Clear the Air Challenge update

This article, originally published in @theu, February 19, 2020, was written by Ayrel Clark-Proffitt, Sustainability Office

We all benefit when the air is clean. That’s the idea behind the statewide Clear the Air Challenge. Every February the University of Utah launches a team as part of a month-long effort to get people out of single-occupant vehicles, which are significant contributors to our air pollution problems.

The U team has hundreds of people logging their sustainable commutes on the TravelWise Tracker. (Psst … It’s not too late to sign up for the U team and log your trips back to Feb. 1.) As of writing this article, the University of Utah team is in first place, though Fidelity Investments, a perennially strong team and defending champs, is right on our heels.

When I look through all the trips we’ve logged this month, I see a few patterns:

Everything is better together

The Clear the Air Challenge winner is judged on CO2 savings, and right now traveling together is getting it done for the University of Utah team. As of Feb. 19, more than three-quarters of the CO2 saved by the U team came from choosing public transit or carpooling over driving alone. Members of the university community can all ride UTA FrontRunner, TRAX and buses by tapping on and off with their UCards. For those that struggle to access public transit, carpooling is a fantastic option. Research Park Connect has done a great job helping its team find carpool and vanpool options.

Health commuters are making a difference

The University of Utah might be in first place, but we wouldn’t be without the efforts of University of Utah Health. The U of U Health commuter team is in third place overall in the challenge. The team is literally breathing new life into the university’s efforts—90% of people signed up for the team are participating in their first Clear the Air Challenge, based on the dates their profiles were created.

It is OK to try new things

We get into habits, we create routines. Often, those are hard to break. Andy Lambert, a graduate student in atmospheric sciences, realized he was on autopilot when it came to his commute, and he made a choice to try out public transit for the first time. He was surprised to find the experience more enjoyable than he expected.

“Normally, my morning routine includes roughly 30 minutes of news and social media time before I can actually leave the house. But with public transit, that 30 minutes can just be moved to time on the bus. How’s that for convenience and efficiency?” Lambert said.

If you are a regular user of sustainable transportation, talk to your friends about it. If you get your pals on public transit, don’t forget to post a photo on Instagram with #CommuteCompanion and tag @SustainableUofU to be entered to win a free gift sponsored by Cotopaxi.

Together, we can make a difference.

Throughout February, take action on air quality by tracking your sustainable commute behaviors with the Clear the Air Challenge, a statewide competition that aims to reduce emissions from vehicles by promoting alternative transit options. Join the U team at travelwisetracker.com/s/university-of-utah. Log trips retroactively back to Feb. 1.

Solving the world’s environmental problems

This article, originally published in @theu, February 11, 2020, was written by the Environmental Humanities Graduate Program

Acclaimed American essayist and novelist Jonathan Franzen will be the 2020 recipient of the Utah Award in the Environmental Humanities.

Franzen’s environmental essays have stirred audiences on the subjects of climate mitigation, the importance of birds, interspecies ethics and human resilience in a changing world. Jonathan Franzen has been an outspoken voice for the environment in his fiction and nonfiction across five novels and five works of nonfiction including “The Corrections,” “Freedom” and “The End of the End of the Earth.” In 2010, he appeared on the cover of Time magazine.

“Bringing a writer of Jonathan Franzen’s status to campus is a rare opportunity for our students and for the broader community,” said Jeffrey McCarthy, director of the Environmental Humanities Program. “We are especially excited to underline the important environmental contributions Franzen has made with his essays and his novels. This award is the world’s first prize in the field of environmental humanities. It celebrates our recipients while putting their goals in the spotlight. It also puts the U on a national stage and further distinguishes our Environmental Humanities Graduate Program.”

The Utah Award in the Environmental Humanities celebrates environmental leadership and expression. The $10,000 award honors those who solve the planet’s environmental problems using tools of the humanities, such as creative expression, scholarly research, popular art forms and advocacy.

The Environmental Humanities Graduate Program at the University of Utah invites the public to celebrate Franzen’s environmental accomplishments on March 4, 2020, at the Nancy Tessman Auditorium at the Salt Lake City Main Library at 7 p.m.

Media Contacts

Morgan Aguilarcommunications specialist, University of Utah Communications