A couple months ago, during the wintry days in Salt Lake City, we had a lot of pollution in the valley. Maybe this has been happening for a lot of years, but I didn't ever notice until I was in college in Provo. I had a friend who went trail running one day in the mountains and he showed us a picture he took of the whole valley under a thick layer of smog. I was super grossed out and didn't really know what to do about it. In the winter months, when you're used to grey skies everyday, it's hard to tell when the air is filled with pollution or when it's just a storm.
A couple years later, I graduated, moved to Texas and didn't think much about pollution. But when I moved back and started working for a company that has UTA as a client, I started thinking about it much more. I realized how important it is to take advantage of public transportation, but I didn't really start. I considered it several times, but never actually did anything.
This winter, I listened to the NPR air quality report every morning when I drove in to work and it always freaked me out. But again, didn't do anything about it. Well that's not entirely true, I thought about it and I bought a humidifier and I bought an essential oil diffuser and I considered buying an aloe vera plant to clean the air at our apartment. But it also seemed silly to buy more things to try to solve the problem.
Greg and I opted to go down to southern Utah over President's Day with my family. It was a particularly smoggy day in SLC when we started driving. Every 20 miles or so, the air would get more clear. We started being able to see the blue sky in little patches until finally, we could see the full blue sky and the bright sun a few hours from SLC. We were pumped! It was an instant mood lift. I seriously could feel my whole body lighten up. I felt happier. And I kept saying to Greg, "Is this just in our head, or do you really feel better?" But Greg really felt like he could take deeper breaths and just get more air in his body.
As we drove, we listened to an episode on Radio West entitled "Utah's Shared Air Pollution Problem." I really like the perspective the host (my favorite, Doug Fabrizio) took. He pushed the discussion to be more about what can each and everyone of us do better, instead of "my neighbor should stop doing this..." Because even though we all might think we're doing something, we could ALL do something to change our behavior and improve our air. It's a shared problem and something that we should share goals about as well. As we listened, I paused the episode every 5 minutes so we could discuss where we fall and what we could be doing differently.
When we finally got to Ivins, we were literally giddy about being in the sunshine. We took walks and bike rides and tried to spend every free moment outside in the clean air. It was as if we had been craving good air for awhile. As we drove back to Salt Lake, we were sad to not just come back to work and reality, but to our literal air. So we made a big, giant list of all the things WE could do to better the environment. We committed to our plans and wanted to share them here as a reminder for what we want to do, and also to give other people some ideas about what YOU can do too. Some of them are really small and some of them are really big. Some are really obvious, and it might seem silly that we need a reminder, but admittance is the first step!
- Put reusable tote bags inside both cars
- Don't buy new water bottles. Instead, clean out the plastic ones we already have and reuse those.
- Run errands on the way home from something else. Minimize extra travel and eliminate single purpose travel.
- Drive the scooter and motorcycle as primary sources of transportation in the warmer months.
- Recycle everything that can possibly be recycled, even when it's inconvenient.
- Make cloth napkins. Then, use cloth napkins everyday instead of paper napkins.
- Ride our bikes whenever possible.
- Walk to church. Even when it's cold.
- Grab a dish towel instead of a paper towel.
- Don't let the shower water run too long to heat up while doing other things.
- Always turn off the light when you leave a room. Check them all before you leave the house.
- Turn down the thermostat during the day.
- Make better use of windows and fans.
- Delay start on dishwasher so it doesn't run during peak times of the day.
- Make sure car is running efficiently and tires are fully inflated.
- Buy an energy efficient washing machine.
- Buy only as much food as we confidently know we can eat. Minimize food waste.
- When eating out, only grab as many paper napkins as we need. Don't get extra. And don't throw them away if we have extra at the end of the meal.