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Keeping the Air Clean this Winter

November marks the beginning of inversion season in the Salt Lake Valley. This is the time of year when pollutants including PM 2.5 get trapped in the valley, obscuring the mountains and posing dangerous health risks to our communities.

Protecting our airshed and reducing pollution wouldn’t be possible without the collective actions of everyone coming in and out of Salt Lake City. While transportation contributes a significant portion of the local air pollution, other factors including building efficiency and home energy use can also contribute to pollution. Studies have shown that air pollution disproportionately affects communities of color, partially as a result of source location and historical redlining of neighborhoods. Air quality continues to be a major equity concern for Salt Lake City, where proximity to major highways, industrial areas, and fewer trees make some parts of Salt Lake City more polluted than others. By addressing air pollution’s many sources, Salt Lake City can help improve air quality.

Keep reading to find out more about what you can do to help everyone breathe a little easier!

Photo of Salt Lake City from northern foothills on bad air day. Smog fills the valley and obscures the Oquirrh Mountains in the west.

How Can You Help Clean Up the Air?

As temperatures start to get cooler, pressure changes keep pollution in our valley, leading to increased concentrations of air pollutants. Some air pollution, like that from wildfires burning across the country, is out of our control as individuals. However, Salt Lake City residents can do a lot to reduce emissions from cars, buildings, and local burning.

  • Follow the No Burn Days: The Utah Division of Air Quality issues mandatory no burn days throughout the year when particulate matter increases. This means that residents should avoid burning wood in fireplaces and stoves and avoid burning pellets or coal.
  • Drive Less: If you are able, do your best to bike, walk, or take public transportation whenever possible. You can also skip a trip until the air quality improves. Using your car less will help reduce overall emissions from vehicles (which contribute 50% of Utah’s overall air pollution during winter!). If you do drive, remember to be Idle Free!
  • Improve AtHome Energy Efficiency: Improving energy efficiency by turning your thermostat down 2 degrees in the winter, using LED lightbulbs, installing low-flow showerheads, and choosing high efficiency appliances are just a few ways you can save energy and reduce emissions that contribute to air pollution.

You can stay up to date with Salt Lake City’s air quality forecast by signing up for notifications from the Utah Division of Air Quality.

What We’re Doing

Salt Lake City is addressing air quality through several approaches. Recent updates to the Idle Free ordinance make it easier to enforce the ordinance and issue tickets for unnecessary idling. Additionally, Salt Lake City’s proposed Electric Vehicle Readiness Ordinance will help increase residential charging capacity for electric vehicles. All of Salt Lake City’s refuse vehicles are either clean diesel or CNG, and we are beginning to look at how all-electric refuse vehicles perform, in the hope that we will be able to move towards those vehicles as soon as possible.

While these ordinances and actions help everyone take small steps together, Salt Lake City has also taken major strides towards our Climate Positive goals. The Elektron Solar Project will help Salt Lake City shift nearly 90% of municipal electricity needs to renewable energy. The Community Renewable Energy Program has also made exciting progress to move Salt Lake City and other participating communities in Utah to net-100% renewable electricity. Shifting to renewable sources for community and municipal energy will help reduce pollution from buildings and homes, and in turn, will help keep our air clear!

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