What I Learned Working at Gasp: A High School Intern’s Point of View

What I Learned Working at Gasp: A High School Intern’s Point of View

This blog post was written by Cayla, our work study intern for the past two semesters.

Interning here at Gasp from Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School through a Corporate Work Study program, I learned many different things about the environment that I did not know. My experience with Gasp has changed my perspective in different situations.

I learned how to find people on the internet just by their name, address, phone number, etc. (We were working on a mailing list for Gasp newsletters and needed to make sure the addresses were up to date.) I got the chance to help gather information that helps improve the work process. I helped get information about schools so Gasp could talk to them about education programs.

I also got the chance to learn about the different air qualities and how bad air affects the environment and the people through a website called Southern Exposure. I created two binders based on different air monitors around the state of Alabama. In those binders it tells what air monitors check for by pollutant from 2011 to 2016. I have also gotten the opportunity to sit in on meetings and take in how it feels to be in meetings with different people from different age ranges. I got to be in my very first webinar.

But most importantly, I have gotten to meet some amazing people. They are Kirsten Bryant, Haley Lewis, and Michael Hansen. They have taught me great things! They provided me with helpful advice and the conversations were also amazing. We could talk about anything and they would listen to you. I even learned a better way to fold shirts while interning here. They are super nice, cheerful, supportive, and inviting people. I have met other great interns while working here. It is a quiet and peace environment to work in. I would definitely work here again next year! 🙂

Using Comedy to Lift Spirits, Raise Awareness

Using Comedy to Lift Spirits, Raise Awareness

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Gasp is teaming up with the Alabama Rivers Alliance to host a unique event Sunday, March 26 at Cahaba Brewing Company. “A Viscous Cycle: Thick Comedy” seeks to lift spirits and connect supporters of the two organizations.

Gwen Sunkel and Carson Tumey have made a name for themselves in the Indianapolis comedy scene and are taking their act on the road. The Birmingham stop is part of a seven-city comedy tour this month. They tout their comedy as a blend of “a delicious dose of wit with a scoop of silliness and add a dash social awareness.” Sunkel and Tumey will be joined by Alabama comedians Chris Ivey and Hallie Tarpley for a Birmingham-style Sunday Funday not to be missed.

“There has been so much negative news recently related to environmental protection and health policy,” said Gasp Executive Director Michael Hansen.

“It can be overwhelming to keep up with it, and if you don’t practice ‘self-care,’ it can really bring you down. So when Gwen and Carson offered to come to Birmingham for a benefit show, we jumped at the opportunity to make folks laugh and connect with local beer and food. It’s a win-win for everyone!”

A VIP reception will be held at 4 p.m. Tickets are $35 and include admission, drink tickets, food, and a membership to both organizations. General admission is $10 and student tickets are $5. Doors open at 5 p.m. The show will last for about 90 minutes. Organizers invite guests to hang around until the brewery closes at 8:30 for networking and games. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. (RSVP on Facebook for updates and giveaways.)

Event sponsors include Rojo, Kinetic Communications, and Jamm Entertainment Services.

For more information, contact Michael Hansen at 205-701-4270 or via email.

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This is Why I Gasp

This is Why I Gasp

by Will King, Gasp Summer Research Fellow

As we head outdoors to enjoy the sunny days and vibrant colors of spring, the quality of the air we breathe may be the last thing on our minds. May is Clean Air Month, a time devoted to bringing increased awareness to eliminating air pollution and cleaning up the invisible substance that gives us life. Spring can also be a time when many allergy, asthma, and respiratory disease sufferers must retreat indoors to prevent exacerbations of their illness.

Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors — including children, seniors, and  pregnant women, groups that are among the most susceptible to the lasting effects of particle pollution, or PM for short. PM is actually a mixture of microscopic solid and liquid particles and it can include substances like heavy metals that are the product of industrial processes (like steelmaking and coke manufacturing), coal-fired power plants, and vehicle emissions.

When we breathe in these tiny foreign particles, several things happen inside our bodies. If the particles are small enough, they may pass directly into the bloodstream along with fresh oxygen. These heavy metal particles like lead, titanium, and chromium are all dangerous in large doses to our body, causing or worsening heart problems, leading to dementia, or causing several types of cancer.

If the PM particles are too big to be carried directly to the bloodstream, they sit in the lungs and get trapped by our bronchioles, which look like branches of a tree. In the short-term they can cause irritation and breathing difficulty, while long-term exposure is associated with lung and cardiovascular diseases.

If you or someone you know has asthma, emphysema, or COPD, inhaling these particles may trigger respiratory distress, which if not treated, can be deadly. Expectant mothers can be especially at risk, and studies have shown that preterm birth is directly linked to air pollution exposure in the second trimester.

I joined Gasp this Spring as a research fellow, which means I get to investigate first-hand how polluted and toxic the central Alabama air we breathe is. I also joined Gasp so I could advocate for you and stress the importance of cleaner air to our elected officials. With our team at Gasp, we are working to put an end to air pollution in Birmingham, and I am so proud to be a part of it.

This is why I Gasp, and so should you! Join Gasp today to help our efforts in putting a stop to air pollution and cleaning up the air we treasure!

Gasp Hires Michael Hansen as Executive Director

Gasp Hires Michael Hansen as Executive Director

Birmingham, Ala. — Gasp today announced that it has hired Michael Hansen to assume to role of executive director effective immediately. The Memphis, Tenn., native joined Gasp in 2013 as communications director. In that role, he managed marketing strategy, branding, press relations, social media, digital media, and other communications duties. As executive director, he is tasked with implementing strategy, fund raising, and day-to-day management.

Before joining the staff of Gasp, Hansen co-founded a freelance-style digital marketing company with his siblings called Mud Pie Creative Lab in 2012. He was previously public relations director at The Modern Brand, a full-service marketing and advertising agency located in downtown Birmingham. There he led public relations for the Jefferson County Health Action Partnership’s Champions for Health campaign, a $13.3 million public health campaign funded by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That effort included the highly successful SmokeFree Alabama campaign, which led to the implementation of smoke-free ordinances in several Jefferson County cities, including Birmingham.

Prior to The Modern Brand, Hansen was the public relations and marketing coordinator for Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, the nonprofit arm of Alabama’s largest living museum. He created the organization’s social media presence, making it one of the most followed cultural institutions in the South. He was also an integral part of the organization’s fundraising outreach. He also helped to create the Gardens’ junior board in order to groom its next generation of leaders.

Hansen has a bachelor of business administration from the University of Memphis in marketing management and a master of arts from the University of Alabama in public relations. He’s an active member of the Birmingham community and has served on numerous boards and committees for organizations and issues supporting causes ranging from civil rights to mental health to food access.

Michael can be reached at michael@gaspgroup.org or 205-746-4666.

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Guest Blog Post: How Clean Is The Air in Your Home?

Guest Blog Post: How Clean Is The Air in Your Home?

With all the attention on pollution from cars and factories, you might think about your home as a sacred space of filtered purity. But the truth is that the air in most homes is two to five times more contaminated than outside.

And city homes with tight spaces are especially susceptible to low air quality. The good news is that you can easily clear the air in your home. We at Modernize think that knowledge is power, and indeed, the first step to clearing the air is knowing about the types of contaminants that lurk in your abode.

VOCs

VOCs—or volatile organic compounds—are carbon-based chemicals that are found in a host of household products, but especially in wall coverings like paint and wallpaper.

VOCs are dangerous because they’re known carcinogens, and they have been shown to contribute to respiratory problems like asthma and allergies.

To ease the contamination from these kinds of products, don’t store opened paint cans in your home, and look for VOC-free products whenever possible. Limit the use of commercial air fresheners and opt instead for natural options like burning sage or cedar incense. To really give you a clear idea of the products you should steer clear of, The National Institutes of Health has a great database of VOC products here.

Mold

Mold in your home can cause a whole host of health problems, from the innocuous (itching eyes, sneezing) to the serious (permanent lung damage).

Mold thrives in wet and humid environments. The best way to stop it in its tracks is to make sure your home has no mystery leaks or unwanted moisture. Some common culprits are air conditioning ducts—condensation from cooling air can collect there, creating a haven for mold—and leaking pipes that have gone undetected.

To prevent mold’s reign of terror, make sure to have your cooling system and ducts cleaned regularly every two or three years. And keep a vigilant eye on your plumbing—particularly in closed-off areas like closets, basements, and cabinets. If you notice any leaks, call a plumber to repair them as soon as possible.

plumbing

via Modernize

Dust Mites

Here’s where it gets kind of gross. You most likely have a roommate you didn’t know about—actually, make that several thousand roommates! Dust mites, microscopic bugs that feed off of dead skin cells, are living in our homes—the average living space may contain up to 10,000 bugs! Even pristine homes are not safe.

So why are dust mites dangerous? While they do not pose as serious a threat for most people, they can be very triggering for those with serious allergies or asthma.

To protect yourself, check your home’s humidity. Mites thrive in moist, humid homes where they can absorb the water in the air. Reduce moisture levels in your home by investing in a dehumidifier, or just by opening your windows on drier days. And, if you can, limit the amount of upholstered furniture in your house—dust mites love it there.

One of the best ways to keep your home’s air fresh and clean, however, is also the simplest: open the windows. Opening the windows every so often keeps your environment clean by letting in air that is less contaminated. Plus, the fresh air just feels great!

About the Author

ErinErin Vaughan is a writer and aspiring homeowner based in Austin, Texas.

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