Got wheels? Bike to School Day is May 9!

It’s May, which means summer’s around the corner. In other words, the weather is no longer an excuse to leave those bikes in the garage. Wheel them out, dust them off, and participate in National Bike Month!

Organized by the League of American Bicyclists and partnered with the National Center for Safe Routes to School, National Bike Month includes National Bike to School Day, which is this Wednesday, May 9. That means that students all over the country will be biking to school, and you should totally be one of them.

If you live within pedaling distance of your school, biking can be easier than you think—just hop on and go! (But make sure you’ve got air in the tires. And a helmet. Seriously.)

And don’t be afraid to scout the neighborhood for bike buddies. Not sure where to start? Try these tips:

  • Meet up. Consider holding a meeting at school or in your community to find other teens in your area that could walk or bike with you to school.
  • Get details. Consider questions like these: Are there sidewalks? Any dangerous road crossings? How many are already walking or biking to school? Learning this type of information will help in getting you the tools you need to create safe routes.
  • Find A Route. Once you’ve got some good information, start mapping potential routes. Try getting some people together to walk or bike the route during free time. You can use map tools like Map-a-Route, Ride the City or even Google Maps to help plan your bike route.   
  • Finalize the Plan. Figure out who will be participating and when. Decide how often the routes will be used, who you’ll travel with, etc.

Register for National Bike to School Day here to stay connected to everyone else who will be biking on May 9. And remember, it’s National Bike Month for the entire month of May, so once you’re rolling, don’t stop! Try to bike to school throughout the rest of the month—see how many miles you can log!

And don’t forget to log your biking or walking in AirCreds 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!

 

Have a Green Prom

Prom often turns out to be a magical night of celebration, dancing and looking your best! But, believe it or not, prom night can be quite harmful to the environment. Just think of all the expensive dresses and tuxedos made out of synthetic fibers. Not to mention the amount of hairspray clouding the air.

Here are some ways to make your prom truly memorable – by feeling good about your impact on the environment throughout the entire night!

Dress for Eco-Success

The average prom dress is made with synthetic fibers that use horribly toxic dyes and processing. Consider ordering your dress from a store like Edressme, which specializes in selling dresses made from biodegradable material. Or, save the planet and some money by buying from a consignment shop.  These shops provide the ultimate form of recycling. And purchasing a gently, pre-worn gown helps cut down on the amount of pollution created to make new dress! So, once you wear your prom dress, keeps the cycle going by selling or donating it.

Guys, you’re lucky because tuxedo/suit renting is quite common and also extremely sustainable. But if you’re looking to buy, check out Rawganique, a site that ships 100% organic hemp suits that look like any other suit you could get, but are much more eco-friendly!

Ladies: Go Green with Hair & Makeup

Most makeup, shampoos, and conditioners contain harsh sulfates and alcohol, which are not only damaging to the environment, but also to your hair and skin. If you’re getting your hair done, try to find a salon that uses organic professional products like John Masters Organics or Intelligent Nutrients. Consider a style that could allow you to air dry your hair rather than blow-drying it, and try to use organic styling gels, rather than harmful hairsprays.

And if you really want to take an earth-friendly leap, consider doing your own hair and makeup! EccoBella, SaffronRouge, and Aubrey Organics are all great lines that offer organic hair care and beauty products.

Travel Green

The tradition of riding to prom in a limo is—surprise!—the greenest way to travel to prom! By riding together, you’ll decrease the amount of cars on the road, thus decreasing the amount of emissions in the air! You’ll also save on gas, chauffeur tips, and the rental by having everyone split the cost. Make sure to fill every seat in the limo and try to avoid that gas-guzzling Hummer limo!

Guys, if you’re determined to drive your date solo, consider doing what the eco-chic stars do and drive your date in a hybrid or electric car. Most car rental and chauffeur services offer several different hybrid options.

Throw a Green Prom

On the prom committee? Here’s how to make sure every guest enjoys a more sustainable, earth-friendly prom:

  • Use potted plants as table center pieces that guests can take home. Make sure to use fiber pots for the plants because those are waste-free.
  • For party favors, try ordering from an eco-friendly place like Green Party Goods. They offer biodegradable party hats, balloons, crepe paper, etc!
  • For any non-biodegradable stuff you need at the prom, remember to recycle accordingly! Try to provide plenty of recycle baskets with signs that remind your guests to separate their plastic, paper and aluminum.

Just trying a few of these options from any category will help make a positive air quality and environmental impact on your prom night! Got other ideas? Leave them in the comments!

And don’t forget to log your clean prom activity on AirCreds for points and prizes!

What Are You Doing Next Week? Clean Commute With Us!

Wake up, ladies and gentlemen! Next week isn’t just any week. It’s the first full week of March, the week of National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day (March 6th) and, most importantly, Clean Commute Week! That’s right, a whole week dedicated to saving our air!

If you’ve been following our blog and are inspired to make changes, March 5th-9th is the perfect time to find clean ways to get to school and work. Throughout the week, schools across the state will highlight four clean modes of transportation: bus riding, biking, walking and carpooling.

I know what you’re thinking: This sounds cool. How can I get involved?

Walk or bike to school. Georgia Walk to School Day is March 7th, conveniently right after National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day. (Coincidence? We think not.) If you haven’t mapped out a walking route to your school yet, today’s the day. Remember to consider pedestrian and bicycle safety rules, and make sure to plan ahead to make it to class on time!

Organize a carpool. Driving to school with friends has multiple benefits: You save gas money, reduce air pollution and have an excuse to grab coffee in your reusable mug on the way.

Ride the bus. If you’ve already started driving, the last option on your mind may be riding the bus again to school. But consider this: According to publictransportation.org, public transportation saves 37 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is the same amount of emissions from electricity use in every household in Washington, DC; New York City; Atlanta; Denver; and Los Angeles– combined! Did you have any idea that riding the bus could make such a difference?

Volunteer at your local elementary or middle school’s Clean Commute Week. Offer to map out safe walking routes for children living in surrounding neighborhoods, or develop a fun fact sheet about air pollution that teachers can pass out.

Last, but certainly not least, get your friends involved! No matter how you choose to celebrate Clean Commute Week, you’ll have more fun and make a bigger impact when other people join you.

What are your ideas for clean commuting? Let us know how you plan to celebrate the week!

The Ultimate Gift Guide for Your Valentines

Happy Day of Love! Today you’re bursting with appreciation for all of your loved ones and the Earth. How do you show it? With a thoughtful, eco-friendly gift of course! The ideas below should satisfy everyone on this year’s love list.

For your parents:

A recycled Valentine’s Day card. Junk mail with colorful ads is great for paper hearts, and you know how much your parents love an original poem!

That compost pile you’ve been working on? Perfect for Dad’s spring tomato planting! (Just make sure to cover any openings in the bin with upcycled wrapping paper so he doesn’t guess what it is from the earthy smell!)

If your compost heap isn’t quite ready yet, give a live plant from your nearby organic nursery. Unlike cut flowers, a live plant will help clean our air and will symbolize your growing love.

For your friends:

An invitation to pick up litter at a local park. With a group picnic made from organic ingredients afterwards, your volunteer day practically becomes a party.

A farm animal. So this isn’t a typical Love Day gift, but what could be cuter than a VIP visit to a farm animal you sponsor? That’s right, adopt an animal and give the gift of a new friend.

For that special someone:

If that special someone is especially special, you may want to go above and beyond this year. Why not try eco-friendly jewelry? Recycled gold, cruelty-free diamonds, and pearls harvested with tropical fish are a good start.

If you don’t have the funds for jewelry, you can always do something free. Using left-overs from your recycled card-making, craft an invitation for a walk in the park (perhaps the one you cleaned up with your friends). What could be more thoughtful than the gift of fresh air?

For everyone:

If the ideas above aren’t quite enough to express your love, a box of organic, fair trade chocolates made from sustainably-harvested cacao never fails to please!

What are your air-friendly plans for the day? Let us know in the comments below!

Save Time, Money, and the Environment by Carpooling

Do you and your friends all drive to school? Here’s a thought—carpool! According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, if you carpool with four friends, you will be emitting 200 fewer pounds of pollution per week, assuming an average ten mile trip per person—or even more if you travel farther!

Have you ever run out of cash by the weekend because you had to gas up your car during the week? According to the American Automobile Association, it costs an average of $13.10 a week to drive a car, assuming the same ten-mile per day trip. So if you and four friends were to alternate driving each day, you would save $10.48 a week—that’s the cost of a movie ticket to the latest blockbuster hit!

Have you ever been stuck in traffic and missed the homeroom bell because of it? Carpooling can help with this stressful situation, too. Fewer cars on the road will lead to less traffic and congestion, which means you can make it school on time.

Talk to your friends and try to coordinate a carpooling schedule—you can even visit The Clean Air Campaign website to help you get started!

What’s your take on carpooling? Do you carpool now? If not, would you consider it?

Hybrids are Happening

Hybrids are the current “it” car of the automotive industry. Why does this matter to you? For many of us, it’s almost that time—time to start thinking about what type of car we want. So why not make a choice that is not only stylish, but beneficial to the environment as well?

The distinguishing factor between a hybrid car and a traditional car is that a hybrid uses two or more power sources, unlike gasoline engines that strictly burn fossil fuels—mainly petroleum—to power their movement (Diesel Engines vs. Gasoline Engines). While hybrid cars still use gasoline, they get an average of 15 more miles per gallon. Better gas mileage means fewer fill-ups, which translates to money in your pocket from savings at the pump!

But the question remains: can hybrids actually help the environment? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, for every one hundred miles driven, hybrid cars emit 23.3 fewer pounds of pollution than traditional vehicles. Therefore, hybrid cars will be able to significantly reduce the carbon footprint for which the transportation sector is currently responsible.

If you still don’t think that a hybrid is for you, there are other ways you can get similar benefits. Walking and riding a bike are both options that would not only save you money, but would also help improve air quality.

Whether choosing the option of the newer, more innovative hybrid, or the option of simply walking, always remember that your actions have an affect on air quality—so choose wisely!

You can check out the Hybrid Cars website for more helpful information about hybrid cars. What are your thoughts? When it comes time to buy a car, would you consider a hybrid?

Resolutions to Make our World a Better Place in 2012

There are tons of resolutions out there with tips about self-improvement. But what about resolutions to improve our community? We hope this list helps you make 2012 your most environmentally-friendly year yet!

Go outside.

This one seems simple, but it’s an important first step in achieving your environmental goals. The more often people experience the beauty of nature, the more they want to protect it. Visit a farm, join a community garden, walk around your neighborhood, play a field sport, or watch a theater production on an outside stage.

Learn the other R’s.

You know them: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In our efforts to recycle, we often forget to think about the other two. To reduce, think about cleaning out what you don’t need and donating extra items to a local charity. For reuse, try a DIY project with materials you have on hand for a birthday gift rather than buying a new present.

Make mindful transportation choices.

We’ve talked about how walking and biking help save our air, but how do we really commit to making meaningful change in a lifestyle choice as big as transportation? Take note of where you travel, how often you go and how you usually get there. Then think about alternatives. The more aware we are of our habits, the more power we have to change them.

Support Eco-fashion

More and more companies are beginning to consider how their production of clothing effects the environment. Dying for a new pair of jeans? Consider investing a pair that uses less water to make, such as Levi’s Water<Lessjeans. For sportswear, think about shopping at Patagonia’s reuse store on ebay, the Common Threads Initiative. Read clothing tags and online product descriptions to see if the materials used are organic. Ecouterre offers a list of eco-fashion predictions for 2012, along with some links to organizations already making a difference.

Join a green organization at your school.

Many high schools have clubs committed to saving the environment. If there isn’t a group you’re interested in, consider starting one. Organize a group to pick up litter, write letters to political leaders about the environmental topic you care about most, or start a carpool chain.

Help your parents make green choices at home.

Does your family compost? Shop local and organic? Eat vegetarian? Find a recipe that uses local ingredients and cook a “green” meal for your family. You can also attach a list of the recyclables your neighborhood collects on the fridge, or offer to take your bike somewhere rather than asking for a ride.

Keep educating yourself.

If you’re on this blog, you’ve already started learning about how young people can make a positive impact on the environment. The more you know about environmental issues, the more power you have to create change. Learn as much as you can through online research, reading books, watching documentaries, and talking to environmental sustainability professionals.

Share your green knowledge.

As you learn more about eco-friendly choices you can make, tell your friends!

Make a list of your own green resolutions.

Once you discover the topics you care most about, make a list of concrete goals that you can accomplish. (Example: I will ride my bike to school at least once a week.) This time next year, review your original list and see how far you’ve come. You may be surprised!

What “green” goals do you want to achieve in 2012?

Get There Green

 

What can be said about getting there green? What is getting there green? ‘Getting there green’ is the modes of transportation we take to get to our specific locations.

Consider how you can get from point A to point B with the least amount of impact to the health of your community and the environment. Of course we think about alternative fuel vehicles and fuel efficiency, but what about the other modes of transportation that we don’t consider. I’m talking about walking, biking, or taking public transit. When we think about green transportation we need to consider smart choices and how to get around with or without a car. We have to learn to drive less. By doing so you not only reduce air pollution but you save money as well.

There is a lot to be said for people powered transportation. Whether it’s riding the train, bus, or walking these all help to reduce the vehicle tailpipes. What’s your commitment? How do you plan on getting there green?

ConnectAir – Air and Its Connection to Everything

Do you know that air is connected to everything? When I say everything, I mean everything.

We all need air to survive. It is a shared resource, recycled repeatedly since the beginning of time. We all deserve to breathe in clean fresh air. Don’t you think?

So, what is air? Pure air is an invisible mixture of several gases, which all living land animals and plants breathe. It consists of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and traces of argon, carbon dioxide, and other gases–as well as varying amounts of water vapor.

http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/air-composition-d_212.html

It amazing me how something that we never think about could be composed of all those gases.

So, how is air connected?

The clothes and shoes we wear are made in factories that may release chemicals into the air.

http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/campaigns/toxics/

The fruits and vegetables we eat are typical sprayed with pesticides to keep the bugs away. Once they are ripe they are loaded on a truck that has to travel many miles polluting our air. In fact, a typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table.

(Source:  Pirog, Rich, and Andrew Benjamin. “Checking the Food Odometer: Comparing Food Miles for Local Versus Conventional Produce Sales in Iowa Institutions.” Leopold Center for Sustainable

Can you make the connection? What other things are connected to air? How do your daily habit effect air?