Salt Lake City Aims to Clear the Air

Recently, I was made aware of a great environmental health campaign that was developed for the good people in Salt Lake City, Utah. Although many images of the landscape are picturesque with rolling hills and stunning mountain peaks – that same geography in Salt Lake County, combined with cold winter temperatures and inactive weather patterns, cause inversions which trap cold air and pollution in the valley. Vehicle emissions contribute over 50% of the emissions that form fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) in the winter and ozone pollution in the summer, according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

The Clear the Air campaign (with summer and winter parts) brings together local businesses and organizations to create a series of programs that encourage residents to do their part to help clear the air. That’s where Kate Lilja, Special Programs Manager for the Salt Lake City Sustainability Division (and former new media coordinator/strategist for the Salt Lake Valley Health Department) jumps into action. Kate has been a pioneer in the area around video and new media to facilitate campaigns. Below is a video from their Youtube page which is part of the campaign’s winter message to residents around transportation methods to help clean up the air and reduce pollution:

I also wanted to get some of Kate’s thoughts on the campaign details and what sort of impact it has been having on the community –

During the winter Care to Clear the Air campaign, we made a concerted effort to increase our
video production capabilities. Through my work with the Salt Lake Valley Health Department, I
grew to appreciate the power of video to reach a wide audience and inspire.

We currently have two ongoing video series on our YouTube page.

The first is our “Learn to Ride UTA” series which features videos that show residents how
easy it is to ride the bus and rail lines along the Wasatch Front.

Taking public transportation for the first time can be intimidating, so our goal is to answer
people’s questions and literally show them what they need to do. We have plans to expand
this series to include instructional videos on bike commuting, ridesharing and other modes of
alternative transportation.

The second series features residents making a “Resolution to Clear the Air” – whether
it is taking public transportation, carpooling, teleworking, etc. This series strives to tell real,
approachable, yet inspiring stories from the perspective of everyday Utahns. The profiles are
personal and illustrate not only what residents are doing to reduce their emissions, but why
clean air matters to them.

We also have two other videos created specifically for our winter Care to Clear the Air program.
The first introduces our winter-based initiative (Care to Clear the Air) and the second illustrates
one of our interactive Learn to Ride UTA events (Learn to Ride Event – Valley Fair Mall).

It has been a great experience to witness how our community is responding to our air quality
issues. Air quality is something that affects all of our residents, regardless of age, background or
belief. If we ourselves do not feel the adverse health effects or poor air, we know someone who
is at risk. This common thread unites our community in surprising ways.

It has been inspiring to recognize the individuals taking action, to hear their everyday stories, to
work with businesses who are taking charge, and to celebrate the changes people are making
everyday to “Drive Less, Drive Smarter.”

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