FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the Zero Red Air Days initiative? Zero Red Air Days is a united effort among various agencies, organizations and concerned citizens to improve Utah’s air quality. This initiative is a goal that our community will no longer tolerate poor air quality. It is an acknowledgement that we all need to do our part to take actions within our homes, businesses and public policy that improve our air.
What causes a Red Air Day? A red air day means the air we breathe is unhealthy, especially for certain groups including people with asthma, children and older adults. This is caused by an increase in built up pollution trapped in the valleys from vehicle emissions (48%), homes and businesses (39%), as well as industry (13%). This means we must have a united effort among various agencies, organizations and concerned citizens to improve Utah’s air quality.
What are the impacts of a Red Air Day? No one wants to breathe unhealthy air. Beyond the health effects of poor air quality, red air days have a real impact on Utah’s economy, from increased health care costs, to employee and corporate recruitment and retention. That’s why having a goal of Zero Red Air Days is critical to having a united effort among various agencies, organizations and concerned citizens to improve Utah’s air quality.
Are Zero Red Air Days even achievable? This is an extremely ambitious goal because of our geography, strong economy and population growth. However this goal is one we should all unite behind, because one red air day is one too many. Since 2012, the number of red air days has been declining. However, there is no silver bullet for achieving this goal. The most significant actions require every Utahn to take it upon themselves to commit to improving our air quality.
How will you measure success? Air quality in Utah has significantly improved over the past several decades. Since 2012, the number of red air days has been declining but one red air day, is one too many. We’re asking Utahns to unite behind a goal to continue that trend by focusing public awareness about the causes of these poor air quality episodes, reducing yellow air days and taking real actions that make a difference.
What can the average Utahn do to help? Our air quality challenges won’t change overnight. That’s why when it comes to making a difference, the simplest of actions are often the most meaningful. There are many ways Utahns can help keep our air clean by reducing their vehicle trips, teleworking on yellow, orange and red air days or riding transit, among many others. As we all work together by making small actions to improve the air, we can collectively reduce the negative effects of red air days and improve the wellbeing of all Utahns. A few options Utahns can take immediately:
- TravelWise with coworkers or friends
- Be idle free if stopped for more than 30 seconds
- Try transit once a week to help reduce traffic
- Avoid cold starts during the winter
- Make energy-saving choices at home
What can businesses do to help? The business community plays an important role in improving air quality. Businesses can collectively impact Utah’s future by participating in voluntary actions to reduce emissions and clear our air. Actions include:
- Information Distribution: Assign an employee to receive air quality email alerts from the Department of Environmental Quality and forward the information to your employees asking that they limit driving on those days by taking transit, carpooling, trip chaining, or skipping trips. The best is to start taking action as air quality begins to decline, rather than waiting for a red air day.
- Trip Reduction Plan: Develop a trip reduction plan that will work to eliminate 10-20% of your company driving during the inversion season.
- Incentivize Alternative Transportation: On poor air days, help employees drive less by providing transit passes or other incentives encouraging them to not drive and take transit or carpool instead (preferred parking, cash incentives, transit pass reimbursement, etc.)
- Carpool Assistance: Provide carpool information and connection ability at the workplace.
- Flextime Travel and Work From Home: On poor air days, allow individuals flextime travel and schedules to limit rush hour congestion or allow designated employees to work from home.
- Participate in the Clear the Air Challenge: The Challenge is a month long competition starting February 1, 2018 that gives businesses and their employees the chance to reduce vehicle emissions by choosing alternative methods of transportation using TravelWise strategies. www.cleartheairchallenge.org
- Become a Clean Air Champion: Clean Air Champions are business leaders in our community that show dedication to our State’s well being and benefit from bottom line savings, enhanced employee morale and recognition from business community peers. By completing a simple form and selecting which clean air strategies your business will implement, your company or organization can be considered a Salt Lake Chamber Clean Air Champion.
What can elected officials do to help? This problem requires real public leadership and using the best science to make informed decisions on this complex issue. Our poor air quality can have a real impact on economic growth, but so can over-regulation. We need to find a balance to implement emission-reduction and energy-efficiency strategies with a focus on reducing the cost of living and doing business in Utah. Elected officials can take real actions that ensure government agencies are enabling their employers to take TravelWise strategies, improving funding for transit, promoting the adoptions of more efficient and cleaner vehicles, incentivize for more energy efficient buildings and homes, and funding to promote research and awareness on the causes of poor air quality.
What is an inversion? Inversions occur during the winter months when normal atmospheric conditions (cool air above, warm air below) become inverted. Inversions trap a dense layer of cold air under a layer of warm air. The warm layer acts much like a lid, trapping pollutants in the cold air near the valley floor. The Wasatch Front valleys and their surrounding mountains act like a bowl, keeping cold air in. Fog exacerbates the problem, facilitating chemical reactions that create even more particles and higher pollutant concentrations. The longer the inversion lasts, the higher the levels of pollution trapped under it. The warm inversion air layer is usually displaced by a strong storm system which restores air quality to healthy levels.