Monday, February 27, 2012

The Biography of Fresh the Clean Air Cloud


The Clean Air NY initiative for the New York metro area began in 2006. As the program helped New Yorkers switch to using alternate forms of transportation, air pollution began to decrease. One day in 2009, so much clean air had accumulated that the gravity between the particles pulled them together into a highly concentrated cloud of clean air, and Fresh was born!

Since then, Fresh has helped Clean Air NY encourage New Yorkers to reduce their emissions and driving even more. He’s met many of you in person at numerous events; check out all the photos on our Facebook page and make sure you “Like” our page while you’re there.

Most importantly, Fresh has helped Clean Air NY spread our message that taking alternative forms of transportation is a convenient and effective way to reduce air pollution. Together, Fresh and Clean Air NY have increased awareness about air quality issues in the region. Our mission has resonated with New Yorkers everywhere. As a result, more than 9 million miles of vehicle travel are kept off our roadways each week by everyone who has been inspired by Fresh and Clean Air NY to take mass transit, to carpool and to combine errands into a single trip instead of driving alone!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Presidential Support for Air Quality

White House
image by acameronhuff used under Creative Commons license

Reducing air pollution and improving air quality have been on the agenda for our political parties in the United States for decades. In honor of Presidents’ Day, here are some presidents who have made significant contributions to cleaner air.

President Theodore Roosevelt, often cited as the father of the modern environmental movement, made protecting our planet and its resources a critical objective of his presidency. He was able set aside 150 million acres of timberland as public domains with the the Forest Reserve Act of 1891. This is a crucial resource for converting air pollution back into oxygen for us to breathe.

President Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act of 1970, which was the first environmental law to incorporate a provision for citizen suits and the first piece of legislation to use the term “Clean Air.” In this way, our own program honors this law. For more information about the Clean Air Act and other federal air quality regulations, check out the blog we wrote about it last year.

Jimmy Carter, our 39th president, was the first to introduce regulations for Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE). These regulations help improve air quality by requiring manufacturers to incorporate better fuel efficiency in their cars and light trucks. CAFE compares a vehicle’s “footprint,” which is a measurement of its size based on its wheelbase and average track width, to how many miles it gets per gallon of fuel. Larger vehicles are permitted to get fewer miles per gallon, but if any vehicle doesn’t achieve the minimum fuel efficiency allowed under the CAFE regulations its manufacturer will have to pay a penalty.

When signing the Air Quality Act of 1967, President Lyndon Johnson said, “Contaminated air began in this country as a big-city problem. But in just a few years, the gray pall of pollution has spread throughout the Nation.” He also said, “[The Air Quality Act of 1967] will help our States to control the number one source of pollution--our automobiles.” Fast forward to 2012, automobiles are still a prominent source of air pollution today, especially in the New York metro area. One solution for addressing the pollution caused by automobiles is to use alternate transportation, such as mass transit, carpooling and bicycling, whenever possible. Doing so goes a long way toward reducing pollution in the region!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Behind the Scenes for Clean Air NY's "Real New Yorker" Radio Spots

You've probably heard our "Real New Yorkers" ads on the radio, where everyday people share why they take alternative transportation to improve air quality and reduce pollution. Here's a cool behind-the-scenes clip!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New in 2012 – Changes to Commuter Pretax Benefits

1040 - US Tax Return
image by 401K used under Creative Commons license

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the amount of money that an individual could spend tax-free for qualifying transportation costs, such as taking mass transit or riding in a registered vanpool, was increased in 2009 temporarily from $125 per month to $230 per month. This short-term boost was scheduled to last through 2011. On Jan. 1, 2012, the amount of money that someone can spend tax-free on qualifying transportation costs returned to its original level of $125.

But these benefits are still an important way to reduce air pollution and to save some money. Mass transit and vanpooling help keep cars off roads in the New York metro area, thus improving the region’s air quality. Paying for these costs without being taxed means you owe less money come tax time! Talk to your employers to see if they offer pretax commuter benefits. If they do not, you can refer them to 511NY if they are interested in setting them up.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Clean Air NY’s Partners Help Improve Air Quality

IKEA Red Hook, Brooklyn
image by Tanenhaus used under Creative Commons license

Clean Air NY’s latest Champion is IKEA’s Brooklyn Store! IKEA has made a companywide commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility. One way its location in Red Hook, Brooklyn, has honored that commitment is by partnering with Clean Air NY. Not only has it helped spread the word about Clean Air NY by allowing CANY staff to visit its cafeteria to speak with employees during their lunch breaks, but IKEA is offering free lunches to employees on Air Quality Action Days to encourage them not to drive out for lunch when air pollution is expected to be high. In addition, IKEA’s employees are offered commuter pretax benefits to encourage them to take mass transit and 32 of its employees are enrolled.

Last month, Clean Air NY invited all our partners, including IKEA, to participate in a friendly competition to see who could refer the most new people to Clean Air NY by getting them to sign up for Air Quality Action Day updates via e-mail or text. All of the partners did an amazing job. Combined, they helped refer more than 400 subscribers to Clean Air NY! The following four companies led the way:

Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York City, achieved first place, referring the most people to Clean Air NY. You can read all about how it is working to improve the environment on its sustainability Web site portal. Pfizer, Rockland County, won second place; it has implemented many company initiatives at its Pearl River location, making commuting easier and more affordable for employees and reducing air pollution. Underwriters Laboratories, Long Island, was third. UL provides incentives to employees who commute using alternate transportation and holds lunch-in days on Air Quality Action Days so employees can avoid driving for lunch when air pollution is predicted to be high. New York Power Authority (NYPA), Westchester County, came in fourth. It has created a sustainability action plan to help drive sustainability efforts throughout the authority.

Once again, we want to thank all our partners for their continued support of better air quality in New York!