November 5, 2013

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Article

Let’s Clean Up Utah’s Air

By Sarah Ryther Francom

November 5, 2013

We launched the Sustainable Business Awards program five years ago to celebrate the businesses, communities and individuals who are making real strides toward reducing their economic footprint, and year after year we are amazed at the accomplishments we see. This year’s group of Sustainable Business Award winners is another shining example of how seemingly small efforts can have huge impacts, and we applaud their green efforts.

As winter approaches, there’s much for snow-loving Utahns to look forward to. But, unfortunately, there’s also the reality of the dreaded gray skies that winter often means. Utah’s inversion isn’t just a serious health problem—it’s also a major hurdle to the state’s economic development efforts. In a recent interview with EDCUtah CEO Jeff Edwards, he explained that Utah’s air quality is, in fact, one of the most pressing economic development issues that must be dealt with. “It’s gotten to the point where we have people who are choosing not to live here because of it,” he said. You can read that interview with Edwards in our Oct. issue or on utahbusiness.com.

To work toward finding a solution, Gov. Gary Herbert recently announced the Clean Air Action Team. Launched on Oct. 13, the team has been tasked to develop recommendations to improve the state’s air quality. Envision Utah, a local nonprofit dedicated to creating and sustaining community development, is leading the action team’s efforts. I recently spoke to Envision Utah CEO Robert Grow about the program and its goals.

According to Grow, the Clean Air Action Team’s mission is simple: “To explore short-, medium- and long-term solutions for individuals, businesses and communities with the goal of improving our air quality.” But finding those solutions isn’t going to be easy.

 “At this point, all potential solutions are on the table, ranging from voluntary actions to new legislation,” says Grow, adding that he hopes to include the community in all decisions. “Proposed solutions will be shared with residents so that Utahns can decide what solutions we should implement. … We will seek a lot of public input over the coming 18 months.”

While the Clean Air Action Team works on developing solutions, there are many things your business can do this winter to help clear the skies. Grow offers some tips: “allow telecommuting, provide public transportation incentives, build the business near public transportation, [allow] four-day work weeks, [incentivize] car-pooling, allow alternative schedules that allow workers to commute during off-peak times.

“These strategies can help year-round, but if a business can only implement them during our summer and winter weather conditions that are conducive to poor air quality, that can be quite helpful,” he says. “Many of the strategies do not cost a lot of money, and many actually save money. We can all do something.”

There’s no easy solution to reducing Utah’s air pollution, but it’s something that we all can, and should, play a role in. To follow the Clean Air Action Team’s work, visit envisionutah.org. I look forward to hearing their ideas to improve our air quality. 

From the Editor

Sarah Ryther Francom

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