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Zoo’s penguin exhibit built with animals and environment in mind

Helzberg-Penguins-Blog-Post-PhotoThe Kansas City Zoo buzzed with activity when it opened the new Helzberg Penguin Plaza in October. The new facility was designed with both penguins and the environment in mind. Greenability Magazine organized a tour of the facility in January, sharing information about how the zoo made sustainable decisions when building this regional amenity.

For the penguins’ comfort, the lights in the exhibit are automated to mimic the schedule of the Southern Hemisphere. To conserve energy, the lights in the employee area turn off automatically when not in use. The air and exhaust systems turn off automatically when the doors to the outside open. Additionally, 64 solar panels were installed on the roof to offset some of the energy used in the building.

To save water, the 100,000-gallon tank is filtered instead of drained. Used water is routed to holding basins that filter, sanitize and then return clean water to the exhibit. The system processes water at a rate of 945 gallons per minute, completing a full cycle in about half an hour!

The Helzberg Penguin Plaza is also a LEED-certified building. The exhibit was constructed with 20 percent recycled material, and 75 percent of all construction waste was diverted from the landfill.

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New “LoNo” program promotes clean air, reduced energy use

bus iconOur MARC Transportation Matters bloggers wrote a great summary about the Jan. 9 announcement of the Federal Transit Administration’s new Low or No Emission Vehicle Deployment Program (LoNo).

This quote from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx sums up why we’re excited to see this new program:

“The LoNo program will make a real difference in people’s lives by helping them get to work or school while letting them breathe clean air. We are proud to initiate a new program that reflects a commitment to reducing our nation’s dependence on oil while developing more sustainable sources of energy here at home.”

Click over to Transportation Matters for more information!

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Walk to school safely

children in crosswalkInternational Walk to School Day — a day that thousands of schools across America celebrate — is just a couple weeks away on Oct. 9. By encouraging your child to walk or bike to school, you promote good health through exercise, help relieve traffic congestion and decrease air pollution. Walking to school also builds a sense of community.

Before children walk to school, ensure they:

  • Are ready to walk alone. Although there are no laws stating at what age a child should be allowed to walk to school, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises that some children are ready to cross a street alone by age 10. The decision to allow a child to walk or bike to school should also depend on the abilities of the child, the potential routes and the weather.
  • Know pedestrian safety. The Federal Highway Administration’s Pedestrian Safer Journey offers free videos, quizzes and resources targeted toward children ages five to 18. Children learn how to cross the street, be seen and avoid distractions.
  • Have walking buddies. A group of children walking together can be more visible to a motorist than one child alone. Buddies also make the trip to and from school more fun. Be sure to talk to the group about the risks of horseplay near traffic.
  • Take the safest route. Choose a route with sidewalks if you can, and one that crosses very few, if any, busy streets. Avoid construction, even if this will result in a longer walk. Always accompany a child on the first walk of a new route.

International Walk to School Day in Kansas City helps families, students and communities share in the benefits of walking to school. Some walk to increase interaction with friends, classmates and other parents, while others focus on the benefits of increased physical activity, environmental air quality, and safety for pedestrians.

If you would like more information on this event or on how to organize a year-round walking program at your school, contact Aaron Bartlett at 816-701-8238 or

photo credit: jeweledlion via photopin cc

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Region saves nearly one million miles of driving

GCC-graphic_share-300x112The 2013 Green Commute Challenge ended a couple weeks ago, and we are so impressed by the results! In just 13 weeks, drivers from around the region saved 999,151 miles — 200,000 more miles than we saved last year. Way to go, KC metro!

Some other big numbers from this year’s challenge:

  • 27 teams
  • 835 participants
  • 963,924 pounds of emissions kept out of the air
  • $209,822 of driving expenses saved

For more details about this year’s challenge, check out the MARC Transportation Matters blog.

Keep your eye out for the 2014 challenge on the RideShare Facebook page. Maybe next year you can help us hit that million-mile mark!

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MARC annual review now available online

2013-MARC-Annual-ReviewMARC serves as a platform for the region’s citizens and leaders to engage in a broad range of issues. Take a look at MARC’s 2012 Annual Review to see how we are currently helping to create a more vibrant, connected Kansas City region by focusing on:

  • Vibrant places
  • Healthy people and families
  • Quality environment
  • Efficient transportation
  • Prepared communities
  • Effective government
  • A competitive economy
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Here comes the sun, and clearer skies.

solar panelsSolar panel installations grew 76 percent in the U.S. from 2011 to 2012, and it’s no mystery why: every hour the sun radiates onto earth enough energy to power the planet for more than a year. Rapidly falling prices, greater gains in efficiency and government tax incentives make using solar power feasible for many in the Kansas City region.

Use solar energy affordably and help keep our skies clear by:

  • Starting a solar cooperative. Home owners can save money on solar panels by purchasing and installing panels in bulk with their neighbors. For those without space for panels, some cooperatives allow participants to purchase panels together off site. See examples of both in DC and Colorado.
  • Exploring solar purchase power agreements. Purchase electricity from a developer who builds, maintains and operates a solar array on your roof. This electricity can be cheaper than current electricity costs, and it won’t run out in the future. For more information, visit the EPA’s website.
  • Using available tax credits. Governments want to reward those who install solar energy systems and fight air pollution. Both Kansas and Missouri have tax breaks for solar installations. See what is available in your state at DSIRE.
  • Cooking with a solar cooker. Using small mirrors, solar cookers can get up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. They work at any outdoor temperature as long as there is sun, and will cook nearly any dish. See solar cooking in action here.

Want more super solar facts? Check out this infographic from

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Fireworks, AirQ and You


By Luke Pitts

Each year, Americans gather on July 4 to celebrate our nation’s independence and fireworks are one of the most popular ways to celebrate. Americans bought more than 185 million pounds of personal fireworks in 2012.

Beautiful and powerful as they are, fireworks do contribute to air pollution. Smoke from fireworks poses a health risk — particularly for those with asthma — and traces of accelerants and heavy metals used to create colors can stay in the air and water for weeks. You don’t have to cut out fireworks completely to reduce pollution. Watch this short video on what London researchers have learned about the health effects of fireworks and what you can do prevent your exposure.

Fewer fireworks equal less pollution. For a beautiful, healthy Independence Day, try attending a community fireworks display. Many cities and nearby attractions have planned celebrations that are open to the public. See the Kansas City Star’s Fourth of July event list here. Rather than spending money on your own display, pack a picnic and a blanket and go with friends or family to one of these events.

If you do celebrate at home, try exploring alternatives. Biodegradable confetti, glow sticks, glow jewelry and noisemakers can all be fun ways to celebrate our nation’s birthday. You can even create your own laser show and set it to music. There are numerous guides on the Internet and electronic devices that can help. Just pick a playlist and start your spectacle of lights.

Protect yourself, your family and our air quality — and have a great Fourth of July!

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You’re caring for more than your lawn

It has rained a LOT in recent weeks, and with the rain comes every homeowner’s favorite task — maintaining the lawn.

Are you prepared for the summer ahead? Do you know how your lawn care is affecting not only your patch of land, but also the air, water and wildlife surrounding it?

This video from the University of Michigan covers the basics of your lawn’s impact on our earth. Professor Steve Skerlos explains different methods of mowing and basic lawn treatments that are kinder to the air, soil and water around you.

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