Spotlight On: AmeriCorps St. Louis

AmeriCorps St. Louis is a Soulard-based nonprofit that works to address community needs throughout the region through its robust network of member volunteers. As a participant in last year’s St. Louis Green Business Challenge, the organization incorporated a variety of sustainability initiatives into its programs, some of which included a variety of sustainable training opportunities for its members around environmental stewardship and disaster relief projects. These efforts helped AmeriCorps St. Louis earn the esteemed title of Challenge Champion in 2023, as the organization was able to demonstrate their commitment to continued implementation of deeper sustainability strategies.  

“This year, AmeriCorps St. Louis built on past Green Business Challenge accomplishments,” said Tim Elwell, Development Manager for AmeriCorps St. Louis. “Continuing our mission to strengthen communities and improve the environment, we introduced new initiatives and partnerships that expanded impacts beyond our operations. While we remain committed to environmental stewardship, the Challenge encouraged us to be creative about how we can implement sustainability elements throughout the organization.” 

During the 2023 Challenge, AmeriCorps St. Louis introduced an educational Green Series for its members to learn more about sustainability, featuring site visits and presentations from MOBOT (sustainable facilities), New Earth Farm (composting) and Republic Services (recycling), as well as other new topics. Additionally, the organization was invited to participate in a new project called the Life Cycle Evaluation Climate Change Bundle, which seeks to better understand the organization’s programs and its explicit connection to climate change. AmeriCorps St. Louis was one of four programs chosen to host a site visit for field and member data to contribute to Climate Change programming at AmeriCorps at the federal level.  

Other noteworthy accomplishments included supporting Treesilience, a national initiative aimed at growing healthy tree canopies and promoting urban forestry workforce development in communities where trees may be lacking or dying. AmeriCorps St. Louis members worked to fell hazardous ash trees at various parks around the region. A grant received from Wild Ones St. Louis Chapter also allowed a native plant garden to be established at AmeriCorps St. Louis’ offices in Soulard – now an officially registered native space – and has benefitted the region’s air quality. To take sustainability one step further, AmeriCorps St. Louis established a partnership with Enterprise Fleet Management to update its trucks to newer, more efficient vehicles, adding six new Chevrolet trucks to its fleet that will cut average cost per mile roughly in half. 

For more information on AmeriCorps St. Louis and how your company can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, subscribe to the Challenge’s bi-monthly E-Newsletter or visit To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, explore the Clean Air Partnership’s website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair. 

Spotlight On: Office Essentials

Office Essentials is a St. Louis-based, business products and services company that specializes in office supplies, office furniture, facilities and breakroom supplies and managed print services. With a commitment to delivering real value to customers by crafting customized yet simple plans to cut time, costs and carbon, the company takes pride in its ability to develop innovative solutions that drive long-term success for clients across various industries. This month, the Clean Air Partnership is pleased to shine a spotlight on Office Essentials for its eco-conscious product offerings and sustainability practices that helped the company earn the esteemed title of 2023 St. Louis Green Business Challenge Champion. 

“Through energy-efficient warehouse lighting and a commitment to offering sustainable business products, we illuminate a path towards a greener future,” said Kate Dougherty, president of Office Essentials. “As ambassadors for sustainable practices, we strive to not just connect with, but inspire St. Louis’ top companies and organizations in working towards a more environmentally conscious and responsible tomorrow.” 

Within its own offices, the company made several improvements to promote sustainability, including upgrades to its entire 17,500-square-foot warehouse that converted all fluorescent bulbs to LED lighting fixtures. This not only yielded high energy savings – approximately 60 watts per unit – but other environmental benefits also as LED lights contain no toxic materials, are completely recyclable and emit up to 80% less harmful greenhouse gases. Additionally, Office Essentials continued on a more sustainable path by replacing plastic cups and utensils with eco-friendly paper goods in the employee breakroom, printing double-sided in black ink only, recycling paper, plastics, and cardboard internally, as well as providing routing software to delivery drivers to shorten travel time and overall stops. To further reduce vehicle emissions from commuter travel, Office Essentials employees were given the option to choose a hybrid work schedule to support their needs and cut down their carbon footprint. 

During the 2023 Challenge kickoff, Office Essentials showcased its entire lineup of sustainable product offerings, in addition to presenting them at Washington University’s Diversity and Sustainability event. Among those products highlighted were cleaning and breakroom products produced by Highmark – a sustainable and diverse manufacturer – that included bowls made from sugar cane and plant-based plastic cups. Office Essentials also implemented website icons promoting diverse manufacturers and sustainable products to help customers make more environmentally and socially conscious purchases. 

Moreover, Office Essentials continued to incentivize customers to recycle toner cartridges by collecting them for free. This effort resulted in over 10,000 cartridges being collected and shipped back to manufacturers to be reused in producing new cartridges and drums each year. Packing deliveries for the Saint Louis Zoo in reusable totes instead of standard cardboard boxes also helped to reduce plastic pollution that oftentimes winds up in landfills and pollutes the air. 

For more information about Office Essentials’ continued efforts around sustainability and how your company can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, subscribe to the Challenge’s 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. 

Making Every Step Count for Cleaner Air and Healthier Lungs

People from all walks of life – including cancer survivors, friends, family, first responders, firefighters and more – are gearing up for the premier stair-climb event in the region this weekend. The American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb – St. Louis is returning to Metropolitan Square on Saturday at 8 a.m., featuring one-of-a-kind views and the best set of stairs this side of the Mississippi. From beginners to competitive climbers, all are encouraged to scale the building’s 42 floors by racing up its 900+ steps or taking it at your own speed to support those with lung disease who are fighting for every breath.

The goal of the event is to raise awareness and funds to support the American Lung Association’s efforts through research, education and advocacy. Registration fees and fundraising dollars will go toward helping the nonprofit organization save lives by working to defeat lung cancer and improving the quality of the air we all breathe. Today, that fight is more important than ever, and 90 cents of every dollar raised will go directly to the cause. Participants can register online through Friday or in-person on the morning of the event to climb as a team, an individual, or join as a volunteer.

When climbers get to the top, they can experience what it feels like to suffer from lung disease and empathize with individuals who unfortunately have to suffer through it every day. According to the American Lung Association’s most recent “State of Lung Cancer” report, close to 238,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year, with the rate of new cases varying by state. Missouri ranks 43rd among all U.S. states for new lung cancer case rates at 68.4 (per 100,000 population), which is significantly higher than the national rate of 54.6. While there are a variety of risk factors associated with lung cancer, overwhelming evidence shows that long-term exposure to particle pollution in the outdoor air we breathe – like that coming from vehicle exhaust, coal-fired power plants and other industrial sources – is a leading cause. This reinforces the need for everyone to step up for clean air across the country and in our communities, and taking part in an event like this one is a great place to start!

For more information on the Fight for Air Climb – St. Louis and how to get involved today, click here. For more information about the health effects of exposure to polluted air and tips to reduce emissions to help protect lung health, visit the Clean Air Partnership’s website, like us on Facebook or follow @gatewaycleanair on Twitter.

Spotlight On: RideFinders

The St. Louis regional commuter rideshare program – RideFinders – has been connecting commuters with reliable, affordable, sustainable and fun transportation to and from work since 1994. Operated by Madison County Transit, the program is driven to improve air quality in our nine-county, bi-state region by reducing traffic congestion through its carpooling and vanpooling services. This month, the Clean Air Partnership is pleased to shine a spotlight on RideFinders and acknowledge the shared desire of its riders, drivers, clients and staff to make a big difference for our planet and community.

RideFinders provides free, online ride-matching services for commuters interested in sharing the ride in their personal vehicles or by joining or forming a vanpool using RideFinders’ vans. These carpools and vanpools are paving the way to a sustainable future by taking more than 3,100 vehicles off the road, cutting 25 million driving miles and eliminating 1,710,865 pounds of air pollution each year. RideFinders’ air quality-friendly efforts earned them the title of St. Louis Green Business Challenge Leader last year for completing work with a categorized, point-based scorecard enumerating a range of fundamental sustainability measures for business operations.

“RideFinders is a longtime sponsor of the St. Louis Green Business Challenge,” said Kym Brown, Outreach Manager for RideFinders. “Our small team connects commuters to help reduce single-occupancy vehicles on our roadways. This year, our agency Madison County Transit supported us to jump on board as participants—a positive experience! Working with the Challenge staff, our Green Team learned that with a few minor practice modifications, we could significantly improve our environmental impact.”

Over the course of the 2023 Challenge, RideFinders developed its own Green Team made up of staff from several departments and participated in events like the St. Louis Earth Day Festival, where they advertised their vanpool program and handed out more than 500 vegetable plants to festival goers. Green Team members also volunteered for the St. Louis Cardinals “4 A Greener Game” to collect plastic and aluminum cans for recycling. Taking green one step further in-house, RideFinders upgraded to LED lighting in its facilities and parking lots, as well as redesigned and installed signage at all recycling bins to divert waste away from landfills and incinerators, helping to reduce the harmful effects of air pollution.

Another noteworthy initiative that helped RideFinders earn recognition in the Challenge was the continued support of regional employers through its “Do The Ride Thing” campaign. This operation helps resolve region-wide transportation challenges by getting employees to work on time and ready to go, in addition to informing them about the importance of improving air quality by carpooling or vanpooling.

For more information on RideFinders and how your company can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, subscribe to their bi-monthly E-Newsletter or visit To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, explore the Clean Air Partnership’s website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Spotlight On: Advertisers Printing Company

Advertisers Printing, a St. Louis Printing Company, offers quality custom print and direct mail solutions with a focus on sustainability. As a proud participant in the 2023 St. Louis Green Business Challenge and one of only 50 U.S. printing companies to have earned SGP (Sustainability Green Partner) Certification – the industry standard for sustainability performance – the Clean Air Partnership is thrilled to highlight the company’s commitment to eco-friendly printing solutions across all its services and processes that is having a huge impact on regional air quality.

“The Green Business Challenge gives us a forum to talk about the 20-year environmental journey at The Advertisers Printing Company,” said John Heaney, SVP, Sustainability Director at Advertisers Printing Company. “More importantly, the Challenge supports our region’s businesses to gather and bond around common environmental goals of making life better for all members of our community. Committing to a cleaner and greener region is ultimately a shared value as well as a goal.”

Over the course of the 2023 Challenge, Advertisers Printing Company developed and reported on their Champion Innovation Project of Addition by Subtraction: Replacing and Updating Legacy Hardware. The purchase of a Javelin 86000NII plate-setter, which is used for burning metal plates essential to the printing process, reduced energy use by 60% and sped up throughput time to burn a plate by 30%. Similarly, retiring the company’s 30+ year-old full-size, two-color offset press also resulted in a substantial boost in energy savings and efficiency.

To further reduce environmental impact, Advertisers Printing installed a new water bottle filling station for employees’ reusable bottles. So far, it has eliminated the use of over 3,600 single-use bottles since installation. Additionally, the company purchased a plug-in hybrid Ford Fusion that runs the first 22 miles on battery power and averages 39-49 mpg. It joins their existing fleet of five hybrids and one electric vehicle used for sales and delivery to help reduce the amount of harmful greenhouse gases emitted. Moreover, Advertisers Printing worked to educate all their stakeholders by producing a sustainability video series that highlighted potentials from decreasing their print production footprint.

These improvements not only made a positive difference for the environment, but also enhanced operational capabilities and employee satisfaction. More efficient equipment has led to lower production times and higher volumes produced using the same number of workers. As a result, employee overtime has been reduced, creating a happier and more satisfied workforce with decreased absenteeism. Last but not least, innovation curated a feeling of achievement and confidence among team members that the company is taking responsible action in terms of the environment.

For more information about Advertisers Printing’s continued efforts around sustainability and how your company can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, subscribe to their 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.

Throw Sustainability (Not Just Beads) Into the Mix for Mardi Gras 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 all day Saturday, the event is notoriously known for being anything but. In line with the parade theme – “Mardi Gras By the Numbers” – merrymakers by the tens of thousands will gather from far and wide to watch krewes ride more than 70 floats during the Grand Parade, which begins at Busch Stadium and East of Ballpark Village and proceeds through the streets of Downtown South and Soulard to the place where the King of Beers was born: Anheuser-Busch Brewery.  

On an individual level, there are plenty of ways to go green during one of the largest Mardi Pardis 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. That’s something everyone can celebrate! 

For starters, you can reduce your carbon footprint by opting to take public transportation, a shuttle, taxi or ride-share service to get to the parade and avoid the hassles of parking. While Metro will not operate a special shuttle this year, there are several transit options available to help you enjoy all the fun and festivities of this treasured St. Louis tradition. Area residents can hop on MetroLink and ride to the Stadium MetroLink Station, which is just a short walk away from the action in Soulard and Ballpark Village. MetroBus is another great way to enjoy the celebration, with the #10 Gravois-Lindell, #30 Arsenal and #73 Carondelet MetroBus routes serving stops near Soulard. Many local restaurants will also operate shuttles to and from Soulard. For real-time traffic updates to avoid delays and congestion on parade day, be sure to also check out MoDOT’s Gateway Guide at   

An estimated 17,000,000 beads will come into play Saturday, and even though they make for a great souvenir, 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 dropping them off at a local business or organization that offers a bead recycling program or channel your crafty side and try reusing them in your next art project. To further reduce your environmental impact, keep an eye out for recycling containers along the parade route to properly dispose of waste such as non-biodegradable Styrofoam cups, aluminum cans, glass bottles and more that typically get left behind and eventually wind up in landfills.  

We encourage you to incorporate sustainability into your Mardi Gras plans this year to do your share for cleaner air to help protect the planet. To learn more about the link between living greener and our air quality, visit the Clean Air Partnership’s website at, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair. Laissez les bon temps rouler! 

Local Champions for Sustainability Building a Better Region by Going Green

The St. Louis Green Business Challenge remained a leader of sustainability in the St. Louis region last year by continuing to deliver Triple Bottom Line results (fiscal, social and environmental) to businesses of all types and sizes across the bi-state metro area. Like the Clean Air Partnership, the Challenge is focused on encouraging and inspiring voluntary steps to help improve the environment and air quality in the region, and we’re pleased to highlight its tremendous impact by recognizing some of the impressive green innovations underway by several local organizations and municipalities in 2023.

The Challenge is a program of the Missouri Botanical Garden and supports integration of sustainability measures into the kinds of everyday operational practices common to every business. Participants identify and adopt strategies that improve financial performance and engage employees in voluntary measures to reduce environmental impacts. Since the program launched in 2010, 270 businesses, non-profits and municipalities have joined the Challenge. This participation has engaged over 160,000 employees and nearly 570,000 residents for a total of over 730,000 individuals influenced by this work. Their ongoing commitment to sustainability holds strong as 60% of these companies have participated in the Challenge for two or more years and 50% for three years or more.

In 2023, 56 companies, non-profits, institutions and governmental bodies participated in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge. An astounding 100% of these participants formed a Green Team to lead sustainability efforts, established or are in the process of developing a sustainability policy, kept up sustainability communications with colleagues or constituents, and either started or maintained workplace recycling, even during remote working. Furthermore, 99% of participants continued or added to Special Waste Stream Recycling and 98% provided Green Learning opportunities or Green-At-Home resources for employees.

Having now wrapped its 14th year, Challenge activity influences the business, higher education, local government and non-profit sectors of the St. Louis regional economy. The program works for building owners and tenants, supporting companies new to sustainability concepts, those already engaged and those seeking to improve, as well as high performing multi-year participants. 2023 Challenge companies also benefitted from customized coaching, including annual site visits provided by expert staff of the EarthWays Center, the Garden’s sustainability division. These services supported participating Green Teams in efficient and cost-effective sustainability work through policies and practices, in accord with each company’s unique goals and culture.

During the Challenge, participants compete with themselves to boost sustainability performance. Last year, the Challenge piloted use of an online scoring platform provided through a grant from U.S. EPA, with checklists that delivered guidance to Green Team planning and action, but not scores. With an impressive array of outcomes reported, the Challenge equally honored the commitment, persistence, and resourceful action of all participants. We’ll be profiling several of these standouts in the coming year so you can learn more.

Challenge 2024 registration opens February 1st. For more information on how to get your company or municipality involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge/Green Cities Challenge, subscribe to the Challenge’s bi-monthly E-newsletter here or visit To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, be sure to check out our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

New Year, New Resolutions to Live Greener

While it’s easy to think about all the extreme changes you’re going to make in the New Year as the old one comes to an end, by the middle of January, most of us are already finding reasons to skip the gym or break the spending freeze. However, now is the ideal time to reflect on other aspects of daily life where simple, eco-friendly changes can still have a significant impact on our health and the planet.

By adopting just one of many possible green lifestyle changes and incorporating sustainability into your daily routine, you can reduce your carbon footprint and help people all over the St. Louis region breathe easier in 2024. Here are a few tips for making green New Year’s resolutions you can keep:

  • Minimize “Phantom” Energy – If you’re unfamiliar with the term “phantom” energy, that means the electricity that different types of devices drain, even when you think you have turned them off. Since the average home has dozens of devices that cause a constant trickle of phantom load, the first month of a new year is the perfect time to audit your home. Take a close look at everything plugged in: TVs, cable boxes, game consoles, chargers, etc., as the small step of unplugging these devices when not in use can make a big difference. Otherwise, invest in power strips with switches that allow you to easily cut off power without unplugging, protecting your devices and potentially slashing up to 20% off your energy bills.
  • Support a Cycle of Reuse – Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is crucial for our air quality, and one effective way to contribute is by ensuring that items you no longer use avoid ending up in overcrowded landfills. Rather than dumping everything into plastic trash bags to throw out, consider donating your clothing, electronics, furniture, books, and other household items to second-hand stores or local charities and nonprofits who will repurpose or refurbish donated items, giving them a second life and further reducing the demand for new things and the resources needed to make them.
  • Think Globally, Buy Locally – Locally grown food offers countless benefits and also helps to reduce environmental impact. Imported food is often shipped hundreds and sometimes even thousands of miles to arrive at the supermarket. The greater distance food travels, the more fossil fuels are consumed. Buying local produce reduces the amount of travel time for big transport trucks, ultimately improving the air quality by cutting back on air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Walk, Bike or Take Public Transit – Since transportation-related emissions have always been one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, the choices people make on how to get around considerably affect air quality and the health of the region. Actions like walking and biking instead of using a vehicle for short trips, taking public transportation or sharing the ride to work in a carpool or vanpool are all great ways to reduce harmful auto emissions to help keep the air quality in healthy ranges.

For more great tips on how we can all work together to achieve cleaner air in 2024, visit our website, like the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Spotlight On: Safety National

Headquartered in Maryland Heights, Mo., Safety National is a leading specialty insurance and reinsurance provider that has offered long-term solutions to valued clients for more than 80 years. This month, the Clean Air Partnership is pleased to shine a spotlight on Safety National’s Sustainability Committee – one of only 22 organizations in the bi-state area to earn the Champion Level Award of Achievement during the 2022 St. Louis Green Business Challenge – for its commitment to implementing environmental protection and conservation practices.

“Safety National’s ESG strategy and sustainability efforts are guided by our core values and our vision to be First With Community,” said Angela Schaefer, Chief Human Resources Officer & ESG Committee Chair. “Being a good community partner starts with being a good employer. Employees are key partners on our journey to reduce environmental impacts. Safety National’s employee-led Sustainability Committee provides consistent, valuable awareness-building education, as well as opportunities to give back to the community. Corporate Operations strive to reduce environmental impacts and support employee efforts. The more we work together, the more sustainable impacts we can make.”

Among the many accomplishments that helped Safety National earn recognition in the Challenge was the installation of new solar panels on the main campus building that generated more than 80,700 kWh over the last 12 months, equivalent to a cost savings of $7,440.24. The energy produced by the solar array on the company’s secondary building is equivalent to planting 1.2 trees per day, which is a huge win for air quality! Additionally, Safety National encouraged its employees to participate in various recycling initiatives throughout the year, recycling a total of more than 11,000 lbs. of electronics, 183 lbs. of holiday lights, and collecting approximately 500 plastic bags per month that were repurposed and woven into sleeping mats for the local homeless population. Clean water filling stations were also introduced to prevent some 32,700+ plastic bottles a year from winding up at landfills as toxic waste.

Moreover, the company’s Sustainability Committee provided consistent opportunities for education and engagement, including hosting a biodiversity talk by Missouri Botanical Garden’s Jean Ponzi and a hands-on transformation contest for employees to “up-cycle” items that otherwise would’ve gone to the landfill to create beautiful decorations. Last but not least, hybrid options were increased last summer to provide flexibility for employees, allowing them to work from home two days each week to reduce vehicle miles, harmful automobile emissions, and energy and water usage on campus.

For more information on Safety National and 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.

Spotlight On: The City of Maplewood

As the Clean Air Partnership continues to highlight local municipalities dedicated to fostering sustainable environments and cleaning the air in the St. Louis region, this month we’re delighted to acknowledge some of the outstanding green innovations and achievements underway by the City of Maplewood.

Centrally located in mid-St. Louis County, the City of Maplewood proudly engaged in the 2022 St. Louis Green Cities Challenge alongside other participating municipalities that addressed sustainability within the range of operational requirements unique to their local governments. As part of the Challenge, the city incorporated a sustainability policy and practiced fundamentals, including addressing measures defined by OneSTL, the regional plan for sustainable development.

“The City of Maplewood has taken positive steps to bolster its sustainable and equitable practices and policies, in the face of the burdens of a changing climate and declining resources, for the natural and human environment,” says Stefan Denson, Chair of the Maplewood Sustainability Commission.

During the Challenge, Maplewood launched its Sustainability Action Plan outlining specific goals that describe the core of the community’s vision and represent what is necessary to become a sustainable city. Maplewood’s Sustainability Commission – which assists the city in creating and sustaining a livable, safe and healthy city and promotes the responsible use and conservation of energy and our natural resources – also lead the charge for the Mid-County Sustainability Consortium. This is a collaboration among Brentwood, Clayton, Maplewood and Webster Groves, who share a vision to create momentum for sustainability, conservation and efficiency action at the regional level.

To further reduce environmental impact, a partnership between Great Rivers Greenway and the City of Maplewood helped to stabilize the streambank and improve drainage along the Deer Creek Greenway in Deer Creek Park, which ultimately helps to reduce water quality problems and combat related air pollution. Additionally, the City’s Public Works Department and Community Development Director partnered with Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School’s Sustainability Class to design and plant the flowerpots placed in the Special Business District to promote cleaner air.

Other noteworthy accomplishments that helped earn Maplewood recognition in the Challenge include an electronics recycling event that was held for local residents and businesses, as well as the installation of a dual port electric vehicle (EV) charging system in the Special Business District to encourage the use of eco-friendlier modes of transportation within the community.

For more information on the sustainable efforts underway by the City of Maplewood 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 the Clean Air Partnership’s website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.