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Green your commute to earn rewards, improve local air quality

The Fort Benning Environmental Management Division wants to know how you get to work — and what you think of green commuting.

To find out, officials have created an online survey, accessible through Oct. 22 at www.surveymonkey.com/s/FortBenning. It’s open to all service members, family members, civilians and contractors.

The survey is eight to 10 minutes long, and those who choose can enter a drawing for one of 50 $10 gift cards, said Ms. Tannis Danley, environmental compliance analyst for the EMD’s Air and Noise Program.

“We want to get as many people as we can to participate so we can develop a baseline from which to improve,” she said.

The EMD conducted a car count in June to determine the number of commuters using a carpool or vanpool — that is, having more than one passenger per vehicle — and the results showed that 12 to 15 percent of commuters fit that description.

“But we’ve got less than 1 percent of all commutes logged with the Clean Air Campaign,” Ms. Danley said. “We can’t track improvement if we can’t measure it.”

To register as a commuter, you don’t need to use a commuting alternative every day; one day a week or a month is fine, Ms. Danley said.

Commuting alternatives include vanpools, carpools, walking, biking, mass transit, teleworking and compressed work schedules. Those who log their green commutes are eligible for prizes and those who switch to a green commute can earn $3 a day, up to $100, gas cards and more.

Commuters can sign up at www.logyourcommute.org. The site also links people with local carpools and vanpools.

“When I think about green commuting, I think about improving air quality so people are healthier,” Ms. Danley said.

“I think about cost savings: you’re saving individually because you’re reducing your fuel costs but then we’re also saving in a larger part as a society because we reduce our health costs. Also, I don’t know if people think about air quality in relation to other environmental issues such as water quality. Air quality is more than just that the air is clean to breath. It’s about things we don’t see that have an impact on our entire environment.”

The Environmental Protection Agency celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Clean Air Act this year. According to http://epa.gov/oar/caa, a 1997 Report to Congress highlighted the following negative impacts on public health, which were prevented during the first 20 years after the act was instituted:* 205,000 premature deaths* 672,000 cases of chronic bronchitis* 21,000 cases of heart disease* 843,000 asthma attacks* 189,000 cardiovascular hospitalizations* 10.4 million lost I.Q. points in children,from lead reductions* 18 million child respiratory illnesses

During smog season this year, which runs from May through September, the Air Quality Index for the Columbus area was recorded as “moderate” 84 times, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

“A moderate AQI means the air quality is probably safe for most people but those who are sensitive, such as children with asthma or people with heart and lung disease, are susceptible and should avoid being outdoors in the afternoon and evening, when ozone is at its highest levels,” Ms. Danley said.

The AQI was unhealthy here one day as compared with 20 days in Atlanta.

An air quality situation like the one in Atlanta is what Ms. Danley said she wants the Chattahoochee Valley area to avoid.

“We want to improve our air quality,” she said. “The easiest way to do that is through vehicle emission reduction, and the easiest way to do that is to get some cars off the road. The biggest thing for us is clean air means we have healthier Soldiers and families.”

Remembering to reduce fossil fuels is especially relevant as the one-year anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 13514 approaches.

Signed Oct. 5, 2009, it “strengthens the federal government’s commitment to energy reduction, sustainability, greenhouse gas management and fleet and transportation management,” Ms. Danley said.

“As a DoD facility, we’re required to be leaders under this executive order every time we build a new facility or housing complex. With increased air quality standards, it’s important for us to do what we can to maintain air quality so we can continue to build facilities to house and train the Soldiers.”

For more information about the Clean Air Campaign, call 706-545-1857.

To start earning rewards for green commutes or to learn more about commute alternatives, visit www.logyourcommute.org.

To take the survey, go to www.surveymonkey.com/s/FortBenning.

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