Whether expressed in terms of billions of dollars in financial bailout money or tons of pollution created by commuter traffic, our nation’s young people stand out as the group whose future is most affected by our actions today. The faltering economy and the growing consensus toward environmental sustainability present an incredible opportunity: each of us is empowered not only to learn from the past, but also to teach future generations about what we can improve on … and how.
The opportunity to teach youths about protecting the air we breathe is taking shape each day across Georgia in more than 80 elementary, middle and high schools that participate in the Clean Air Schools program. Through this expanded program that launched at the start of the 2008-2009 school year, The Clean Air Campaign has equipped more than 200,000 students, parents, teachers, staff, bus drivers and administrators with the tools they need to:
- reduce unnecessary engine idling in the carpool and bus lane
- teach air quality lessons with plans approved by the Georgia Department of Education
- promote school bus ridership
- encourage students who live within a mile of their school to try walking
The exciting part about these programs is that they are so easy to put into practice and get young people thinking differently about their role in protecting the environment. That’s why Earth Day Network, in partnership with The Clean Air Campaign and The UPS Foundation, this week helped make the Clean Air Schools No-Idling program and lesson plans available to schools across the nation.
Teaching young people about the impact an idling engine can have on fuel savings, vehicle emissions and air quality expands their thinking to sustainability, conservation and thrift. It’s a certainty that with each new generation, these issues will take on increasing importance.
How do you introduce topics like these to your children/students? What are some of the ways you’re leading by example in your household/classroom? Post a response and let others read about your great ideas.
As Georgia's economy continues to scrape along, the question employers and employees are beginning to ask more frequently is, "Where else can I cut back?"
There are lots of signals being sent that indicate how individuals are prioritizing their finances while waiting for the financial landscape to thaw. But what are many of us unwilling to sacrifice?
A recent survey puts home Internet access and cell phone service at the top of a list of consumer "untouchables" that would not be slashed from a household budget. Four out of five consumers rank Internet as indispensable and two out of three consumers placed cell phone service off limits from being cut. From there, the list of perceived "must-haves" gets more subjective.
This, of course, leads straight to the question The Clean Air Campaign would ask: Where does commuting rank among the expenses you're willing to keep paying at the level you currently pay? If you're driving alone to and from work each day -- like 84% of metro Atlanta commuters do -- do you regard the commute costs that come with driving alone as an "untouchable" line item in your household budget?
The positive effect of this sour economy is that, when the smoke does clear, we will have an opportunity -- as consumers, capitalists and perhaps commuters -- to improve upon the choices of the past.
We’re still a few months away from the start of Smog Season in Georgia, the period from May through September when ground-level ozone is most likely to form. But there’s another lingering air pollution issue that affects our health year-round. Concentrations of fine particulate matter, known more broadly as “particle pollution,” are present in the air we breathe.
If you’ve ever been within sight of a smokestack or a tailpipe, you’ve no doubt seen that black plume of smoke spring forth and then dissipate. The process of combustion (burning something, whether it be gasoline, wood, coal, etc) produces small airborne fragments of dust, soot and chemicals – so small that they are invisible to the naked eye. Particle pollution can also occur in nature: think pollen in the springtime.
Fine particulate matter is so miniscule, it’s a mere fraction of the diameter of a human hair. At 2.5 micrometers in diameter, this visual (courtesy of the US Environmental Protection Agency) puts into perspective just how small particle pollution can be:
When these pollutants are present in high concentrations, what can they do to your health? For one, particle pollution can penetrate deep into your lungs, slipping past the body’s defenses and making it hard to breathe. This can trigger asthma attacks or even create situations where emergency medical attention is needed. Particle pollution can also irritate the eyes, nose and throat.
There are ways to curb particle pollution emissions. Coal-fired power plants are adding “scrubbers” at facilities to act as giant pipe cleaners that can reduce overall particle pollution output. Certain counties enact open burning bans that prohibit citizens from burning yard waste. Catalytic converters on buses, trucks, cars and vans help reduce output. And of course driving less helps, too.
But the big-picture challenge is to reduce energy consumption in a state that is among the nation’s fastest growing. How do we motivate people to change their habits when we’re talking about a problem that is invisible to the naked eye?