Published July 19, 2011
Volume 19, Number 7

Spare the Air Turns 20, Launches iPhone App, Sponsors 2011 Great Race

The Spare the Air program is celebrating 20 years of clearer skies, healthier lungs, and clean-air savvy residents.

A product of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Spare the Air began in 1991 as an air-pollution reduction effort. The program set out to build awareness of regional air quality issues and encourage the public to take action—carpooling, telecommuting, biking to work, for example--to prevent unhealthy air quality.

One of the first measures was the Spare the Air alert, which notifies Bay Area residents when ozone pollution is forecast to reach unhealthy levels. These advisories also offer tips on how to avoid activities that can make a substantial difference in regional air quality.

The program has since grown to encompass Clean Air Grants, an employer network, nine Air Quality Resource Teams, the 1(800) EXHAUST Program to report smoking vehicles, and the Winter Spare the Air regulatory program.

The AirAlerts have proven so popular that over 100,000 Bay Area residents have signed up to receive them via email. Last month, the Air District went one step further, launching a free Spare the Air iPhone application. Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, the app provides alert notifications, local air quality forecasts, podcasts, and several tools to help reduce air pollution. (To download, visit itunes.apple.com/us/app/spare-the-air-bay-area/id441186308?mt=8.)

Businesses can do much to advance the clean air mission. Through the Spare the Air Employer Program, more than 2,000 employers have committed to notifying their employees about Spare the Air alerts and implementing clean air policies and practices. (If your company is not yet enrolled, visit www.employerssparetheair.org/  and sign up today.)

Hacienda has been a strong supporter of these initiatives since their early days. With reduced vehicle emissions a key component of these efforts, Hacienda has developed a number of special incentives to promote commute alternatives. Resources range from a Free Wheels pass and the New Rider Program to material on energy conservation and pollution reduction.

Hacienda is also a long-time member of the Tri-Valley Air Quality Resource Team, one of nine such groups throughout the Bay Area that work at the community level to better air quality in the region. The local team is an active proponent of the Great Race for Clean Air, a friendly competition among Bay Area employers to reduce solo driving to work. During last year's Great Race, 4,589 employees from 152 companies logged their daily air-friendly commutes using an online trip tracker. Approximately 900 tons of CO2 were saved by employees who chose not to drive to work alone.

"Participants in the Great Race demonstrated that we all can find alternatives to driving alone to work," said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Air District. "Any time employees rethink their commute and carpool, take transit, bike or walk to work, instead of driving alone, they save money and spare the air."

Sponsored by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and 511.org, the Great Race this year runs from September 1 through October 31. Registration begins July 15. For information about joining the Tri-Valley Air Quality Resource Team or participating in the Great Race, please contact Stephanie Anderson at 510-763-2500 ext. 1 or sanderson@communityfocus.org.


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