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.

A Sustainable Holiday Season is the Gift That Keeps on Giving

While living a more sustainable lifestyle is a great goal to have when thinking ahead to resolutions for 2024, holiday celebrations present a special opportunity to ring in the season with a more modest footprint. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s alone, waste production jumps 25%, adding an extra one million tons of waste to landfills each week. 

Though that may come as a shock, there are many ways to combat unnecessary waste and help keep the festive spirit alive. The more people that work to save energy and resources during the most wasteful time of year, the bigger the impact that can be made. Here are some tips to keep in mind to make going green a new treasured holiday tradition: 

  • Think Globally. Buy Locally. – Whether you’re heading to the mall or local family-owned shop for last minute gift shopping, remember the less you have to drive, the better for the environment. Additionally, if you’re planning to host a festive holiday feast this year, consider shopping for sustainable produce from your local farmers. Not only does local organic food taste better, but you’ll also be doing your part for the community and the planet. Likewise, consider swapping out disposable plates, cups, napkins and silverware for your favorite set of dishes this year instead to take green dining one step further.
  • Travel Sustainably – Greener holiday travel starts before even leaving the house. The more weight trains, planes and automobiles have to carry, the more fuel they use, and the more harmful greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. So, be conscious of how many extra items overall you are packing to lighten the load and help keep the air quality in healthy ranges. If you’re traveling to visit family by your own personal vehicle, routine maintenance steps like checking engine performance and keeping tires properly inflated are ideal ways to help reduce emissions and fuel consumption. Traveling by bus or train are also great options that can offer a certain level of convenience, particularly if the weather and roads are bad along your route. 
  • Properly Dispose of Your Tree If your holiday includes a tree, and you opt for an artificial one, box it up once the season is over and save it for years to come. When you finally need to get rid of it, do your best to recycle or donate it to help avoid the hazardous landfill. For real trees that still have the root ball attached, consider re-planting it in your yard after the holidays; otherwise, dispose of the tree at a composting or chipping facility in your neighborhood to do your share for cleaner air. St. Louis City residents can take their bare holiday tree to one of three, self-service drop off locations (Forest Park, O’Fallon Park and Carondelet Park) to be recycled December 26th through January 9th. 

A few small changes to go green for the holidays can make all the difference in helping people across the region breathe easier. To learn more about the link between living greener and our air quality, visit the Clean Air Partnership’s website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair. 

Spotlight On: Saint Louis Art Museum

Founded in 1879, the Saint Louis Art Museum is a world-renowned fine arts museum known for its outstanding and comprehensive collection spanning 5,000 years of cultures and genres. The Clean Air Partnership is pleased to recognize Saint Louis Art Museum’s air quality-friendly efforts that earned them the esteemed title of St. Louis Green Business Challenge Champion last year for completing work with the Leader scorecard and committing to continued implementation of deeper sustainability strategies. 

“The Saint Louis Art Museum continually values the St. Louis Green Business Challenge as a guide to achieve our sustainable goals,” said Maria Kveton, Museum Event Manager and Green Team Leader at Saint Louis Art Museum. “Having access to free tools such as the Virtual Brown Bag seminars and GreenBiz Tracker allows the Art Museum to connect with peers and learn about local green vendors and sustainable initiatives, and it helps us better track and report our efforts.” 

During the 2022 Challenge, the Saint Louis Art Museum replaced air handling units in its east main building to qualify for energy rebates and continued to retrofit lighting to energy-efficient LEDs in all Museum buildings. Doing so not only cut down on light pollution but also conserved up to 80% more energy than traditional lighting, such as fluorescent and incandescent bulbs. Additionally, by putting all hot water pumps into a loop system with frequency drives, the Museum helped to save energy by controlling motor speed and output, as well as further reduced energy consumption through improving domestic hot water system flow and heating the water with boilers instead of electricity to improve air quality. 

Last but not least, the Museum’s Green Team organized various eco-conscious events and activities, including an air quality-friendly volunteer litter cleanup in Forest Park for Earth Month, a virtual brown bag with recycling updates from the St. Louis City Recycles team, and a Green Living Festival Pop-up with the EarthWays Center of Missouri Botanical Garden that featured festival exhibitors in Sculpture Hall, a tour of the Art Hill flower gardens led by staff of Forest Park Forever, Museum docent tours highlighting works of art made with discarded or reused objects, and a presentation on eco-criticism by art curator Amy Torbert. They also established a checklist to reduce waste at future Museum events. 

For more information on the green efforts underway by the Saint Louis Art Museum and how your organization or 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. 

Spotlight On: The City of Webster Groves

As the Clean Air Partnership continues to spotlight local municipalities committed to practicing sustainability, we are pleased to recognize Webster Groves for its dedication to implementing green strategies to maintain and improve a lasting quality of life for present and future generations, while retaining and improving its beautiful natural resources and environment. 

A proud participant in the 2022 St. Louis Green Cities Challenge, Webster Groves prioritized Phase 1 goals from its “Forever Webster Groves” Sustainability Plan developed by the Sustainability Commission, which will light the path to a sustainable future for all who live and work there. This plan provides objectives, methods and actions to tackle short- and long-term strategies to address environmental changes, strengthen sustainability and build a community of responsible stewards. 

“Connecting with other cities in the Challenge has been a source of inspiration,” said Jamie Hasemeier, Sustainability Commission Chair for Webster Groves. “Folks are doing remarkable things and the willingness to share their process and successes is beyond valuable. The Green Cities Challenge helps to create the spirit of collaboration, where connections are made, shared and valued. To work in sustainability requires one to have a healthy dose of hope. Being a part of the Challenge helps put that hope into action.” 

Among the city’s other impressive accomplishments to receive recognition in the Challenge was the introduction of new bike lanes and “sharrows” – which are road markings used to indicate a shared lane environment for bicycles and automobiles – during its Webster On Wheels (WOW) community bike event. The new lanes provided a three-foot buffer between pedestrians and the driving lanes to amplify safety measures and encourage residents to cycle more around their community. Additionally, the city participated in several community-wide events to hand out reusable bags to residents and discuss the many benefits of reducing plastic usage, which also largely benefits the region’s air quality. 

Moreover, city events like the “Pumpkin Smash” collected rotted pumpkins for composting following the Halloween holiday to help create nutrient-rich soil and reduce the amount of harmful methane gases that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. To further reduce environmental impact, the city also analyzed next steps for increasing electric vehicle charging availability and reducing energy consumption, as well as prepared ways to benchmark greenhouse gas emissions for city buildings. 

The Clean Air Partnership is pleased to recognize the efforts of municipalities like Webster Groves that continue to take action for cleaner air. For more information on the sustainable efforts underway by Webster Groves and how your organization or 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. 

Giving Thanks for Cleaner Air

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, it’s a special time to come together with family and friends for a delicious meal and reflect on the many things to be grateful for. Unfortunately, this time of thankfulness tends to also become a time of wastefulness, as studies show that people living in America produce 25% more waste during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. 

As we plan out all the dishes that will be on our tables this year, it’s important to consider the impact that certain holiday traditions have on the planet and commit to greening dining festivities. That’s something for which everyone can be thankful, but it’s particularly meaningful for children, older adults and those who suffer from lung diseases that make them especially vulnerable to poor air quality. 

Start by sourcing as many of your ingredients as possible locally to help reduce emissions produced by transport trucks. The less your produce has to travel, the less waste is produced, and the smaller the environmental impact. With so many loved ones gathered at the table for Thanksgiving dinner, it’s also not uncommon for regular plates, cups, napkins and silverware to be swapped out for disposables. Instead of buying tableware for one-time use, opt for your favorite set of dishes this year since small changes can lead to a much bigger effect, helping to keep the region’s air quality in healthier ranges. 

With the holiday season also comes the spending season, where so many take advantage of can’t-miss deals this time of year. For those who want to shop but avoid the lines, Cyber Monday offers all the benefits of Black Friday shopping but from the comfort and convenience of your home, creating a stress-free experience that helps reduce environmental impact and improve air quality. Keep in mind that consolidating your online orders to one store also eliminates the need for excess packaging. Moreover, if you’re planning to purchase any electronics or appliances, go for the best green alternatives by checking for the ENERGY STAR® mark. ENERGY STAR-certified products use less energy than standard models, ultimately saving money on utility bills while helping to protect the environment and clear the air. You can also make sustainable purchase decisions by choosing products made from eco-friendly materials, such as organic cotton or recycled plastic, or buying an experience to gift. 

This Thanksgiving, when counting life’s blessings and listing those things to be grateful for, don’t forget to add clean air to the list. And thank you for all you do so we can all breathe easier. To learn more, visit our website tips section at, like the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair. 

Spotlight On: MTM, Inc.

Headquartered in Lake Saint Louis, Mo., MTM is a medical and transportation management company whose mission is to partner with clients in developing innovative solutions for accessing healthcare, increasing independence, and connecting community resources in the most cost-effective manner. MTM demonstrates a strong commitment to sustainability and actively takes steps to reduce its carbon footprint and make a positive impact in the community. Last year, MTM earned the esteemed title of St. Louis Green Business Challenge Champion for completing work with the Leader scorecard and committing to continued implementation of deeper sustainability strategies.

“At MTM, initiatives related to sustainability and protecting our environment are the threads weaving our existence,” said Alaina Maciá, President and CEO of MTM. “We think carefully about our approach to sustainability, and we are proud to lead the transportation industry in mitigating the impacts of climate change through more sustainable transportation solutions. We have a long way to go, but we’re taking significant steps to reduce our carbon footprint and make a positive impact on our industry, and our Earth as a whole, as we seek to make transportation more sustainable for future generations.”

During the 2022 Challenge, MTM implemented a new transit per diem incentivizing staff to utilize public transportation or rideshare services as an alternative to car rental while traveling for business, which helps to reduce the number of vehicles on the road and largely benefits air quality. As an added bonus, the company offered a travel training program with partners like Metro Transit in St. Louis and other U.S. public transit agencies to educate riders on using these public services safely and effectively. MTM also conducted a social media and internal campaign to gain valuable insight on what employees love most about telecommuting and how it supports sustainability efforts.

Other noteworthy accomplishments include an update to the headquarters roof with a heat-reflecting, white silicone coating and installation of a higher efficiency air conditioning system. To further reduce waste and environmental impact, MTM introduced water bottle filling stations and provided employees with glass water bottles and reusable coffee mugs. Several staff members committed to practicing sustainability outside the workplace as well by participating in Earth Month activities and plastic-free challenges, eating more vegan meals, completing at-home energy and waste audits and more.

The Clean Air Partnership is pleased to recognize the efforts of businesses such as MTM, Inc. that continue to take action for cleaner air by channeling their time and energy towards practicing sustainability. For more information on the sustainable efforts underway by MTM and how your organization or 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.