As Air Quality Awareness Week 2013 comes to a close, The Clean Air Campaign explores current events surrounding the air we breathe from the perspective of the American Lung Association, an ally with a presence in Georgia that publishes an annual report on air quality.  In case you missed it, both organizations participated in a webinar about air quality, which you can replay here.

Thanks to the Clean Air Act, the United States continues to make progress providing healthier air. The State of the Air 2013 shows that the nation’s air quality is over¬all much cleaner, especially compared to just a decade ago. Still, over 131.8 million people—42 percent of the nation— live where pollution levels are too often dangerous to breathe. Despite that risk, some seek to weaken the Clean Air Act, the public health law that has driven the cuts in pollution since 1970.

The State of the Air 2013 report looks at levels of ozone and particle pollution found in official monitoring sites across the United States in 2009, 2010, and 2011. The report uses the most current quality-assured nationwide data available for these analyses.

Thanks to stronger standards for pollutants and for the sources of pollution, the United States has seen continued reduction in ozone and particle pollution as well as other pollutants for decades. Since 1970, the air has gotten cleaner while the population, the economy, energy use and miles driven increased greatly.

Georgia has several cities/counties with unhealthy levels of pollution. Key “State of the Air 2013” findings for Georgia include:

  • The Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Gainesville area dropped out of the Top 25 Most Polluted Cities for ozone, ranking 28th in the nation.
  • The Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta area also saw slightly higher year-round levels of particle pollution and tied for 18th for most polluted in the nation (worse than last year’s ranking of 24th).
  • Brunswick and Savannah-Hinesville-Fort Stewart were recognized as having no unhealthy days of ozone pollution.
  • Macon-Warner Robbins-Fort Valley tied for 14th for most polluted city in the nation for annual particle pollution.
  • Seven of the reporting counties received an “A” for short-term particle pollution, meaning no days of unhealthy levels of particle pollution.

The Clean Air Act calls for a review of research every five years to ensure that our standards for breathable air are safe. Sulfur levels in gasoline and cleaner vehicles are currently under review by the Environmental Protection Administration. Since half of metro Atlanta’s air pollution comes from vehicle emissions, cleaner gas and cleaner cars could make a big difference in the air we breathe.

The American Lung Association urges everyone to join the fight for clean air and to learn how to protect themselves and their families from air pollution by visiting www.stateoftheair.org.

June Deen is state director for the American Lung Association in Georgia, which is now in its second century as the leading organization in the state that is "Fighting for Air" and working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease.  June has played an instrumental role in advocacy work for many years in the state, giving Georgians a voice in the conversation about smoking issues, asthma, air pollution and public health.

The views and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The Clean Air Campaign.



Air Quality Awareness Week (April 29-May 3) is a perfect time to learn more about our region's air quality issues and what you can do to help the air we all breathe.

 

For more information, visit www.CleanAirCampaign.org/Your-Air-Quality-Transportation.



Hello, Clean Air Community!

When asked to be a part of this project, I was absolutely ecstatic, and I knew that I could use this to talk about an air quality problem that is near and dear to my heart: idling on school campuses.

I go to a large, inner-city school in Atlanta, and just about every day, while waiting for whatever after-school activity I’m doing that day to begin, I see every sort of vehicle known to man just sitting in our three separate parking lots running.

Now why do I bring this up, you ask? Cars and trucks full of teenagers and parents are at the root cause of high concentrations of air pollution around school campuses. A recent study conducted by graduate researchers at Yale University has shown that those who are regularly exposed to extreme levels of exhaust fuel that are directly related to idling vehicles develop moderate to severe asthma or other respiratory issues. These fumes accumulate at the ground level and enter both the passenger compartments of the other vehicles and even school classrooms through ventilation systems. These exhaust fumes constitute a serious health risk to children and young adults because we breathe more air relative to our body weight and our respiratory systems are still developing.

When I first read the study, I was horrified, yet unsurprised that idling vehicles outside of my school were negatively affecting my breathing air inside and out. As a Varsity soccer player, I spend a lot of time in and around school with my team. Due the built up fumes in the parking lot, my team has found that while practicing many of us with asthma have in fact been forced to sit out from breathing difficulties at least once this season.

After taking a poll of my teammates about whether they thought exhaust fumes from the parking lot negatively affected their performance on the soccer pitch, over half of the team answered with a resounding yes! I have since then begun talks with my principal about how my school community can become a part a “No Idling Campaign,” in hopes of reducing levels of diesel fuel emissions around our area.

For more information about how you and your community can also implement a program like this one, please click here.

Peyton Sammons, a 17 year old rising Senior, is a regular student blogger for The Clean Air Campaign's OnAir blog.  She loves spending time with friends, reading, writing, and volunteering throughout her community in multiple outreach programs. She is currently an International Baccalaureate student at North Atlanta High School. 



Air Quality Awareness Week, occurring April 29-May 3, 2013, gives Georgia employers, commuters, and schools reason to celebrate the milestones we've accomplished for cleaner air...and remember the items that remain on our to-do list for a better Georgia. This photo with Governor Nathan Deal was taken at the proclamation signing.

Front row (pictured from left to right): Stephanie Zhu, Program Manager, Delta Air Lines; Lauren Rolader, Student, Tucker Middle School; MiKayla Wiseman, Student, Tucker Middle School; Nathan Deal, Governor, State of Georgia; Peyton Sammons, OnAir Blogger and Student, North Atlanta High School; Tedra Cheatham, Executive Director, The Clean Air Campaign. Back row (pictured from left to right): Eric Cox, Director of Contract Services, American Coach; Bradley Kodesh, LTD Team Leader- Group Benefit Claims, The Hartford; Lesley Carter, Schools Communication Manager, The Clean Air Campaign; Ashley Bejger, Environmental Engineer, Lockheed Martin; Ricky Martin, Service Manager, Gwinnett County Government; Howard Mindel, Clean Air Commuter Champion

Thanks to a smart combination to regulatory control measures put in place over the past decade and the voluntary actions that have helped bring more commuters to use alternatives to driving alone, the quality of the air we breathe is improving in Georgia. It's what we choose to do next that will influence the air we breathe in the years ahead. There's more work to be done for cleaner air...and we are grateful that more than 1,600 Georgia employers, tens of thousands of commuters and over 350 schools made the choice to improve the air we all breathe. Happy Air Quality Awareness Week!



Happy Earth Week! What began as a single day in 1970 to raise awareness for environmental activism has become a season of events observed around the world by more than a billion people, according to Earth Day Network. What’s happening around the Peach State during this season of encouraging environmental good? Lots. Take a quick tour as Merging Lanes ventures out to find the best examples of green leadership.

Statesboro: Georgia Southern Convenes Panel for Dialog on Energy Issues
Applauded by the Princeton Review for its sustainability programs on campus, GSU recently announced the passage of a vote by students to take on a $10 fee for development of sustainability projects. The scope of victory? Some 75% of students voted yes, and the measure was then approved by the Board of Regents. GSU’s Center for Sustainability convened a panel on Earth Day featuring US Congressman John Barrow (GA-12), along with representatives from Georgia Power, The Clean Air Campaign and renewable energy firms based in Georgia. The discussion at hand was about Georgia’s energy future, with population growth on its way and increased interest in diversifying where energy comes from. According to Congressman Barrow, the “next big thing” in renewable energy at a national level of impact will require a big R&D commitment. Students in attendance also got a better picture of bio-fuel projects and natural gas initiatives that continue to gain traction here, as well as a call to action that their choices – both as consumers and leaders – will shape the future of energy in Georgia.

Lane ends 2,000 feet.

Carrollton: Keep Carroll Beautiful Considers a Greener Future
Keep Carroll Beautiful, a non-profit, hosted an air quality presentation from The Clean Air Campaign on Earth Day to help area employers, civic leaders and residents make the connection between transportation and the environment, pointing to commuting patterns that shape the region and the actions that can help reduce air pollution. In conjunction with the Great American Cleanup, Keep Carroll Beautiful was chosen as one of 10 affiliated organizations in the US to receive a grant that was used to put on the event. The big takeaway from the discussion? Air quality in Georgia is improving, but there’s always more work to do.

Lane ends 1,000 feet.

North Atlanta: Clean Air Schools Mascot “BAIR” Boogies with Captain Planet
The Chattahoochee Nature Center lined up a star-studded cast of mascots for its Earth Day celebration, involving educational programming for children and families about sustainability. Check out BAIR’s dance moves here:

 Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

Up Next: Air Quality Awareness Week in Georgia – April 29 through May 3
Watch for news in this space next week about a perennial activity that reinforces what The Clean Air Campaign is all about. Air Quality Awareness Week in Georgia takes place April 29 – May 3, with lots of discussion from every angle about the air we breathe and meaningful ways to get involved. Start by signing up for a special webinar next week about air quality, featuring insight from Clean Air Campaign executive director Tedra Cheatham and American Lung Association in Georgia state director June Deen. This webinar takes place Thursday, May 2 from 11am to noon. Register and hear about current trends influencing air quality, plus actionable ideas to fold into your lifestyle for better breathing.

Merge.

Brian Carr is Director of Communications at The Clean Air Campaign, one of several organizations in the Atlanta region that deliver Georgia Commute Options programs and services in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation. A daily MARTA rail rider, Brian uses his morning commute time on the Blue Line to read about current events and play "Words with Friends."



The Clean Air Campaign’s Executive Director Tedra Cheatham spent some time in Cobb County with Kemp Elementary students on April 18th, discussing eco-literacy and the link between humans and the environment.

The Kemp class, taught by Mary Jo Groeneveld, was part of the TAG (Talented and Gifted) program and comprised 4th and 5th graders. The class sought out Cheatham in preparation for their upcoming “Eco-literacy Day,” in which the students will give presentations on all angles of environmental consciousness, from water conservation to bird watching to, yes, air quality.

Top Row, from left to right: Ellie Brady, Joey Giunta, Tedra Cheatham, Hayden Soley / Bottom Row, from left to right: Emma Latham, Olivia Devore, Natalie Clark, Angela Henderson, David Kinsbrunner

Cheatham offered up expertise on leadership, reaching out to community, how best to communicate messages about the environment, and how The Clean Air Campaign tackles the challenge of asking people to change their behavior.

While environmentalism may seem like an unusual area of interest for elementary school-age kids, Cheatham was pleasantly surprised by the level of focus and interest the kids brought to the table.

“The thing that surprised me most about the kids was their thoughtfulness on how everything is connected,” says Cheatham. “They understood inherently how, for instance, herbicides sprayed here in our community can affect the air quality and plant and animal life in other areas. That comprehension of the interconnectivity between humans and the environment was really unexpected.”

Since The Clean Air Campaign’s Clean Air Schools programs focus so heavily on student leadership, it was encouraging to see a group of young people so invested in understanding their environmental impact. That’s an important first step toward effecting real change in their communities.

“What I would most like for them to take away is that every little thing we do adds up and contributes to making a difference,” said Cheatham.

Schools all over Georgia are educating kids about air quality and the environment! Do you have a similar story to tell? We want to hear it. Write us at Schools@cleanaircampaign.org.

Lesley Carter is the School Communications Program Manager for The Clean Air Campaign. She coordinates the Clean Air Schools team communications and oversees The Clean Air Campaign’s OnAir social media initiative, which invites Georgia teens to join the growing conversation about air quality and the environment.



Fad or trend diets are not new to us—Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, and even the Cookie Diet—the first ones popping up around the 19th century. They’ll always be around; however, according to a new study from The NPD Group, the number of people on diets has declined by more than 35 percent over the past 21 years. Is this due to the shift in what is perceived as a healthy weight? Or is it a result of people trying to be overall healthier rather than testing out fad diets? I choose to believe the latter.

You see, it hasn’t just been about improving ones diet; more and more people are embracing being ‘green.’ Americans have taken it upon themselves to join a global movement to conserve, to drive the development of eco-friendly consumption, to buy hybrids, or choose an alternative to driving alone. More and more people recycle, turn their yards into gardens, and understand the connection between saving money, helping the environment, and improving their health.

We are also seeing an increase in the use of commute options. On any given workday in metro Atlanta, around 400,000 people use commute alternatives, such as carpooling, vanpooling, using transit, or riding their bike. With busy schedules, family obligations and the day-to-day rigmarole, commuters have a hard time finding time to stay fit. By biking or walking at least part of the way into work, commuters are able get in a work out and have time to make dinner or take the kids to soccer practice. The European Journal of Epidemiology research found that commuting physical activity, independent of leisure time physical activity, was associated with a healthier level of most of the cardiovascular risk factors.

Individuals aren’t the only ones trying to make a difference in our environment and wellness. Alcoa, a maker of aluminum products, introduced an architectural panel that is not only self-cleaning but also cleans the air around it. Basically, it eats smog. If enough buildings use the product, it could have a significant impact on the air we all breathe as 10,000 square feet of its panels have the air-cleansing power of about 80 trees. Additionally, city officials in Chicago dubbed a two mile stretch of Cermak Road “the greenest street in America.” The street uses a pavement that reduces air pollution and was upgraded using various green technologies as part of a project to explore how sustainability in infrastructure can help solve larger environmental problems.

While our perceptions towards healthy weights may have changed over the past two decades, our attitudes towards keeping our bodies, minds, and planet healthy have improved. If you’re interested in being healthier you can choose to eat better, work out more, learn about the health effects of poor air quality, or switch up your commute. Even the smallest adjustments can make a big difference.

Jenny Schultz is the Communications Specialist with The Clean Air Campaign, one of several organizations in the Atlanta region that deliver Georgia Commute Options programs and services in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation. Jenny commutes by MARTA rail and currently spends her time on the train reading "Stranger in a Strange Land." 



I’ve been a part of The Clean Air Campaign for eight years this August (and yes, time DOES fly when you’re having fun!). Over my years here, I’ve assisted with employer services and events, and am currently an Employer Program Manager for the State of Georgia agencies and the I-75 South region.

During any given day, I could be giving a presentation to multiple organizations on the importance of clean commuting to work as a means of reducing traffic and improving air quality. I could be counting commuters in a parking lot near you or rewarding a commuter for keeping 50,000 pounds of pollution out of the air. Like my co-workers, I spend my days trying to encourage Georgians to see the benefits of ridesharing and teleworking, joining a vanpool or walking to and from work in effort to make a difference.

Then, after the day is done, I go home. Like a lot of us, I take off my work hat, and put on my parent one. Little did I know that my work at The Clean Air Campaign would ever overlap so greatly in both my work and parenting roles. You see, my daughter relies heavily on me--because she is affected greatly by smog, and she relies on programs like ours to improve air quality. My daughter is one of many children that is treated for Reactive Airway Disease, or RAD. Smog hits her harder, and makes me work harder.

Let me preface this by saying a) I’m not a doctor or medical professional (nor claim to be), and b) there is very little of the medical terminology that I understand. But, I do know this:

We see a fabulous Pediatric Pulmonologist almost once a month and use inhalers and nebulizers twice daily. My daughter is susceptible to wheezing and coughing fits that often escalate with exposure to certain elements, including smog. In “Clean Air” terms, we pay extra close attention to smog and Smog Alerts daily. Luckily we haven’t experienced a Code Purple day since I’ve been with The Clean Air Campaign, but, we have had some Code Red days and many Code Orange days, and we don’t like those either.

So, as an employee of The Clean Air Campaign, I encourage you to research your clean commute options, and know what is happening to the air we all breathe on our daily commutes, such as every mile we’re not driving alone helps prevent one pound of pollution and carbon dioxide from going into the air. As a parent, I ask you what you are going to do to keep the air clean for our kids to breathe, play and grow.

Earth Day is coming up on April 22 and Air Quality Awareness Week in Georgia takes place April 29-May 3, 2013. To celebrate, why not clean commute for the first time? Every little bit helps little lungs (and big ones) breathe easier. And, if you have questions or need help finding the perfect clean commute, I may know some people.

Lettie Hernandez Ongie is an Employer Program Manager with The Clean Air Campaign. For the past six years, she has assisted the State of Georgia’s various agencies with implementing clean commute options and programs, her personal favorites being Telework & Compressed Work Weeks. An avid teleworker, Lettie enjoys using her extra hour saved on telework days to spend time with family and blog.



Metro Atlanta is about to get swept into the frenzy of college basketball’s Final Four, which will tip off in a matter of days to the delight of local sports fans and bracket barons. According to some estimates, the business world forfeits some $143 million in lost productivity due to the siren song of March Madness. So, while there is a break in the action, allow Merging Lanes to drop some knowledge on you about all things transportation and air quality.

Nothin’ But ‘Net: EPA Shares Best of Air Quality Mobile Apps
Looking to expand your smartphone’s app library with something practical? The US Environmental Protection Agency has gathered the very best in apps to help you learn about and protect the environment via their “My Green Apps” portal. Want to calculate your carbon footprint or get a better read on your driving habits? Looking for filling stations that can handle alt fuel vehicles? Seeking air quality info or perhaps an impromptu ride across town? It’s all here for your smartphone. You can even suggest other useful green apps to add to the list. Worth a glance for new apps you can use.

Lane ends 2,000 feet.

Clock Management: Xpress Bus Rider Turns Drive Time to “Me” Time
Congrats to Cassie W. from Jonesboro, winner of the Georgia Commute Options Facebook contest that asked green commuters to describe how they spend the time they reclaim on their daily commute to do the things they enjoy. According to Cassie, “I have rediscovered my love of books while riding the Xpress bus each day.” While you’re out and about later this week, look for her story on digital billboards around the region.

Way to go, Cassie! And when you’re ready to follow Cassie’s lead and reclaim up to an hour out of your day to do something other than stare at the red taillights ahead of you, you know where to find solutions.

Lane ends 1,000 feet.

Foul Line: Tailpipes and Idling Vehicles Cited in New Study on Asthma
New research coming out of Europe explores the link between vehicle exhaust emissions and childhood asthma. While it is well-established that tailpipe fumes trigger episodic asthma attacks in young people, a study of 10 European cities found that children living near roads with higher concentrations of air pollution are 14% likelier to develop asthma. This has implications for everything from reshaping urban planning best practices to establishing more No-Idle zones.

Lane ends 500 feet.

Parting Shot: Turn March Madness into April Sanity
If there were a bracket for less traffic and cleaner air, this is how it might look from our perspective:

When more people choose commute options, everybody comes out a winner.

Merge.

Brian Carr is Director of Communications at The Clean Air Campaign, one of several organizations in the Atlanta region that deliver Georgia Commute Options programs and services in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation. A daily MARTA rail rider, Brian uses his morning commute time on the Blue Line to read about current events and play "Words with Friends."



I’m a huge fan of Wikipedia. If I’m challenged to find the correct words to explain something, I’ll go to my Wikipedia app and simply read the definition. I have found Wikipedia to be a good, reliable source of knowledge. Recently, after hearing about a 48-page report that the National Wildlife Federation issued on climate change, I wondered if I really understood what it was and how it was affecting our world. NWF called climate change “the biggest single threat to wildlife in this country.” That’s a bold statement. There is reference in the report to 177 bird species in North America that have shifted their range northward by an average of 35 miles because of warming temperatures. Being an avid animal lover, I needed to learn more.

Climate change is not an easy topic to explain, so I looked to my trusty friend, Wikipedia or “Wik” for short. Wik states that climate change is, “a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years.” After reading more, I wanted to know why a change in weather patterns could threaten wildlife so drastically. To me, it seemed like the animals would be able to adapt. After reading an article on the NWF report, I found out that the problem is how drastic the temperatures are changing—a 7-10 degree warming of global temperatures during a period of 100 years would guarantee the demise of many species as they are forced into an evolutionary dead end.

The Wikipedia entry further explained that climate change is caused by factors that include oceanic processes, variations in solar radiation received by Earth, plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions, and human-induced alterations of the natural world; these latter effects are currently causing global warming, and ’climate change‘ is often used to describe human-specific impacts.

Human specific impacts… so, technically we are a part of the reason why the birds have had to shift their flight pattern. The good news is that there is a way for us to stop this. Specifically, according to NWF, “Any solution to climate change will involve diminished use of fuels that pump carbon into the atmosphere.”

I've learned from working at The Clean Air Campaign that every mile we drive is putting a pound of pollution and CO2 into the air. If your commute is 15 miles in to work, then you are putting 30 pounds of pollution in to the air every day you drive to work. If, however, you carpool to work with three other people – you are reducing the pollution you emit by 90 pounds every day. That’s huge!

Just for fun, I asked Wik to explain carpooling and was offered that, “carpooling (also known as car-sharing, ride-sharing, lift-sharing and covoiturage), is the sharing of car journeys so that more than one person travels in a car. By having more people using one vehicle, carpooling reduces each person's travel costs such as fuel costs, tolls, and the stress of driving. Carpooling is also seen as a more environmentally friendly and sustainable way to travel as sharing journeys reduces carbon emissions, traffic congestion on the roads, and the need for parking spaces.” Maybe if more people carpooled or chose other options like vanpooling, walking, taking mass transit, teleworking or riding their bike, we could slow down the drastic change in our climate. I bet Wik would agree.
 
Beth Ament is the Employer Services Team Manager at The Clean Air Campaign. She is the sustainability subject matter expert and also helps manage the outreach team as they deliver Georgia Commute Options programs and services in the Atlanta region. A frequent teleworker and MARTA rail rider, Beth dedicates time to practicing yoga and hiking with her dog.