The Breathe Today, SA Tomorrow: Clean Air for Kids! Program brings awareness to the community about air pollution resulting from idling of cars, trucks and buses, especially around schools, and empowers community members to help mitigate the situation. Excessive and unnecessary vehicle idling is a serious, avoidable contributor to environmental pollution and poor human health. This behavior occurs throughout virtually all transportation activities, including parents picking up children after school, customers waiting in line at a drive-through ATM or restaurant, trucks delivering goods, and buses waiting to pick up passengers.
Unnecessary idling significantly contributes to air pollution, which in turn worsens environmental and health problems, including contributing to the dramatic rise of childhood asthma. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pilot projects at pick-up and drop-off areas of primary schools have proven that parents of school-age children are most likely to change their idling behavior when presented with the facts.
San Antonio has taken an active role in implementing pollution prevention measures, but there is more work to do, especially as our community adds more people and vehicles that emit toxic and dangerous particulates that exacerbate health conditions and diminish the resiliency of our natural environment. It begins with awareness.
San Antonio Problem Statement
Making sure our air is healthy to breathe is a priority for our city, as our most vulnerable residents including children, the elderly and those who work outside are the most affected by dirty air. Our region has been on the verge of “non-attainment” of air pollution standards set by the EPA for a number of years. The EPA is expected to declare San Antonio as officially exceeding health-based air quality measures in 2018.
In 2017, the City of San Antonio (COSA) commissioned a study to estimate the impact on health of Bexar County residents and the economic costs associated with changes in outdoor air pollution. An estimated 24 deaths could be avoided annually if San Antonio air quality improves to a lower level than the EPA’s standard. The avoided cost of these deaths is estimated to be $220 million. In addition, school representatives from the South Texas Asthma Coalition (STAC) report that absences and trips to school clinics due to asthma are frequent, and therefore a top concern in need of mitigation. Though triggers for asthma attacks are widely varied and complex, the need exists to work solutions to the problem from all angles and employ proven tactics that reduce exposure to harmful emissions, especially for children waiting to be picked up by their parents from school.
Local Air Quality Policy
COSA works with area partners to enact policies and programs that mitigate air pollution through regulation and voluntary action. In 2016, San Antonio and Bexar County passed anti-idling legislation for large trucks and buses. The City’s SA Tomorrow Sustainability Plan (adopted in 2016) and SA Climate Ready Plan (in progress) outline desired Outcomes and Strategies in critical focus areas to keep the city’s natural resources, including clean air, healthy and available for all present and future residents. The award-winning public information campaign entitled “Breathe Today, SA Tomorrow” seeks to encourage all residents of our region to consider ways to reduce harmful emissions by working together.
Breathe Today, SA Tomorrow: Clean Air for Kids!
The City would like to continue the momentum of these efforts by launching the voluntary Breathe Today, SA Tomorrow: Clean Air for Kids! Program based on a proven model developed by the EPA. COSA’s Office of Sustainability will be partnering with area schools to engage faculty, staff, parents and students in this outreach effort.
At a basic level, steps recommended in the plan include installing idling reduction signs in the drop-off/pick-up area and sending idling reduction fact sheets home to the parents and asking them to sign an anti-idling pledge form. For those schools willing to participate at a deeper level, the plan provides methods to observe and record idling behavior, analyze results, present findings and utilize incentives for behavior change.
Because clean air is important and essential for everyone in San Antonio, this effort furthers a number of goals in our city including a healthy population, equity for all residents, resiliency of our natural environment and prepared and successful youth. The Office of Sustainability seeks partners who are able to contribute resources to further this initiative city-wide. For more information, please contact Julia Murphy, City of San Antonio Office of Sustainability, firstname.lastname@example.org, 210.207.6372.
Sample Budget for 2 Schools
|10 IPads for Student Observations (5/school = 10)
|Anti-Idling School Pick-Up Area Signs (5/school = 10)
|Printing for Backpack Campaign
|Refreshments subsidy for Student Monitors ($150/school)