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Youth Conference and Bike Share Honored at Awards Ceremony

The YES Conference and Bay Area Bike Share were two of six winners of the 2014 BREATHE CA Clean Air Awards.

Two MTC-sponsored climate initiatives, the Youth for the Environment and Sustainability (YES) Conference and Bay Area Bike Share, were among were among the feted at BREATHE California’s awards celebration at San Francisco’s Westin St. Francis April 24. Extending Earth Day into a week-long affair, environmentalists and clean air advocates gathered to celebrate six groups and individuals who are engaged in remarkable efforts to combat climate change. 

“We are acutely aware that defending public health requires collaboration and the combined efforts of many,” said Andy Katz, Government Relations Director for BREATHE California. This year marked the anti-lung disease nonprofit’s 24th Clean Air Awards celebration.

The Public Awareness award went to the YES Conference, which brought young environmentalists from all over the Bay Area to MTC for its inaugural meeting in November. The summit provided a venue for middle and high school students to discuss their efforts to reduce pollution and congestion in their communities. MTC and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) created the YES Conference as part of their Spare the Air Youth Program, recognizing that the under-18 crowd could dramatically impact climate change by adopting cleaner transportation habits.

“These students are spearheading efforts in their communities,” said the award event’s Master of Ceremonies Sarah Backhouse. “The conference became a new platform for collaboration.”

There to accept the award was high school freshman Jasmine Jolly, the keynote speaker at the YES Conference who inspired her peers to start cycling by talking about her own 25-mile roundtrip bike ride to school.

YES was “definitely one of the most interesting experiences I’ve had,” Jolly said. “It solidified my love for climate awareness and education.” 

In the Transportation award category, Bay Area Bike Share pedaled to victory. The award recognized the first regional bike sharing service – and the first ever in California – which launched in San Francisco and in four cities along the Peninsula in August. The Bike Share pilot, which is funded through a collaboration between several government agencies, is supported by MTC’s Climate Initiatives Program. 

In less than a year, Bike Share has accumulated 4,000 annual members and has racked up close to 200,000 trips. The 1,000 bikes in its mint-colored fleet have proven to be so popular that MTC this month approved an expansion of the network into the East Bay. 

MTC climate specialist Ursula Vogler said she hopes other cities and regions in California will adopt a similar program. 

Other BREATHE award recipients include SF Environment, SOL Inc. and the town of Discovery Bay, MCE Clean Energy and San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar. Read more about the winners and the event here.

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