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Smell something, say something: New smartphone app lets you rate your city's air quality

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An East Coast university's project to graphically bring together air-quality measurements and crowdsourced reporting of off odors has been released as a free mobile app.

Seventh Generation, maker of environmentally conscious household and personal care products, on Friday announced a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University's Create Lab to provide citizens in communities across the country with tools to take positive action against air pollution.

Smell MyCity follows CMU’s Smell Pittsburgh (Smell PGH) app, released for the Pennsylvania city in 2016. It was developed with support from the Heinz Endowments, which works toward building a Pittsburgh region that thrives as a whole and just community. The app launched Friday in Louisville, Kentucky, and is planned to roll out in Portland, Oregon, later this year.

The app is designed to work in three simple steps: smell, submit and share.

“If the air around you smells bad, chances are it isn’t healthy for you to breathe,” said Illah Nourbakhsh, professor in CMU’s Robotics Institute and director of the Create Lab. “Human noses are the sensors for Smell MyCity, which prioritizes and highlights citizens’ concerns regarding local air pollution issues. In CMU’s hometown of Pittsburgh, users of the app have collectively helped build awareness about rapidly changing air events and provided the local regulatory agency with a higher resolution of air pollution data.”

Any community in the U.S. can use the Smell MyCity app to document and monitor pollution odors in their neighborhoods. Community-sourced smell report data can be easily accessed through the Smell MyCity website, www.smellmycity.org. The cleaning products company and the lab are exploring additional partnerships with grassroots organizations across the country to ensure that local smell report data shared in the app is sent to the appropriate local regulatory agencies and decisionmakers.

“We believe that everyone deserves access to clean, healthy air,” said Ashley Orgain, global director of advocacy and sustainability for Seventh Generation. “Seventh Generation has long been an advocate for people and planet health, and this partnership helps give the power back to people across the country and enable them to be the catalyst for creating change that can have an immediate, positive impact on the health of their community.”

In addition to the Smell MyCity app, Seventh Generation is also working with the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 initiative, encouraging cities to commit to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. Both initiatives are driven by Seventh Generation’s commitment to climate justice and equity.

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