On Friday, March 3rd, Fresh Air Friday drew almost 500 people to the historic Main Plaza to commemorate the start of the ozone season and learn about air quality and alternative transportation. Fresh Air Friday is an annual event co-hosted by the Alamo Area Council of Governments and the City of San Antonio, in partnership with VIA Metropolitan Transit.
Framed by the backdrop of the beautiful San Fernando Cathedral, local air quality champions, San Antonio Councilman Ron Nirenberg and Leon Valley Mayor Chris Riley welcomed attendees with opening remarks. The speakers were tasked with answering the question, “With a rapidly growing population, how can transportation reduce air pollution and promote smart growth?” Councilman Nirenberg reflected, “As a parent, there is no issue more pressing to me than the work that I do to create a sustainable future for my son, Jonah. That’s why events like this are so important. Fresh Air Friday combines education and fun in a way that reminds our residents to take care of one of our most precious natural resources: the air we breathe.”
Attendees traversed the Main Plaza, speaking with exhibitors from a variety of governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, and eco-conscious businesses. The event hosted over 20 exhibitors including, Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, TxDOT, SAWS, Alamo Forest Partnership, Mitchell Lake Audubon Center, San Antonio B-Cycle, Earthwise Organic Pest Control and many others. Attendees spoke with exhibitors about how they contribute to cleaner air and picked up some freebies and door prizes. First time attendee Jacqueline Jacot remarked, “I feel like I learned a lot about San Antonio’s efforts to reduce pollution and become a healthier city. I am proud to be from a city that has programs committed to sustainability. Plus, the swag was great.”
Live music from Sioux & Fox and Shaker Hymns provided entertainment, prompting Alex Rubio, the City of San Antonio’s Public Engagement Officer, to boogie on the plaza with other attendees. VIA’s mascot, Primo, stopped by to take pictures with attendees and exhibitors, while others snacked on goodies from food trucks on-site.
In addition to information about alternative transportation, attendees also learned about the importance of air quality and ways that everyone can reduce air pollution, like walking to lunch or meetings instead of driving and walking inside instead of using bank or restaurant drive-thrus. Not to mention, walking or cycling to lunch and taking active transportation is a great way to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine and reduce air pollution.
Since 2012, ozone pollution levels have been high enough to exceed clean air standards established by the federal government. Ozone pollution, the most common type of air pollution in Greater San Antonio, can cause painful and difficult breathing, as well as long-term health effects. A 2016 study by the Alamo Area Council of Governments found that 81% of area residents were concerned about air pollution in the San Antonio area, and attendees seemed to agree.
If you missed Fresh Air Friday this year, be on the lookout for it next year! And in the meantime, find out more information about alternative transportation (carpool, vanpool, bus, walk, bike, or telecommute) and air quality from AACOG’s Commute Solutions program at firstname.lastname@example.org.