Educating Teens about Air Quality, Transportation, and Energy Use

17 Jul

Greater Mercer TMA was invited back to Rutgers T.E.E.M Gateway to speak with Ocean County teens about air quality and transportation. Using experiments, online games and websites they learned about how transportation is a major source of air pollution in New Jersey.

Aly Dyson, GMTMA’s environmental education instructor, conducted experiments showing how each person’s daily life adds to air pollution and how individual choices can make a difference.  The students were shown that many actions they take during the day directly and indirectly create air pollution. Simple things like taking the bus instead of driving alone to school and riding a bicycle or carpooling when going out with friends really can make a difference.

The teens learned how to find out if any given day is an Air Quality Action Day and how they should change their behavior on those days, as well as on other days, to help decrease air pollution. We also got them thinking beyond transportation as well. For example, we pointed out that keeping their phone chargers and other electronics plugged in all the time still uses some power, even when the phones aren’t charging, which increases electricity use and air pollution, not to mention increasing electric bills. Now the teens know that they should not only shut off the lights upon leaving a room, but they should also unplug chargers and other non-essential electronics when not in use.

Greater Mercer TMA recently competed in the Toyota MPG Challenge, a program where we were given a 2013 Toyota Plug-In Prius Hybrid car to borrow to see if we could better gas mileage than the other organizations participating in the challenge. While we didn’t win the challenge, we certainly came out on top by getting invaluable experience with fuel efficient electric vehicles. The teens were quite impressed when we told them that we averaged 59MPG during the challenge, while average cars only get 24MPG and SUVs/trucks only get 17MPG. And when they found out that the Toyota challenge winners averaged 356MPG they were in shock! And it led them into a dialogue about ways in which they could get better mileage when driving. They also wanted more details about both hybrid and electric vehicles, how to purchase them, and how they work. The counselors joined in the conversation by discussing their own vehicles’ gas mileage and discussing the high price of gas and car maintenance.

Everyone in the room gained a better understanding about how we are all affected by the environmental and economic costs of transportation, and the teens realized that they often do have choices to select more efficient and green way to get where they need to go.

Greater Mercer TMA is on a mission to educate students and adults alike about how important transportation choices are in air quality and the health of all New Jersey residents. We are also working with Mercer County Division of Public Health to educate the public about how important it is to not idle your car. The interactive lessons are both fun and educational for children and adults; so if you would like Greater Mercer TMA to host a program at your school, club or event please contact Aly Dyson at adyson@gmtma.org.

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