Topic Resources

Tools Used
Initiated By

Clean Air Champions

  • HSBC
  • Olympic, Paralympic and National Team athletes

To come 


Webinar Materials

Landmark Case Study

HSBC Clean Air Achievers

CAC's HSBC Clean Air Achievers programs provides youth with a chance to meet high profile athletes and be inspired by personal messages to adopt healthier, more active and sustainable lifestyles. The program has dual goals of reducing air pollution and increasing physical activity levels via active transportation. Designated in 2013. This case study is being completed based on its webinar presentation on April 16, 2014. A video-recording and PDF slide handouts from that webinar can now be accessed for free using the link near the bottom of the left hand column.


Note: To minimize site maintenance costs, all Tools of Change case studies are written in the past tense, even if they are ongoing programs, as is the case with this one.


Clean Air Champions (CAC) was a national charity formed in 2001. Its mission was to educate Canadians on the importance of air quality and its connections to health. CAC worked with some of Canada’s most respected high-caliber athletes (the Champions) to educate and inspire people to adopt healthier, more active and sustainable lifestyles. Its audience was mainly youth between the ages of 10 and 18; however it also reached elementary age youth as well as adults through corporate presentations. CAC had three national curriculum-connected programs and a property called Zero Energy Dinners. It also participated in partners’ or clients’ events, programs or campaigns that align with CAC's mission.

The Champions were at the heart of the program. They included over 200 Olympic, Paralympic and National Team athletes who act as educators, program ambassadors and motivational speakers. Each had a personal story to tell that engaged their audiences and influenced positive behaviour. Every Champion was passionate about CAC's dual goals of improving the environment and the health and well-being of Canadians. The multi-media presentations the Champions delivered were interactive and enhanced by comprehensive program resources that included backgrounders, games and curriculum-connected activities that provide both theoretical and practical learning experiences. Two of the programs used online calculators that provided each user with personalized data showing how their actions were having a positive impact on the environment and their health. At each presentation the athletes integrated their personal experiences and values, focusing on positive, constructive messages and realistic, measurable actions as solutions.


Crystal Phillips in a classroom

Getting Informed

It took three years of pilot testing with different approaches and with different grade levels (as low as grade 4 to as high as grade 11) and comprehensive evaluation via surveys, focus groups, one-on-one interviews with teachers, youth, and our Champions to evolve the program.

The research determined that the optimum ages for this program are youth between grades 6 and 9 (age 10 to 15). This is a prime age range for being influenced, a group who are just beginning to have independence in their lives, especially in their travel and buying habits, and at the older end these youth are on the verge of becoming licensed car drivers.

Irwin Park Champion Challenge

Delivering the Program

The bulk of this section is being written based on the webinar presentation on April 16, 2014 and should be available here in written form by October 2014.  

HSBC/CAA was delivered in all ten Canadian provinces in both English and French. Champion athletes were trained to deliver the program, having been identified as positive and inspirational role models. They were recruited annually from a network of over 200 Olympic, Paralympic, and National Team athletes. These athletes shared the values of and commitment to active living (and active transportation) and many carried a dedication to environmental preservation as they spent their time training in outdoor environments. Over 30% of them suffered from asthma, exercise-induced asthma and/or allergies and could speak from experience about‘clean air for health. 

Tri-athlete Lisa Bentley

Every year CAC reviewed the program evaluation results and takes time over the summer months to make enhancements and improvements as needed.

Measuring Achievements

As student participants tracked their transportation modes over a 2-6 week period, various reports were produced from the online Trip Tracker and were immediately available to students, teachers and CAC staff.

Students entered their travel trips (unlimited in number) using a Google locator tool and drop-down selection of their mode of travel including car, hybrid car, truck/van/SUV, bus, subway, walk, bike, skateboarding and rollerblading. The online tool allowed them to select previous and regular travel trips taken (for example, school to home) and easily record these as a subsequent trip with a prompt to select their new (or same) mode of travel. The online Trip Tracker calculated the total distance travelled per mode of travel, the old emissions in kg (when using the usual mode of travel), the new emissions in kg (when using the more active or sustainable mode of travel), and the emissions change in kg between new and old travel modes. It also calculated the percentage of GHG emissions reduction and the percentage of active transportation. All this was tracked for each participant and/or for the class/group as a whole. The program’s overall impact was measured by compiling all of this data at the end of each school year.

CAC also conducted surveys after every Champion presentation and conducted one-by-one interviews with select teachers and Champions. The exit survey addressed the overall program attributes and tools and resources as well as the role of the Champion.

Each year all data were put into a summary report of the impact youth had on the environment and their transportation for that year. The report included anecdotes and quotes from teachers, Champions and youth participants.

Due to the fact that the data were specific to the Trip Tracker participation in the program, CAC knew that there were no changes caused by non-program influences.


Between 2006 and 2013 the program impacts fell within a very close range from year to year.

For the the 2011-2012 school year the final results were:

  • 30.6% average percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
  • 45.2% average percent increase in active transportation

CAC also believes that measuring this program’s impact via qualitative feedback is strong evidence of impact and value. Below are four examples from teachers and youth:


  • “Paul has done such a good job yesterday. He’s got a good sense of humor, students like him very much! I printed the general certificates; Paul signed those and gave them to the students. I believe Paul’s presentations really helped my students to think of global warming and affect their travel habits. Also thank you very much for your support! The pre-CAA and CAA trip tracker log page was very helpful. I will encourage my students to continue with the active transport. In addition, the surveys will be done in a week. If possible, we are looking forward to have Paul or another champion back next school year!” Regards, Jian Qin (Rosslyn School, Edmonton, AB, October 2011)
  • "I am a teacher at Dearcroft Montessori School. We have recently just finished the Clean Air Achievers program. We pride ourselves in creating an environmentally conscious atmosphere in our classroom and the Clean Air program was a perfect match. It was extremely easy to implement and provided our students with concrete goals that they can accomplish to lessen their impact on the environment. Having the champion come into the classroom was a fantastic motivator (its not everyday you meet an Olympic athlete). The program runs like a clock and fit seamlessly into our regular programming. The kids loved it, the parents were impressed, and it made me look like a star." David Gunn, (Teacher, Dearcroft Montessori, May,2012)


  • “I liked it (HSBC/CAA)because it was fun to walk more. Also because, it felt good to help the environment. Also, it was good for my health. Also because, my dad walked with me and I helped him get healthier too. Last but not least, it was funner to walk to school than drive.” (Beachey Cove Elementary, Gr 6 student)
  • “It was good to know how much greenhouse gases you can create or reduce, and the ways to prevent creating more. I think bring in the Olympian was a good way to support the program and make it more interesting, while also boosting the idea of walking to school for exercise. Overall I enjoyed participating in the program because it was very easy to use, informative and the results could teach you a lesson so you could change your methods of transportation. It is good to know how we are affecting the environment so we can make a difference. The small tips I learned from this program are beneficial to everyone.” (Collingwood Collegiate, Gr9 student)

Population size of the program’s audience in 2010-2011:  3,230 youth from 87 schools

Overall impact across all participants that year:

  • 25,000 kilometres traveled by active transportation
  • 45.2% average percent increase in active transportation
  • 73% said they were going to try to travel more by active modes of transportation
  • 57.7% of families used the car less after participating in the program
  • 28% average percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
  •  68% of participants strongly like the program


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