For clean air, we have to work together

It’s January. The holidays are over, kids are back in school. It is a time of new beginnings and resolutions, and soon the legislative session will begin.

It’s also a time for coughing, watery eyes, increased respiratory issues–in other words, the inversion is on its way.

Every winter, Utah, especially the northern part of the state, suffers from an interminably long inversion. A condition where cold air is trapped under a layer of stagnant warmer air. The lack of movement in the air causes pollution to become trapped and until we get strong winds or a big storm, we’re stuck breathing it all in, or rather coughing it all out.

It is easy to blame big polluters like the refineries but the truth is, our own behaviors have some of the greatest impact on our air quality.

There are a couple relatively easy things we can do to help clean up our air.

First, we can drive less. Every time we get in our cars to run a quick errand, we belch out toxic pollution. If every Utahn made a conscious effort to drive less, the impact would be significant.

Making small changes to our routines can help.

Things like carpooling, using mass transit, combining trips to consolidate drive time and postponing errands on high-pollution days, will all reduce the amount of pollution we add to the air.

Businesses should be encouraged to provide telecommuting opportunities–allowing employees, where possible, to work from home, completely eliminating the need to drive.

While it is tempting to warm up our car on a cold morning, choosing not to idle is an easy, albeit slightly less comfortable, step we can all take.

Also, keep your car in good condition with tires inflated and clean air filters. When your car runs smoothly, it pollutes less.

Another big way to improve our air is to stop burning wood. The crackle of the fire, the smell of the wood–it’s a nice way to relax on a cold winter day but the truth is, every single wood burning fireplace is the equivalent of driving 90 SUVs. It’s not just a little step–it’s a big one.

Wood burning has such a negative impact that right now, the Utah Division of Air Quality is considering a November-March ban on wood burning for northern Utah. This would be an important regulatory step, but even if it isn’t approved, we can all pledge to stop burning wood now.

We will be encouraging the legislature to do its part with regulation and rules and we’re supportive of the new DAQ proposals, but let’s not wait for government to do our work for us–let’s commit to doing our part.

We’ve got a little something for everyone out there willing to help.

Thanks to a generous donor, one lucky contest winner will win a 7-day stay in the clean, crisp air of Sedona, Arizona at the Sedona Summit Resort from February 1st through the 8th.

Relax in your room, enjoy hiking in the scenic red rock, and give your lungs a rest from that gunky winter inversion. Enter here.

And even if you don’t win the getaway to Sedona, remember, we can all do something about air quality.

Let’s douse the fire, drive less and be more conscious of the pollution we’re contributing to the inversion. If we aren’t part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.

The Better UTAH Beat airs Tuesday afternoons on KVNU’s For the People. Podcasts of previous episodes are available here.

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