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Guest opinion: Now is the time to create a plan to reduce emissions and clear our air

SHARE Guest opinion: Now is the time to create a plan to reduce emissions and clear our air
Exhaust from a vehicle escapes into the air at 9000 South and Sandy Parkway on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

With Labor Day in the rearview mirror, football season is in full swing and kids are back to school. With that, the weather will start to cool down and, as a community, we need to be thinking again about what we can do to reduce the impact of oncoming winter inversions. This shouldn’t just be something that we think about when the sky is dark and the air is grey, but now is the time to create a plan to reduce your emissions and clean our air. 

With vehicles accounting for almost half of the air pollution along the Wasatch Front, we must all confront the fact that most of us drive a car and take steps to reduce our trips. The Utah Clean Air Partnership, or UCAIR, seeks to empower each Utahn to find the solutions that work best for them.   

With routines returning to normal, take the time to sit as a family or with roommates or friends and talk about ways you can all reduce vehicle emissions and improve Utah’s air quality in your home and neighborhood. Use these quick and simple tips to help drive down miles and promote cleaner, healthier air for everyone this school year. 

  1. Active transportation — By choosing to walk, bike or scooter when you can this year, you’ll improve air quality and have an opportunity to get your heart rate up before settling into class for the day.
  2. Go idle-free — Be sure to turn your key and go idle-free when you’re in the pickup or drop-off line at school.  Same goes when you hit the drive-thru for your favorite beverage or sandwich. 
  3. Carpool — Whether you’re a parent or student yourself, carpooling is a great way to reduce emissions and make getting to school more fun.
  4. Trip chain — Life gets busier during the school year, but this strategy can help ease your pain. By chaining errands together, you’ll save time and money on gas while doing good for Utah’s air.

Let me emphasize one tip above the others, first because it is so easy and second because of the tremendous impact for good it can have. As a community we need to make an extra effort to be idle-free this year, especially around schools. Think about the developing lungs of the students. Idling for five minutes releases four times more volatile organic compounds, three times as much nitrous oxide and 10 times more carbon dioxide than turning off your car when you get to the school and turning it back on when it is time to leave. We don’t want our children breathing that. Beyond health, which is most important, you can also save money. According to the EPA, idling for two minutes burns the same amount of gas as running your car for a mile. Simply save that gas and that money by turning your key. 

You may be saying that you keep the car on because it’s cold outside and you don’t want to freeze. Well, as we like to say at UCAIR, there are no perfect answers, but there are practical solutions. A practical solution for keeping you warm while you wait to pick up your kids at school is to wear a coat, hat and gloves. This is so much better than wasting gas and pumping out pollution.

Last winter, UCAIR research showed 90% of Utahns did something to reduce their emissions — and we saw a direct result by enjoying better air. Help us accelerate this momentum by coming up with a plan to reduce your emissions this winter so we can all breathe easier. Show UCAIR and become a part of the air quality solution.

Thom Carter is the executive director of UCAIR.