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Take the Clear the Air Challenge and Improve Air Quality At Home

February is (finally!) here! And that means that the Clear the Air Challenge has begun!

In the last few years, Utahns have worked together to improve air quality in the Salt Lake Valley. Early last year, the EPA announced Salt Lake City and Provo were in compliance with federal standards for PM 2.5, the fine particulate matter that pollutes our air quality along the Wasatch Front. This significant milestone came after years of community wide work to take action to clear the air.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed our air quality, too. Efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve resulted in considerable reductions in PM 2.5 and other air pollutants, up to a 59% reduction in particulate matter by May 2020.

In 2020, we learned that the steps we took to slow coronavirus cases resulted in quick changes to our air quality. COVID-19 continues to threaten our community’s health and economic security, resulting in increased social inequities. Many of the changes we’ve made in this crisis are not sustainable in the long term. However, our work to improve Salt Lake City’s resiliency includes taking actions that support public health and security, and that address environmental issues like air quality.

Clear the air challenge banner. A photo of the wasatch front in winter shows clear blue sky. Text reads "Take the Clear the Air Challenge February 1st-28th."

This month, we challenge Salt Lake City community members to participate in the 12th annual Clear the Air Challenge! The Clear the Air Challenge is a chance to level up your efforts to improve air quality. The Challenge runs the entire month of February, chosen due to the seasonal inversion that makes wintertime air quality especially bad. However, the steps you take this month can make a difference for our air all year long.

For many of us who are still spending more time at home, the challenge will feel a little different this year. We’ve put together some helpful facts, tips, and inspiration to get you going on the 2021 Clear the Air Challenge!

(Tele)Working for Clean Air

2020 demonstrated the power of teleworking to reduce air pollution.  Many Salt Lake City Corporation employees are teleworking, which has already helped air quality. Since the beginning of the pandemic, telecommuting helped Salt Lake City reduce its municipal carbon footprint by approximately 1%.

Text graphic shows photo of Salt Lake City on summer day. A text box reads "Take the Clear the Air Challenge. Telecommuting helped SLC reduce its municipal carbon footprint by approximately 1% since the beginning of the pandemic. Teleworking and Shifting our commuting patterns can make a difference for our air quality." The Clear the Ari Challenge and SLCgreen logos are at the bottom.

Working from home is not always an option, but even a small shift towards teleworking can help. If you are working from home this month, you can still track your miles saved in the Clear the Air Challenge App – and help us better understand the possible air quality impacts of teleworking.

If your job requires you to work outside the house, or even on the occasions when you need to leave the house to run an errand, you can still take steps (literally!) to clear the air. Walking, using other modes of active transportation such as biking, and trip chaining will help reduce air pollution. You can even consider investing in an electric vehicle.

Text graphic shows photo of Salt Lake City on bad air day. Text reads "Take the Clear the Air Challenge. Transportation emissions cause nearly 50% of the pollutants that become trapped in our airshed during inversions. Finding ways to drive less can help our local air quality. In the bottom are the Clear the Air Challenge and SLCgreen logos.

Clearing the Air At Home

Even if you are mostly staying at home, you can take actions that will impact our local air quality. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Invest in electric yard equipment such as lawnmowers or snow blowers. Running a gas powered lawnmower for one hour results in emissions equal to driving 196 miles!
  • Don’t burn wood. Wood burning is a big polluter — one wood burning stove can put out as much pollution as 90 sport utility vehicles!
  • To help air quality in the long run, consider shifting to all electric. Electric heat pumps, appliances, and water heaters are more energy efficient, and are easier to connect to a renewable energy grid. Learn more about how to reduce your household energy use here.
  • Avoid VOCs. Volatile Organic Compounds found in household materials such as paints, varnishes, and some cleaners can pollute your indoor air quality.
Photo of Wasatch Front on clear summer day from downtown SLC.

Take the Challenge

According to the World Health Organization, 91% of the global population lives in areas where air quality levels exceed WHO limits. Bad air quality impacts health, causing respiratory issues and other dangers including pregnancy losspremature deathchild asthma, and increased cases of pneumonia.

Although air quality results in negative health and economic impacts throughout the Salt Lake Valley, we recognize that communities of color in Salt Lake City are disproportionately affected by air pollution. As a result, Salt Lake City’s air quality is often cited as an example of environmental racism and inequity. SLCgreen is dedicated to supporting sustainability in all of our communities, and air pollution is one of our top equity and environmental priorities.

You can help improve Salt Lake City’s air quality by taking the Clear the Air Challenge, and by making air quality actions part of your daily life.

From February 1 through 28, 2021 join SLCgreen in taking the Clear the Air Challenge! This year’s Challenge has set several ambitious community goals:

  • Eliminate 100,000 Trips 
  • Save 2,000,000 Miles 
  •  Reduce 370 Tons of CO2

You can track your trips on the TravelWise tracking app, which includes achievement badges and opportunities to win prizes from the Clear the Air Challenge. The more the merrier, so challenge your household, friends, and colleagues to join you!

If you’re curious about air quality in Utah, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Division offers resources on current air quality conditions, and ways to help keep the air clean during inversions. SLCgreen also has resources about city initiatives and ways you can help.

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