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.

Spotlight On: The City of University City

With sustainability gaining steam as a key goal for St. Louis area municipalities, the Clean Air Partnership continues to use our blog to highlight some of the incredible eco-friendly initiatives underway in several cities across the region. These efforts are not only improving the environment, but are also helping to reduce air pollution in the region. This month, we’re shining a spotlight on the City of University City.

In recent years, University City has been a participant in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge and the recently created Green Cities Challenge. And, the city has made great environmental strides as part of its involvement in both initiatives.

The Green Business Challenge is a joint program of the St. Louis Regional Chamber and the Missouri Botanical Garden that helps businesses of all types and sizes to integrate “Triple Bottom Line” (fiscal, social and environmental) measures into the kinds of daily operations common to every business. Participants identify and adopt strategies that improve financial performance and engage employees in voluntary measures to reduce environmental impacts. In 2015, the Green Cities Challenge was established to give St. Louis area municipalities a new way to get involved in the Green Business Challenge and to provide the cities with opportunities to learn how to incorporate sustainable policies and practice sustainable fundamentals within their local government business operations.

Many of University City’s sustainable efforts have been focused on recycling, storm water management and energy efficiency. The city has implemented a commercial recycling initiative that has grown to include 145 members. The city’s updated recycling deposit center accepts typical items, like cardboard and glass, along with textiles and plastic film. The City’s recycling center has also started using a cardboard compactor, has updated its signage and has begun distributing educational materials to area residents. The city also continues to expand its stormwater management efforts by requiring downspout disconnections to sewers and is helping the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District curb water pollution. University City is one of the 58 St. Louis area municipalities that has agreed to comply with permit requirements for the St. Louis Metropolitan Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4). The general permit for small MS4s requires the development and implementation of a formal, written stormwater management program plan.

The city has also worked to replace inefficient lighting, resulting in an energy savings of 100,000 kWh per year. And, to help reduce emissions, the city’s Green Practices Commission is examining ways to enforce “No Idling” policies at area schools, and for University City vehicles.
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 sustainable efforts underway in University City, check out the St. Louis Green Business Challenge website at http://stlouisgreenchallenge.com/.

Rising temps lead to increased risk of poor air quality

The start of summer is just around the corner in the St. Louis area, and with it we’re enjoying blooming flowers and trees, extra hours of daylight and warmer weather. While most of us love this time of year and the opportunity to get outside, the season also signals the start of an increased risk of poor air quality conditions.

As temperatures rise, sunlight and heat react with emissions from motor vehicles, industrial facilities and other sources to create ozone pollution. The health effects of the poor air quality that result from ozone pollution are numerous and can include shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, headaches, nausea, eye and throat irritation and decreased lung function.

With the region settling into the time of year when air quality conditions are often at their worst, it’s critical for area residents to monitor the air quality forecast. When conditions are expected to enter the unhealthy orange and red ranges, individuals are encouraged to step-up their voluntary efforts to reduce emissions by taking actions like using transit, carpooling, vanpooling, choosing not to idle, telecommuting and combining errands into a single trip.

To sign-up to receive the air quality forecast via email, visit our homepage. Throughout the summer, the forecast can also be found on our Facebook page or on Twitter @gatewaycleanair. For additional information on the health effects of poor air quality and tips designed to help reduce emissions, individuals are encouraged to explore our website.

St. Louis area no longer among “most-polluted” cities

Data from the American Lung Association’s 2017 “State of the Air” report has revealed that the St. Louis area is no longer ranked among the top 25 most-polluted cities in the U.S. This news reflects an overall trend in improved air quality nationwide, highlighted by lower overall ozone levels and lower year-round particle levels.

Despite this positive news, the report also notes that 40 percent of Americans are still living with unhealthy air. And, while the St. Louis area may no longer be on the 25 “most-polluted” cities list, air pollution continues to be a serious health concern for area residents. Regionwide, air pollution affects all of us – especially children, the elderly and the many individuals that suffer from respiratory disease.

As the St. Louis prepares to settle into the summer months when air quality conditions are often at their worst, the Clean Air Partnership is reminding area residents that their voluntary efforts to reduce emissions remain critical in the fight for cleaner air.

On May 1, the Clean Air Partnership will resume its daily air quality forecasts and will also ramp up its efforts to educate St. Louis residents on the health effects of air pollution and the steps they can take to keep air quality in the healthy range. Since commuting has one of the most profound effects on our air quality, actions like using transit, carpooling, vanpooling, telecommuting and combining errands into a single trip can help reduce emissions when poor air quality is forecasted. Choosing to avoid vehicle idling is another key step area residents can take to help improve air quality.

For additional information on the health effects of poor air quality and tips designed to help reduce emissions, individuals are encouraged to explore our website, like the Clean Air Partnership on Facebook or follow @gatewaycleanair on Twitter. To access the American Lung Association’s 2017 State of the Air report, visit www.lung.org.

Spotlight On: The City of Maplewood

With sustainability gaining steam as a key goal for St. Louis area municipalities, the Clean Air Partnership continues to use our blog to highlight some of the incredible eco-friendly initiatives underway in several cities across the region. These efforts are not only improving the environment, but are also helping to reduce air pollution in the region. This month, we’re shining a spotlight on the City of Maplewood.
In recent years, Maplewood has been a participant in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge and the recently created Green Cities Challenge. And, the city has made great environmental strides as part of its involvement in both initiatives.

The Green Business Challenge is a joint program of the St. Louis Regional Chamber and the Missouri Botanical Garden that helps businesses of all types and sizes to integrate “Triple Bottom Line” (fiscal, social and environmental) measures into the kinds of daily operations common to every business. Participants identify and adopt strategies that improve financial performance and engage employees in voluntary measures to reduce environmental impacts. In 2015, the Green Cities Challenge was established to give St. Louis area municipalities a new way to get involved in the Green Business Challenge and to provide the cities with the opportunity to learn how to incorporate sustainable policies and practice sustainable fundamentals within their local government business operations.

During 2016, the City of Maplewood has achieved EPA Green Power Community status via solar installations on city buildings and the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits. As a result, residents and businesses are matching 6 percent of the city’s energy use with green energy. Annually, Maplewood is supporting more than 7 million kilowatt-hours of green power, which is equivalent to the electricity used in nearly 700 average American homes. This cut in energy use has an environmental impact that is equal to removing over 1,200 cars from the road for one year, and is helping to improve the quality of the air we breathe.

Earlier sustainable accomplishments made by Maplewood include the establishment of the first Green Dining District in the nation, with 10 community restaurants attaining certification through the St. Louis Green Dining Alliance.

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 sustainable efforts underway in Maplewood, check out the St. Louis Green Business Challenge website at http://stlouisgreenchallenge.com/.