Governor Nathan Deal has proclaimed April 28 through May 2 as Air Quality Awareness Week in Georgia, supporting The Clean Air Campaign’s efforts to encourage Georgians to take meaningful actions to improve outdoor air quality.
Air Quality Awareness Week occurs annually near the end of April and the beginning of May, when warmer weather arrives in Georgia. Hotter temperatures, high humidity and stagnant winds create ideal conditions that form smog, which is made up of ground-level ozone and particle pollution.
Last year, an unusually cool and rainy summer led to the lowest number of days when air quality was deemed unhealthy (two) since the state began archiving data in 1996, but conditions can change quickly. Continued population growth has put more demand on energy use and put more vehicles on the roads, which have a significant impact on air quality. In metro Atlanta, for instance, half of smog-forming emissions come from the tailpipes of cars and trucks.
“Air pollution can seem like a difficult puzzle to solve until you put it into context, and the truth is every Georgian can make a positive impact on this issue by looking at their driving habits,” said Tedra Cheatham, executive director of The Clean Air Campaign. “By choosing a commute alternative like carpooling, vanpooling or riding transit just one day a week, the average commuter in metro Atlanta can eliminate as much as one ton of pollution from the air over the course of a year.”
Methods are in place to measure and forecast ozone and particle pollution levels against federally created standards. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) measures air pollution throughout the state and issues daily air quality forecasts for Atlanta, Macon and Columbus. Air quality is also reported using the Air Quality Index, a color-coded scale that provides easy-to-understand information, including cautionary health information.
The Clean Air Campaign distributes Smog Alerts via email when the next day’s air quality is projected by the EPD to be unhealthy. Georgians are encouraged to stay informed about outdoor air quality conditions by signing up for Smog Alerts and adjusting their activities accordingly.
Here are a few more ways to make a difference:
- When air quality is forecast to be poor, avoid strenuous outdoor activities and reduce your exposure to ground-level ozone and particle pollution.
- Commit to carpooling, vanpooling or riding transit to your job. Ask your boss for permission to telework to avoid traffic altogether. Ride your bike to work when you are able.
- Call 1-877-9-GA-OPTIONS or visit www.GACommuteOptions.com to get help starting a commute options program at your workplace. You can also receive free assistance finding a carpool or vanpool partner.
- If you have to run errands in your car, avoid unnecessary idling. Skip drive-thru lanes. Stay out of stop-and-go traffic conditions and get familiar with the most efficient ways to combine trips and errands.
- Take your lunch to work so you don't have to leave in your car to grab a bite. Avoid the lunchtime congestion and save a few bucks at the same time.
Choosing to clean commute has more benefits than improving air quality. It also helps reduce traffic congestion and cut down on commute costs. Georgia Commute Options, a program facilitated by The Clean Air Campaign in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation and the region’s transportation management associations, offers up to $100 cash as well as the chance to win gift cards for drive-alone commuters who make the switch to commute alternatives. It also offers a ride-matching service for commuters seeking carpool or vanpool partners.
During Air Quality Awareness Week, the Georgia Commute Options Facebook page will be hosting the Turn Drive Time To Me Time contest. Commuters can share what they will do with extra free time gained by taking a commute alternative, like taking the bus and reading or teleworking and using the extra time to exercise. Winners will be highlighted for clean commuting on digital billboards across metro Atlanta.