The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized four communities for helping to reduce air pollution and improve the quality of life of older adults through smart growth efforts, according to an agency press release. Smart growth refers to neighborhoods that are creatively designed to reduce driving and environmental harm. These four communities received EPA’s Building Healthy Communities for Active Aging awards because they created walking and biking opportunities for older adults. These actions not only protect the environment by reducing air pollution, but also foster economic vitality and enhance everyone’s quality of life.

“We’re proud to recognize our award winners for making American communities healthier and more environmentally sustainable,” said Peter Grevatt, director of EPA’s Office of Children’s Health and Environmental Education. “Walkways and bike paths improve our environment and create healthy options for Americans of all ages.” This office oversees the awards program.

The Achievement Award, the top honor under the Building Healthy Communities for Active Aging awards, recognizes communities for overall excellence in building healthy communities for active aging. This year’s recipients are the Town of Cary, N.C., and Martinsville/Henry County, Va.

The Commitment Award recognizes communities that have developed and begun to initiate a specific plan to implement smart growth and active aging principles. This year’s recipients are the City of Gaithersburg, Md., for the Upcounty Senior Center and the County of San Mateo, Calif., for the Half Moon Bay Senior Campus Plan.

Applications for the 4th annual Building Healthy Communities for Active Aging Awards of 2010 are due on July 17, 2010.

For more information, visit http://www.epa.gov/aging/bhc/awards/2009/index.html