Spotlight On: The City of Alton

As a returning participant of the St. Louis Green Cities Challenge in 2021, the City of Alton remained committed to sustainable practices and programs that improve the health and quality of life of its community, making it a great place for individuals to live, work and play.

Founded in 1837 and located just 25 miles north of St. Louis, the City of Alton is full of historic charm, recreational opportunities, and business prospects. During the 2021 Challenge, Alton and other participating municipalities addressed sustainability within the range of operational requirements unique to their local governments, incorporated a sustainability policy and practiced fundamentals, including addressing measures defined by OneSTL, the regional plan for sustainable development.

Leading these initiatives is the Alton Cool City Committee, which strives to create a greener community now and for the future. “The biggest challenges we face – climate change and increasing gaps of income inequality – are inescapably hitched together,” said Greg Caffey Director of Planning & Development for the City of Alton. “We live in complex, challenging times. With every tree planted and each street redesigned to be pedestrian and bike friendly, with each new solar installation and restoration of a historic building, and with every public meeting attended to address racism, sexism, or sustainability we contribute to a community strong with nature’s vitality and healthy neighborhoods for all people.”

Among the city’s impressive accomplishments to receive recognition in the Challenge was the submission of an Illinois Solar For All (ILSFA) Environmental Justice Community Self-Designation application, which aims to bring solar power to areas that will benefit most from access to natural energy. This focus is based on the principle that all people should be protected from pollution and that all populations have a right to a clean and healthy environment. The city also executed an option agreement with Ameresco, Inc., a renewable energy and energy efficiency company, for the development of a solar farm at the former Alby Street landfill. Furthermore, the City of Alton worked to maintain a partnership with EPA Green Power Communities, which encourages large corporations; small and medium-sized businesses; local, state, and federal governments; non-profit institutions; and colleges and universities to use green power voluntarily to protect human health and the environment.

Additional green improvements were made in the community with the construction of the Alton Splash Pad Park that features nature-inspired play areas and interpretive displays about the Mississippi River and the importance of water stewardship. The City of Alton also amended its refuse collection agreement with Republic Services to increase the usage of recycling bins, volume pickup, and year-round recycling collection services, which helps to reduce the amount of waste that winds up in landfills and eliminates the production of harmful methane gases that pollute the air.

For additional information on the sustainable efforts underway by the City of Alton and how your municipality can get involved in the Challenge, subscribe to the bi-monthly E-Newsletter or visit stlouisgreenchallenge.com. Registration for the 2022 Challenge is also open now. To learn more about the link between sustainability and air quality, explore the Clean Air Partnership website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Spring Forward for Air Quality-Friendly Habits

As we prepare to “spring forward” one hour and adjust our clocks on Saturday night for Daylight Saving Time, that means the days will be getting longer, weather is about to get warmer and the sunshine will soon be chasing away what’s left of the winter blues. Though spring is in the air and warm weather activities that we’ve longed for are great fun, a rise in temperature can also lead to a greater risk of poor air quality conditions, which makes it good to remember that – when it comes to air quality – we can always continue to do our share for cleaner air. 

Thankfully, all it takes is a few small changes to incorporate sustainable and eco-friendly choices into our day-to-day routines. Here are some helpful tips to consider for living a greener lifestyle this spring and working to keep the air quality in healthy ranges: 

  • Walk, Bike or Take Public Transit – When weather conditions are favorable, replace car trips with walking, bicycling or using public transit to reduce air pollution. Area residents can also take advantage of other options such as carpooling or vanpooling to cut down on the number of solo commutes this spring. Fewer vehicles on the roads and highways means fewer automobile emissions, reduced traffic congestion and improved air quality.
  • Greening Your Cleaning – By making environmentally conscious choices in the way you clean, you’ll make your home (and the planet) a healthier place to live and breathe for all. Consider creating your own products by mixing a little warm water with either baking soda or white vinegar for the perfect all-purpose cleaner. You can take green cleaning one step further by opting for rags from cut up old clothes, towels, or sheets that can be washed and reused any time instead of paper towels to reduce waste and save money on paper products. 
  • Clear Out the Clutter – Spring cleaning is the perfect time to go through closets and get rid of the things you no longer need or use. Rather than dumping everything into plastic trash bags, take a few extra minutes to dispose of them responsibly and sustainably. Keep items out of overcrowded landfills by asking family and friends if they have use for any of your unwanted items or donate them to charity!
  • Make Your Cookout a Greener Event – It wouldn’t be spring without spending time outdoors and dusting off the grill to enjoy a cookout with friends and family. Charcoal grills, however, release about twice as much carbon dioxide per hour as gas grills do, so you can do your share for cleaner air by using a gas barbecue grill instead. Also, if you’re going with gas, invest in a high-quality, energy efficient model and make sure the gas tanks are refillable to cut back on cost and harmful waste. 

There’s no better time to start practicing air-quality friendly habits than with a new season upon us. By incorporating some of these tips into your everyday life, you can help people all across the St. Louis region breathe easier this spring. For more great ways to achieve cleaner air year-round, explore the Clean Air Partnership website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair. 

Spotlight On: Ameren Missouri

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 area. Like the Clean Air Partnership, the Challenge focuses on encouraging and inspiring voluntary steps to help improve the environment and air quality in the region, and we’re pleased to highlight efforts of green businesses such as Ameren Missouri that continue to take action for cleaner air by channeling their time and energy towards practicing sustainability.

A returning participant of the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, Ameren Missouri strives to ensure all customers – including the underserved and vulnerable – will benefit from their efforts. Growing energy efficiency programs to include more St. Louis homes and businesses of all sizes saves money, energy and brings the company closer to its net-zero carbon emissions goal, which is why the company elected to develop and report on their Champion Innovation Project – Leading the Way to a Sustainable Energy Future – during the 2021 Challenge.

To help reach their goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, Ameren Missouri continued to make transformative steps by adding 700 MW of wind power last year and a water reduction goal targeting 95% reduction in withdrawn water for thermal generation. Currently, recycled water is used at several company facilities with 99% of water withdrawn being discharged back to the environment.

Additionally, through Ameren Missouri’s Community Savers® Program, property owners, community managers and income-eligible customers can receive energy-saving products for their home, along with rebates when they make eligible energy efficient upgrades. Since October 2020, Ameren Missouri residential customers have received 17,279 zero cost Sensi and Nest smart thermostats to help cut down on costs and to control their energy use, which also positively benefits the region’s air quality!

Other noteworthy initiatives include a new Sustainability Employee Resource Group (SERG), which hosted a three-talk biodiversity lunch ‘n’ learn series and a company-wide, virtual sustainability scavenger hunt. Moreover, Ameren Missouri supported the successful launch of the St. Louis Vehicle Electrification Rides for Senior (SiLVERS) EV Program with charging station construction incentives to continue electrification efforts in underserved communities.

Looking ahead to a sustainable energy future, Ameren Missouri also established a Supply Chain Sustainability Department that has already engaged 92 top suppliers to discuss increasing focus on sustainable action within the company’s supply chain, in addition to updating their Supplier Code of Conduct to continue formalizing the internalization and defining of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) topics.

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

Throw Some Extra Green in the Mix for Mardi Gras Celebrations This Weekend

While the coronavirus shut down Mardi Gras parades and carnivals in cities across the globe last year, the tradition is making its highly anticipated comeback for 2022 in St. Louis. Being home to one of the largest Mardi Gras celebrations outside of the Big Easy, the crown jewel of Soulard’s Mardi Gras season returns in just a few days, where revelers from far and wide will gather for the Grand Parade that begins at Busch Stadium and proceeds through the streets of Downtown South and Soulard, ending at Anheuser-Busch Brewery. And while green is one of the three prominent colors you’re guaranteed to see this weekend, the event is notoriously known for being anything but.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to incorporate sustainability into your favorite ‘Mardi Pardi’ plans, and you might even be surprised at how simple it can be to do so. By adopting just one of many possible eco-friendly actions, you can 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, to help eliminate multiple vehicles on the roads converging in Soulard, Metro is making it easy for riders to let the good times roll on Saturday, Feb. 26, while avoiding street closures, traffic tie-ups and the search for parking. MetroLink is a convenient option with the Stadium MetroLink Station located just a short walk from all the action. Individuals can also avoid parking headaches by leaving their vehicle at one of 20 free Park-Ride lots in Missouri and Illinois and riding MetroLink, with trains arriving and departing every 10 minutes at the Stadium Station and at all MetroLink stations between the Forest Park-DeBaliviere and Fairview Heights stations. Additionally, MetroBus is another great way to get to the celebration, with the #10 Gravois-Lindell, #30 Arsenal and #73 Carondelet MetroBus routes serving stops near 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 gatewayguide.com.

It wouldn’t be a proper Mardi Gras celebration without beads, but 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. Rather than littering the streets or tossing them into trash cans, consider disposing of your beads in a proper recycling container or, if you’re in tune with your crafty side, try reusing them in your next art project. Tons of trash in the form of non-biodegradable Styrofoam cups, aluminum cans and glass bottles also get left behind on parade day, which eventually wind up in landfills, so keep an eye out for recycling containers along the parade route to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that lead to poor air quality.

Do your share for cleaner air by keeping green in your mind and not just your wardrobe this Mardi Gras. To learn more about the link between living greener and our air quality, visit our website at cleanair-stlouis.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Spotlight On: The Cities of Wentzville and Wildwood

As we’ve rounded out another extraordinary year of highlighting the tremendous work that several local organizations and municipalities have put forth to help improve the environment and air quality in their communities, we’re pleased to recognize the green efforts of two final participants from the 2020 St. Louis Green Cities Challenge – Wentzville and Wildwood, MO.   

With a strong commitment to the mission of the Green Cities Challenge, the City of Wentzville’s employee-led Green Team fosters sustainable practices citywide and encourages all employees to reduce their environmental footprints. Through quarterly meetings, projects such as pollinator plantings, holiday gift-bag exchanges, policy review and more, the city continues to be resourceful and environmentally responsible. 

For starters, Wentzville’s Parks and Recreation staff swapped out the existing Holiday Night Light scene display for LED lights. Since starting this gradual change about three years ago, the city decreased overall power usage for the displays by an astounding 62%. An additional 12,000 bulbs will be changed out this year, converting nearly all the lightbulbs to LEDs. Since LED bulbs are up to 80% more efficient than traditional lighting and draw far less power, this reduces the demand from power plants and decreases greenhouse gas emissions, which also positively benefits the region’s air quality! Additionally, the city’s Employee Committee purchased reusable utensils for quarterly staff luncheons to prevent an estimated 1,000 plastic utensils from going to landfills each year. 

To further reduce environmental impact, the city’s Stormwater Advisory Committee and Green Team completed a pollinator planting at the Schroeder Creek Boulevard – William Dierberg Drive roundabout. More than 700 native flowers were planted to help the local ecosystem and increase biodiversity. Moreover, the Green Team collaboratively built a sustainability-focused employee resource website with an assortment of eco-friendly offerings, including  a “Green at Home” section with activities like composting, rain scaping and educational activities for kids; a “Recycling in the Office” section featuring the what’s, how’s and why’s of recycling; “A Green Guide” with tips on where and how to start your sustainable journey; and a calendar of sustainability-focused days, regional events and opportunities. 

With Wildwood being one of the largest municipalities in Missouri and St. Louis County – in both population and land mass – the city has shown that it’s possible to develop businesses and build homes while protecting the beauty and space of its land. Among their impressive green innovations to receive recognition in the 2020 Challenge was a community planting project that installed at least 20 native trees and hundreds of native plants at LaCave Trailhead. The City of Wildwood also removed over 100 ash trees affected by the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive jewel beetle that feeds on ash species, and replaced over 80 trees with Missouri native species using a Tree Resource Improvement and Maintenance (TRIM) grant. Last but not least, the city installed new and improved recycling bins with relevant labels in all City Hall meeting rooms to prevent contamination to recycling and promote proper waste disposal. 

In the coming months, the Clean Air Partnership will continue to shine a spotlight on local clean air advocates and the latest St. Louis Green Business/Green Cities Challenge Class of 2021. For more information on how to get your company or municipality involved in this year’s Challenge, contact program manager Jean Ponzi at [email protected] or subscribe to the Challenge’s weekly E-newsletter here. And stay tuned for more information on registration for the 2022 Challenge, which officially opens on Feb. 21! 

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.  

 

 

Ringing in the New Year with Sustainable Resolutions

During the month of January, the “new year, new me” mentality is top of mind for many, with popular New Year’s resolutions focused on eating better, hitting the gym more, pursuing a career ambition or taking up a new hobby. While few people actually stick to extreme goals, we oftentimes overlook other aspects of daily life where simple changes can have a significant impact on our health and the planet. 

Making the conscious choice to go green in 2022 and resolving to adopt some eco-friendly actions will result in multiple positive changes to your wallet, your well-being and the region’s air quality. You might even be surprised to learn how truly easy it can be to incorporate sustainability into your everyday routine. If you’re unsure where to begin, here are a few tips to consider for greening your resolutions for the year ahead: 

  • 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.

  • Green Your Home – When your appliances have reached the end of their useful lives, opt for new ones that are Energy Star® rated to maximize efficiency. Switching out incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, putting timers on lights and investing in smart power strips will also help to eliminate unnecessary electricity use. While reducing and reusing are the most effective ways to save money and resources, recycling is another vital piece of greening your home by helping to keep waste out of landfills and turning glass, paper, plastic and other items into new materials. Set up separate recycling bins in your home so it’s easy for all family members to participate and consider purchasing recycled products to help clean the air. 
  • Nix Bottled Water – Did you know that up to 80 percent of single-use water bottles in the United States never get recycled? Not only does the production of plastic water bottles contribute significant amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, their litter lingers for years on end. Instead of buying single-use bottles when you’re out and about, consider buying a reusable water bottle you can take with you and refill as needed to cut down on unnecessary waste and help improve air quality.

  • Go Paperless When Possible – There are many places where you can opt out of paper – whether that be credit card bills, receipts or even your favorite household cleaning products. Paper towels, for example, may be useful and convenient but collectively contribute to deforestation and an ever-increasing waste problem. Microfiber cloths, cloth or cotton napkins are great alternatives to keep on hand for kitchen spills and messes that are also more sustainable and cost-effective. Signing up for online banking, opting for email versions of receipts, printing on both sides of a sheet or using the back side of old documents for scrap paper are also resourceful ways to reduce paper waste. This helps to save trees and cut back on air pollution and water consumption associated with producing and transporting paper.

  • 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 the food has to travel, 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. 

For more great tips on how we can all work together to achieve cleaner air in 2022, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair. Have a happy and healthy New Year! 

Spotlight On: Madison County Planning & Development

As the St. Louis metro area continues to experience temperatures that have been warmer than usual for this time of year, the first day of winter is just days away, highlighting the importance of maintaining our environment and air quality. That’s why this month, we’re thrilled to shine a spotlight on Madison County Planning & Development for their noteworthy green achievements and innovations that are having a positive effect on the environment and helping clear the air in the region.

During the 2020 St. Louis Green Business Challenge, Madison County Planning & Development earned the esteemed title of Challenge Champion for completing work with the Leader scorecard and committing to continued implementation of deeper sustainability strategies. The organization also elected to develop and report on an Innovation Project – Madison County Clean Communities – to promote cleaner neighborhoods, businesses and organizations.

The project is modeled after the Riverbend Trash Tag Challenge, which started when a group of Alton area residents — in partnership with Alton Main Street, the Sierra Club Piasa Palisades Group and The Nature Institute — launched a social media campaign focused on reducing litter in their community. Madison County Clean Communities (MCCC) seeks to expand the scope and scale of this existing framework to serve all of Madison County. As a result, Madison County Planning & Development launched the Madison County Clean Communities Facebook group last fall, gaining over 600 members in the first six weeks. Since then, the group has also identified over 100 individuals willing to step up as community leaders, along with over 40 potential partner groups and organizations.

“Madison County Clean Communities launched online in September, and we’re off to a great start. Community input and brainstorming processes clearly showed one thing: this program’s top value is our community members,” said Andi Campbell Yancey, Sustainability Coordinator for Madison County Planning & Development. “So many dedicated individuals throughout the county want to make a difference but aren’t sure how. MCCC aims to unite those individuals behind a common cause and connect them to resources and opportunities for sustainable action. We are so excited to grow this initiative and see what we can accomplish in the years to come.”

To further guide the program’s creation and implementation efforts, Madison County Planning & Development sustainability staff created a survey to gauge public perception on littering in the area and to identify additional community leaders, partner organizations and target areas. In all, they received more than 200 survey responses from Madison County residents to help improve the program.

Another impressive initiative that earned Madison County Clean Communities recognition in the Challenge was a focus on public outreach and education about the harmful impacts litter has on local communities, the environment and air quality. MCCC elevated its anti-litter messaging through their Small Green Steps Newsletter, social media accounts, Green Schools Program, press releases and more to do their share for cleaner air and reduce their overall carbon footprint. Moreover, MCCC has also partnered with Heartlands Conservancy to collaborate on wetlands and watershed cleanups in 2021.

For additional information on Madison County Planning & Development and how your company can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge, subscribe to their weekly E-Newsletter or visit stlouisgreenchallenge.com. 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.

Vanpooling: An Inspiring Commuter Story

Article courtesy of RideFinders and Washington University in St. Louis

Donna Krekel, Senior Research Administrator in the department of Otolaryngology, and Gary De Wet, Technical Support Specialist at the Office of WUSM Chief Information Officer, have been vanpooling to and from the WashU School of Medicine campus every day of the week for over 20 years. Their vanpool party, which has been running since 1999, counts an average of ten people. Together with Gary as the primary driver, they share their commute journey departing from Union, MO, about 47 miles and 55 minutes away from campus.

Donna and Gary’s commute is made possible by RideFinders’ vanpool program, which provides a vehicle, maintenance, insurance, and gas, for any group of five or more individuals who want to commute together. Available to all residents of the greater St. Louis area (9 counties across Illinois and Missouri), the goal of this program is to reduce emissions and enhance our regional air quality, while providing an affordable and convenient way for people to commute.

As a long-time vanpool rider, Donna says that there are countless reasons to vanpool, including the convenience of not having to maintain a car, not paying for fuel, as well as being able to use the hour-long commute there and back to take well deserved naps before or after a long workday.

Benefit #1: Save Money

Over their two decades of vanpooling, Donna and Gary have saved thousands of dollars, and this is actually the primary reason that motivated them to start vanpooling in the first place. “The cost of RideFinders is much better than paying for gas, paying for parking, and paying for the wear and tear on your vehicle,” says Donna.

Tina Johnessee, RideFinders Vanpool Outreach Coordinator, is excited to share with us that the monthly Vanpool fares were just restructured and overall lowered, including a further reduced rate for a vanpool of 10 or more riders. The fare chart determines how much each rider has to pay monthly, based on mileage, commute frequency, and overall number of riders in the party. You have guessed it, the more riders in the party; the lower the fare will be for everyone!

And there is more. RideFinders waives the monthly fare for vanpool primary drivers in exchange for driving, fueling, and administering the vanpool. A great deal according to Gary who enjoys driving “while everyone else sleep like babies.” Drivers are also provided with a debit card they can use for gas when needed, so they don’t have to advance any of their own money.

In addition, “the Med School lets us park in their parking lot for free,” says Gary, a perk for people who vanpool, “so we don’t have to pay for that either.”

RideFinders’ Commute Calculator will give you a sense of how much money you can save by switching from driving alone to carpooling, but keep in mind that savings would be even greater if you were to join a vanpool!

Benefit #2: Increase Convenience and Flexibility

Included into the monthly fare are also vouchers for the Guaranteed Ride Home Program. Vanpool riders receive up to four $125 taxi rides per year in case of emergencies, or if they have to work late or leave earlier than the vanpool’s departure time that was agreed upon among riders. “It is really good to have the cab rides home in case something happens during work or to your family,” says Donna, “the cab rides will take you back to where you need to be,” whether it’s your home, your car, or elsewhere.

Other than those exceptional circumstances, however, riding a van to work instead of driving your own vehicle means that you get more hours of free time. In Gary’s words: “Your time, all of a sudden, is your own.”

“We used to have a couple of riders who would study,” adds Donna, referring to the activities that people would do on the van to and from work, “they were going to classes so they would read on the van while they’re on their way home.”

The pick-up and drop-off spots for the vanpools can also be flexible. While the general route for Donna and Gary’s team is from Union to the WUSM campus, passengers can also get dropped off other places along the way by coordinating individually with the primary driver. “We had somebody from the zoo once,” says Donna.“We used to swing through Forest Park and pick him up at a certain spot, then drop him off wherever he needed to be.”

The parking of the vehicle overnight is another flexible variable. While Gary and his team use one of the many commuter parking lots available in the region, participants are also allowed to drive the van all the way to their home for overnight parking, which is especially convenient for those who don’t own a vehicle.

Benefit #3: Make New Friends

In Donna and Gary’s case, seeing familiar faces week after week has allowed passengers to grow friendship with one another. “I knew her kids as babies, that’s just how it is,” says Gary, referring to Donna’s son, Jimmy. “You start to know people for a long time.”

Donna and Gary laughed remembering a time, early on in their vanpool journey, when the team came together to clean the van at Donna’s house. “Jimmy was a newborn when I first started riding the vanpool; we used to put change on the floor so he could ‘clean it up.’”

Having known each other for decades, Gary and Donna’s complicity and trust is palpable. They illustrate the human connections that can flourish from sharing something as mundane as a commute with people you would have never met otherwise.

Benefit #4: Stay Safe

The actual cleaning of the van, of course, does not fall onto the shoulders of a toddler. The vehicles are usually cleaned every six months through an electrostatic cleaner, though since the start of the pandemic, a clean commute commitment was adopted to double down on sanitation practices. Included in this commitment is a mask mandate enforced throughout all the vanpool parties, and an encouragement to lower the vehicle’s windows to increase ventilation. Each vehicle is also stocked with gloves, masks, and sanitizing wipes, ensuring that every surface that is touched can also be wiped down in between each shift and transportation of passengers.

“Regardless of the pandemic, people still have to get to work,” says Tina, who was among the first of the staff to start stocking the vans full of PPE even when there was a shortage in the beginning of the pandemic. “We are here for them. We just want to make sure that the safety of the riders stays at the utmost importance.”

Vanpool Outreach Coordinator, Tina, holding the electrostatic atomizer, visits Gary’s van for sanitation.

Benefit #5: Contribute to a Cleaner Planet

In November 2020, WashU was one of three recipients of RideFinders’ 2020 Regional Sustainability Award. Having added the most participants in the past 18 months into RideFinders’ carpool and vanpooling programs, WashU is celebrated for being a player in reducing single-occupancy vehicles on the road and improving air quality in the St. Louis region.

According to RideFinders, “vanpools remove nearly 800 vehicles and 60,000 driving miles from our region’s roadways daily – easing traffic congestion for everyone.” In addition, “by reducing the number of vehicles on the road, vanpooling helps eliminate over 2 million pounds of air pollution annually – allowing everyone to breathe easier.”

“Saving money is always on the forefront of most of our minds, but I have a new granddaughter,” says Tina. “When I started working here, that was one thing that I wanted to do. I wanted to make sure that I do my part and make this world a better place for her to grow up.”

Test Drive Transit this Winter with CMT’s Try & Ride Program

Thousands of St. Louisans know that public transportation is a convenient, cost-effective and hassle-free way to get around the St. Louis region. It’s particularly viable in the winter months – as transit riders don’t have to worry about heating up personal vehicles, navigating potentially dangerous roadways nor the added expense of gasoline at a time of year when engines are less fuel efficient.

Have you ever given transit a try? Or are you one who has taken MetroLink to a ballgame or concert, but never considered it for the workday commute? If so, Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT) – the region’s transit advocacy organization – has a free, award-winning opportunity known as the Try & Ride program that might be of interest to you.

The program allows commuters to test drive the transit system for the daily work commute. Those who register for the program get personalized route recommendations, complimentary transit fare tickets and a host of tips and tricks for taking transit. The program is a two-month commitment. Complimentary transit tickets are provided for the first month and riders are required to utilize the bus or train for one additional month at their own expense. Another benefit of the program is registration in CMT’s  Guaranteed Ride Home Program, which provides access to more immediate transportation options in the case of personal emergency, sickness or unscheduled overtime by way of a taxicab, ride-hailing services like Lyft, or rental vehicle through Enterprise Rent-A-Car. CMT subsidizes the cost of 80 percent of these types of rides, up to $60 per ride, for those eligible.

“Some area residents shy away from taking public transportation because of the fear of the unknown,” stated Kim Cella, executive director of Citizens for Modern Transit. “Our programming is designed to combat this by offering commuters all the tools and resources they need to confidently navigate our region’s integrated public transit system to get where they need to go.”

To learn more the benefits of taking transit, which includes helping to clear the air, or to register for the Try & Ride program today, visit www.cmt-stl.org.  For more information on the link between sustainable transportation and our air quality, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @gatewaycleanair.

Spotlight On: The City of University City

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

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

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

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

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

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

For additional information about the ongoing sustainable efforts by University City and how your municipality can get involved in the St. Louis Green Business Challenge/Green Cities Challenge, subscribe to the bi-monthly E-Newsletter or visit stlouisgreenchallenge.com. 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.