JustAir, C4 and Clarity: a Community Engagement Masterclass in Grand Rapids, Michigan

In 2022, JustAir, C4, Scales Consulting, and the NAACP partnered to combat air pollution in Grand Rapids, Michigan using Clarity's Sensing-as-a-Service solution.

Grand Rapids, Michigan
7 Node-S air sensors

installed across Grand Rapids, Michigan

200,000 residents

with access to real-time, local air quality data

Climate Justice

supported with data from a low-cost sensor network

Darren Riley

Darren Riley

Co-Founder and CEO, JustAir Solutions
“Clarity’s state-of-the-art monitors are the backbone of our Environmental Justice work in Grand Rapids. Accurate data is critical to our team and our community.”
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Situation: Understanding air quality challenges in Grand Rapids

In this case study, you’ll learn how Darren Riley, Co-Founder of JustAir Solutions, and Kareem Scales, C4 Co-Chair and CEO/President of Scales Consulting, effectively engaged with the Grand Rapids community — and how you can learn and apply the techniques they’ve honed over years of community engagement and outreach.

Grand Rapids, like many cities across the United States, faces significant air quality issues. In 2020, the EPA designated Kent County, home to Grand Rapids, as a non-attainment area, meaning the county does not meet federal air quality standards. Furthermore, Black Americans are exposed to 38% more polluted air than white Americans on average, leading to higher rates of asthma, heart disease, and stroke in these communities. With funding from the Environmental Justice Data Fund, JustAir and C4 set out to engage and empower these communities to understand and address the air quality issues they face.

Solution: Combining Sensing-as-a-Service  air quality measurement with JustAir's community engagement toolkit

JustAir and C4 have championed a grassroots, community-centric approach to tackling air pollution. By leveraging Clarity's air quality monitoring technology, they have been able to provide accurate, real-time data on air quality in the Grand Rapids area. This data is then used to educate residents, inform policy changes, and empower community members to take action.

C4 Ambassadors sharing insights, policy reforms, and climate change stories with Rep. Kristian Grant, Michigan State Representative for the 82nd House District.

The partnership between JustAir and C4 has been crucial in building trust within the community. By engaging community members directly and ensuring their voices are heard, the collaboration has been able to effectively address the unique challenges faced by the communities they serve. Key strategies employed by JustAir and C4 include:

Proximity: Meeting community members where they are, both physically and emotionally, by engaging them in conversations and activities related to air quality issues in their neighborhoods.

Education: Providing information on air quality issues, their health impacts, and potential solutions to empower community members to take action.

Collaboration: Working with various community organizations, academic institutions, and government agencies to ensure a holistic approach to addressing air pollution.

Economic Empowerment: Offering paid opportunities for community members to participate in the installation and maintenance of air quality monitors, as well as training and education programs, creating a sense of ownership and fostering economic benefits for the community.

Policy Change: Using the data collected from Clarity's air quality monitors to inform and influence local and regional policy changes aimed at improving air quality and reducing health disparities in affected communities.

Our most effective strategy is proximity — being really intentional about meeting people where there are. At your local grocery store, at the barbershop, or in the park where kids are shooting basketball, proximity plays a huge role. You can't just pop up in these communities without having that trusted relationship.

- Kareem Scales, C4 Co-Chair, and CEO/President of Scales Consulting

Outcome: Empowering communities and driving advocacy with real-time air quality data

Since adopting Clarity's air quality monitoring technology, JustAir and C4 have seen significant progress in their efforts to tackle air pollution in Grand Rapids. And to Darren Riley, co-founder and CEO of JustAir, the work doesn’t just stop at measurement — any successful community project must include the education work that follows.

The community might know where the air quality index and map is — but what does that index really mean? And what is someone supposed to do with it? You need to make sure you tell the community, "This is what is going on, but THIS is what you need to do." Not just show, but also instruct communities on what you can actually do with this information.

- Darren Riley, Co-Founder and CEO, JustAir

The real-time, accurate data provided by Clarity's air quality monitors has raised awareness about air pollution issues in the Grand Rapids community, leading to greater engagement and participation in air quality-related initiatives. Community members have become more knowledgeable about air quality issues and are better equipped to advocate for policy changes and take actions to improve air quality in their neighborhoods, contributing to improved air quality and reduced health disparities in the most affected communities.

The collaboration between JustAir, C4 and the city of Grand Rapids demonstrates the power of community-led initiatives in addressing environmental and health challenges. By leveraging Clarity's Sensing-as-a-Service solution, these organizations have been able to empower their community, raise awareness, and influence policy changes that lead to tangible improvements in air quality and public health.

>> Read more about Grand Rapids’ air quality network here.

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