on the production of new clothes and help save you money. With the holiday season upon us, gifting used items from a secondhand shop or using recyclable materials around the house like old fabric, maps, newspapers or magazines for gift wrap are also easy ways to significantly cut back on waste.

  • Ditch the plastic bottles – At this very minute, people around the world are buying a million plastic bottles, and most of these bottles will end up in landfills or in the ocean. Not only does the production of plastic water bottles contribute substantial amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, their litter lingers for years on end. Instead of buying single-use bottles, consider purchasing a reusable water bottle you can take with you and refill as needed to cut down on unnecessary waste and help improve air quality. If you still prefer a single-use water bottle, make sure it gets properly recycled once you’re finished with it. 

You can do your share for cleaner air and further commit to living a recycled lifestyle by taking the #BeRecycled pledge at 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.