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Intermountain Healthcare Saves Millions of Driving Miles for Better Air

Salt Lake City — Intermountain Healthcare caregivers are helping improve air quality by reducing their driving by more than three million miles last year.

It was all part of a one-year initiative for Intermountain, which expanded the use of telework, public transit, and other methods to reduce the number of miles driven by the health system’s 38,000 caregivers.

Bad air quality has a major impact on Utahn’s overall health, even for those who don’t suffer from respiratory illness. Intermountain has made improving air quality a major part of its community health initiative.

“Helping people live the healthiest lives possible also means creating a better environment in the communities we serve,” said Mikelle Moore, senior vice president and chief community health officer for Intermountain Healthcare. “I’m proud to see our caregivers did so well reducing their impact on our air quality, and this is only the beginning.”

Intermountain reduced driving miles by nearly than 3.2 million in 2019. The reduction equals 1,293 metric tons of carbon dioxide not put in the atmosphere, or the equivalent of taking 281 cars off the road for a year.

Driving less is the optimal way to improve air quality because vehicle exhaust is the biggest contributor to bad air in Utah. During the project, 58 percent of the miles reduced came from caregivers using public transit, while 40 percent resulted from caregivers working at home. The remaining two percent resulted from caregivers walking, biking, or carpooling to work.

“Our pilot project showed if we give people the tools and knowledge, they can make a big impact on our efforts to enhance air quality,” said Steve Bergstrom, sustainability manager at Intermountain Healthcare.

Intermountain offers discounted UTA passes to caregivers as an incentive to use public transit. Several departments also have a transit pass to check out for day trips instead of signing out a company pool car.

With the success of this initiative, Intermountain is exploring ways to expand programs so more caregivers drive less. Options include using an alert system to make employees aware of yellow and red air days and encourage them to take public transit or work from home.

“We hope by finding the most efficient ways to reduce driving we will develop a blueprint other organizations and companies in our area can use for their employees to help improve the quality of our air,” said Bergstrom.

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