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While it could be easy to be very cynical about focusing on clean air for a single day, the organization works on clean air policy all year long. Clean Air Day is an annual opportunity to raise awareness, and to harness the energy of individuals to help with what is a mammoth enterprise.
First and foremost, the Coalition for Clean Air is asking individuals and organizations to pledge to take action that helps clean up California's air, and provides a list of recommended actions, large and small. Last year, over 1.3 million Californians pledged individual and collective action on Clean Air Day.
Actions do not include buying "carbon offsets" - or paying someone else to reduce emissions so as to avoid making any personal changes. This blog post from the CCA explains why direct actions - even simple ones like switching cleaning products - can be more efficacious than buying offsets.
"We’d like to encourage anyone thinking about [paying for offsets] to instead donate to local environmental, public health, or environmental justice nonprofit organizations," writes the CCA. "You might also think about your bank’s role in climate change and whether it’s time to change." Direct and immediate action is needed, not kicking the can down the road by buying offsets; in addition, offsets don't help with local air quality, and they are complicated, controversial, and possibly useless.
Of course, actions that reduce your transportation emissions - like walking or biking instead of driving for some of your trips - are things to take up as a habit, not just pledge to do for one day.
Local and virtual events will take place on Wednesday and the following days (see this calendar), including celebrations, community bike rides, neighborhood and shoreline cleanups, and free trees to plant. The Clean Air Coalition urges people to create their own event to help move the needle forward and raise awareness.
Streetsblog California editor Melanie Curry has been thinking about transportation, and how to improve conditions for bicyclists, since her early days commuting by bike to UCLA long ago. She was Managing Editor at the East Bay Express, and edited Access Magazine for the University of California Transportation Center. She also earned her Masters in City Planning from UC Berkeley.