Upstate, SC [February 10, 2014] – South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) recently honored the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee with the “Spare the Air” Award in the Outstanding Community Improvement Campaign category for  the Clean Air Upstate (CAU) initiative.  The purpose of the Spare the Air Award is to recognize environmental leaders that have made a voluntary commitment to promote and practice air quality improvement in South Carolina.

Clean Air Upstate is an initiative of the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee, a group of diverse stakeholders from the public and private sectors. Ten at the Top, a nonprofit that fosters regional collaboration across Upstate South Carolina, coordinates this initiative and engages local governments, businesses, and community organizations from the region in efforts to promote physical health and economic vitality through improved air quality.

The cornerstone of CAU is the Regional Air Quality Pledge. The pledge allows local governments, businesses, community organizations, media outlets, and even individuals to illustrate their commitment to improving air quality. To date, 23 governments, businesses, and community organizations have signed the pledge, each committing one representative to work with UAQAC and the SCDHEC on their strategies.

Another significant piece of CAU is the promotion of SCDHEC’s Breathe Better (B2) program, which helps to protect the health and safety of children by reducing harmful vehicle emissions around school campuses. CAU secured funding from Duke Energy and the Hollingsworth Funds to provide grants to schools that participate in the program. The program makes schools a no-idling zone for both school buses and personal vehicles, thus significantly reducing emissions and resulting in a decrease of gasoline usage. The program also includes a student education component that teaches the importance of clean air and how individual actions can make a difference.  Participation in the program has increased by 129% from 14 to 32 schools.

The school-specific B2 program works in tandem with CAU’s broader anti-idling campaign, which encourages no-idling zones in shopping centers and other parking areas. A variety of stakeholders – including the Upstate location of GE Energy – have placed CAU’s no-idling signs around their parking facilities. Rounding out CAU’s clean air toolkit are a series of practical, easy-to-implement clean air tips developed by the UAQAC.

These tips are disseminated on promotional materials and through electronic and social media channels. Seven public service announcements, representing an in-kind donation from WSPA, bring the tips to life and were shown for ten weeks on three regional television channels.  The PSAs were also featured for six weeks in the pre-screening reel at over 100 movie theaters across the Upstate.  For more information about the Clean Air Upstate initiative or how to get involved with the Clean Air Advisory Committee, visit www.cleanairupstate.org.