The sky is a masterpiece. Every day it graces us with living art, whether through a glorious sunset, shifting cloud formations, or the stunning display of night stars. No wonder we take every opportunity to spend time outdoors. Girl Scout Seniors can earn their Sky badge at home with the help of GSCO’s Outreach Program.
Air quality is an important factor to our health and the health of the earth’s plants, animals, and overall environment. When you’ve completed this part of earning the Senior Sky badge, you will be an active participant in helping to improve the earths air quality.
In the United States, cities like New York City and Los Angeles’ poor air quality is known to be a health threat to the people who live there. This is primarily due to the high levels of vehicle traffic, which burns fossil fuels resulting in a high quantity of emissions that contribute directly to air pollution.
Since the COVID-10 pandemic has tragically but temporarily halted people driving en masse in these cities, something WONDERFUL has happened. The air in those cities (and around the world) is A LOT cleaner. Los Angeles’ air is 20-30% cleaner, and LA citizens enjoyed the most “good” air quality days the city has seen since 1995. According to NASA, as of April 9 2020, New York and the northeastern region has also seen a reduction of 30% in air pollution.
These improvements are the direct result of the reduction in vehicle emissions. Fewer cars on the road means less air pollution. But ,it isn’t only vehicle emissions that cause poor air quality. Electricity generation also significantly add to air pollution.
So, what can YOU do to help this trend of improved air quality continue when things get moving once again? There are many small steps each of us can take that add up to have a larger impact in the improvement of air quality.
Step One: Drive or ride in single vehicles less to reduce emissions.
As you learned above, vehicle emissions cause air pollution. Choose at least three of the options suggested below to help reduce the toxic emissions generated by vehicles.
Drive smarter and drive less.
- Organize a carpool for going to and from acitivities. Reach out to your friends and family to arrange for some of you to carpool at least three days/week. You may also want to offer a ride to friends who are all going to the same place. One adult can drop off and another can take everyone home. Explore Park and Ride options for your other family members and encourage them to carpool also.
- Walk or bike for short trips! Pledge to walk or bike for trips that are a distance of one-mile or less whenever it is safe to do so. Encourage your family and friends to join you.
- Be a good neighbor: when you do make a quick run for bread or milk or even when doing your regular shopping, ask your neighbors if you can pick anything up for them. This will reduce the amount of people making trips and help reduce emissions.
- Use public transportation when possible. Taking the bus, shuttle, or other public transport greatly reduces pollutants. In many major cities, there are thousands of people who choose not to own cars because the public transportation options are so convenient and efficient. Explore what safe public transportation might be available to you and discuss this option with a parent or guardian.
- Get in and GO! Encourage the adults in your house to only let a vehicle warm up for two or three mins before driving. Vehicles that sit idling for extended periods contribute to air pollution.
- Drive or ride in an electric or hybrid vehicle. You may not be old enough to drive yet, but when you are you can choose an electric, hybrid, and/or a fuel-efficient vehicle. You can certainly suggest and encourage the adults in your life to choose these types of vehicles when it’s time for a replacement. If an electric or hybrid is out of the question, at least encourage the drivers in your home to maintain their vehicles. Properly maintained vehicles generate less CO2 which will reduce pollution and greenhouse gases.
Step Two: Shop smart! Put your shopping dollars to work to help the planet and your community.
Every online order requires air and/or ground transportation.Getting the items you order from the online retailer to your door means that the item must travel in at least one, but likely multiple vehicles. We all love the convenience and selection of online shopping. However, this does contribute to air pollution. Consider making at least two of these swaps instead.
- Shop local. Oftentimes our local boutiques and shops have wonderful selections that are of high quality. When shopping for clothes, gifts, and accessories, consider shopping from an individual retailer over shopping online. This benefits the planet AND your community by providing a source of income to the local store owner and employees. If you don’t find what you’re looking for right away, ASK, these shop owners often have a list of suppliers who may have just the right item for you.
- Eat local. Choose produce, meat, and dairy products that are sourced as close to home, but at least within a few hundred miles of your home will have the greatest impact! The less distance goods (foods, toiletries, etc.) travel, the result is less air pollution and greenhouse gases that contribute to sky pollution. Farmer’s markets in the summer, and food co-ops that provide farm to fork selections are great options. If these aren’t possible for you, at least read labels when at the supermarket and choose the item that was grown or manufactured closest to you.
- Eat vegetarian at least one night/week. Meatless Mondays are a healthy and delicious way to reduce greenhouse gases while exploring new recipes.
Step Three: Conserve electricity.
Electricity is often generated by power plants that burn fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas). These type of power plants contribute to sky pollution. Make some of these adjustments to your daily routine to help conserve energy and reduce emissions from power plants.
- Turn off devices and appliances that you are not using. If you are not in the room, turn off TV’s, lights, and computers you aren’t using.
- Unplug power cords when you’re gone during the day. One idea is to keep a power strip with multiple items plugged in, then simply unplug the power strip when these items are not in use.
- Take shorter showers. Warm showers use electricity or gas to heat water in the hot water heater. Shorter showers will use less energy, and you’ll also help the planet by saving water. Try keeping your shower to five minutes or less most days. That’s about as long as it takes for two songs to play.
- Explore and choose solar. Choose retailers and suppliers of goods that have solar and other green systems in place. There are many solar products on the market, including solar lamps and solar power sources, for charging cell phones or powering other small household appliances.
Research and compile information about schools, businesses, and homes buying into solar power and solar rebates from local utility companies. Create a presentation, then ask to meet with facility managers at your school, job, or afterschool club to see if solar might be right for them as their primary source of power.
Badge Bonus: Plant trees.
Get a school club or neighborhood group together to perform this wonderful community service project. Volunteer with your local parks department or arbor day chapter and spend a day planting trees. Trees not only beautify our surroundings; they reduce greenhouse gases by converting carbon dioxide into oxygen during the process of photosynthesis.
Consider checking out these sites for scientific information about air pollution
We want to hear how your girl is using her Girl Scout skills by taking initiative, caring for the community, and Girl Scouting at home. She can send in her story here.