Along with holiday festivities and seasonal delights, this December has so far brought with it one of Salt Lake City’s least favorite things—inversions and the dirty air that comes along with them.
Inversions are nothing new for the Wasatch Front. The mountains that bring us such enviable beauty, world-class recreation, and plentiful water, also make our valley prone to weather conditions that trap cold air—and pollution—under a layer of warm air when high pressure moves in and decides to stay.
When this happens, what we collectively emit into the air stays there. All the cars, trucks, fireplaces, furnaces, smokestacks, airplanes, wood-fired pizza ovens, bake shops, auto body shops, paints, chemicals, and much more get stuck in the valley.
During inversions, pollution doubles every day. (To learn more about inversions, check out UCAIR’s video.)
Where does the pollution come from? We know that vehicles and on-road transportation account for roughly 48% of wintertime air pollution. Industrial operations are roughly 13%, and “area sources”—our homes, buildings, restaurants, and small businesses—make up the remainder at approximately 39%.
So no matter what kind of business you have, corporate citizens—just like other citizens—have a role to play in reducing pollution. We also know that poor air quality is a problem for businesses and the people working for them. It’s something that registered very high on the “negative” column for hundreds of local businesses we heard from in our recent business survey launched earlier this year.
Salt Lake City heavily promotes our high quality of life, but when people feel they can’t go outside and enjoy what our city has to offer because of the air quality, it’s a problem.
This year, we urge you to join us in doing something about the air. Here’s how:
- Stay informed on air quality. Sign up for Air Quality alerts from the Department of Environmental Quality. You can get email updates or download the app for iOS or Android.
- Because nearly half of our inversion pollution comes from vehicles, anything you can do to minimize driving and incentivize employees to leave the cars at home makes a big impact.
- Locate your business close to accessible transit, if you’re seeking a location.
- Reimburse employees who take public transit to get to work during bad air days.
- Better yet—subsidize a UTA pass. UTA has several programs to fit your needs and business size.
- Electric vehicles are also a solution—install an EV charger at your workplace. The group Leaders for Clean Air can help you with that.
- Better yet—incentivize employees to purchase an electric vehicle. Explore a bulk discount program—check out Utah Clean Energy’s past programs for more info. You can also offer some sort of reimbursement for employees who buy an EV.
- Encourage and help employees carpool. TravelWise has great tips and a platform for helping people find carpool buddies.
- Offer bike storage or showers. This can also help employees get out of their cars.
- Support teleworking during bad air days.
- The Clear the Air Challenge is a month-long competition beginning February 1 that gives you the chance to reduce your vehicle emissions by choosing alternative methods of transportation using TravelWise strategies. This February learn more about reducing traffic congestion and conserving energy in Utah and set up a team for your business! Create prizes and encourage friendly competition amongst your staff.
- Transition to a cleaner fleet—buy fully or partially electric vehicles, or ones with a high smog rating of 8 or more. That means they put out less pollution.
- Make sure you have an energy efficient structure. Emissions from heating are a significant source of inversion-time pollution, so this can also make a big difference. Contact Dominion Energy and Rocky Mountain Power to learn about their rebate and incentive programs.
- Read more suggestions from our blog on employee engagement with energy efficiency.
- If you have equipment—use electric or 4-stroke engines instead of 2-stroke.
- Create a no idling policy with your fleet or an idle free zone at your business.
- Remember– it all adds up!!
Finally, we encourage you to sign up for the Salt Lake Chamber’s Clean Air Champion’s program. They have a list of similar suggestions for businesses to take to help clear the air.
Let’s make Red Air Days a thing of the past!
Blog post contributed by Salt Lake City’s Sustainability Department.