Pollution Patrol with the Phone

Telecommunications Gives Environmentalists Networking Power

The telephone always has had the potential to be a powerful environmental tool. Like many things, it’s up to the user to realize all of the possible benefits.

Just one phone call can save plenty of time, energy and pollution when the alternative is jumping in the car. And with little effort, the telephone can be used to mobilize and inform people. But these options have been at our fingertips for years.

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However, the environmental power of the telephone is starting to emerge in some new and different ways. Cellular One, a Seattle-based mobile phone company, has created several new regional programs aimed at helping the environment.

In southern Florida, Cellular One customers can use their car phones to access an Environmental Destruction Hotline. All calls are toll-free and are routed directly to the Florida Department of Environmental Regulations.

“We started this program in September 1990, in an effort to get the community more involved with environmental protection,” said Cellular One’s Jacqueline Stewart. “Our callers can either report hazardous situations or get advice on topics such as oil disposal.”

In November 1990, Cellular One started a different program in Colorado, called Air Line. Under this program, the company’s customers are encouraged to use their car phones to report vehicles that are emitting excessive amounts of smoke.

The toll-free telephone calls are routed directly to a local pollution prevention agency, Clean Air for Colorado, where the offending vehicle’s license plate and car model are recorded. The office also makes note of the date and location of the incident.

After the vehicle is reported, the Colorado Department of Health sends a letter to the vehicle’s owner, warning that a citation may be issued if the problem is not corrected.

“The Air Line handled more than 500 calls between November and March last winter,” said Dick Abels, with Cellular One in Colorado. “And these are Colorado’s worst air pollution months because of cold-air inversions.”

Cellular telephones do have great potential in terms of environmental protection. They’re adding eyes and ears to the movement, and they’re saving precious response time.

Earth Tip: Use your telephone to find out more about possible radon contamination in your home. Call the Radon Hotline at 1 (800) SOS-RADON.

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