Fight Air Pollution With Smart Commuting
Support Our App & Interactive Website: "Choose Green"
NKU Biologicial Sciences and Communication students with the help of the Center for Applied Informatics (CAI) are seeking solutions to the air pollution problem in the Ohio River Valley region through the development of an innovative, interactive website and a smart phone app, Choose Green.
NKU students, faculty and staff will compare their current commuting habits against alternative options of taking public transportation or carpooling to campus. The app and website will show financial, ecological, and personal rewards of different transportation choices, encouraging users to make healthier and more environmentally friendly choices when commuting. Messages encouraging users to adopt more sustainable commuting habits are embedded in the app and website as part of a larger communication campaign. The project received Phase I funding from the Environmental Protection Agency P-3 (People, Prosperity, Plant) program for its initial development and received an honorable mention at the EPA Sustainability Expo in April. This national recognition indicated the judges felt the project was worthy of additional funding, but the EPA could not award funds due to limited resources. We need your help to complete the project!!
Commuting and Air Pollution in the Greater Cincinnati Region
Vehicle emissions are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and photochemical smog. Greater Cincinnati suffers from higher asthma rates than the national average and often fails to meet EPA Clean Air standards. The region has frequently been cited as one of the worst areas in the country for air quality, and its geographical location exacerbates the problem by trapping air pollutants in the Ohio River Valley.
With more than 15,000 students and over 2,500 employees, Northern Kentucky University is one of the largest, local destinations for daily commuter traffic. Unfortunately, transportation options are limited in most of the region. Cincinnati is the second largest city in the country without commuter rail, and local bus systems are restricted to serving distinct communities in the Tristate region. For example, using multiple transit systems to connect from Ohio to Northern Kentucky would turn a 15-minute commute into a two-hour bus trip. Our project has already identified key characteristics to incentivize NKU commuters to carpool or use mass transit by employing social media technology and the Choose Green mobile application. Ultimately, these tools will help to significantly decrease the number of single occupancy vehicles on campus each day, and improve the air quality of the Greater Cincinnati region.
Choose Green App- Prototype
The Choose Green app encourages users to make healthier and more environmentally friendly choices when commuting, traveling, or just running errands around town. By tracking the trips they take on a daily basis a user can get insights about the amount of carbon dioxide they release into the atmosphere during travel or the amount of money they save by choosing greener options like taking the bus, carpooling, or walking where they want to go. Users can compare their progress through the app to compare to others' transportation choices. The app continues to be developed by our students in the Center of Applied Informatics (CAI).
Development of the app by the CAI came after extensive research and a message testing campaign by our trandisciplinary team. The app communicates three key messages that are meant to persuade users to take alternative modes of transportation (public transit, carpooling, walking) in their daily commutes. The messages focus on cost savings, health benefits, and protecting the environment.
EPA P3 Sustainability Expo Presentation- April, 2015
In April, our team of students presented the demo app at the EPA P3 (People, Prosperity and Planet) Sustainability Expo. Our team competed for Phase II funding that would be used to fund the final development of the app, a communication campaign promoting adoption of the app, and coordination with partner organizations across the Tri State area to customize and expand usage of the app. We presented to two sets of judges, and the expo was open to the public. We had many families stop by and inquire about our project. Our students did an amazing job explaining our project, and were awarded with an honorable mention. We competed against teams, some of which included doctoral students, from universities such as Stanford, John Hopkins, and Michigan State. Out of nearly 45 teams, only 7 received funding and 7 more received honorable mentions, which meant our project was not funded for Phase II, but the judges felt it is an excellent project worthy of funding.
Our team also presented during the poster session at Northern Kentucky University's Celebration of Student Research and Creativity on Wednesday, April 15.
We have seen early interest in our project. Click on the following link to read a story from the Cincinnati Enquirer. http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2015/02/09/nku-green-app/23137277/.
If you would like to learn more about our project, our Biological Sciences and Communication programs, or the CAI, please visit http://www.nku.edu or call Dr. Zachary Hart at (859)572-5573.
We Need Your Help
The project has been quite successful so far, but we need your help to support our students so they can complete development of the app and website and launch a public relations campaign, which will encourage the NKU community to download and use the app. By tracking and changing our commuting behaviors, we can save money, improve our health, and protect the environment!!