It was so fitting, as my sister and I were driving down I-15, just passing the “Point of the Mountain” I looked out over the Salt Lake Valley and it was covered in smog. I snapped a picture since we were on our way to Kennecott to talk about Utah’s air quality. It’s kinda sad when the people I talk to every day for work (who live near Los Angeles) ask ME about my smog! Apparently it had been on the news down there in Southern California! When our air pollution makes the Southern California news… there is DEFINITELY a problem.
So why does the air quality in Utah deteriorate so quickly during the winter months in the Utah Valley? For those of you who don’t know we have something called inversion. We live in a valley surrounded by large mountain ranges. During the winter sometimes cooler air is in the valley while the warmer air is on top. (Hence the word Inversion, meaning an inversion of temperatures)
When that cold air is trapped by the warmer air the pollution we put out also will get trapped (which is what all those little dots are in the graphic). Where is the pollution coming from though? The answer may surprise you.
Once upon a time Utah Valley had a steel plant. Everyone said that we needed to shut down the plant so that our air quality can improve. Well, they got their wish. The plant was shut down. Has the air quality in Utah during inversion improved even a little? Nope, in fact, I think it’s gotten worse.
So, now the big bad is our other big industry. Apparently we have a copper mine owned by Kennecott, who is owned by Rio Tinto. Really, I had no idea. The thing with blaming the air quality on something like this or Geneva Steel is that it’s definitely an “easy target”, but what people may not realize is how regulated they are by the government. They are required to keep their emissions under a certain level. If you want to find out more about how they comply and go above and beyond what the government mandates, check out their website. Who is NOT required by the federal government to keep pollution at a minimum? Everyone else.
I’ve never been a super environmentalist or anything like that. I know… I grew up in Oregon, I should be ashamed! I always thought that I’m only one person, how much of a difference can I make. The truth of the matter is that if I’m not going to change my behaviors, then who will? I’ve always said that a little bit can add up, yet I never really applied it to what I can do to help the environment. I was annoyed at people who post a Facebook status to try and invoke awareness or change for some sort of cause, and yet don’t put their money where their mouth is and actually donate to the cause. If everyone who shared a viral video about some sort of cause, donated $1 to that cause in addition to sharing it, then that money could pile into millions! Yet, I’m not “putting my money where my mouth is” when it comes to our environment.
Some great suggestions on what we can do to help can be found at the Utah Clean Air website. Some that really stuck out for me is that you could shovel instead of using a snow blower to get your sidewalks and driveways clear. Especially during inversion times, which is when there is snow around too, if everyone used a shovel instead of a snowblower that could (and I’m not just saying this cause I get jealous of all those who have it so easy with their fancy snow blowers.) I bet the air quality would improve drastically. One thing I CAN do though is not have my heater running all day every day. I’m cold. I could put on layers, but I don’t. So, now I will. Plus it will probably save us money anyway!
So do your part, even if you don’t live in Utah. One person turns into many people, and many people can make a change.
Disclosure: I am being compensated for this post, but was not told what to say or if I even had to mention Kennecott, they just want to get the word out about how we can fix our air. I agree.