In 2014, the Spartanburg County Foundation designated a Natural Environment Coalition within the Spartanburg Community Indicators Project. The Spartanburg County League of Women Voters participated in the Natural Environment Coalition and selected air quality as a focus. The Coalition's goal was to initiate an anti-idling campaign in all seven school districts in Spartanburg County, to help keep the air around schools healthy and inform school children and the public about the health benefits of not idling.
The campaign took hold under the leadership of volunteer Mary Ann Deku. She initiated a partnership with the "Breathe Better" Anti-Idling Campaign, sponsored by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control's Bureau of Air Quality.
Through Ms. Deku's efforts, sixteen Spartanburg County schools have been recruited to participate in the "Breathe Better" Anti-Idling Campaign, and two additional schools are participating in the Air Quality Flag Program. The schools that conducted an idling vehicle count as part of their anti-idling campaign produced a 40 percent reduction in idling among cars and a 54 percent reduction in idling among school buses. The "Breathe Better" Anti-Idling Campaign collaboration has also opened the door to other collaborations, including the installation of a vegetable garden at Carlisle Foster's Grove Elementary.
River Bluff High School has participated in the "Breathe Better" Anti-Idling Campaign and Air Quality Flag Program for the past three years. Science teacher Amy Price leads the campaign for these two air quality programs at the school. River Bluff High School students check the Air Quality Index on the www.airnow.gov web site every morning to announce the air quality forecast. They raise a colored flag at the school to indicate the air quality for that day. One of the school's dedicated seniors, Caleb Thompson, makes sure the air quality flag is put up outside the front of the school each day.
The students also participate in Sonoco's Green Steps Environmental Program. For their air quality project for the Green Steps program, the students check the air for particulate matter and ozone levels both outside and inside the school building. To improve indoor air quality, the students use recycled cans as containers for "air quality purifying plants" and supply plants for every classroom.
The students continue to learn more about air quality by doing other ongoing projects, such as making plastic bag mats for the homeless and having a very active school recycling program. In addition, the school is in the process of building a greenhouse and buying two refillable water bottle stations.