Posts tagged with air quality
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?
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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.
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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.
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"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.
Like a marathon runner digging deep on that last mile, many Atlantans are huffing and puffing through these last days of smog season 2010. The finish line is drawing ever closer (officially September 30), but recent air quality conditions are forcing us to limp along the final stretch.
Here are the facts for Metro Atlanta:
- The region has racked up 25 ground-level exceedances for the year.
- There have been nine in September alone -- that's more September exceedances than we’ve had since 1999 – when we had 14 to close out the last month of smog season.
- We're on a streak of seven violations in the past 9 days, with another forecasted for today.
And now, some big-picture perspective on air quality:
- Ozone concentrations in Georgia and much of the United States have improved over the past few decades, even with large population increases that put more demands on energy use and vehicle travel. This improvement has been the result of state and federal regulatory controls to reduce emissions from sources like power plants, industry and automobiles, not to mention voluntary programs like those of The Clean Air Campaign.
- This year, metro Atlanta has been simmering over an extended period with temperatures that have been hotter than normal. Hot weather is a key ingredient to the formation of ground-level ozone. On top of that, the AJC reports only .14 inch of rain has fallen this month. That’s 2.91 inches below normal for the first three weeks of September. But conditions change often. Last year was much more forgiving ... and next year may be, too.
- There has never been a better time to give your car the day off, as half of all smog-forming emissions in the Atlanta region come from the tailpipes of cars. Choosing to carpool, vanpool, ride transit, telework or even bicycle and walk can make all the difference for healthier air. Sooner or later, rethinking the drive-alone commute crosses the mind of every commuter who is fed up with traffic congestion and lost money/time. So, when will you reach your tipping point?
What's a parent to do on a Code Orange day?
The Clean Air Campaign received a call this week from a concerned parent looking for guidance on whether his children should participate in outdoor activities involving physical exercise. While the best advice for parents is to consult with their child's pediatrician, there is a great reference document prepared in collaboration between The Clean Air Campaign and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta with guidelines on protecting children from air pollution. Worth a look for any parent with active children.
Full recap on smog season coming soon ...
Watch this space for a full recap of smog season 2010. The Clean Air Campaign is crunching numbers and will deliver a summary in early-October, plus a look ahead to pending changes regarding the standards by which ground-level ozone is measured.
The 1970 Clean Air Act, which made the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) responsible for protecting our air, celebrated its 40th birthday on Tuesday. Thanks to the mix of regulatory and voluntary actions that resulted from this law, the air we breathe today is a lot cleaner than it used to be, but we still have a long way to go.
As you sit there and breathe in the air around you, think about what could have happened to the quality of air in our country if this monumental piece of legislation hadn’t been protecting our health and the environment for the past four decades. For a taste of the past, let’s go back to the industrial town of Donora, Pennsylvania in October 1948. A cloud of air pollution stayed over Donora for five days, killing 20 people and sickening 6,000 of the town's 14,000 people.
In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson described the state of the air by saying “dirty water and black snow pour from the dismal air to ... the putrid slush that waits for them below." Fortunately, this was not a real weather report, though the President said it could have been. The line, which came from a 600-year old vision of damnation in Dante’s Inferno, made for a startling comparison to the present day environment.
That was before the Clean Air Act. According to an EPA analysis, the first 20 years of the Act programs prevented:
- 205,000 premature deaths
- 672,000 cases of chronic bronchitis
- 21,000 cases of heart disease
- 843,000 asthma attacks
- 10.4 million lost I.Q. points in children – mostly from reducing lead in gasoline
- 18 million child respiratory illnesses
Forty years later, you may be wondering, “Where do we go from here?” How do we get to a point where all the air we breathe is clean? First, air quality standards continue to get stricter based on EPA assessments that public health is adversely affected at lower concentrations of air pollution than previously understood. The EPA is currently preparing to tighten standards again and will announce the new ones soon. A New York Times blog foresees a tough road ahead for these regulations.
The next step involves you. Your actions can and will make a difference for the air we breathe. Try simple changes like carpooling, riding transit or bicycling to work instead of driving alone. If you’re waiting in your car, turn off the engine instead of idling. The next time you purchase a car, get one that’s not as bad for the environment. Or better yet, don’t use a car at all! All of these actions add up to cleaner air for everyone. That’s something we can really celebrate!
Here’s to the next 40 years of cleaner air for everyone!
Sometimes when you want to get your point across about social change, satire works best. That's the thinking behind a campaign in Hong Kong to improve air quality. This mock infomercial was created by the Hong Kong Clean Air Network. Check it out:
Humor works to command attention. So does a good visual demonstration. Watch The Clean Air Campaign's more straight-forward pitch on smog awareness here.
Labor Day is almost upon us. And just in time, because The Clean Air Campaign and its partners have been toiling away on innumerable projects for less traffic and cleaner air across Georgia. So, roll up your sleeves and work your way through this latest edition of Merging Lanes.
New Ozone Standard Up in the Air
We circled today's date on our calendars months ago, when the US Environmental Protection Agency announced changes were coming to the standards by which air quality is measured. Why the changes? Because more scientific evidence points to greater public health risks at even lower levels of exposure. In its present review, the EPA set a range for the new standard to fall somewhere between 60 and 70 parts per billion, which is the first time we can recall being given a range instead of an exact number. What will the EPA ultimately decide for the new standard? Looks like we'll have to wait just a little longer to find out.
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Recapping Telework Week
Many thanks to the Governor's office, the 150 Georgia employers and the thousands of commuters who showed their support for the first-ever Georgia Telework Week last week. Also, thank you to our guest bloggers, including telework expert Kate Lister, for sharing insight into telework as a business strategy who's time has come, and to the San Diego Clean Fuels Coalition and Greater Lansing Area Clean Cities for cheering us on from afar. What was accomplished? An important conversation was started with many employers - and reinvigorated with many others - about redefining how work gets done. One employer noted "We have found this strategy to fundamentally support productivity and quality of life at our firm." A teleworking commuter offered this testimonial: "Telework means one less day having to deal with traffic and I find myself more productive working from home." Consider that some 300,000 employees in the Atlanta region telework at least once a week, eliminating 12 million miles of vehicle travel from the roads and keeping 6,000 tons of pollution out of the air we breathe. There's an awful lot of room to build on that success, both in Atlanta and in other employment centers around Georgia.
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Worst Traffic Jam EVER?
This recent story puts Georgia's traffic congestion problems into perspective. A stretch of road between Beijing and Tibet has endured a 60-mile traffic jam that took a week and a half to clear ... only to get mired in gridlock again just a few days later. One expert tries to make sense of it all here. Metro Atlantans already lose 60 hours a year above and beyond their normal commute times to traffic snarls, according to the Texas Transportation Institute's 2009 Urban Mobility Report. Imagine losing 216 hours in the traffic oblivion lurking outside Beijing.
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What's your Walk Score? That's the question a website asks in the context of promoting more walkable neighborhoods and more access to alternative transportation. Just plug in your address to find out your walk score and see what's near you, what you're likely to spend on housing and transportation costs and your commute distance. I was disappointed to see that my measly walk score of 37 (out of a possible 100 points) indicates I am "car-dependent." Boo, hiss. What I wouldn't give for better "last-mile" connectivity between my home and the Indian Creek MARTA station a few miles away! My boss fared much better on his walk score with an impressive tally of 94, which qualified as "walker's paradise."
More and more, employers are looking for ways to help their associates enjoy greater quality of life and a more productive work/life balance by offering flexible work hours or telework programs. And in turn, new associates and recent college graduates are looking for companies that provide such options.
We introduced a telework program at Shaw in 2007 for this very reason – to offer our own associates more flexibility and a better work/life balance. What began as a pilot program within our IT department has now become a growing – and valuable – part of the way we work: we now have between 150 and 170 associates participating in the telework program, including associates in our information services, legal, enterprise excellence, talent acquisition and marketing groups.
Reducing gas consumption, saving energy and decreasing carbon emissions associated with car commuting are some of the many environmental benefits our telework program has helped generate. But the program also offers myriad additional benefits, both for the qualified associates who participate, and for our organization as a whole.
In fact, beyond the environmental benefits of teleworking, one of the biggest advantages is the flexibility it allows. While some people prefer more time in the office, some people work better the other way round – coming to the office for meetings and collaboration, then working from home to organize, prioritize and focus on projects without distraction. Having a telework program in place means many of our associates have that option – and for people who are already productive and contributing at a high level, this option very often makes them even better. In other words, teleworking is something we’ve found works all the way around for us.
Paul Richard is Vice President of Human Resources for Shaw Industries Group, Inc. in Dalton, Georgia. Shaw is the largest manufacturing employer in the state of Georgia. For more information about Shaw Industries' commitment to Sustainability through Innovation -- The Shaw Green Edge, visit www.shawgreenedge.com.
Hold your breath, Georgia. We are officially at the midpoint of smog season, and here is where things stand with respect to the air we breathe:
1. To date, there have been about 15 instances across Georgia -- in some cases, multiple areas on the same day -- when concentrations of ground-level ozone reached unhealthy levels. Here is a trend comparison to show past years' violations (for all areas monitored in Georgia) from May 1 through July 15:
As you can see, the trend is generally moving in the direction we want.
2. On July 7, metro Atlanta witnessed its first Code Red smog day since 2008, a signal that there is still much work to be done. A heat wave, combined with stagnant air and too many tailpipes out on the roads, proved too much for the region to bear.
3. While it is impossible to predict what's in store for the second half of smog season, what we do know is that the standards by which our air quality is measured - standards created by the US Environmental Protection Agency to protect public health - are slated to become more strict at the end of August. Why? Because the more we learn about the effects of long-term exposure to air pollution, the greater the sense of urgency becomes to protect ourselves.
The Clean Air Campaign is following the developments surrounding new air quality standards and we'll have more details very soon on what's changing, what impact the changes will have across Georgia and what you can do. In the meantime, stay cool and let's hope for a quiet second half to smog season.
Many thanks to Local Planet for supporting The Clean Air Campaign as we work toward less traffic and cleaner air. Local Planet made a charitable contribution today that will go toward extending the reach of The Clean Air Campaign's programs and services to more Georgia employers, commuters and schools.
Did you know contributions from the private sector or individuals to The Clean Air Campaign are eligible to receive 4:1 matching, so every $1 we receive becomes $5? That's a pretty good return on investment.
As the hub for NE Georgia, Athens is a major employment, education, health and entertainment center growing in popularity and population. A steady stream of new residents and a burgeoning daytime population brings increased challenges related to demand for energy, transportation infrastructure, and increasing air quality degradation.
According to the EPD, 62% of smog-forming emissions in Athens-Clarke County come from tailpipes of cars and trucks. This represents a significant problem for our air quality, particularly with respect to ground-level ozone. Indeed, Athens-Clarke County stands on the verge of failing to meet federal air quality standards designed to protect the public's health. With tighter standards likely to come later this year, non-attainment status could lead to stricter permitting requirements in the county, more regulatory controls, depressed economic growth, and a generally negative stigma about the quality of life in Athens.
But, with stricter regulatory and volunteer actions, Athens can face this challenge head on! By working together, every local employer, commuter, and resident can make a huge difference in improving and protecting Athens' air quality. This is one of the reasons why Athens-Clarke County partnered with the Clean Air Campaign and created Travel Smart Week as a way to showcase how choosing alternatives to driving alone can help improve the air we breathe.
Thanks to an expanding network of transportation alternatives, including Athens Transit, sidewalks, and bike lanes, individuals can travel with increasingly less dependency on their cars. Everyone is encouraged to get out of their cars, enjoy the fresh air, get some exercise and Travel Smart!
Heidi Davison is the mayor of Athens-Clarke County and serves on the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center Board. Through their use of commute options programs in the past year, Athens-Clarke County Unified Government employees have kept more than 8,000 pounds of pollution out of the air we breathe.