There’s a reason Utah’s slogan is “The Greatest Snow On Earth.” The legendary winters that define the state aren’t only about world-class light, fluffy powder, though. Winter means looking outside each morning unsure whether you’ll see a sparkling winter wonderland or a thick, concrete-colored wall of inverted pollution. Winter means 4.457 million skier days during the 2015-2016 ski season, but also the most “F” grades for the poorest air quality of any state in the 2016 annual State of the Air report from the American Lung Association. Just as there are thousands of ways to enjoy Utah’s winter, there are thousands of ways to advocate for change in Utah’s air quality. Some of us might be ready for radical change to clean our air, but others are looking for more conservative baby steps. There’s a range of activism, but anyone can make a difference.
As a registered voter and Utah resident, active involvement with Utah legislation regarding air pollution is the first key step to address winter inversion. Call your local government officials and state representatives, telling them your concerns regarding air quality. Inform yourself about legislation’s views on pollution. Visit https://www.breatheutah.org/legislation to easily learn about which items of legislation you should support and oppose to support clean air.
In the 2016 election, Alta ski patroller Bill Barron ran as an independent, single-issue candidate to bring awareness to climate change and specifically to the perils of Utah’s pollution issues. His goal, although not attained, was to receive 10 percent of all votes. His proposed Carbon Fee and Dividend would implement federal fees on fossil fuels. Barron’s campaign was in conjunction with the efforts of the grassroots Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which provides local and national outlets for climate-conscious members to participate in correspondence with elected officials, the media, and their local communities. To join, visit https://citizensclimatelobby.org/join-citizens-climate-lobby/ .
Utah is home to several grassroots organizations and professional-local partnership organizations all advocating toward a common goal to improve Utah’s air quality. In January, the Bright Skies Utah Clean Air Contest awarded $45,000 in prize money to local entrepreneurs to launch their designs for air improvement, sponsored by UCAIR (Utah Clean Air Partnership), Chevron, and Zions Bank. If you think you have the next biggest innovation in clean air, enter the contest this September. Visit http://www.growutah.com/c2c/bs16 to learn more about the 2016 contest and winners.
Forty-seven percent of Utah’s air pollution is due to car emissions. Carpooling, using public transportation, and making fewer trips by car (especially on red and orange air quality days) can drastically reduce the negative effects of the winter inversion. ShareLift is a Utah-created ridesharing app designed specifically to coordinate skier and snowboarder carpools to and from local resorts. Like Uber, ShareLift has built-in payment, driver ranking, and pickup locator functions. Join ShareLift online here: http://shareliftapp.com .
According to Utah Clean Energy, if every Utah home reduced its energy usage by 10 percent, the state would save over 7,000 million cubic feet of natural gas annually. Lower your thermostat to 70-72 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and unplug electronics when not in use. Or, you can invest in ENERGY STAR certified energy-efficient appliances and buy efficient CFL or LED light bulbs. More information on electricity-friendly measures can be found at http://utahcleanenergy.org/how-to/energy-efficiency .
Idle Free Heat is a Utah company that designed a mechanism to drastically improve heat retention in vehicles without a need to keep engines running. This is for those wanting to reduce idling while still staying warm on bitter cold winter days. Visit https://www.idlefreeheat.com to learn more about the Idle Free Heat product and to contact the company regarding installations.
Photo by Chris Ayers