Many Options Available to Help Reduce Auto Emissions

Now that the prime of summer has reached us, the importance of keeping the region’s air clean is at an all-time high. The Clean Air Partnership, along with several other organizations, helps play a significant role in raising awareness about all the ways people in the St. Louis region can reduce emissions to help keep the air quality in healthy ranges. With transportation being one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, much of the focus is on communicating the many benefits of alternative transportation options, such as transit use or carpooling, or walking or riding a bike when air quality conditions are good.

Thankfully there are plenty of resources available to help members of the St. Louis community take voluntary steps that can improve the quality of the air we breathe and improve our health overall. Area residents are encouraged to check out the following:

    • The region’s public transit system is designed so riders can walk to a nearby stop, or park and take a train or bus, or a combination of the two, to get where they’re going – safely, comfortably and conveniently.  (metrostlouis.org or www.mct.org)
    • Citizens for Modern Transit offers a Guaranteed Ride Home program as an incentive for commuters that allows employees to take transit/bicycle while providing them a “safety net” – an assurance they can get home and not be left at work if a situation arises. (www.cmt-stl.org)
    • RideFinders provides free carpool and vanpool ride-matching services for commuters in the St. Louis region to save money, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. They also offer a version of the Guaranteed Ride Home program! (www.ridefinders.org)
    • Don’t let worry about potentially needing a car during the day derail plans to share the ride. Consider carsharing opportunities to get to and from midday errands and meetings when needed. Visit www.enterprisecarshare.com for more information.
    • Visit gatewayguide.com or use MoDOT’s 511 travel information number to get real-time traffic information and use it to better plan your route to avoid traffic tie-ups and construction zones.
    • LimeBike and Ofo are bike-sharing companies that offer a great alternative to hopping in your car for short trips. Users download one of the smartphone apps to find a bike nearby. When they get to the bike, they can enter a code to unlock it via their phone, pedal where they need to go, lock it up and leave it for the next user. (http://www.stlbikeshare.org)
    • Ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft match drivers of private vehicles to those seeking transportation and are a great option for group outings to eliminate the use of multiple vehicles.

    For more information and additional tips to clean the air, visit www.cleanair-stlouis.com, like the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or follow @gatewaycleanair on Twitter.

MoDOT – Guiding the Region to Cleaner Air

As the Clean Air Partnership works to encourage activities that reduce emissions, we continue to spotlight organizations in the St. Louis region that share our passion. With transportation being one of the largest contributors to air pollution, the efforts carried out by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) are crucial in championing clean air.

MoDOT oversees a total of 33,856 miles of roadway throughout the state and, while commuting by automobile is necessary for many, MoDOT recognizes the importance of keeping congestion-related emissions at a minimum.  Considering idling vehicles emit 20 times more pollution than a car traveling 30 miles per hour, alleviating congestion that causes stop-and-go traffic is key in promoting cleaner air.

Here is a look at several of the initiatives MoDOT has implemented to help keep traffic flowing, decrease emissions and clear the region’s air:

 

  • Gateway Guide – This initiative combines several tools to provide motorists with real-time traffic updates. Traffic sensors alongside the road provide information on upcoming traffic speeds and volumes. MoDOT utilizes over 100 Dynamic Message Signs across the state which are permanent message boards located along state highways used to broadcast information regarding travel times, interstate closures, vehicle crashes and congestion. The @StLouisTraffic Twitter feed shares real-time information on closed lanes and roads. Closed-circuit cameras positioned throughout the region also provide real-time footage of area highways. These cameras provide video to help direct emergency response forces to quickly and safely address incidents. More importantly, the camera footage is streamed on Gateway Guide. MoDOT’s intent is that motorists will use this information to take alternate routes when traffic is heavy. By shifting traffic flow in various directions, congestion can be alleviated or avoided, ultimately reducing vehicle emissions.

  • Ozone Information – During the ozone forecasting season, MoDOT operates eight portable message boards alongside roadways in the St. Louis region. These, along with the Dynamic Message Signs, present the daily ozone forecast and often provide motorists with air-friendly tips. For example, when the air quality is poor, the message board not only notifies motorists of the red state of the air, but it might also encourage motorists to avoid filling up with gasoline until after 7 p.m., to help prevent the development of ground-level ozone. These boards have the potential to reach more than half a million travelers in just one day and encourage the community to take part in activities that keep the air cleaner.

 

  • Modification of Daily and Internal Operations – When the air quality is predicted to be poor, MoDOT works especially hard to alleviate congestion. This means halting routine maintenance operations on state highways that might create congestion and vehicle idling when the air quality is red.  MoDOT also encourages their staff to use alternative forms of transportation and has a carpooling program in place for employees to team up to share the ride. These modifications further help to reduce pollution and improve the quality of the air we breathe.

For more information about MoDOT and their work, check out their website at www.modot.org.  And keep an eye on our blog for a future spotlight on the Illinois Department of Transportation to learn about their commitment to cleaner air. 

A Few Facts About Air Pollution

Every day, the average human breathes in approximately 2,000 gallons of air. As a source of life, it is important to be aware of the air one breathes, as breathing in polluted air can impact one’s health. Air pollution is a critical environmental concern that affects all of us, with ozone pollution being of greatest concern in our area during the hot summer months.

While ozone is not visible to the naked eye, the effects it has on one’s health are crystal clear; and those effects can be from both short-term and long-term exposure to ozone air pollution. Here are five facts about air pollution you might find interesting:

  1. Children are more susceptible to the negative impacts air pollution. Because they are so active and breathe in a great deal of air, the negative impact of poor air quality can be greater on kids. As children’s lungs continue to develop, air pollution can hinder the development of their lungs, and lead to them having a decrease in lung function as adults. Developing lungs are also more prone to infection from exposure to air pollution. It can even affect babies while they are still in the womb, with studies revealing increased exposure to particle pollution resulted in a higher risk for preterm birth and lower birth weight.
  2. There’s a link between poor air quality and cardiovascular disease. Studies show that air pollution can increase the risk of both heart attacks and stroke.
  3. Going outside for a breath of fresh air might be more dangerous than you think. Depending on the day, breathing in air on a poor air quality day can be more harmful than staying inside. During times of orange and red air quality days, it is advised to skip the run in the park and opt for indoor exercise.
  4. Where you live matters. Studies have shown long-term exposure to traffic pollution can lead to poor cognition and may increase the risk for dementia. Those living near busy roads and highways are at the most risk with an increase of air pollution from vehicles expanding up to one-third of a mile away. Asthma attacks can be another linked effect of traffic pollution.
  5. You can make a difference. Air quality can be improved by reducing pollutants in the first place, which can limit the negative effects on health and the environment. Carpooling, using transit, telecommuting and supporting programs to limit idling can all help reduce emissions, as can using less energy at home and avoiding the use of gas powered equipment when doing yardwork.

Knowledge is power. Knowing more about the air you breathe can help make a difference for everyone. To learn more about health effects of exposure to air pollution and actions you can take to reduce emissions visit, cleanair-stlouis.com or www.lung.org.

Stay Lung Healthy when Outdoors this Summer

Our lungs are always hard at work. In just one day, a healthy person breathes nearly 25,000 times. For those with lung ailments, each and every breath can be a challenge, particularly when the air they breathe is unhealthy.

 

Many areas in the United States produce enough ozone during the summer months that it can be felt right away. Immediate problems – in addition to increased risk of premature death – include shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing; asthma attacks; increased risk of respiratory infections; increased susceptibility to pulmonary inflammation; and increased need for people with lung diseases, like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), to receive medical treatment or go to the hospital. Anyone who spends time outdoors when ozone levels are high may be at risk, but some are especially vulnerable to the effects of breathing ozone: children and teens; anyone 65 and older; people who work or exercise outdoors; people with existing lung diseases; and people with cardiovascular disease.

There are a number of things individuals can do to help keep their lungs in shape. Aerobic exercise helps improve lung capacity. Specific breathing exercises can also help improve your lung function if you have certain lung diseases, like COPD. But, perhaps one of the best things people can do is make sure they are breathing in clean air and avoiding exposure to pollutants that can damage the lungs. That’s where the Clean Air Partnership comes in.

 

The Clean Air Partnership releases daily air quality forecasts to let residents know what the air quality will be during the summer months. Signing up to receive the air quality forecast via email at www.stlouis-cleanair.com helps to ensure that area residents know what the next day’s air quality will be and if they should alter their outdoor activities to minimize exposure to polluted air.

 

The Partnership also helps raise awareness about all the ways people in the St. Louis region can reduce emissions to help keep the air quality in healthy ranges. Given that auto emissions are a key contributor to poor air quality, area residents are encouraged to:

  • Carpool with friends or coworkers or utilize public transit.
  • Bike or walk instead of driving when air quality conditions are favorable.
  • Avoid vehicle idling – idling vehicles emit 20 times more pollution than a car traveling 30 mph!
  • Visit www.gatewayguide.com or use MoDOT’s 511 travel information number to get real-time traffic information and use it to better plan your route to avoid traffic tie-ups construction zones.
  • Combine errands into a single trip to minimize car use.

 

Bikesharing Finally Comes to St. Louis

The Clean Air Partnership advocates for activities that reduce emissions leading to poor air quality. Since transportation is one of the largest contributors to air pollution, new bike-sharing programs here in St. Louis provide an exciting opportunity for area residents to have a positive impact on the quality of the air we breathe.

 

Bikesharing is a service that provides members of the community with bikes for shared use. Essentially, users can borrow bikes for a short period of time by paying just a small fee.

 

Ofo and LimeBike are two bike-sharing companies that entered the St. Louis market in recent weeks. Both companies have initially provided the city with 750 bikes each, but that number is likely to grow. Members of the community can utilize the bikes for their daily work commute, to get to school, exercise or for touring around the city of St. Louis. Unlike other bike-sharing options in other cities, Ofo and LimeBike do not have fixed docking stations, which means bikes are scattered in many locations across the entire city, making them a convenient option and a great way to complete the first or last mile between a transit stop and point of origin or final destination.

 

Bike-sharing is a way of getting around that offers great advantages over other modes of transportation. Choosing a convenient bike trip instead of driving a personal automobile means fewer vehicles on the roads, resulting in fewer emissions to combine with heat and sunlight to create ozone pollution that leads to poor air quality. Helping to keep the air quality in healthy ranges can minimize the negative effects poor air quality has on health, as high concentrations of ground-level ozone can cause shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, headaches, nausea, and eye and throat irritation.  Other benefits of the service include lower transportation costs, faster trips and the ability to fly past traffic jams.

 

To take advantage of this ecofriendly opportunity, area commuters simply need to download the app for either company. Because LimeBike and Ofo do not have fixed docking stations, all bikes are tracked using GPS. Users can locate a nearby bike through the apps. When an individual arrives at the desired bike, they use the app to scan a code on the bike which unlocks the brakes. The bike is now ready for use and customers can ride the bike to their desired stopping point. When users arrive, they simply leave the bike in a safe spot at the destination, lock the bike wheel and are charged by the company based on the amount of time the bike was in use. The bike is now ready for another user. Ofo charges $1 per hour and LimeBike charges $1 for each half-hour, making the programs quite affordable.

 

So next time you are headed to the grocery store for a last-minute item, want to visit a nearby friend or need to get across town for an appointment, consider picking up a bike from LimeBike or Ofo instead of hopping in your car.  Learn more about how to incorporate bikesharing into your routine at http://www.stlbikeshare.org/  or download the LimeBike or ofo bike share smartphone app.

Citizens for Modern Transit a Champion for Clean Air

The Clean Air Partnership is pleased to serve a community where several organizations are playing a significant role in helping area residents take action to reduce emissions and improve air quality in the St. Louis region. One that’s really proving to be a champion for clean air is Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT).

 

CMT leads efforts for an integrated, affordable, and convenient public transportation system with light rail expansion as the critical component that will drive economic growth to improve quality of life in the St. Louis region. The advocacy organization represents more than 20,000 riders, major employers, academic institutions, and labor and community organizations in the region and works to grow and promote modern transit initiatives.

 

Recognizing that more people taking transit means fewer cars on area roads and highways, CMT focuses significant efforts on promoting public transportation as a viable alternative to driving alone. Those efforts are a critical component of the region’s clean air efforts. Here’s a look at just a few of the many initiatives spearheaded by CMT that are helping to draw commuters out of their cars and onto the transit system.

  • Try and Ride – Since CMT first launched its Try & Ride program in 2014, the initiative has helped more than 5,000 workday commuters learn how to easily navigate the transit system and experience the benefits of using MetroLink and MetroBus for their work commute. Participants get to “test drive” the system with free fare for the first month, customized route information, and helpful tips for using public transit. Seventy percent of those who have given transit a try through “try & ride” recognized the benefits and continued using transit beyond the two-month program commitment. To help further expand the reach of this successful program, CMT began targeting college campuses and technical schools in 2017, so students also now have the ability to experience how advantageous these options can be for the school commute.
  • Guaranteed Ride Home – This program provides an additional incentive to commute to work by transit or bicycling rather than driving alone. It allows employees to take transit/bicycle while providing them a “safety net” – an assurance that they can get home and not be left at work if a situation arises. This program provides immediate transportation in case of an emergency, sickness or unscheduled overtime, and CMT covers 80 percent of the cost (up to $60) per emergency ride home. The GRH Program was recently expanded to include ride hailing services such as Lyft!
  • Ten Toe Express – This innovative program continues to help area residents learn how to get around the region using a combination of their own ten toes and transit. Walk leaders – which can be an individual, a couple or even a pair of friends – guide groups of fellow walkers as they explore various St. Louis attractions, teaching them how to use the transit system along the way. In 2017, through a partnership with AARP St. Louis, the Ten Toe Express Program continued to evolve through the introduction of new walking groups, new destinations and new participants. CMT added the AARP Breakfast Bunch on Saturday mornings and gained several new partners, including Grand Center, Inc., which assisted in bringing new, exciting special walks to the line-up.

 

For more information about CMT and their specific programs aimed at driving transit ridership, check out their website at https://cmt-stl.org/.

Clearing the Air in Granite City

The Clean Air Partnership places high importance on sustainability for St. Louis area municipalities and continues to use our blog to spotlight those entities that are driving change in the region.  The City of Granite City, which became part of the Cool Cities Initiative back in 2012, most recently has focused its environmental efforts on air quality issues, creating a positive impact on the city and earning Granite City recognition in the St. Louis Regional Chamber’s Green Cities Challenge in both 2016 and 2017.

The City of Granite City incorporated a series of sustainable policies aimed specifically at reducing the emissions that cause poor air quality, including purchasing 20 new fleet vehicles – five electric cars and 15 hybrids. They also purchased and installed electric vehicle charging stations at the Public Works Department and the Police Station. More recently, Granite City has established an official 10 percent energy reduction plan and completed a green purchasing policy addressing janitorial paper and cleaning supplies, as well as catering supplies, napkins, cups and plates. The city also now has a policy to purchase only Energy Star-certified computers, office equipment and kitchen equipment.

The Cool Cities team and members of the United Congregations of Metro East (UMC) wrote a grant proposal that helped them to secure a $30,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)to help fund a local air quality and health improvement project.  The project included:

  • The establishment of an ozone garden where citizens can see the effects on ozone on ozone resistant plants compared to ozone sensitive plants.
  • Installation of ozone monitoring equipment at the ozone garden and downtown six-mile library.
  • Designation of a Clean Air Coordinator to communicate with all project partners and provide air quality alerts.
  • Implementation of the EPA Flag Program, through which colored flags are displayed around the city to alert citizens to the air quality conditions each day based on the EPA Air Quality Index. Area residents can then modify their behavior per the accompanying Outdoor Activity Guide, which states which activities may need to be restricted as the air quality moves from healthy “green” ranges to unhealthy “orange” levels.
  • Outreach to local schools and businesses, including posting of information on bulletin boards; hosting educational presentations and learning events, and creating and distributing brochures with information about air quality, causes of air pollution and the associated health risks, and tips for reducing emissions to help clear the air.

For more information on the sustainable efforts made in Granite City, check out the St. Louis Green Business Challenge website at http://stlouisgreenchallenge.com/ or visit http://greenercleanergc.org/category/local-green-news/.

Make cleaner air one of your New Year‘s Resolutions

The arrival of a new year often brings opportunities to change a lifestyle, a business, or even an entire community. If you’re looking to make a change for the better in 2018, consider making conscious changes to your transportation habits, and you could positively impact the region’s air quality and health.

High concentrations of ground-level ozone can cause shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, headaches, nausea, and eye and throat irritation. Even in healthy adults, studies have shown that exposure to various levels of ozone pollution can cause decreased lung function. But, children, older adults and those who suffer from lung diseases like emphysema, bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma are especially vulnerable to ozone pollution. When it comes to minimizing those health impacts, everyone has a role to play. Individuals can make lifestyle changes, and even municipalities and businesses can help improve air quality by changing their policies on and attitudes towards transportation.

As you make your resolutions for the New Year, here are some things you, personally, can do to help improve the air quality.

  • Carpool, vanpool or ride the bus or MetroLink whenever possible.
  • Avoid letting your vehicle idle. Turn off the engine when you’re waiting in your car.
  • When the weather is nice, walk or bike for short trips and to and from lunch.
  • If public transit doesn’t work for you, try ridesharing to and from work and take advantage of We Car if you need to run errands around town.
  • Check your air filters and replace them at least every three months. Clean air filters can improve gas mileage by up to 10% compared to clogged filters.

If you run a business, the following tips can jump start your commitment to clean air in 2018:

  • Help your employees to share the ride by signing up with resources such as RideFinders, which can help them to connect with carpool or vanpool partners, or help employees navigate public transportation by teaming up with Metro and Citizens for Modern Transit.
  • Offer employee passes for public transportation, or convenient parking for those who choose to carpool.
  • Provide bike racks and lockers for employees who bike or walk to work.
  • Create a ‘No Idling’ policy in your parking lots and instead provide 15-minute pickup and drop-off parking spots near the entrance.
  • Offer telecommuting and flex-time, allowing employees to work from home or come in at times that do not coincide with rush hour traffic.
  • Conduct meetings by conference calls and video chats instead of traveling to meet in-person.

By committing to promoting practices that improve the air quality in your community, municipalities can have a huge impact too.

  • Develop and implement a no-idling policy for fleet drivers and city employees, and encourage residents in busy pick-up and drop-off zones to avoid idling.
  • Utilize biodiesel to fuel city trucks, and ensure the tires are properly inflated and air filters are clean.
  • Provide dedicated carpool spaces at city buildings to encourage city employees to rideshare more often.
  • Develop and implement a bike and walk master plan designed to encourage residents to walk or bike more to get around town instead of driving, and install bike racks around the city.
  • Provide city landscaping crews with electric, propane or solar-powered lawn and gardening tools, instead of gas-powered ones.

For more great tips on how we can work together to achieve cleaner air in 2018, visit www.cleanair-stlouis.com/air-quality-tips/, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair. And have a happy and healthy New Year!

 

Spotlight On: The City of Alton

As cities, businesses and individuals in the St. Louis region make strides toward becoming better stewards of our environment, the Clean Air Partnership continues to recognize some of the great work and innovative initiatives underway, with a particular focus on those that are helping to reduce air pollution in the St. Louis area. This month, the Clean Air Partnership is recognizing the City of Alton for its efforts.

Over the past few years, Alton’s dedication to improving air quality in the area and becoming more eco-friendly has been well documented as the city has worked to balance energy efficiency with historic preservation – a combination of two of the city’s values. The city has been an active participant in the Green Cities Challenge component of the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, demonstrating its commitment to pursuing various strategies to be a more sustainable community.

Specifically, in the City of Alton, energy efficiency improvements were implemented as part of the community’s Climate Action Plan. Efficiency measures were identified based on a previously completed Greenhouse Gas inventory, an evaluation that had identified specific causes of air pollution and potential strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Sustainable accomplishments made by the city include reducing energy consumption at the Alton Public Works building over a three-year period from 579,000 kWH to 372,155 kWh, as a result of lighting upgrades and other energy-efficient strategies. At the wastewater treatment plant, a $41,000 grant covered the cost of updating every light inside and out to LED bulbs.

The city also began offering curbside recycling to all single-family households, which over the longer term can have a positive impact on air quality since recycling reduces energy use and prevents air pollution by reducing the need to burn fossil fuels to extract, transport and process raw materials.

The city’s Cool Cities Committee continues to progressively approach the goals of climate protection and energy efficiency within the government and jurisdiction of the City of Alton.  Exciting initiatives in the works include plans for a possible 2.5 megawatt solar array to be built in the city.  A solar array is a number of solar panels arranged in a group to capture maximum amount of sun light to convert it into usable electricity. In exchange for leasing the ground for the project, the city would get two 25,000 watt solar arrays to generate power for the city that could result in an estimated $200,000 in savings on energy costs over 15 years.

The city is also looking into constructing a resource recovery facility, which would take in bio solids such as waste from treatment plants, food waste, fats, oils and grease, etc., and process it to make methane. The methane would then be upgraded to make natural gas that could be injected into the natural gas grid, enabling the city to collect renewable ID numbers (RINS) that can be sold to companies required to to produce a certain amount renewable fuels.  If approved, it would be the first plant of its kind being built for this purpose and would have the potential to remove 200,000 tons a year from landfills, significantly reducing the greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint.

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 St. Louis Green Business Challenge website at http://stlouisgreenchallenge.com/.

 

Making the Case for Carpooling

A new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey has revealed that Americans spend an average of 17,600 minutes driving each year. That’s almost 300 hours or the equivalent of more than 12 days! With vehicle emissions being one of the top contributors to poor air quality, all this time behind the wheel is taking a big toll on the environment and the lung health of individuals nationwide.

According to the U.S. census, much of the time behind the wheel is spent driving to work, with Americans spending an average of 25 minutes commuting to work every morning; and 75% of Americans make that trip alone each day. Commuting to work with a friend, significant other or coworker can help reduce some of the negative lung health and environmental factors associated with driving, while also yielding a host of other benefits that go beyond better air quality.

Fewer emissions and less traffic – For starters, more people in carpools doesn’t just reduce the amount of ozone forming vehicle emissions in the air by keeping some cars off the road, it can also reduce traffic congestion resulting in a less stressful commute for all.

Increased social interaction – As an added bonus, spending time in the mornings with other people on your daily commute offers opportunities for face-to-face social interaction, something we could all use a little more of in our technology driven lives where texting and social media are the primary methods of communicating. That interaction is especially beneficial to those with depression according to Psychology Today.

Lower commuting costs – Carpools are also a cheaper alternative to driving solo to work every day. Double up with even one other person to share the ride and you’ll be able to cut your weekday fuel costs and parking fees in half while also reducing wear and tear on your vehicle if you take turns driving. Add a third or fourth carpooler and you can save even more!

With all those advantages, maybe now is the time to say goodbye to your solo commute and say hello to some new carpool buddies.

For more information on alternative transportation options that can help improve our region’s air quality, explore our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @gatewaycleanair.