“Everybody deserves to breathe healthy air.”
This simple belief has motivated June Blotnick’s life in public service, leading the fight for cleaner air in North Carolina.
But after 17 years of leading CleanAIRE NC, June will step down from her Executive Director role this fall. We can’t let that happen without celebrating her incredible legacy first!
So over her final 17 weeks with CleanAIRE NC, we’ll be remembering one highlight or milestone from each of June’s 17 years here. It’s our way of saying thank you for everything she’s done to protect our air and climate health.
If you’d like to honor June for everything she’s accomplished, the best way to thank her is by making a gift that protects clean air and health equity in North Carolina. Make a gift and you’ll also receive a free CleanAIRE NC t-shirt!
It feels hard to believe, but we’re down to June’s final week. So let’s look back to just one year ago, when June re-launched our organization to reflect our expanding goals and a broader scope of work that focuses on three powerful determinants of public health: air quality, climate change, and environmental justice.
This new era for the organization begins with June hiring our first-ever Environmental Justice Program Manager to expand and revitalize our equity-focused work.
In 2020 June partnered with ecoAmerica to kick off our North Carolina Climate Ambassadors Program. This series of training workshops equips civic leaders and community advocates with the knowledge, communications skills, and resources they need to effectively push for climate solutions in their communities. After two initial trainings focused on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region, the program quickly expands statewide to meet demand.
We can’t believe it: only three weeks to go before June Blotnick’s last day at CleanAIRE NC. As we look back on all she’s done, one of our favorite memories comes from 2019 when June organized a cycling tour showcasing solar-powered homes through Charlotte!
Folks interested in sustainable living embarked on a guided tour of solar homes (including June’s house!), exploring residential solar panels and meeting solar homeowners to learn more about renewable energy options for their own homes. The tour was organized in partnership with Renewable Energy Design Group.
Just four weeks left before June Blotnick retires. That means we’re going back to 2018 for this week’s June flashback. After working with the City of Charlotte to pass a Strategic Energy Action Plan for the city, June and CAC launch the Charlotte Mecklenburg Climate Leaders, a broad coalition of organizations aimed at helping the city meet its ambitious climate goals.
We’ve officially entered June Blotnick’s final month as CleanAIRE NC Executive Director. Let’s go back to 2017 for this week’s June flashback. Just one year after beginning our citizen science work, June had built up the program and begun expanding it statewide. That year the EPA selects Clean Air Carolina as one of two (2!) organizations nationwide to help develop their Air Sensors Toolbox for Citizen Scientists.
The EPA toolkit was a guide for citizen science best practices, helping people and communities nationwide take measurements & track air quality captured by monitoring devices. This data ultimately helps inform policymaking decisions and protects the air we all breathe.
In 2015 June organized the first-ever NC BREATHE Conference in Raleigh. The conference brought together health professionals, researchers, community leaders, policymakers, students, and advocates to share the latest research on the health impacts of air pollution and consider strategies to improve air quality. NC BREATHE would ultimately go on to become CleanAIRE NC’s signature annual event.
In 2014 the EPA’s National Clean Diesel Campaign honored June Blotnick and CAC with the Visionary Champion Leadership Award, in recognition of our work to improve community health by reducing toxic emissions. Under June’s leadership, Clean Air Carolina had led the NC Clean Diesel program since 2015, focusing on promoting clean construction policies across the state.
Upon receiving the award at the annual Southeast Diesel Collaborative Meeting in Atlanta, June said described this ongoing effort as a true collaboration: “Clean Air Carolina works closely with universities, hospitals, local government, and construction companies, encouraging them to adopt clean construction practices to reduce air pollution and mitigate climate change.”
Just 9 weeks left before we say goodbye to June Blotnick as our leader! This week’s flashback comes from 2013, when June and CAC partnered with NC Conservation Network to co-host a Charlotte Citizen Hearing, giving local residents a platform to weigh in on the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan.
Under June Blotnick’s leadership, CleanAIRE NC officially goes statewide in 2012 with the opening of a Chapel Hill office for our Medical Advisory Team. The Advisory Team soon changes its name to Medical Advocates for Healthy Air (MAHA), and begins offering formal clean air advocacy training for pediatric residents and engaging its members in clean air advocacy.
It can be easy to forget about a problem we can’t see. To address this challenge June and CAC partnered with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in 2011 to launch the Charlotte Ozone Garden Project, working with student volunteers to build bio-indicator gardens at four Charlotte schools. With help from a 2010 Ally Bank grant, these gardens featured ozone-sensitive plants that produce distinctive patterns in the presence of ground-level ozone, giving students a hands-on demonstration of the dangers of invisible air pollution to human (and plant!) health.
As the links between air pollution and climate become more and more apparent, June decides to ramp up CAC’s action on climate change. She organizes a roundtable discussion on the challenges posed by the rapidly warming Arctic and our opportunities to respond, moderated by the Norwegian Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Wegger Christian Strømen.
Several years of organizing opposition against the Cliffside coal plant culminates when June organizes a non-violent civil disobedience rally in 2009. Over 350 concerned residents (43 of whom are arrested) come together to deliver “A Call to Conscience” message to Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers.
For June and CCAC, 2008 was a year focused on expanding our impact through our partnerships. We developed a new Medical Office Air Awareness Project with Mecklenburg County Air Quality, distributing air quality resource packets to local asthma and allergy clinics. And we kicked off our Air Quality Flag campaign at Charlotte-area schools to help students take an active role in understanding daily local air quality.
Inspired by the 2006 film An Inconveniet Truth, June pushed Carolinas Clean Air Coaltion to branch out into climate action, recognizing the close connection between air quality and the growing climate crisis. With our partner NC WARN, June organized public forums in Charlotte and Chapel Hill on the urgency of phasing out fossil fuels, inviting NASA climatologist Dr. James Hansen to be the featured speaker.
In 2006 June and Carolinas Clean Air Coalition partnered with Clean Air Task Force and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to measure how the diesel exhaust from Charlotte Mecklenburg school buses affects the air quality inside the buses, and the health impacts on the children riding them. The partners publish the report “A Case for the Healthy School Bus” as part of our successful campaign to retrofit school buses and reduce diesel pollution.
In 2005 Carolinas Clean Air Coalition (as we were then called) was just a small group of Charlotte-area volunteers. That November the organization hired longtime environmental advocate June Blotnick to be both our first Executive Director and our first paid staff member. June accelerated a Clear The Air For Kids campaign to reduce engine idling by buses and cars on school campuses and improve children’s health.