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Be Air Aware During Air Quality Week May 1-5

28 Apr

Talking about a double whammy, pollen counts are giving a lot of us serious sneezing, red eyes, and breathing problems. Now, it is also the beginning of ozone season, a real air pollution problem in our region. When high pollen counts and air pollution occur together, their combined effects are even worse.

And while we can’t do much about pollen (check pollen counts here http://www.nynjpollen.com/), we can take a few steps to reduce ozone levels. That is why the DEP is kicking off the Air Quality Week between May 1-5 to educate the public about the health impacts of ozone and what to do to protect ourselves. Some things to know and actions to take to protect your health and the environment:

  • Ozone in the stratosphere is good because it protects the earth from ultraviolet rays. Ozone at the ground level is harmful for plants and humans. Elevated levels of ground ozone can trigger coughing, throat irritation, congestion, and can worsen bronchitis and asthma.  Ground ozone levels can be reduced by conserving energy, not idling, and driving less.
  • Ground level ozone is also known as smog and it is the large health threat in New Jersey. Smog damages lung tissue, and impacts natural photosynthesis in plants. Protect yourself when ozone levels are high by limiting outdoor activities. You can monitor air quality by signing up for alerts at http://www.gmtma.org/pg-community-air-quality.php.
  • Ozone levels in New Jersey have decreased in the past 10 years but we still have a lot to do.
  • Energy consumption is one of the big causes of air pollution because power plants release greenhouse gases, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Turn off electronic devices when they are not used, unplug extra refrigerators if they are rarely used

You can calculate your carbon footprint here. New Jersey offers financial incentives to people who adopt greener driving habits. You can learn more about it here.

The Air Quality Partnership, a program of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) also encourages ozone reducing actions such as:

  • Take transit or rideshare.
  • Don’t top off your gas tank. Spillage adds two tons of pollution to the air each day.
  • Refuel at the end of the day. Ozone levels are highest in mid- to late-afternoon.
  • Be sure to clean out your trunk, since an extra 100 pounds reduces gas mileage by up to 2% and wastes fuel.
  • Trip-link when possible. Combining errands with your daily commute will save time, money, and the environment.
  • Follow regular maintenance schedules for your car. A properly running vehicle emits less pollution and saves gas.
    • Check your owner’s manual and properly inflate your tires. Properly inflated tires can improve your gas mileage up to 3.3%.
    • When changing your oil, use a manufacturer-recommended grade motor oil to improve fuel economy by 1-2%.

If you want to further reduce your carbon footprint, learn how to reduce waste and save money along the way here.

Be air aware to enjoy an easy breathing Spring!

This Earth Day Green Your Commute

21 Apr

This Saturday, April 22, is Earth Day, marking the end of Earth Week, an event celebrated in 192 countries, to increase awareness about the environment, sustainability, animal extinction, rainforest depletion, and other issues.

This Earth Day we’d like everyone to focus on reducing CO2 emissions from motor vehicles. A recent NJ Spotlight article highlights the need to reduce greenhouse gases and to increase public awareness of the impact climate change had on people’s health.  In New Jersey there are 590,000 adults and 180,000 children that have a chronic respiratory disease.  The asthma rates for adults and children are higher in NJ (9%) than the national average of 8.4% for children and 7.6% for adults. Climate change also exacerbates allergic reactions and infectious diseases. It seems like we have many reasons to keep working on reducing emissions and take steps to improve our health.

This Saturday will be a good day to go out, enjoy the great weather and leave your car at home.  Maybe you can even try extending your active travel to 2 or more days a week by choosing one of the following:

  • Public transit – you can find info about traveling by bus and train in Ocean and Mercer County
  • Try bike commuting and if while you’re at it sign up for Bike to Work Week and get a free t-shirt; you can find more information about bike commuting, bike lockers, ask for maps, and more
  • Give carpooling and vanpooling a try, you can start once or twice a week and go from there – more information and registration form are available here.
  • And if you don’t have a choice and have to drive, why not go electric?!? Kudos if you already did. A lot of Americans were buying trucks and SUVs last year because the gas prices are so low, and while these vehicles may have better fuel economy than they once did, they are still impacting the environment in a negative way.

We know there are many people out there who made active commuting a lifestyle. Many people take the bus or train, bike and walk to work and that is great. Kudos everyone and we hope to see even more.

Happy Earth day and we hope you enjoy the outdoors this weekend.

 

Sources:

http://www.earthday.org/campaigns/green-cities/green-your-ride/

http://inhabitat.com/fascinating-earth-day-facts-that-you-may-not-know/

https://motiondigest.com/2017/04/18/earth-week-2017-lets-go-green-commuting/

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/17/04/18/is-climate-change-already-aggravating-asthma-other-diseases-in-new-jersey/?utm_source=NJ+Spotlight++Master+List&utm_campaign=714520017d-Daily_Digest2_5_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1d26f473a7-714520017d-398644857

Using Your Commute to Keep Those New Year’s Resolutions!

13 Jan

new-yearresolutions

Resolution #1    Lose weight, get in shape, exercise more (you get the idea) 
If too many holiday parties and goodies have you making this resolution then look no further than your driveway…and leave your car parked!  Try walking or biking to work or to the bus or train.  If that’s not possible you can still swap some of your car trips to run errands with biking or walking.  Did you know that on average people who commute using active transportation and by transit have less body fat than those who drive?

Resolution #2    Spend less, save more, stick to the budget, etc. 
You will see immediate savings if you switch from driving alone to walking, biking, carpooling, vanpooling or using transit.    According to the American Public Transportation Association’s Transit Savings Report, on average a person commuting by transit rather than driving will save $803 per month.  Gas prices are creeping up, and carpooling and sharing the ride with just one person cuts your cost by 50%! Feeling bold and want to save even more?  You can go car free and use a service like Zipcar for the times you must have a car.

Resolution #3    Enjoy life to the fullest, have more fun!
Add a dose of happiness to your day by biking or walking to work!  According to a study  from Portland State University, commuters who bike to work enjoyed their commutes the most, followed closely by those who walk.  Least satisfied…folks that drove alone.

Resolution #4    Learn something new
When you let someone else do the driving you’ll have lots more time for reading (or writing) the great American novel.  Plenty of extra time to do research on the internet too!

Resolution #5    Spend more time with family and friends
Nothing can shorten your commute time like telecommuting!  If it’s an option for you—even just one day a week, you can add a little extra time to the day to spend with your family.  Or take advantage of your company’s flex time and commute during less congested hours to cut down on your commute time.

Make 2017 a year of smart commute choices!  Let your commute help you keep your New Year’s resolutions!  GMTMA can help you reach your goals.  Visit us at gmtma.org for more information.

Welcome 2017

6 Jan

Goodbye 2016!  What a wild ride we’ve had this past year—in self-driving cars and buses, on bikes and trains, walking and driving.  Let’s take a look back on the good and not so good.

transport-219811_960_720

Technology and its potential took a front seat in transportation news this year.  Uber launched its first fleet of autonomous vehicles for use with its ride-hailing service in Pittsburgh this year and it seems clear that this is just the beginning. US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx predicted that “By 2021, we will see autonomous vehicles in operation across the country in ways that we [only] imagine today… Families will be able to walk out of their homes and call a vehicle, and that vehicle will take them to work or to school.”

There was increased interest on how the autonomous vehicle industry should be regulated, especially after Tesla cars using the autopilot feature were involved in three crashes, one of them fatal. The feature was in the testing phase, and the drivers were supposed to have their hands on the wheel.  At the end of 2016, Michigan became the first state to pass self-driving regulations.

In 2016 we also saw the first self-driving buses. Helsinki started testing two of the world’s first self-driving buses, and they are looking into using them as a “last mile” solution to ta take commuters to larger transit hubs.

Looking to use new technology to improve transportation, the US Department of Transportation launched the Smart City Challenge, challenging cities to develop ideas for an integrated, first-of-its-kind smart transportation system that would use data, applications, and technology to help people and goods move more quickly, cheaply, and efficiently.  Columbus, Ohio walked away the winner.

Smart bikes ruled with more cities and towns, both large and small adding bike share as an option in their community.  Locally, Princeton University expanded their Bike Share program in 2016, and anyone can use the bikes by signing up for an account with Zagster.  The Bike Share system also exists beyond campus with stations at Princeton Forrestal Center, Princeton Shopping Center and the Institute for Advanced Studies.

Ridesharing became easier than ever this year with apps and other options for the occasional ride-share, and there are also the more traditional commuter options like your TMA’s ride matching programs. They are free, and you can be matched with someone who lives/works near you and has same the schedule.

Safety unfortunately took a backseat this year.  New Jersey saw an increase in the number of traffic fatalities, 607 people lost their lives in a crash last year, 8% higher than in 2015.

New Jersey’s depleted Transportation Trust Fund resulted in a work stoppage on state transportation projects this summer, but the passage of a $.23 increase in the gas tax has given the State a dedicated source of funding for infrastructure projects and improvements.

Infrastructure was a winner in the 2016 election; many cities passed transit-oriented and biking measures—a hopeful sign  for 2017 that people are willing to reduce their driving  and looking for other options!

What do you think? What have we missed?  Let us know; we want to hear from you.

Bicyclists Outnumber Drivers In Copenhagen

2 Dec

When we think bicycle friendly city, we think Copenhagen.   And these days Copenhagen is getting a lot of attention and envy because it just reached a milestone; the number of bicyclists surpassed the number of drivers.

You can’t help but wonder how did it get here?

It turns out Copenhagen started as a city of bicycles, and then people embraced car ownership in the 1920’s. In a simple twist, bicyclists were seen as slightly annoying to motorists and the number of traffic accidents involving bicyclist and motorists increased.

Copenhagen was headed in the same direction as many other cities, congestion, traffic accidents, and pollution. People riding bicycles kept being pushed to the side of the road or off the road and they took the streets; they wanted to be able to ride their bikes safely again. Copenhageners protested and asked for a change in street design, putting bikes first and cars second and asking for safe bicycle infrastructure.

There was, as you might expect, some back and forth about design, cost, and how to pay for the new bicycle infrastructure.

In the end, city planning gave space to bicycle lanes, bicycles experienced a comeback, and it is now once again seen as a symbol of health, freedom, and the symbol to clean and lively cities. Most people in Copenhagen, even kindergarteners and a large number of politicians, bike year round.

I guess the answer is good planning, starting young and keep the wheels spinning until it becomes such a big part of your life that you are no longer willing to tolerate pollution and traffic accidents anymore and would rather leave the car behind.

Sources:
https://cleantechnica.com/2016/11/28/people-bicycling-driving-copenhagen-now/
http://denmark.dk/en/green-living/bicycle-culture/how-denmark-become-a-cycling-nation
http://denmark.dk/en/green-living/bicycle-culture/copenhagen-bike-city-for-more-than-a-century
http://www.copenhagenize.com/2012/02/danish-bicycle-infrastructure-history.html
http://www.copenhagenize.com/
http://www.citylab.com/commute/2012/04/why-streets-copenhagen-and-amsterdam-look-so-different-ours/1849/

NJ Sustainability Summit Takeaways

24 Jun

Last week on Wednesday, June 15, some of us at Greater Mercer TMA attended the Sustainability Summit organized by Sustainable Jersey.

Several interesting things were announced during the summit, including the new NJDEP “It pays to plug in” campaign, meant to increase workplace charging infrastructure.  There was also some sobering news from the keynote speaker.  Dr. Benjamin Strauss of Climate Central provided the keynote address – a sobering and sometimes frightening view of the current climate change, sea level rise and flooding impacts on New Jersey.  Dr. Strauss explained that while natural causes do contribute to the sea level rise, 67% of the global sea level rise is human caused, and CO2 emissions are the main culprit.

sand-1358809_1280

In the worst case scenario, if CO2 emissions continue to grow at the same rate, the likelihood of experiencing 5 feet coastal flooding by 2030 is 46%, and by 2040 the likelihood increases to 69%. As soon as 2060 the likelihood soars to 97%!  To get an idea of how some parts of the NJ coast might appear you can check out the climate central risk finder tool.

You can see the rest of Dr. Strauss’s presentation here.  On page 57 there’s an amazing picture of what Newark airport might look like given the predicted rising sea level.

The good news is that if we start curbing emissions now, we can avert the worst case scenario. According to Dr. Strauss, taking serious measures now could make a big difference in the long run. Low emissions could decrease the risk of 5 FT flooding to approximately 30% by the year 2100 as opposed to 100% as soon as the year 2070 (on parts of the NJ coast).

In NJ steps being taken to curb emissions. An example is the As Mentioned earlier; the NJDEP is offering grants to increase the number of workplace EV charging stations. Grant and eligibility information available at http://www.nj.gov/dep/aqes/

The first item on Sustainable Jersey’s Energy Goals is “decreasing greenhouse gas emissions in to avert catastrophic climate impacts.” The Energy and Waste Standards were the first ones of the 14 standards in the new Gold Certification announced at the summit.  Municipalities have to lower Greenhouse emission by 3.6% per year.  The new Gold certification is the highest level of certification and will also measure performance, not only implementation of actions. Reductions in GHC will be measured every three years to see whether municipalities demonstrate continued reductions.   More info available here.

And if that got you thinking about climate change and wonder what can you do to reduce or offset your carbon footprint, check out these easy steps.

Sources:
www.sustainablejersey.com
http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/uploads/ssrf/NJ-Report.pdf
http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/ssrf/new-jersey

Air Quality Action Days

3 Jun

Memorial Day weekend was just the beginning of New Jersey’s hot and humid NJ summer days. That means from now through the beginning of September, there’s a greater chance of having an Air Quality Action Day (we had a couple days in May already).

AIQ

Air Quality Action Days are declared when the ozone and/or particulate matter in the air reaches levels that are Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (Code Orange) or higher. A Code Orange means that people with lung disease, older adults and children are at a greater risk from exposure to ozone and the presence of particles in the air. If you are wondering why this happens, the answer is pollution. And transportation is one of the largest sources of air pollution in New Jersey, responsible for over 40% of greenhouse gas emissions.  (http://www.nj.gov/dep/sage/ce-ggi.html)

So what can you do?

It’s good to be cautious— make sure children playing outdoors are not having trouble breathing and that seniors have a place to go where there is air conditioning. Children exposed to high levels of ozone are more likely to suffer aggravated asthma symptoms, asthma attacks, inflammation and lung tissue damage, even permanent lung damage.

Every time you get in your vehicle you create air pollution. Driving a cleaner and more fuel efficient vehicle helps, while driving less or not at all helps even more.  On Air Quality Action Days consider taking the bus, train, or catching a ride. Carpooling, vanpooling, taking public transit, combining trips, and driving fewer miles can help curb the level of emissions. GMTMA can help you find alternate commuting solutions and even create a personalized transportation plan. You can find out more at gmtma.org. Don’t idle, turn of your engine if stopped for more than 10 seconds, to avoid CO2 emissions. Also put off any errands that don’t need to be done or combine your trips so you drive fewer miles.

And finally, check AIQ Index and see if it is an Air Quality Action Day. There are other things you can do on Air Quality Days to help the air; you can find a cheat sheet here.

Enjoy the summer!