Clean Air Challenge touted as success
Environmentally conscious Utahns were able to reduce 1.7 million pounds of harmful emissions from the air in six weeks.
In June, Salt Lake City and County officials put Utahns up to a test: change your habits to improve air quality, lessen traffic congestion and conserve energy. The coordinators called it the Clean Air Challenge, and as far as they're concerned, it worked.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s energy adviser, Dianne Nielson, touted the challenge as a success in eliminating an estimated 1 million miles from the daily commute.
"If every driver along the Wasatch Front parked their car for one day a week, harmful emissions would decrease by 86 tons," Becker said. "Every trip counts."
An awards ceremony Saturday marked the end of the challenge and also honored the individual persons and participating companies that produced the most effective results. For instance, Zions Bank employees saved the most trips to and from work. Tami Jannelli reduced the most pounds of emissions — almost 13,000 — by taking alternative transportation several hundred times. It saved her about $4,000 in gas, according to the Clean Air Challenge.
"It is our hope that this is not the end of the community's efforts," Nielson said. "It is up to each of us to continue meeting the challenge to keep our air clear."
Salt Lake Solutions Air Quality Partners Team, a collaboration of more than 20 government, business, community and faith-based organizations coordinated the six-week long challenge.
Clear the Air Challenge aims to reduce air pollution
If the Feral Chihuahuas can do it, so can you.
Or, you could take the University of Utah Biochemistry Club that has already proven it is up to the task and ideally will be joined by at least 10,000 others.
Those two teams are among participants that have signed up for the Clear the Air Challenge that is being issued along the Wasatch Front. The challenge seeks to eliminate 300,000 single-vehicle trips, "save" one million miles and reduce 1.8 million pounds of vehicle emissions.
Its overall goal? Improve the area's air quality, specifically in the Salt Lake Valley and especially in the heat of summer when dangerous levels of ozone pollution lead to "red" or "yellow" days in which strenuous outdoor activity is ill-advised and driving discouraged.
The actual challenge begins June 1 and runs through July 10, but people are already participating by registering at cleartheairchallenge.org, as individuals or as teams. It's at that Web site where competitors can track how many single vehicle trips they've been able to eliminate from their weekly routine by either carpooling, taking mass transit, biking, walking, working from home or combining errands.
"We're trying to get people to think more about their long-term driving habits," said Michele Straube with Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker's Salt Lake Solutions.
The challenge is being coordinated through that program, but Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon are also on board.
Numerous other groups have signed on as partners, including the Utah Division of Air Quality, the Utah Clean Cities Coalition and the Wasatch Front Regional Council.
"We wanted to come together on a community level to do something to improve air quality in the valley," Straube said, adding that it's estimated 50 percent of the area's air pollution is caused by vehicle emissions.
Participants pledge to get involved on one of three levels by vowing to reduce weekly vehicle trips by a minimum number: gold, 12; silver, eight; and bronze, four. Each week, prizes will be randomly awarded to someone on each level and at the conclusion of the challenge participants are put in the hopper for a grand prize. So far, the goodies include a new bicycle, the use of a compressed natural gas vehicle for a week, passes to Hogle Zoo and gift certificates to area restaurants.
A number of people and teams are already participating as a warm-up of sorts, with 492 trips eliminated so far and 3,654 miles saved. The board will be wiped clean when the challenge starts.
Salt Lake Solutions also tapped the marketing skills of local public relations firm Penna Powers Brian Haynes that has crafted a social media push to get people involved, including a Facebook page for the Clear the Air Challenge, blogs, video postings and Twitter opportunities.
The challenge's Web site includes a trip diary for participants, who are also invited to submit entries in the "creative challenge," such as videos, stories, photos or songs.
While the actual challenge is set within the time frame of six weeks, Straube is hopeful changes made to personal driving habits become permanent.
"For me, it's think more and drive less," Straube said, adding that the simple step of combining errands on a trip (trip chaining) has already made her life easier.
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Faith a driving force for Utahns in fight for clean air
Salt Lake Tribune
July 3, 2009
Joan Gregory has been doing her part to reduce air pollution. She walks, carpools and takes buses and trains.
But her church's involvement in the Clear the Air Challenge this summer has Gregory pushing herself further -- even on Sundays, when there's less public transit to be had.
For instance, she walked nearly four miles on June 7 to the Utah Pride Parade, in which she carried the flag with other representatives of the First Unitarian Church. Normally, she would have driven her car on a day she needed to be downtown early before buses run.
"It's imperative for people of faith to pay attention," Gregory says. "For ourselves and our children, what kind of world will we have if we are not good stewards of the earth now?"
There is no way to determine how many individuals are taking the Clear the Air Challenge as part of their churches, synagogues or mosques, but two congregations -- First Unitarian Church and Holladay Church of Christ -- and two other faith-based organizations entered teams in the challenge. The Utah Interfaith Power & Light Coalition and the Multicultural Arch Foundation are the two others.
This challenge -- an initiative of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker -- began June 1 and ends Friday. Participants set goals for how many vehicle trips they want to avoid by walking, car-pooling, taking transit or "trip chaining" (combining errands), and then log their progress online.
Clear the Air Challenge is giving prizes to participants, and so is Utah Interfaith Power & Light Coalition, which plans to share $1,000 with religious communities and individuals motivated, in part, by their faith.
Power & Light is an outgrowth of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable and focuses on helping faith communities practice environmental stewardship.
Elaine Emmi, chairwoman of Utah Interfaith Power & Light, says the point of the awards is to "make it a little more fun, a little more creative."
While caring for the Earth is part of every religious tradition, Emmi says, many faith communities lost sight of that ethic during two centuries of expansion when "the more you did, the holier you were."
"But we have hit our frontiers. We have to take care of what we've got."
The Clear the Air Challenge, she adds, has faith communities thinking about simple things everyone can do to reduce air pollution.
Her congregation of Quakers includes several who ride bikes to services on Sunday, she says. "The other thing that makes it fun is it includes all ages. Everyone can work on this together."
Chris Gamble says it's not unusual for folks to show up for Sunday services at his church, the Holladay Church of Christ, in biking clothes. (His wife makes him change out of his biking shorts, though.)
Gamble says he was partly motivated by his faith when he began bicycling to work four years ago. He makes the 12-mile round trip from his home near the University of Utah to the Olympus Clinic, where he is a family practice doctor.
Not only is he in better shape at 50 than when he was in his 40s, Gambles believes commuting by bike is a way to live out his faith. "It's one of the best things in my life that's in alignment with what I believe."
Gamble hopes the Clear the Air Challenge will motivate other people of faith to start cycling. "It's really been a great thing in my life."
Jennifer Killpack-Knutsen says her family has been taking "green" steps for some time. The four of them share one car, and she pulls a rolling cart for groceries or Farmers' Market produce so she is less tempted to drive.
"I really hate driving," Killpack-Knutsen says, "and I really hate pollution."
But because she already walks each day to and from her downtown Salt Lake City workplace, Killpack-Knutsen says it's been a bit difficult to reach her goal as part of the First Unitarian team.
With 10 days left in the challenge, Killpack-Knutsen had 24 more vehicle trips to avoid to reach her goal of 69.
"I'll get close. I'm not sure I'll make it."
About the challenge
By the end of June, the 3,409 Clear the Air Challenge participants had avoided 77,478 vehicle trips, eliminating 1,177,726 pounds of emissions, according to the challenge's Web site, www.cleartheairchallenge.com.
Mayors Peter Corroon and Ralph Becker, along with Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., issued the challenge for Salt Lake Valley residents to eliminate 300,000 vehicle trips between June 1 and July 10 to reduce air pollution.
The Utah Interfaith Power & Light Coalition is challenging faith communities to participate as well. More information is available at >www.utahipl.org.
Copyright 2009 The Salt Lake Tribune