The countdown is on for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games! With the London Opening Ceremonies drawing near, a final push of preparations is underway. One of the major undertakings has been a $15 billion investment of revamping the transportation system through London – a civil engineer’s dream!
London is renowned for its extensive transportation infrastructure so one could only expect it to be advertised as the preferred method of Olympic travel. Some of the major implementations to ensure the greenest Olympic Games to date are:
- Parking will only be available for officials and the disabled.
- Commuters are being given free access to public transit throughout the day of an event with their ticket.
- Two high speed trains - the Olympic Javelin and the EuroStar. The Javelin is capable of reaching 140 mph and will run every 7 minutes carrying 25,000 passengers per hour. The EuroStar helps long distance commuters from France into London.
- Car-sharing, carpooling, bike sharing and additional buses will help relieve the street traffic.
- A 39-mile ribbon of fast lanes and shortcuts throughout London, called the Olympic Route Network, has been engineered to transport the 80,000 athletes, officials and members of the Games’ inner circle.
All of this will help ensure transportation efficiency so spectators, athletes and officials arrive to the events on time.
The circumstances are quite different compared to the 1996 Olympics. The Atlanta Games were spread across the state reaching Athens, Savannah, Stone Mountain, Conyers and Lake Lanier, and without the expansive transportation systems London boasts, issues were bound to happen - buses full of reporters were not meeting deadlines, athletes moved out of the Olympic Village in fear of not getting to their venues on time, and events were delayed due to athletes arriving late.
Today’s technology is also far more superior. In 1996, Google had just been born, MMS was science fiction, and the DVD was a year away. Today, we have progressive programs allowing better traffic simulations, modeling and training.
It wasn’t all terrible in 1996 – the Buckhead, Medical Center and Dunwoody MARTA stations opened in preparation for the Games, adjustments were made to trains allowing more standing room, Express parking lots outside the Perimeter allowed bus services to Stone Mountain and Conyers, and major downtown employers introduced clean commute methods that The Clean Air Campaign promotes like carpooling, flex-time and teleworking, which helped keep street traffic manageable.
In just a few weeks, we will see what kind of show seven years of planning and construction, $15 billion and long-lasting improvements will look like. What we can hope for this upcoming summer is not only many medals won by our athletes, but swift, safe and green transportation to and from events, for both spectators and athletes.
The Governor has declared the week of April 30 as Air Quality Awareness Week.
Over the past few years there have been tremendous improvements in air quality in the state, particularly in metro Atlanta. In the past 10 years, the official ozone level in metro Atlanta has decreased by 19% and the official annual particulate matter level has decreased by 26%.
Air quality continues to improve as older cars are replaced with newer ones, as older power plants are modernized with state-of-the-art air pollution controls, and as power plants are converted from coal to natural gas usage.
For example, April 30 marked the final day of transition from coal combustion to natural gas at the Plant McDonough power plant on the northwest side of Atlanta. This project was very beneficial from both an air pollution perspective and energy supply perspective. The replacement of old coal generating units with state-of- the-art natural gas units resulted in an increase in electric supply of more than 2,000 megawatts (equivalent to replacing the entire existing power plant and then adding an entire new large power plant all at the same site) coupled with a decrease in air emissions of 27,000 tons per year of sulfur dioxide, 3,700 tons of nitrogen oxides, 1,700 tons of particulate matter and 116 pounds of mercury.
However, there is still work to be done to ensure that everyone, particularly children and individuals with respiratory challenges, has clean air to breathe every day.
Last fall, U.S. EPA decided to move forward with the implementation of a more stringent air standard for ozone set in 2008. Currently, all areas of the state are in compliance with this standard except metro Atlanta. It is anticipated that metro Atlanta will have until the end of 2015 to attain this standard. If we don’t make it, we will automatically “bump up” to a higher classification that would result in the imposition of additional mandatory federal requirements.
Georgia is already implementing more stringent air standards for both sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, and so far the entire state is meeting these new standards. In addition, U.S. EPA has announced intentions to propose a more stringent standard for particulate matter that could be finalized as early as next year. It is in our best interest both economically and environmentally to meet these challenges, and we will be working with our stakeholders to do so.
Jac Capp is air protection branch chief at the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
Clean Air Campaign partners gathered in Midtown Atlanta during the midpoint of Air Quality Awareness Week to earn their "MBA: Master's in Better Air."
The "Air We Breathe" seminar offered learning opportunities from air quality experts, covering health issues, regulatory progress and actionable ideas that can make a difference. Here are some highlights from the event:
- According to Dr. Jeremy Sarnat, associate professor at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health, air quality issues have been present for centuries, as evidenced by hieroglyphics from Egypt that illustrate difficulty breathing and a Renaissance painting style that attempted to depict atmospheric pollution that can be seen in works like DaVinci's Mona Lisa.
- While respiratory issues have been the primary focus of scientific studies, new evidence suggests other systems are affected by exposure to polluted air, including the reproductive system, nervous system and circulatory system. The more we learn about the harmful effects of air pollution, the more important it becomes to take action.
- Studies show that air quality can affect life expectancy. A famous study examined ambient air pollution in six cities in the US over a period of 15 years and found differences in life expectancy based on concentrations of particle pollution. A follow-up study also showed how coordinated changes actually brought improvements to life expectancy.
- Expressed in terms of costs relative to benefits, by the year 2020 the Clean Air Act could deliver a projected $2 trillion in health benefits at an implementation cost of $65 billion.
- Scott Davis, Air Planning Branch Chief for the US Environmental Protection Agency Region IV, discussed National Ambient Air Quality Standards designed to protect public health and welfare.
- Changes were announced by EPA this week related to ground-level ozone regulations. With the implementation of the 2008 standard, fifteen Metro Atlanta counties were recommended for designation as a marginal non-attainment area based on data indicating ground-level ozone concentrations exceeded federal standards.
- Other regulatory decisions on the horizon could see a new standard announced for particle pollution in June, based on new evidence from the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee on public health and welfare impacts.
- Clean Air Campaign Executive Director Tedra Cheatham walked through actionable ways Georgians can limit their exposure to unhealthy air and reduce their contribution to air pollution problems.
For more background on the air we breathe, including the science behind air quality and ideas on what you can do to protect yourself, visit the "Your Transportation and Air Quality" section of The Clean Air Campaign's website.
Working as a school nurse has really opened my eyes and mind to the importance of The Clear Air Campaign. Outdoor air pollution created by idling cars, among other factors has an impact on everyone’s health, however children are more susceptible.
Children’s immune systems are still developing, they have smaller airways and they inhale more air (and air pollution) per pound of body weight than adults. Since children tend to breathe through their mouths rather than their noses, this type of breathing does not allow for cilia and mucous found in the nose to trap the foreign particles in the air and stop them from entering the lungs.
In Georgia an estimated 10 percent of children have asthma, a chronic disease of inflamed airways and lungs which restrict a child’s ability to breathe. It can sometimes be life threatening. During an asthma episode or attack the airways narrow and it becomes difficult to breathe. There are three factors that contribute to this occurrence:
- The muscles around the airways tighten, narrowing the airways.
- The airways narrow and are blocked due to swelling and inflammation.
- More mucus than usual is produced inside the airways, further blocking them.
The Clean Air Campaign teaches us how we can improve the situation by making simple changes in our everyday routines such as riding the bus, carpooling to school and not idling our cars.
Checking the cleaning products we are using and not using aerosol sprays is also important. Remember, today’s children will be tomorrow’s leaders. They need us to be role models for them and help keep them healthy. Together we can do that.
Adrienne MacDonald is the School Nurse at High Meadows School.
April 30 - May 4 marks Air Quality Awareness Week in Georgia. The state has made great strides in the past decade on improving ambient air quality. But with half of all smog-forming emissions coming from the tailpipes of cars and trucks, there is more work to be done.
Learn more about the science behind the air we breathe and get a big-picture perspective about smog challenges in Georgia. For tips on how you can reduce air pollution, at home, at work or on the go, click here. You can also take part in a fun competition on The Clean Air Campaign's Facebook page that kicks off later today called "Caption for Cleaner Air."
Does this job make me look fat?
In the past 50 years, much of the American workforce has shifted from agricultural and manufacturing jobs to the more sedentary office job. Because fewer than 20% of jobs require moderate physical activity, the average American worker is burning 100 calories less per workday than they did 50 years ago, equaling 25-35,000 fewer calories a year. Additionally, we are walking less in our everyday lives and walk the least amount of any other industrialized country. Americans spend more time in our cars than anywhere else in the world; more time spent driving means less time spent on activities that provide health benefits.
How does Georgia compare?
One of the biggest reasons people are walking less is that we live farther from the places we need to go. WalkScore.com measures the walkability of cities based on proximity to nearby amenities. Georgia cities have an average Walk Score of 35 out of 100, which is unfortunately not too great. However, there are some walkable cities within the state, the best including Decatur, North Druid Hills and North Atlanta. Among Georgia’s least walkable cities, and labeled as “car-dependent” are Evans, Union City and Sugar Hill.
If you live in an area where it is difficult to walk to work or run your errands, there are still ways to get some walking into your day.
- Divide your lunch so you eat half the time and take a walk for the other half
- Get up and move during commercial breaks
- Use stairs instead of the elevator
- Walk to a co-worker’s desk instead of calling or emailing them
- Make it a habit – whenever you need a break at work or start to feel tired, take a quick stroll around the office
Walking is shown to drastically improve lives by lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s, reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and decreasing your chance of diabetes. So, try taking some small steps to walking more.
Hope you had a terrific Earth Week! The celebration of environmental conservation, protection and sustainability couldn’t possibly fit into just one solitary day anymore. And the parade of innovative ways to green the globe has truly gone …well, global. In fact, when it comes to improving the quality of the air we all breathe, clever ideas are springing up all over the world. So, to celebrate Earth Week, The Clean Air Campaign scoured the Earth to bring you these success stories from afar:
London: Pollution Glue Traps Fine Particles
With particle pollution emissions creating health challenges, London has found itself in a sticky situation as the city prepares to host the Olympic Games in a few short months. But engineers have developed a winning solution you won’t believe: applying a special “pollution glue” to road surfaces has helped trap fine particles, preventing them from going airborne. Studies indicate repeated applications on select thoroughfares have reduced particle pollution by 10% over a 24-hour period.
Manila: Smog-Eating Paint Artfully Covers City Walls
Smog in the city of Manila doesn’t stand a chance, thanks to a new idea that could forever alter the meaning of the phrase, “paint the town.” Artists are painting giant murals on the sides of buildings using a special smog-eating blend of catalytic paint that filters out nitrogen oxides. The manufacturer claims that coating 11 square feet of a surface with this special paint filters the same amount of air pollution as one full-grown tree.
Spain: Building Transit Ridership through e-Book Offers
QR codes are springing up everywhere. And in one district in Spain, a transit operator has found a creative way to tackle pollution and literacy at the same time. Train riders in Catalonia can scan QR codes on wall posters hung inside the cars to download the first chapter of select novels onto their mobile devices for some fun diversion on the commute. Truly a progressive idea. Imagine having this opportunity on a GRTA Xpress bus or a MARTA line.
When it comes to doing the right things for the planet, we’re all in it together. That makes Earth Week a terrific occasion to think and act green no matter where you are. Tell The Clean Air Campaign about other unique ideas you’ve found out there to help improve the air we all breathe. And be sure to mark your calendars next week for Air Quality Awareness Week in Georgia, taking place April 30-May 4.
With the changing of seasons each year, Georgia commuters see a roller coaster rise and fall of gas prices. We have waved goodbye to winter gas prices that seemed like a bargain when they were $3 a gallon, and are approaching the peak gas price season of the year: the summer, which brings a higher demand for gasoline where families take advantage of the warm weather and school breaks to get on the road.
Gas prices outside of Georgia
Even though we are currently seeing prices as high as $4.09 per gallon in some areas of the state, Georgia gas prices are significantly lower than other parts of the country and well below most developed countries around the world. While gasoline costs roughly the same to make no matter where in the world it is produced, the difference in retail costs is due to the fact that some governments subsidize gas while others tax it heavily.
Less demand, higher prices
Overall, the United States has seen some behavior changes over the past couple of years regarding Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). Since 2007, the average VMT in the southeast has generally been declining. While it seems the demand for gasoline has slowly and steadily been dropping, the retail prices continue to rise. Georgians are currently paying $0.10 more per gallon than where we were at this same time last year. Do you think this is ominous of what is to come?
What can you do about rising gas prices?
The most immediate thing anyone can do to get relief from volatile gas prices is simply driving less. More than 400,000 commuters in the Atlanta region alone are using alternative commute methods such as carpooling or vanpooling in order to share the costs of gas, or riding transit, walking, or bicycling to work, or even teleworking to avoid the commute altogether. When will rising gas prices motivate you to get off the roller coaster and try something different on your daily commute?
Learn more about commute alternatives and ways for you to save money this summer at www.CleanAirCampaign.org.
Fourth and fifth grade students at High Meadows School were beginning a unit of study on conflict. They were challenged to identify a conflict on campus that was related to our natural resources. There were certainly litter problems, recycling efforts that could be improved, but this had to be a conflict, which by definition must have two opposing viewpoints. Not many people could argue that littering is a good thing, nor that recycling is a bad thing…so they had to dig deeper.
Several students observed that cars seemed to idle their engines during carpool and everyone knows that idling cars cause air pollution. If everyone knows and they do it anyway, then perhaps the conflict is embedded in differing perspectives.
Hmmm...deeper digging would be necessary.
Ok, so students reasoned if people know idling causes pollution, but they do it anyway, perhaps there is something they value more than clean air in that moment. What could that be? Upon further investigation students learned parents had small children in the car during carpool, and with blazing hot temperatures still around in September, it simply wasn’t safe or comfortable to sit in a car without air conditioning. So now we have a conflict! Some people understood that an idling car caused air pollution, and turned off their cars showing their value of clean air. Others not only didn’t fully understand the impact idling had on clean air and the health of kids outside the car, but also perhaps valued the health of their small children inside the car.
Through the use of empathy and compassion, students realized people on both sides of the conflict had valid and reasonable points. This led to students also ruling out the possibility of having a good guy/bad guy situation on either side of the conflict and called into action the need for critical thinking and problem solving.
Through classroom discussion students discovered they weren’t clear on what was fact and fiction regarding the impact of idling cars on the quality of air. Students sought out a clean air expert from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and invited him to educate them on the science behind car idling.
They discovered many beliefs they held were not based in science, including arguments on both sides of the conflict. They felt empowered and compelled to share their findings with our larger school community. By now they fully understood that a negative and shaming message would do nothing but alienate the audience they wished to convince. They had to find a way to empower the parents with information and provide solutions.
After taking a survey to learn how many cars were idling, students decided an educational campaign during Clean Commute Week in October could be the path to success.
Next step was to synthesize the information they had learned from the CDC into attention-catching posters while keeping the message positive. Although challenging, the students prevailed and for three days during Clean Commute Week they walked the carpool line with their original and convincing signs. They also handed out no idling stickers and answered any questions parents had about idling. The students were thrilled when the Clean Air Campaign BAIR came to assist their efforts!
This entire process resulted in the students using empathy and compassion to convince 99% of our carpooling parents to turn their cars off! Students also decided on a follow-up campaign that will take place the week before Earth Day in April to remind our parents of their commitment to Clean Air!
Michelle Aldenderfer-Griffin is an Environmental Education Teacher/Coordinator at High Meadows School in Roswell
Big Shanty Intermediate School's "Green Team" was proud to promote Clean Commute Week last October! To raise awareness about the dangers of idling, my fifth grade class rallied the school by creating “No Idling” signs, which were placed at the entrance of the school with scarecrows we created. We were able to obtain quite a few signs thanks to the support of Kessler’s Team Sports in Woodstock. The signs included “did you know” facts about idling, that we were able to obtain off of The Clean Air Campaign’s website.
One of the activities that students really enjoyed was reading facts about the benefits of clean commuting during morning announcements. We also invited BAIR, The Clean Air Campaign mascot to our school to walk the campus during afternoon announcements. The students just loved their time with BAIR.
One of the highlights of the week was a school-wide competition to see which class made the “greenest commute” choice during the week. We surveyed each class on the Friday before Clean Commute Week to find out of how each child gets to school. We then promoted greener ways of commuting like riding their bikes, taking the bus and carpooling. At the end of the week we collected the survey again and found that several students made greener commute choices. Not only did we do a part to reduce pollution, we also received great feedback from parents, staff, and students about how successful they felt the week went!
Last but not least, we had a student from our BSEN (in-school) news channel interview Joey Giunta, a Clean Air Campaign representative, about the benefits of “No Idling” and making greener commute choices. We also interviewed our School Nurse, Bev Jones, RN, who informed us of the asthma epidemic in our school and community.
We feel that Big Shanty is benefitting greatly from promoting The Clean Air Campaign and Clean Commute Week is a great platform for us to do so.
Jamee Douglas is a fifth grade teacher at Big Shanty Intermediate School in Kennesaw, GA.