Our Story

Why we do what we do

Alabama First was originally launched in 2009 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to address the Birmingham area’s long-standing air pollution issues. In particular, our founders sought to reduce pollution from the area’s three behemoth coal-fired power plants owned and operated by the state’s largest air polluter, Alabama Power.

Our board of directors in 2010 learned of an organization called the Greater-Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution, or G.A.S.P. That group organized in the early 1970s as Alabama industries and governments resisted complying with the new federal Clean Air Act. Dangerous air conditions created a series of public health crises in Birmingham in the late 1960s and early 1970s, motivating young activists, public health professionals, UAB professors, and elected officials to form G.A.S.P. Together, they advocated for clean air policies, organized protests, and held a week-long “Right to Live Rally” that coincided with the first Earth Day. Thanks to G.A.S.P., the first time a federal judge exercised the authority of the Act was here in Birmingham, when Judge Sam Pointer issued a restraining order forcing local industry to shut down until air pollution abated.

Birmingham’s air quality has improved since 1970, but better is not good enough. Air pollution is still a problem in Birmingham, especially if you live in a community on the fence line of large polluting facilities like coke plants, coal-fired power plants, chemical plants, steel mills, metal recyclers, etc.

Our Mission & Vision

Our mission is to enhance the health and wellbeing of Alabamians by reducing air pollution, advancing environmental justice, and promoting climate solutions through education, advocacy, and collaboration. We envision a healthy, just, and thriving Alabama for everyone who lives, works, learns, and worships here. Healthy air is our raison d’etre. We strive to reduce air pollution, to educate the public on the health risks associated with poor air quality and to encourage community leaders to serve as role models for clean air and clean energy development. We provide the tools communities need to make healthy choices. We use the power of the law to strengthen air regulations, air pollution permits, and enforcement. Our aim is simple: healthier air for everyone no matter their zip code, race, or income. We also offer presentations to community groups, clubs, churches, and other gatherings. GASP is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization. Donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Our Core Beliefs

  • Everyone has a right to breathe healthy air.
  • Health should be a top priority when making laws and policies.
  • Healthy air means healthier people, which means a healthier economy.
  • The government must be transparent and accountable to the people.
  • Elected officials and regulators have a moral duty to protect public health.
  • Likewise, the people of Alabama are responsible for doing their share to protect public health to the best of their abilities.
  • Clean air and environmental justice are in the long-term best interest of all Alabamians.
  • Clean, renewable energy is essential to a healthier and more sustainable Alabama.
  • Every Alabamian deserves the opportunity to live a healthy life regardless of race, place, class, or other identity.

Our Values

  • Justice & Equity. We put justice first in everything we do. We work towards fair and equitable outcomes for all people.
  • Audacity. We are bold! We dream big and speak truth to power. We are courageous and don’t back down from daunting challenges.
  • Servant Leadership. We are servants of our communities above all else. We aim to be helpful to the communities we serve. Their success is our success.
  • Transparency. We are honest about our values and intentions, and we insist on the same from others.
  • Accountability. We believe the government in our society has a sacred duty to the people, and we will hold it accountable regardless of party affiliation, ideology, or personal connections.
  • Friendliness. We strive to be kind and courteous in all our relationships — including staff, board, volunteers, members, and residents of our communities. We value everyone.
  • Sustainability. We try to act in restorative ways for the people and places we serve. We follow the mantra, “reduce, reuse, recycle,” internally in our operations and externally in our program work.
  • Data-driven. We value information, including both qualitative and quantitative data. We treat all data types — including individual stories and community experiences — as essential.
  • Scientific evidence. We also value both the modern scientific method and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). The National Park Service defines TEK as “the ongoing accumulation of knowledge, practice, and belief about relationships between living beings in a specific ecosystem that is acquired by indigenous people over hundreds or thousands of years through direct contact with the environment, handed down through generations, and used for life-sustaining ways.”
  • Health. We know that our health is our wealth, so we prioritize the health and well-being of our staff, board, volunteers, donors, and constituents. This pertains to our internal personnel policies and how we treat others we come into contact with.

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Volunteers help us do everything from stuff envelopes to canvass fence-line communities.