Posts tagged with air quality
Here in Atlanta, 1.6 million people commute to work every day, and nearly 50 percent of those folks have commutes that take more than 30 minutes.
At Georgia Power and Southern Company, we have a program called SmartRide that promotes alternative commuting options and flexible work schedules. It's a great way for our employees to cut their driving expenses and time spent in traffic while improving the quality of our environment.
Georgia Telework Week is this week (Sept. 12-16), and telecommuting is one of the key aspects of our SmartRide program. Altogether, we have more than 800 employees who telework in one form or another. Some do it full-time, others do it part-time, and we have employees whose jobs are more suited for teleworking occasionally. It's a decision that involves each employee and his or her manager or supervisor.
In addition to telecommuting, SmartRide encourages employees to use alternative transportation. The company provides subsidies for employees who carpool, vanpool or use public transportation. Not only that:
- We provide a corporate shuttle between our two downtown Atlanta locations and the closest transit station. The shuttle runs continuously every workday between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.
- We make fuel-efficient loaner vehicles available for SmartRiders to use during the day for business and personal reasons.
- We provide employees a guaranteed ride home in emergency or unscheduled overtime situations.
Our SmartRide program also asks employees to consider whether a compressed schedule might work for them (for example, working four 10-hour days each week) or whether they can stagger their work hours so they're not commuting downtown during peak times.
The driving force behind SmartRide is improving the quality of the air we breathe. That’s why our company has joined many others around Atlanta in support of The Clean Air Campaign. We’re encouraging employee participation in SmartRide, we're tightening power plant emissions, and we’re increasing our fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles.
Already, our employees in the SmartRide program avoid driving 1.3 million miles each month, which equates to more than 62 tons of emissions not being released into the atmosphere every year.
I could go on and on about the environmental benefits of SmartRide. But think about how it would be less stressful to eliminate all, most or some of the time you spend behind the wheel.
Think about how much money you could save on gas and wear and tear on your car if you weren't always driving solo to work.
Think about how productive you could be working from home and how much easier it would be to balance your work and personal time if you could negotiate a telework schedule with your supervisor.
We think SmartRide is a pretty smart choice.
Kirby Stough is manager of facilities planning and projects at Georgia Power.
During Georgia Telework Week, watch this space for other guest blog posts from Clean Air Campaign employer partners and commuters who appreciate that sometimes the best commute is the one we don't have to make.
Some of the best work being done anywhere for less traffic and cleaner air is happening right here in Georgia. That was the message at the PACE Awards, which drew more than 200 guests to celebrate the good news about transportation and air quality.
The ceremony, held this morning at the Georgia-Pacific building in downtown Atlanta, recognized a total of 15 employers, property managers, individuals and schools for their work on programs that encourage the use of commute options and yield demonstrable results. Get more details on winners and finalists here.
It’s hard to believe that 15 years have passed since the 1996 Olympic Games. This two-week event fostered unprecedented growth in the region and recognition for years after the closing ceremonies, truly solidifying Atlanta as an international city.
As we commemorate the 15th anniversary of Atlanta's Olympics, it's understandable if many Georgians who were part of the experience are feeling a bit nostalgic. Some of us may even be tempted to dust off our Izzy memorabilia. But those involved with The Clean Air Campaign are excited to celebrate the occasion for a different reason: the Olympic experience shaped our mission for less traffic and cleaner air, providing a glimpse into what was possible.
As the 1996 Olympics approached, senior business and political leaders agreed that traffic congestion and poor air quality could have an adverse impact on the success of the Games. Atlanta had cultivated an image as the City that would carry off the biggest, most successful Games in history. This required not merely facilitating the 10,000 athletes involved, 15,000 members of the international press and more than 2 million spectators on hand, but also ensuring that gridlock and poor air quality issues did not upstage the Games. All agreed this would require significant efforts to reduce normal traffic congestion in the region. For their part, the business community agreed to take steps to encourage employees to significantly reduce commuting trips during the period of the Games. In preparation for this effort, The Clean Air Campaign was officially launched in the late-spring of 1996.
The arrival of the "Games of the 100th Olympiad" brought unparalleled excitement for many, but employers and commuters were concerned about the impact of millions of visitors on Atlanta's transportation network. How would the business community be able to conduct business as usual during the Olympics if employees couldn't get downtown? And so, a business strategy came into focus, albeit years ahead of its time. Allowing employees to work from home or from remote locations (telework) would help keep them out of traffic and be productive. Ask anyone who traveled the roads at rush hour during this time and they'll tell you it was surprisingly empty. A vision for less traffic was achieved in part through the proactive, business-driven decisions of Atlanta employers.
At this same time, Atlanta's environmental and health communities observed a remarkable trend. Air quality in the region actually improved during the Olympics. No Code Red or Code Orange exceedences for ground-level ozone or particle pollution were observed. A study even found area visits to emergency rooms for respiratory illness declined 40% during this timeframe. With half of all smog-forming emissions in the region coming from tailpipes, this unexpected and positive news on air quality validated the notion that voluntary actions could move the needle toward cleaner air.
Fifteen years after the Olympic cauldron went dark, there is still much to celebrate. The Clean Air Campaign and its partners currently work with more than 1,600 Georgia employers across the state on commute options programs that improve employee productivity and morale. Tens of thousands of Georgia commuters have also changed their commute activity with assistance and resources from The Clean Air Campaign and more than 330 Georgia schools are involved in the Clean Air Schools program, educating future leaders about the importance of air quality. Nearly a decade has passed since the region last experienced a Code Purple exceedence for ozone, and the number of Code Red exceedences has declined significantly.
The transformational impact of the Summer Games on this region will always be a point of pride. So, too, is the mission for less traffic and cleaner air.
This just in: it’s hot out there. Through June 4, Metro Atlanta’s blistering heat wave, mixed with pollution from tailpipes, has caused the region to ring up five days in the last week and half where ground-level concentrations were considered “unhealthy for sensitive groups.” Children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions are most vulnerable to ground-level ozone exposure, which can inflame airways and lungs, making it tough to breathe.
What’s the antidote to this recent string of Code Orange ground-ozone days? Certainly some sustained rainfall would help flush out some of the problem. Cooler, windier conditions could help bring some relief, too. But the latest weather forecast for the Atlanta region projects the strongest chances of rainfall may not come until after next weekend. And Mother Nature has a reputation for being a fickle gal. That’s why it’s up to individual commuters to take charge, to the extent that our choices can move the needle on smoggy conditions. Half of Atlanta’s ground-level ozone emissions come from tailpipes. So reduce your contribution to the problem. Here are a few easy ways to help:
- Commit to carpool, vanpool or ride transit to your job. Ask your boss for permission to telework. There are loads of services available from The Clean Air Campaign to help make any of these options more possible for you than you might think. Call 1-877-CLEANAIR or e-mail us and we’ll help you get started.
- If you have to be out and about in your car, avoid unnecessary idling. Avoid drive-thru lanes. Stay out of stop-and-go traffic conditions. If you need to refuel, do it after dusk. Be cognizant of the most efficient ways to combine your trips and errands.
- Brown-bag your lunch so you don't have to leave work in your car to grab a bite. Avoid the lunchtime scramble on busy roads and save a few bucks at the same time.
- Keep an eye on ground-level ozone and particle pollution forecasts, just like you do with weather forecasts. Sign up to receive Smog Alerts so you can plan accordingly, tailor outdoor activities and reduce your exposure.
These small actions can make a difference. While we keep our fingers crossed for the perfect panacea to break up this sweltering spell and the dirty air it brings, keep in mind that we can all be part of the solution.
NOTE: Today's print edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution includes a front-page story in the Living section about the effects of asthma on Georgia youths. Dr. Ann-Marie Brooks, a colleague of John Popler at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, is quoted in the article, which notes that the metro Atlanta region has experienced four Code Orange days since the beginning of May, meaning air quality was considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, including children.
Many people in the United States – an estimated 159 million – live in places that have unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone or air pollution. Ground-level ozone is created when chemicals from cars, power plants, and factories mix with sunlight. Ozone tends to be higher in sunnier climates and during hot weather. It is a main part of smog, the brownish-yellow haze often seen hanging over cities.
Although ozone levels have declined since 2000, according to the American Lung Association, many people continue to be affected by high ozone levels. Poor air quality represents a continuing health hazard to both children and adults, especially those with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma.
Children are especially at risk from unhealthy levels of ozone, as exposure to environmental ozone can irritate the lungs. This may make children more likely to suffer from asthma and related symptoms, such as cough, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
It is always important to keep you and your family healthy. During the warmer months when ozone levels are high and air quality is poor:
• Don't drive. Share a ride, take public transportation, ride a bike, or walk.
• Don't put gas in your car until after 7 P.M.
• Limit use of outboard motors, off-road vehicles, or other gasoline-powered recreational vehicles.
• Avoid mowing the lawn or using other gasoline-powered gardening equipment when the air quality is poor.
Jonathan Popler, M.D. is a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Today we are proud to announce the winners of The Clean Air Campaign’s first annual “Young Lungs at Work” art competition. More than 200 comic strips were submitted by elementary students across Georgia. We were so impressed by how well students expressed the issues surrounding air quality and traffic and how their individual actions make a difference. 2011 “Young Lungs at Work” entries show kids as educators, as decision makers, and as problem solvers. Blue skies ahead!
Special thanks to all competitors and congratulations to our winners! Click on the images to view the full cartoons.
1st Place: Ride the Bus!
2nd Place: Of Course! That’s How We Share the Air
3rd Place: Going “Green” Instead of Spending “Green”
3rd Place: Three Trips in One
Honorable Mention: Young Lungs At Work
Honorable Mention: Mommy and Me Walking to Publix
Several years ago a representative from The Clean Air Campaign came to one of our school nurse meetings to speak about their program. We were very impressed and I enrolled our school in the Clean Air Schools program. Fast forward years later and we are still a very active in our attempt to raise awareness about the importance of clean air.
During this school year, our teachers formed what we call a Green Team. I sent out an email asking them for help with many of our Clean Air Campaign activities and they more than obliged. One of the highlights came in late February when we held a Clean Air Week which included students holding up “No Idling signs” in the carpool lane to remind parents that an idling car can release as much pollution as a moving car.
During the week, we also asked our students and teachers to wear yellow shirts as a reminder to ride the bus. Some of our students also read daily facts each morning on our announcements that included pertinent information about ways to help the environment. Perhaps the kids’ favorite part of the week however, was when we distributed stickers as a reminder to “stick to riding the bus”.
As we celebrate Air Quality Awareness this week there are a few simple things that parents can do to make a huge difference in the air their children breathe. Two of the easiest are to monitor the Air Quality Index (AQI) each day as well as sign up to receive Smog Alerts to know when concentrations of either ground-level ozone or particle pollution are forecasted to reach unhealthy levels. Clean air is becoming something to treasure. Stay healthy and happy!
Celeste Frey, RN is a school nurse at Cumming Elementary
Air Quality Awareness Week, occurring May 2-6, 2011, 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 Deal was taken at Monday's proclamation signing.
Thanks to a smart combination of regulatory control measures put in place over the past decade and 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 happens next - in the face of population growth, increased demand for transportation options and tighter air quality standards - that will influence the air we breathe in the years ahead. There's more work to be done for cleaner air ... and we're grateful that more than 1,600 Georgia employers, tens of thousands of commuters and 350 schools have chosen to take up this mantle in partnership with The Clean Air Campaign. Happy Air Quality Awareness Week.
AT&T Georgia presented a check for $10,000 to The Clean Air Campaign today at the non-profit organization's quarterly Board of Directors meeting, held at the Metro Atlanta Chamber.
"Through our partnership with The Clean Air Campaign, AT&T Georgia has worked to put our employees in position to make sustainable transportation choices," said AT&T Georgia regional director of external affairs Dennis Boyden. This year, AT&T Georgia employees have eliminated some 12.7 million vehicle miles of travel from the roads and kept 6,348 tons of pollution out of the air we breathe.
The Clean Air Campaign is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that has forged mutually-productive partnerships with many of Georgia's leading employers in pursuit of cleaner air and less traffic congestion. Each day, the commute options programs supported by federal, state, local and private sector funds - like those from AT&T Georgia - help commuters, employers and schools breathe easier.
The chill of autumn is in the air. And The Clean Air Campaign is glad to exchange all the Code Orange smog days over the past five months for orange pumpkins and fall leaves. Rake in all the Georgia transportation and air quality happenings in this latest edition of Merging Lanes.
BP After "Math": Not All's Well That Ends Well
We're approaching the six-month anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster that became one of the worst pollution events in our nation's history. Our water-cooler conversations all spring and summer included terms like "top kill" and "blowout preventer." We watched the live underwater camera feeds and debated whether the nation's dependence on oil had finally gone too far. And although the The Deepwater Horizon well was finally capped several weeks ago, the aftermath will be felt for a long time.
The Feds have arrived at an official estimate for BP's Gulf oil spill - pegged at about five million barrels of oil. Since U.S. refineries produce around 20 gallons of gasoline from one barrel (42 gallons) of crude oil, the spill equates to around 100 million gallons of gasoline. But how connected can Georgians feel to this issue at this point? Figure in the Atlanta region there are about 2.37 million commuters. Of those, about 84% drive alone on their daily commute, averaging a 40 mile roundtrip to and from work. Assuming average fuel economy of about 20 miles to the gallon, that’s nearly 4 million gallons of gas burned every day on commute activity alone.
So commuters in metro Atlanta would burn through this oil spill in approximately 25 days of just normal commuting to and from work. When will more of us turn our discontent over this situation into something actionable?
Lane ends 2,000 feet.
Survey Says: What's Different About Your Commute
The 2009 edition of the American Community Survey came out last week, with a section dedicated to commuting characteristics. A few highlights:
- 11% of Georgians carpool to work compared to 10% nationally
- Roughly two out of five of us statewide live in one county and work in another
- That number jumps to more than four out of five in the Atlanta region
- Mean travel time actually "improved" in Atlanta from 30.4 minutes each way to 30.1 minutes. For drive-alone commuters, that represents about a 30-second gain in free time each day. Please, contain your enthusiasm.
Lane ends 1,000 feet.
Type II Diabetes Linked to Particle Pollution
A new study has been published demonstrating a correlation between type II diabetes in adults and exposure to particle pollution. According to the researchers, "For every 10 micrograms per cubic meter increase in PM2.5 exposure, there was a 1 percent increase in diabetes prevalence." Although the high season for ground-level ozone has just ended in Georgia, fine particulate matter is a year-round threat to public health. Learn how to limit your exposure and limit your contribution to the problem.
Lane ends 500 feet.
"Mad" About Transit ...
How has AMC's "Mad Men" series - a sleek 1960s cable TV show about the golden age of advertising - garnered three consecutive Emmy awards for Best Drama? According to this New York Times article, clean commuting plays a lead role.