Case Study


The Problem

Beginning in 1991, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District realized it needed to move beyond regulatory approaches to reducing air pollution and to begin challenging the predominant sources of air pollution – Bay Area residents and commuters – to change their behavior.

What We Did

Community Focus helped the Air District establish the Spare the Air program, one of the nation’s first major efforts to reduce air pollution through voluntary public education. In particular, we established Air Quality “resource teams” which have been working for more than 25 years to change behavior and reduce air pollution at a local grassroots level.

The resource team approach involves recruiting key community stakeholders – in this case, representatives from business, government, civic and environmental organizations – to implement public policy and long-term social change. Going beyond simply analyzing problems or proposing solutions, these teams actually implement solutions using the shared resources that the resource team members themselves possess (time, energy, expertise, money and influence).

Spare the Air resource teams in all San Francisco Bay Area counties have been implementing projects aimed at changing individual behavior to reduce pollution from both vehicular and off-road sources.


  • Reduced traffic and pollution at schools in Contra Costa County (1994), Sonoma County (2003-ongoing) and Santa Clara County (2004-ongoing)

  • Many projects resulted in traffic reduction at business parks such as the reducing lunchtime trips project in Santa Clara County (1995), vanpool incentive programs in Napa and Sonoma counties (2003-2004) and a commute alternatives project in South Alameda County (2006)

  • Traffic reduction aimed at tourists, such as the San Francisco/San Mateo MUNI to Golden Gate Park (1996) and Transit to Trails (2001) maps and car free tourism websites in Napa (2004-ongoing) and San Francisco (2005-ongoing)

  • Reduced pollution from off-road sources resulted from lawnmower exchange events beginning in Napa and Solano counties (1997-1998) and ordinances to reduce use of lawnmowers and leaf blowers on Spare the Air days in Petaluma and San Francisco (1998)

  • Transit and commuter resource guides for business employees in Alameda County (2001-2003)

  • Commuter Choice Tax Benefits guide for businesses in the Tri-Valley area (2002-2003)

  • SUV/Bike race in Santa Clara County (2003) A promotion for commute alternatives

  • “Great Race for Clean Air” (2005, 2006) A Bay-Area-wide promotion for commute alternatives

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