Simple steps for cleaner air and water

Temperatures are getting warmer. The sound of birds chirping is getting louder. Suddenly, more lizards are scurrying around. It must be spring, and spring means Earth Day is around the corner.

Whether you observe Earth Day or just want to improve the quality of air in the region, reducing the number of car trips can make a positive impact on our environment and on individuals with health issues. Pima Association of Governments’ Travel Reduction Program works to help our community promote cleaner air and improved environmental conditions for everyone.

Cars and other motor vehicle emissions are a major contributor to air pollution and other negative environmental conditions. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all emissions in the United States.

“The majority of transportation air pollution in our region comes from cars and trucks traveling with only a single person in the vehicle,” explained Pima Association of Governments’ Air Quality Manager Dustin Fitzpatrick. “We can reduce these single occupancy trips and help improve air quality by using other means of travel such as carpooling, vanpooling, transit, or biking and walking. “

In Pima County, protecting regional air quality is critically important to maintain our quality of life and protect individuals who have compromised health conditions such as asthma and or other breathing ailments.

Whether you reduce car trips to and from work, or just reduce vehicle use in your everyday life, the impacts can be felt. Even one less car trip a week can make a small difference.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. That is over 18 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per gallon of gasoline. The number is closer to 24 pounds for diesel vehicles.

PAG oversees the Travel Reduction Program, which helps the county’s largest employers manage travel demand across the region, provides those businesses with the resources and tools to encourage employees to rideshare or use other modes of transportation to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

“In the post-pandemic era, the increased utilization of telework has become an option for some workers to completely eliminate their work commute,” added Fitzpatrick.

PAG’s involvement in the Travel Reduction Program is part of the organization’s role as the region’s federally designated transportation conformity and state-designated air quality planning organization. In that role, PAG develops and analyzes plans to ensure the region maintains healthy air and is responsible for demonstrating that regional transportation activities do not adversely impact air quality.

A running creek in Tucson, Arizona.

PAG’s commitment to a healthier environment extends to water quality as the state-designated water quality planning agency for the Pima County region, excluding tribal lands.

One way to help keep our water supply free from contaminants is pollution prevention. Keeping our streets clean of litter, especially when the monsoons arrive, prevents trash from clogging storm drains and flooding streets in addition to keeping our communities beautiful.

The phrase Earth Day, Every Day is more than a slogan. By doing a few simple things such as skipping a car trip or throwing away your trash, you can do your part to keep the region’s air and water clean.