Clean Air Incentives

A young helicopter pilot employed by the City of Anaheim in the 1970’s would lift off into the brown haze of the Southern California city–the cockpit doors closed in an attempt to protect the cabin air from the smog outside. In those days, long before clean air initiatives, smog alerts were not uncommon, as children would be kept inside at recess during school hours, and any sort of outdoor activity would result in a burning sensation in the throat and lungs.

It was around this time that people banded together to make a change for clean air.

Positive change

“Smog respects no political boundaries. Then, as today, most air pollution originated from vehicles and businesses in Los Angeles and Orange counties. The region’s westerly sea breezes blow most of that pollution into San Bernardino and Riverside counties each afternoon, leaving residents of the inland valleys to suffer the brunt of smog’s effects. Although most studies indicated that smog drifted inland from the west, Los Angeles county officials maintained they had no responsibility to clean up pollution in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, Camarena said…In 1975, air quality officials in the four counties formed a short-lived, voluntary regional agency called the Southern California Air Pollution Control District,” that has since evolved into the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Over the course of the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, the effects of smog-control measures became clearly evident–clean-air made a comeback. No longer did the helicopter pilot ascend into thick, brown haze, as visibility increased dramatically to the point where the heavy smog is almost a forgotten element of the past.

There are two ways to make a change like this: mandate it, or incentivize it. Mandates are fueled by punishment, while incentives are driven by rewards. We have focused heavily on mandated environmental protection, but we believe the reward-based path is still relatively unexplored. When people receive a reward for their responsibility, it cultivates the heart behind the behavior, and inspires others to do the same.