Hamilton is home for many things – people, animals, waterfalls, steel, and vehicles too! Now more than ever, keeping our air clean of pollutants is of vital importance. As trucks and cars flow through our city streets, noxious gases from tailpipe exhaust and fine particulate matter from brakes and tire ware are thrown into the atmosphere, affecting those people, animals, and even waterfalls that we love so much. Older adults, and children, especially those under 18 are more sensitive to poor air quality, and many of our homes are situated beside Hamilton’s busy roadways, further increasing exposure to airborne pollutants that enter our bodies. Coupled with more sedentary lifestyles and added screen-time, this combination can lead to a not-so-healthy population.
There are many ways we can work together and take small actions to help clean our air and keep it clean. Collectively, these actions can have a huge impact, especially at local scales. Across Hamilton, organizations are helping community members to plant trees, absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, cooling the city, and keeping water clean (just to name a few of the ecological services trees provide). Other agencies protect and maintain Hamilton’s ecological hotspots, and still others strive to add naturalized gardens, rain gardens and pollinator patches filled with native plants. These are all fantastic initiatives to help sequester atmospheric pollutants, but how do we stop them from getting up there in the first place?
Enter… Fresh Air for Kids! Initially launched in 2012, Fresh Air for Kids (FAFK) is in it’s biggest year yet! Designed to teach our sensitive-to-polluted-air student populations about air quality, this program helps them create, design, and deliver their very own Anti-Idling Campaign. With expertise from Corr Research and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks scientists, Hamilton students are becoming scientists themselves, measuring and monitoring air quality around their schools with the intention to make it better! Drop off and pick up times at elementary schools in particular can be a stressful and hectic 30 minutes for parents and caregivers, and often expose one of the worst habits drivers have… engine idling! Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting the vehicle, and you won’t have to breathe in those nasty exhaust fumes from an engine that is turned off. Not to mention, idling your vehicle for 10 minutes a day uses up more than 100 litres of gasoline each year! When students participate in Fresh Air for Kids, the whole community benefits. Sometimes breaking bad habits can be hard, but creative reminders from our FAFK students can help kick the idling habit and build new walking and rolling to school travel habits instead.
In 2018, Green Venture received a GROW grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation as well as ongoing financial support from Clean Air Hamilton to bring Fresh Air for Kids to 18 new schools across Hamilton. We’ve also teamed up with the City of Hamilton’s School Travel Planning (STP) partners to support Active and Sustainable School Transportation (ASST) and increasing physical activity, reducing traffic congestion, enhancing neighbourhood safety and sense of community, and of course, improving local air quality.
Keep your eyes peeled for our Fresh Air for Kids students as they take to the sidewalks to help spread the anti-idling message, educate and inspire their communities, and help keep the air we breathe clean!
Want to do your own part in caring for our air? Join us by taking the Fresh Air for Kids Family Pledge at home! Whether you choose to walk or roll to work or school, carpool with friends, take the bus, or plant a tree, together we can all do our part to help Spare the Air!
Share an image of your pledge on social media with the hashtag, #freshairforkids
For more information on Fresh Air for Kids, visit www.greenventure.ca/fresh-air-for-kids