Green Tips for New Drivers

You’ve passed your driving exam and have finally gotten your license – or, maybe you’re still racking up hours of practice with your learner’s permit. Either way, the open road is calling your name and you can’t wait to get behind the wheel on your own. But, as we’ve all learned from Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility.

 

As you know, car exhaust is the number one contributor to smog and air pollution. But don’t fret! Because here are tips on how to keep your ride clean (air clean, that is):

  • Drive the speed limit. Once you hit 60 mph, the amount of gas you’re using rapidly increases. So, by sticking to the speed limit you’ll not only stay safe, you’ll save on gas and decrease the amount of exhaust you expend into the air.
  • Don’t idle. This is a big one. Idling, or leaving the engine running while the car isn’t moving, emits 20 times more pollution than if you were travelling at 30 miles per hour. It also burns up gas that you’re not getting any miles out of. So as tempting as it can be to indulge in some AC while waiting in the car, turn off that engine if you’ll be sitting for more than 30 seconds.
  • Keep up with maintenance.  Make sure your tires stay properly inflated and replace your air filters regularly for a more efficient ride. A more efficient ride means less air pollution. And don’t forget to get regular oil changes – you can even opt for more efficient motor oil! Just check for motor oil that says “Energy Conservative” on the API performance symbol.
  • Plan, plan, plan. Think ahead and try to take the shortest or most efficient route to get where you’re going. Try to trip chain and map a route where you’ll be able to stop by several places in one trip.

And, of course, it goes without saying (but we’re going to say it anyway!): Always wear your seatbelt, keep both hands on the wheel, follow the speed limit, and don’t EVER text or talk on your phone while driving.

Do you have your license or learner’s permit? Let us know what you think about green driving in the comments below. And don’t forget to log your air-friendly driving in the AirCreds tool for points and prizes!

Online Shopping: Green it Up!

Online shopping: is it really the greener choice? Even we wondered whether it was the cleaner way to shop. While shopping online eliminates the emissions you’d expend by driving to and from the store, it also often comes with long shipping distances and non-biodegradable packaging. Both are bad news. So, here are some tips to making your online shopping a bit greener:

  • Think about it – when you order something and get it shipped, it’s going to have to make a trip to your house. So if you’re shopping for multiple items, try to order from the same place all at once. That way, your stuff will only make one trip rather than several trips.
  • Pay attention to the practices of the sites where you shop. Major sites, such as Amazon, have begun to use recyclable and sustainable shipping methods. So now you’ll have a choice in buying more eco-friendly.
  • Choose green shipping. If they don’t offer it, in the “special comments” box, ask for your items to be shipped together, if possible. Or for recyclable materials to be used. They might not be able to grant those requests, but you definitely have a right to ask.

There are thousands of online stores to choose from – not sure where to start? Here are some sites that offer air-friendly options:

  • Etsy.com provides various sellers that offer vintage, handmade products. Many are eco-friendly sellers. This site gives you direct contact from who you’re buying from. So, you’ll have the ability to buy from sellers that only ship using sustainable, air-friendly methods.
  • Ebay’s World of Good online store lets you shop from fair trade sellers. The sellers are split into categories and you can choose to only shop from those labeled “eco-positive,” meaning they make and ship their products using sustainable, air-friendly means.
  • Amazon uses TerraPass to calculate their carbon footprint. They also offer combined shipping and have a Frustration-Free Packaging program that uses recyclable cardboard for shipping.
  • For shipping, UPS uses alternative energy vehicles, sustainable packaging, and technology that maps more efficient routes.
  • Of course, the greenest places to shop don’t do any shipping at all! Downloading purchases through sites like iTunes or Amazon (instead of ordering CDs and DVDs) completely eliminates the litter and air pollution factor—it’s très air-friendly! So, although hard copies are still an option, remember that direct downloading is the cleanest, zero-emission way to get your music and movies!

If online shopping isn’t an option, shop greener by carpooling or riding transit to and from the store. (In other words, take friends along. Shopping’s more fun with them, anyway.) And if you drive, try to trip chain by charting a route where you can stop by several stores in one trip.

And don’t forget to log your air-friendly online shopping and cleaning commuting on AirCreds for points and prizes!

All About the Vote.

So, everybody’s talking about voting these days. It’s an election year, after all—and the buzz is only going to get louder as the year goes on.

But you know, there’s more to voting than picking a president. In fact, there are lots of times that voting isn’t about electing people at all. Sometimes voting is about solving problems. To decide what works for our communities—and what doesn’t.

Here in Georgia, we’ve got just that kind of vote coming up this summer: the 2012 Regional Transportation Referendum.

Simply put, the Transportation Referendum is a plan to make it easier for people and products to get around. And in metro Atlanta, that means addressing our pesky little congestion problem.

Because, um, guys? We’ve kind of got issues with traffic here. Maybe you’ve heard of them.

So on July 31st, Georgians will vote on whether we want to pay to open up some new pathways around our towns—and to improve the ones we’ve already got.

Why are we writing about a transportation vote on a clean-air blog? Because it’s cars standing still that produce a lot of the pollution out there. And one of the first—and biggest—things you can do to make the air better is to take another look at how you get from Point A to Point B.

Maybe you’re not old enough to vote. Maybe you’re not old enough to drive. But you’ll be doing both sooner than you think. Now’s the time to start thinking about what’s waiting for you out there—at the polls and on the roads. Let us help you with that.

THE BREAKDOWN

  • The Referendum calls for a 1-cent sales tax. And all those pennies will come together to pay for a bunch of projects all across the state.
  • Months ago, people from every region in Georgia came together to pick what they really needed, transportation wise. The result was a set list of tasks, customized to fit the communities that agreed on them.
  • What kinds of projects are we talking about? Well, here’s a taste of what we’re looking at here in metro Atlanta:
    • New roads
    • New transit lines
    • Modifying traffic flow at major bottleneck intersections—like where I-285 meets I-20 west. (Ever tried cruising through that one at 4:30 on a Friday? Try it out sometime.)

THE BENEFITS

Fewer delays:  When roads work the way they’re supposed to, you get places faster. Period.

Safer streets: Certain roads see lots of crashes. Often, this comes from roads that can no longer handle the kind of traffic they’re getting—missing things like proper traffic lights, turn lanes, crosswalks and bike lanes to help move traffic properly. The Referendum would help tackle problems like these in some of the worst-offending crash zones to keep more drivers and pedestrians out of danger.

Jobs, jobs, jobs: Around 200,000 of them, based on estimates from the Atlanta Regional Commission. You might be looking for one of those soon.

More transit trips per day: More bus and rail lines mean more people have access to public transportation. And more people picking transit over driving leads to…

Better air quality! Reducing road congestion means reducing the amount of time that cars are sitting on highways and pumping pollution into the air. If traffic gets moving better, experts predict a sizeable change in air quality. It’s projected to be the same as taking 72,000 cars off the road daily. 72,000. Daily.

If you’re in metro Atlanta and want to see what’s happening close to you, click here to check out a map that lets you zoom in and out on different projects and neighborhoods.

The vote is on July 31, but early voting starts July 9! Go to metroatlantatransportationvote.com to learn more.

What’s your take all the transportation talk? Got opinions? Got questions? Leave them in the comments! Let’s get a dialogue going.

What’s On Your Bus Playlist? Here’s Ours!

We all know that riding the bus is one of the best ways to combat air pollution. One full bus can take as many as 35 cars off the road, which cuts down on the amount of harmful emissions in the air.

So, get excited about your bus ride by spending a little quality time with your MP3 player. Of course, everyone has a different opinion on how to make the perfect mix. But, here are some things to think about:

Consider the Mood. What’s the tone you’re trying to set for your day?

Challenge Yourself. Mix it up—try different combinations to avoid getting bored.

Be Flexible. Don’t worry about sticking to a certain genre or theme.

I posed a Facebook question about how to make the perfect mix, and here are some tips I got:

  • Don’t limit yourself to one mix. Create several playlists to anticipate your different moods. For instance, when I’m frustrated, I have an angry metal playlist prepared. I’ve also got a soothing, indie heavy mix ready to calm me down. (-Alyson)
  • I like stability in my playlist and usually stick to classical music because it allows me to do other things like read and play games. (-Erin)

And we asked around the Clean Air Campaign office for some favorite tunes:

  • “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5 because “it wakes me up and gets me moving.”
  • “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele because “the beat is invigorating.”
  • “Lose Yourself” by Eminem because “it gives me street cred.”

Other listening options

Music playing services.  If you keep your music on your phone or use a 3G capable MP3 player, you can also access a music service like Pandora Radio. Pandora automatically recommends and plays music based on your song suggestions. And if you’re a Facebook user, check out Spotify, another music service that also allows you to share songs and playlists with your friends.

Podcasts  Not that into music? Try flipping to a podcast instead.

iTunes has hundreds of free podcasts to browse through —but that’s not your only option. If you’re not an Apple user try www.podcasts.com or www.podcastalley.com to download casts to the media player of your choice, or even directly onto your MP3 player or smartphone. Funny, serious, educational, political—pick a topic, and there’s likely a podcast out there covering it. And most are totally free!

I’m personally a fan of following podcasts that talk about my favorite TV shows like (geek alert!) Doctor Who, How I Met Your Mother, and The Walking Dead.

Videos.  How else does taking the bus win over driving? Video. When you don’t have to keep those eyes on the road, you can glue them to something way more entertaining. So if your MP3 player has video capabilities, try a video podcast. And don’t forget about music videos—get on YouTube or Vevo for a huge backlog of music videos and even suggested playlists based on the artists and songs you search.

What do you like to listen to on the bus? Leave us an answer in the comments! And don’t forget to log your bus riding time on the AirCreds tool for points and prizes!

Smog Season Cheat Sheet

Smog is an important issue when it comes to air quality, but it can be difficult to understand. So with smog season (May 1 – September 30) upon us, we’ve drawn up a cheat sheet with everything you need to know about smog.

What is “smog”?

Smog, a word that combines “smoke” and “fog,” is a combination of air pollutants, some that you can smell and others that are odorless. It’s a type of air pollution that gets worse with warm temperatures and lots of sunlight.

What’s in smog?

Smog can be made up of many different harmful pollutants, but the two main components most often found across Georgia are ground-level ozone and particle pollution.

If the word “ozone” sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve heard us eco-types talk about how important it is to protect the ozone layer, up in the atmosphere. So if ozone’s a bad thing, why are we trying to preserve it? Good question.

Turns out, when it comes to ozone, it’s all about location, location, location. Atmospheric ozone (located six to 30 miles above the Earth) is good because it helps shield us from harmful ultraviolet rays. Think of it as one giant tinted window.

But when ozone’s on the ground, it’s bad news. Ground-level ozone, made up of reactive chemicals, is extremely harmful to the lungs.

And particle pollution, a mixture of extremely small solids and liquid droplets, is harmful to not only the lungs, but the heart as well. Ew.

Where does smog come from?

Ozone is actually a byproduct of Nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Those pollutants come from places like vehicle exhaust, power plants, factories and even some consumer products, like paint and hairspray.

Particle pollution comes from the same kind of sources, like wood burning, power plants and vehicle exhaust.

When is smog season?

Georgia’s smog season is unofficially from May 1 – September 30. Remember, it’s sunlight and warm temperatures that trigger the chemical reactions that make this kind of pollution more harmful, so smog gets particularly bad in Georgia during the summer months.

What’s “The Air Quality Index”?

The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a color-coded catalog that reports daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is.  When air quality is good, it’s marked in green. And the worst air quality, “very unhealthy,” is marked in a dark maroon. Check it out here: The Air Quality Index

And with smog season coming up, staying informed about your air quality is more important than ever. Sign up for Smog Alerts with the Clean Air Campaign here: Smog Alerts

Ways to decrease smog

Remember, car exhaust plays a huge role in creating smog, and one mile driven equals one pound of pollution. So, the fewer automobiles on the road, the better.

Alternative forms of transportation, such as walking, biking, carpooling, busing, or riding transit can make a huge difference in cutting down on smog.

And what’s the best part about alternative transportation? Say it with me: AirCreds!

Don’t forget to keep logging all your air-friendly actions to rack up more points!

 

Clean Air Campaign 101

 

We talk a lot about improving air quality and reducing air pollution but many of you may wonder why we are motivated to talk about these things.

As Georgia’s population continues to grow, so does the traffic congestion and air quality challenges. The Clean Air Campaign is a not-for- profit organization that empowers Georgians to take action to improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion. The Clean Air Campaign focuses on both congestion and air quality because they are linked-vehicle emissions are a major contributor to smog formation.

The Clean Air Campaign was launched in 1996 by government , business, civic, health, environmental and educational organizations, after a phenomenon during the Olympics provided a glimpse of what a difference individual actions can make. During the 1996 Olympics, efforts in Atlanta to reduce traffic succeeded in not just reducing congestion, but improving the health of children with asthma. After bringing in more buses and subway cars, and encouraging ride sharing and telecommuting during the Summer Olympic Games, theses actions helped to significantly reduce ground-level ozone pollution, which resulted in considerably lower rates of childhood asthma events for children aged 1-16.

Today in metro Atlanta, The Clean Air Campaign and its partners have reduced 1.4 million vehicle mile and kept 700 tons of pollution out of the air. Our programs and resources have helped save Georgians more than $150 million every year on gas and vehicle expenses. What do you think about the actions The Clean Air Campaign has taken to improve the air we breathe?

For more information visit our website http://www.cleanaircampaign.org/.

 

Please Don’t Make Us Cough, Turn Your Engines OFF!

Motor vehicles exist everywhere. In the midst of exhaust emissions; it does not care about highways, schools, or residences. The pollutants that vehicles produce do not discriminate – air or lungs, child or adult. Air pollution is everywhere and we can help put an end to its damaging affects.

Did you know studies have connected vehicle exhaust with brain-cell damage? The harmful effects of traffic exhaust can affect children’s cognitive developmental health and can heighten the risk of autism. Air Pollution has also been known to aggravate asthma and contributes to lung cancer and heart disease. (Source: Environmental Health Perspectives) When we look at the harmful affects of poor air quality it makes us consider what we can do to make things healthier.

Action! Action? We have to take action! What we do now makes the biggest difference. Consider your own idling habits – at school, home, gas stations, or any other parking lots. Start today. Don’t make us cough, turn your engines off! How will you contribute in the fight to improve air quality?

For more information about the effects of idling and air quality got to  http://www.cleanaircampaign.org/Your-Air-Quality-Transportation/The-Science-Behind-Air-Quality