When it comes to air pollution, environmental activists Anna Giaquinto and Neal Singal believe that knowledge is power! Anna and Neal are the co-founders of Globally Unified Air Quality (GUAQ), an organization dedicated to creating affordable air quality monitoring solutions for people around the world. Anna and Neal created a portable app-connected device that measures and reports air pollutants, making it easier for people to gauge the level of air pollution in their area.
Anna first became passionate about air quality while growing up in Buffalo, New York. “I grew up in Buffalo, New York across the river from a bituminous coal plant that emitted about 9 times the amount of benzine than what was reported to the EPA,” she tells In The Know. “Watching how this impacted my family, friends, and neighbors, I wanted to empower other people with the data and tools they needed to advocate for change.”
Neal also grew up watching his family deal with the impacts of air pollution. Neil’s family is from New Delhi, India, which is one of the world’s most polluted cities. He explains, “Seeing how air pollution has affected students going to school, people going to work, and the entire transportation system, my goal is to be able to provide access to air quality information.”
Anna and Neal started GUAQ while attending Georgetown University. Together, they built a device designed to make air quality information more accessible. “When you’re using a GUAQ monitor, all you have to do is turn it on, plug it into a power outlet, take out your mobile phone and connect it to the WiFi,” Anna explains. “It takes only about 2 minutes and it’ll start measuring right then and there and you can look on the mobile app in real time to see what your pollutant levels are.”
Anna and Neal hope their devices help empower people to make informed decisions about the level of air pollution in their area. Neal tells In The Know, “Beyond just the general information of pollutants in the air, we also help people understand how they can adjust their commutes, as well as being able to pick certain times of the day to perform activities.”
Neal and Anna also hope their devices inspire corporations to reduce their carbon footprints. “In terms of the environment, it falls on the organizations and corporations that have emission sources,” Neal explains. “So we want to show organizations and companies how they can still have good air and healthy environments in their buildings, while keeping their carbon footprint as low as possible.”
Since starting GUAQ, Neal and Anna have been encouraged by the level of enthusiasm about their project. “When we first started GUAQ it was an outside project, and after winning pitch competitions and grants and seeing how people really cared about the technology, it helped us realize it could be a real business,” Anna explains.
Now, Anna and Neal are dedicating their time to refining their air monitoring prototype and spreading the word about air pollution. “What’s really exciting is that this is a problem that we can solve,” Neal explains. “So the ultimate impact working on GUAQ is hopefully one corporation, one organization, will make a decision to try to get in this fight, and I think that can start the ball rolling of ultimately reducing it to net zero.”
When it comes to fighting pollution, Anna explains, raising awareness is key. She tells In The Know, “The first step is empowering people to actually care about their air quality and then take action to improve it.”
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