‘Clear the Air Challenge’ invites Utahns to reduce driving emissions

Sahalie Donaldson
Carly Seely, head of Fidelity Investment’s Sustainability Committee, poses with the Clear the Air Challenge poster. Fidelity Investments have won six of the past seven years of the Clear the Air Challenge and intends to win for an eight time this February. (Sahalie Donaldson)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Salt Lake Chamber and its partners issued Utah’s annual Clear the Air Challenge Jan. 29 on Capitol Hill.

The monthlong challenge fosters competition between businesses and independent individuals and encourages Utah drivers to be more aware of their vehicle emissions.

The challenge kicked off in a news conference, in which representatives from the Salt Lake Chamber and clean air partners like Subaru, the Utah Clean Air Partnership and Fidelity Investments all presented on why they believe the challenge is important.

According to its website, the Clear the Air Challenge has three goals: Eliminating vehicle trips, saving vehicle miles and reducing vehicle emissions.

Lane Beattie, CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, said Utah’s air quality is the greatest health threat to the community.

Beattie said it’s important “that we make a difference and have an opportunity to enhance the quality of life for our children and for our grandchildren.”

“It is also an economic issue, which a lot of people forget about,” Beattie said.

Beattie said economic development is tied to clean air.

“In order to track and retain the type of talent that we need to further Utah’s economy, it requires us to make sure that we get the best talent,” Beattie said. “We simply want to make sure that people want to live here.”

Beattie said nearly 50 percent of Utah’s emissions come from the tail pipes of cars, but the good news is everyone can be part of the solution.

Beattie said since the Clear the Air Challenge started in 2009, participants have saved almost 1 million vehicle trips.

Beattie said data also shows participants’ efforts have reduced air emissions by 47,000 tons and saved more than $6 million.

“This is no small drop in the bucket to us,” Beattie said. “It is a step in the right direction. It is up to us and everyone else in this state to do his or her part.”

Thom Carter, executive director of Utah Clear Air Partnership, said participants can make everyday changes like carpooling, public transportation, walking and riding bikes.

“There are no perfect answers, but there are practical solutions,” Charter said. “The Clear the Air challenge takes place just for one month. We hope that it will serve as a way to motivate Utahans to jumpstart new habits and think about how their individual behaviors contribute to our air quality challenges and truly shift their behaviors long term.”

Attorney Scott Williams said he believes people should care about this challenge because polluted air is unhealthy.

Williams said the bad air keeps kids inside, stops adults from exercising and sends people with heart and lung issues to the emergency room.

Williams said in the last five years, Salt Lake City has had 164 mandatory air action days — days with air quality below federal healthy standards —  with an average of 30 days per year.

“For those 30 days every year, we each need to have a plan B alternative to driving alone, and the Clear the Air Challenge is a way to practice our personal plan B and hopefully eventually make it our plan A,” Williams said.

The Clear the Air Challenge starts Feb. 1. Participants can register at cleartheairchallenge.org and can download the app.

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