Monday, July 27, 2009

Kids Should Learn About Clean Air, Too – They’re the Drivers of the Future!

A few days ago, I came across this video. A Park Slope, Brooklyn, middle school documented what the students learned from a unit their teacher did on transportation and air pollution. I shared it with my Clean Air NY colleagues and we can’t get enough of it!

Here are the top five reasons this is a great video, and a great project:

5) The kids were able to express what they learned creatively. Some sang, some danced and others drew. By combining what they learned with their interests, they made the project more interesting and more memorable.

4) They worked to spread the word. Beyond producing this video and simply keeping it, they were able to get it onto a popular blog, Treehugger. This teaches them at an early age that when you have an important message, you need to spread the word!

3) The climate change journal is a great idea. Requiring the kids to monitor the air quality each day allows them to really notice when the air quality is poor. They’ll most likely to continue noting the quality of the air each day, simply by habit. You can stay current on air quality with our widget, located on our Web site.

2) This project was very hands-on. Instead of being told that idling releases carbon pollution into the air, they measured the pollution. Instead of being told that typical vehicle occupancy is one person, they did a survey and found out for themselves.

1) Kids don’t learn enough about the negative effect vehicles can have on air quality. Because they can’t drive yet, we assume that we don’t need to teach them. I think if people are taught clean-air actions early, they are more likely to incorporate them into their daily lives. It’s a lot easier to start off with good habits than it is to change bad ones. These students are likely to remember what they have learned from this video project once they begin driving. They know now to carpool when possible, to stop idling, etc. Hopefully, these actions will be incorporated automatically into their driving habits.

All you teachers and parents – take a lesson from this lesson. Make sure your kids know about transportation and air pollution. They are, after all, the drivers of the future.

Amanda Moss, Clean Air NY Outreach Coordinator.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Your Clean Air Actions Can Help Increase the IQ of New York Children…

Today, an interesting – and disheartening – study was released by the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health. The study followed 249 pregnant New York City women and tracked the quality of the air they would breathe each day through a backpack air quality monitor. Five years later, their children were given an IQ test. The study showed that the children of mothers who were exposed to a higher level of air pollution scored significantly lower than those whose mothers were exposed to less air pollution.

Don’t worry – according to Dr. Michael Msall, a pediatrician with the University of Chicago, the study doesn’t mean that children exposed to air pollution "aren't going to learn to read and write and spell."

However, while the study may not mean that poor air quality = low IQ, it does show that it is most likely an influence of some kind.

The study points to vehicle exhaust as the primary source of the air pollution that the pregnant mothers were exposed to. This just reiterates the importance of our simple, everyday clean air actions.

It seems that we can add pregnant mothers to the list of groups that are most at-risk to the negative effects of poor air quality (already on the list: children, teens, senior citizens, people with pre-existing cardiovascular or respiratory issues, diabetes, or other chronic health problems). These groups should be most careful on Air Quality Action Days, and try and stay indoors whenever possible.

What else can we do? Next time you go to a fast food restaurant, go inside instead of idling your car in the drive-thru window. Take the train instead of driving. Carpool with a friend whenever you can – you’ll get to use the HOV lane and you’ll cut back on vehicle exhaust emissions.

These actions – as we now know – can help all New Yorkers – even the ones who haven’t been born yet!

Amanda Moss, Clean Air NY Marketing and Outreach Coordinator.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Get Some Relief from the Heat of High Gas Prices and Clean Our Air of Excess Pollutants: Dive into Carpooling!

Finally, summer has embraced New York's metro area! It's time for family picnics in parks, outdoor parties, relaxing in hammocks, sports and other exercise outdoors. During the warm summer days, we feel good to be outside and filling our lungs with some fresh air. However, New York's air needs to be healthier.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), New York's downstate region does not meet federal standards for air quality. As indicated by EPA tests, the air has harmful pollutants, a risk not only to sensitive groups, such as people with asthma or emphysema, but to those without health problems. Studies have also shown that pollutants can aggravate symptoms in people with pre-existing conditions, such as heart disease or high blood pressure.

The increasing numbers of people with respiratory problems signal that something is stirring in our air, even if some people do not think there are harmful effects.

Our cars are major contributors to air pollution. Most people believe that a single car is not going to make a difference, so they choose to drive by themselves. But each car that is on the road is releasing pollutants, and too many cars equal air pollution. How do we solve this problem? By jumping into something that some New Yorkers may be wary of - carpooling.

If more of us carpooled to work or to our summer activities, we'd experience some great benefits - fuel bills would be cut; there would be less wear and tear on our cars; there would be fewer cars on the road and, thus, less traffic; passengers would catch up on reading, e-mails or shut-eye; and our air would be healthier.

Some might think the idea of carpooling and not being in control of our own transit would feel like a nuisance. We might fear being at work, far from home and needing to get back home in case of an emergency and having no transportation. That is why your local transportation management association (TMA) offers a guaranteed ride home program that allows employees paid rides in the event that their transportation from work is unavailable. For more information, visit your appropriate TMA's Web site:
These organizations also help commuters enter the carpooling system, linking people who want to carpool with others in their area. To find a carpool partner or vanpool in your area, visit

When comparing carpooling to driving alone, carpooling is the more environmentally friendly option. High-occupancy vehicle lanes on some major highways allow passenger cars with at least two people to travel amid less congestion. Some people may love the comfort of their own cars for various reasons, but try stepping away from your comfort zone and carpool for the greater good.

Take some relief from the heat of high gas prices and clean up the air that we breathe - it's time to dive into carpooling!

Guest blog by Jessica Wade, Clean Air NY/MetroPool summer intern.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Combine Errands – Combat Air Pollution and Climate Change

There are many terms related to “going green” that some people may not understand. However, saving energy is one concept we all comprehend, not just power or fuel, but your own personal energy.

One way to conserve your own energy is to combine your errands into one car trip. At first glance, this may seem obvious, but it is something that we often neglect to do.
For example, in the past – prior to starting my internship with Clean Air NY – if I had errands to do after work, my exhaustion would get the best of me; since I was ready to get out of my work clothes and high heels and into my yoga sweats, I would bypass the supermarket, the bank and gas station and just head home. Having a car, I could do that. Sound familiar?

It is easy to get caught up in a convenient lifestyle we can enjoy. But it takes just a little extra effort to make those conscious decisions, like holding off on swapping your stilettos for your favorite flip-flops so you can complete a few errands before driving home.

The message at the very heart of Clean Air NY’s mission is that there are little things we can do in our everyday life that do not cost an arm and a leg and that, in fact, will help you save money, time and energy. By combining errands, Clean Air NY’s simplest and most popular call to action, you also can help reduce the harmful effects of climate change. (See picture above of Clean Air NY's bus ad that are running throughout the NY downstate region).

It’s so important to make smart travel choices because the emissions from millions of cars in New York affect you, your family and friends. We should all be concerned about the estimated 370,000 children (NYS Department of Health Asthma Surveillance Summary report, 2005) who can’t breathe properly on Air Quality Action Days because the air quality in the New York metro area is deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Be smart, plan ahead and combine your errands into one car trip. That’s what I’ve started to do after learning the benefits from Clean Air NY.

To find out more about simple changes to your driving habits that can help reduce the harmful effects of climate change, visit

Guest Blogger: Thea Charles, Clean Air NY/MetroPool summer intern.