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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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.
Last week was very busy for the Education Department here at The Clean Air Campaign as we wrapped up our biannual Clean Commute Week. “Clean Commute Week” was coined by Evansdale Elementary, our 2011 PACE School of the Year award winner, and celebrates riding the bus, carpooling, no idling, walking and biking to school. This spring’s Clean Commute Week coincided with Safe Routes to School’s Georgia Walk to School Day. Many schools include participating in the Young Lungs at Work Art Competition during Clean Commute Week as submissions are due by March 31st.
Arcado Elementary School in Gwinnett County is one of the longest-running participating Clean Air Schools. For six years they have been able to partner with us thanks to a strong PTA and supportive administration. Last Wednesday, March 6, their students braved the snow to participate in Georgia Walk to School Day. Their dedication even got the Clean Air BAIR out of hibernation!
Rockdale County is the first school district to boast 100% participation from its schools. Shoal Creek Elementary celebrated Clean Commute Week by creating signs to encourage parents to turn off their engines while waiting to pick up their students. They also recorded a special segment for the school news to remind their peers to stress the No Idling message at home as well.
In the fall, New Manchester Elementary in Douglas County won a tree planting from The Clean Air Campaign for their new outdoor classroom by being one of the first schools to complete the Clean Air School requirements for the 2012-13 school year. We revisited them this spring and brought the county television station with us to interview teachers who carpool. The faculty at New Manchester Elementary is walking the walk!
There are plenty of opportunities for schools to partner with The Clean Air Campaign this spring on traffic solutions and air quality education on their campuses, but the deadline to enroll in this free program is March 15th! For more information on how your student’s school can participate, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joey Giunta is the School Partnerships Manager for The Clean Air Campaign. Since 2008, over 560 schools have participated in the schools program. When he isn't visiting schools throughout the region, Joey commutes into town on MARTA and spends that free time reading a new book every other week.
Cutting down on air pollution benefits everyone and while it may seem to be a daunting task to make a difference in the air we all breathe, there are both easy and creative actions you can work into your routine. A number of small changes in different areas of your life can make a difference. The big results come when everyone is making such a contribution.
- Add more greenery to your office and home - the NASA Clean Air Study shows that there are many plants that will help remove airborne toxins. If you want to take this idea to the extreme, check this out: A 60 x 60 foot living billboard in the Philippines is made up of thousands of Fukien tea plants surrounding the curvy shape of a Coke bottle, expected to absorb a total of 46,800 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
- Instead of buying bottled water, use your own reusable bottle to conserve energy and cut down on pollution. Additionally, if you bring your own mug to Starbucks, you’ll not only be conserving trees, you’ll receive $0.10 off your coffee.
- When there’s nice weather, try doing an outdoor activity like hiking up Stone Mountain, riding your bike, or playing soccer with your kids to cut down energy usage in your home.
- Watch sports with friends: the total decrease in U.S. home electricity usage during the Super Bowl is greater than three times the energy consumed by all the TVs watching it. Make sure to rally together for the next big game!
- The majority of the pollution in our air comes from our tailpipes. Each workday in metro Atlanta, commuters participating in commute options programs help keep 550 tons of air pollution out of the air.
- In an effort to reduce fly ash, produced during combustion of coal, as an environmental pollutant, the particles are being used to create building bricks. The manufacturing method saves energy, reduces mercury pollution, and costs 20% less than traditional clay brick manufacturing.
Air pollution, including ozone, is mainly a result of human activities, so it makes sense that we as individuals should do our part to make it better. Whether it’s simply making sure you turn off the lights when leaving a room, recycling, carpooling instead of driving alone, or getting involved with a larger scale project, you can make the choice to do something today to improve the air we all breathe. To learn more about what you can do, visit www.CleanAirCampaign.org/Your-Air-Quality-Transportation.
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 the "Stranger in a Strange Land."
Curious about congestion? Seeking enlightenment on environmental issues? When inquiring minds want to know about the latest happenings influencing Georgia’s transportation and air quality, they turn to Merging Lanes.
Where can you find the 7th-worst traffic in the US?
Right here in metro Atlanta, according to the latest edition of an annual study led by the Texas Transportation Institute. That’s one spot worse than last year’s #8 ranking. So, what are the key takeaways from the latest report? Overall, not a whole lot has changed dramatically from last year to this year in the data. Delay from traffic – above and beyond normal commute travel times – takes away from each commuter in the region an average of 51 hours over the course of a year (up an hour over last year’s data). That’s more than an entire weekend out of your year that goes up in smoke. The average cost of delay to each peak-period commuter nets out to $1,120 annually, up slightly from the prior year ($1,106). The pessimists out there may be inclined to lash out in frustration over the loss of time and money. But if you’re an optimist, look at it as time and money that could be restored to your life by making greater use of commute options.
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How did they do that?
From Gizmodo.com, this story about a complicated and awe-inspiring dig using giant-sized drilling machinery to create a 5.6-mile network of additional rail capacity under NYC. Frankly, it makes Andy Dufresne’s tunnel from “The Shawshank Redemption” look rather pedestrian.
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Where’s the riskiest place to live when you’re recovering from a heart attack?
A recent medical study reinforces the link between fine particle pollution and heart health, finding that heart attacks are deadlier in areas where soot is more prevalent, making it all the more difficult to live a healthy life after experiencing a heart attack. Conducted in Britain, the study followed more than 150,000 people who had received medical treatment/intervention for heart failure. Examining air quality data where these people lived and tying that information to demographic characteristics for zip codes showed those living in lower-income and less educated zip codes had higher mortality rates. This falls in line with other studies that note poorer physical health in poverty-stricken areas. For a crash course on meaningful ways you can help protect the air we breathe, click here.
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What tricks could Georgia learn from Utah in dealing with persistent smog challenges?
Admittedly, the topography and climate are very different between here and there. But a few time zones away, regions in Utah have already experienced three weeks of Code Orange and Code Red smog conditions so far this year, brought on by stagnant weather patterns and fossil fuel burning. This New York Times article outlines the challenges facing Utah residents and policymakers, but check out the very end of the article describing the possibility of the legislature creating free public access to transit and instructing state agencies to take steps to mitigate air pollution when smog is at its predictable worst. Could these policy-driven approaches work here in the Peach State?
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."
Every mile we drive produces about a pound of pollution and while the majority of the pollution in our air comes from tailpipes, our built environment affects it greatly as well. Buildings have an enormous impact on the environment, human health, and the economy, and successful green building strategies can reduce emissions and conserve water and energy.
The Bullit Center, currently under construction in Seattle, might be the greenest office building ever built. Powered by solar panels, heated by geothermal wells, and utilizing rainwater this building is aiming to be self-sustaining for at least twelve months.
The building was designed to meet the rigorous standards of the Living Building Challenge, as put forth by the International Living Building Institute, a non-governmental organization committed to global sustainability. This certification is even more intense than LEED because it truly focuses on the sustainability aspect of the building itself.
Many of these offices make sure to build near public transit and utilize bike racks to help support clean commuting, which in turn helps improve the air we all breathe. Building “green roofs” on top, like Southface’s Eco Office in Atlanta, help reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions by lowering air conditioning demand. Additionally, these buildings strive to produce cleaner indoor air to benefit the personal health of the people working inside.
The Clean Air Campaign is committed to improving air quality and teaching our community what we can do to make it better. While building green offices for our workforce can greatly improve the air we breathe, there are some steps you can take as individuals to help better our air. Choosing a commute alternative is just one of these as reducing the miles driven each day will reduce the amount of pollution in our air.
Sarah Wilgus is an Outreach Intern at The Clean Air Campaign and a senior at Georgia State University. As a MARTA rider, she uses her commute time to do schoolwork and listen to “Spotify.”
When I was very young, people didn’t really wear seatbelts on a regular basis. However, I clearly remember how, as I moved into upper elementary school, seatbelt safety became a regular topic of discussion at schools. It made such an impression on me that I became an avid seatbelt enforcer in my own home.
At eight years old, I launched a family car safety campaign. I strictly enforced seatbelt usage on family car trips, even though we rarely drove anywhere more than three miles from our house. I never told them that I’d privately titled myself Official Family Safety Officer, but I think they got the hint.
And while my friends may not have gone after the idea with the same level of gusto, I do know that many of them similarly evangelized the idea to their own families.
Seatbelt usage is now required in nearly every state—but in my world, it had become common practice long before it was officially legislated.
Now, how does this story relate to air quality? Let’s talk about Clean Air Schools.
Schools in my day used a bottom-up approach to encourage the practice of wearing seatbelts regularly—and it worked. And for today’s kids, the issue at hand is air quality, particularly when it comes to cars idling. At The Clean Air Campaign, we’re similarly inspiring young people to spread the word and take action against issues that affect their health and safety.
Clean Air Schools programs can help lay the groundwork for kids to take a stand with their own families on idling. And resources like our Breathe Easy student leadership toolkit, our Get There Green student planning initiative, and our OnAir teen social media initiative can put the influence in their hands, motivating them to effect lasting change.
Surely this task is doable. Surely No Idling can become standard practice nationwide. It just needs to start occurring to more of us on a regular basis. The Clean Air Campaign wants to spark that fire.
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.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that metro Atlanta has reached an important milestone for air quality. The region has achieved compliance with federal standards set in 1997 that determined a threshold for unhealthy air pollution, coming in under the maximum allowable concentrations for ground-level ozone. This accomplishment, years in the making, resulted from an effective blend of regulatory controls developed by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and voluntary programs such as Georgia Commute Options and The Clean Air Campaign’s Clean Air Schools initiatives.
But the celebration may not last long. That’s because the measuring stick for air quality has been made shorter in recent years. Presently, there are 15 counties in metro Atlanta that do not meet the newer, more stringent set of federal standards for ground-level ozone, introduced in 2008. So how do we clear the next hurdle? The near-term strategy our organization is working on involves reducing the smog-forming emissions that come from vehicle tailpipes. The Clean Air Campaign, working in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation and Atlanta’s transportation management associations to deliver Georgia Commute Options programs, offers solutions that help commuters use alternatives to driving alone.
More than 1,600 employers and 85,000 commuters have participated in Georgia Commute Options programs over the past decade. And more than 350 schools have taken part in Clean Air Schools programs designed to improve air quality around school communities. And while there’s no doubt the region is making progress for cleaner air, much work still remains to be done. There’s room at the table for more workplaces, commuters and schools to get involved now.
Tedra Cheatham joined The Clean Air Campaign as Executive Director in 2011, leading statewide efforts for cleaner air and less traffic. Previously, Tedra worked to advance economic growth and quality of life initiatives as Chief Operating Officer for the Greater North Fulton Chamber.
The recent severe weather outbreak across North Georgia is a prime example of why I became a meteorologist. It all started as a teenager growing up in South Texas. I remember being fascinated with all severe weather elements: lightning, thunder, tornadoes, hail. The weather drew me in and I wanted to know more. This is why I made severe weather my passion.
After surveying the recent Adairsville tornado, emotions were running high. The other reason I became a meteorologist became valid. I wanted to save lives. To see all the mangled trees, houses and overturned cars choked me up. To track the storm in the studio is one thing, but to see the actual devastation literally took the breath out of me. At the end of the day I found comfort knowing that I quite possibly saved lives. That's the best feeling in the world.
Outside of severe weather I still have to keep people safe from all elements. Here in Atlanta, air quality can get bad in the summer months and become unhealthy. This is where The Clean Air Campaign comes in. They are a great group to work with. They prepare air quality alerts for the area when smog and ozone are at high levels. In turn, I pass that information on to you so you can take precautionary measures to protect yourself. I enjoy working with them on stories that can help cut down on pollution for our area. If we can improve our air quality, everyone will enjoy a better quality of life.
In honor of National Weatherperson's Day, I invite you to think of your local meteorologist in a different way. We're more than just a person talking about how gorgeous your weekend is going to be. We're here to protect you.
Cris Martinez joined CBS Atlanta News as the Severe Weather Meteorologist in August 2009. He can be seen anchoring the weather on weeknights. Cris worked in both Texas and Florida before his move to Georgia.