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Local leaders urge participation in month-long challenge to improve Utah's air quality

Posted at 5:47 PM, Jun 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-19 12:57:56-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Transportation emissions account for nearly half of the pollutants that contribute to Utah's poor air quality.

That's why leaders from the Salt Lake Chamber, Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR), the Utah Transit Authority and others are coming together to urge people to cut down on vehicle emissions.

It comes as part of the Clear the Air Challenge, which started back in 2009.

"This year we felt like it was really important to hold the challenge in July when we start to experience some of our worst summertime air quality issues here in Utah summertime ozone is just as harmful as inversion," said Kim Frost, Executive Director of UCAIR.

Frost says the Beehive State's summertime ozone can have an impact on the health of young children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing conditions.

"Some of our colleagues at the University of Utah has have described it as a sunburn on your lungs," said Frost.

The goal of the challenge is to encourage Utahns to reduce their vehicle emissions by choosing alternatives to driving alone.

"We're doing emissions all year long, even if you don't see it like you do in the winter, so it's important that we think about it all year long as well," said Derek Miller, President/CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.

Participants in the challenge TravelWise strategies. This includes carpooling, walking, using public transit and walking or riding a bike or scooter.

Since the month-long challenge began 13 years ago, more than a million trips have been eliminated.

During that time span, more than 6,000 tons of emissions have been reduced, as well as, 19 million miles and $8 million dollars being saved.

The Utah Transit Authority is doing its part as well to reduce emissions.

Carlton Christensen, the Chair of the Board of Trustees for UTA, says they are replacing their older buses with newer and clean diesel, as well as, hybrid and all electric models to help with air quality.

"We have worked with UTA to place monitors on electric buses so that we're getting a better data footprint throughout the valley that we can use for future decision making and that program is up and running," said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson. 

The goal for the one-month challenge this year is to eliminate about 100,000 trips and two million miles altogether.