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Health, Science & Environment

Clear the Air Challenge Begins Friday

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Biking is one of the ways to log up pollution-avoidance credits for the Clear the Air Challenge.

The seventh annual Clear the Air Challenge starts Friday. It’s a contest aimed at reducing summer ozone pollution that drew over seven thousand people last year. Together, they cut pollution by 646 tons.

Urban planner and architect Soren Simonsen placed second last year among individual participants, and that meant he singlehandedly kept half a ton of pollutants out of Salt Lake City’s skies.

A believer in the bigger cause, he’s ready to leave his car keys behind throughout July to participate in this summer’s contest.

“The condition of the air really demands that we’re taking individual and collective action,” Simonsen says. “So, I’m really pleased to see that we can, as a community, top what we did last year, because we need to continue moving that dial to clear the air.”

He chats up the challenge at work, to his students and at church. And he says many people welcome the invitation to improve their health -- and air quality -- by biking and using public transit. One of Simonsen’s strategies for success is trip-chaining.

“Those add up,” he says, “every one of those trips that you eliminate -- even if it’s just one leg of a trip --because you’re chaining multiple activities together, that’s really valuable.”

Simonsen uses the Travelwise Tracker smartphone app, which offers emissions-reducing ideas and a tool for measuring his success.

Teams and individuals are already signing up on the Clear the Air Challenge web page. The overall goal for this year is to log 1.1 million trips not taken since the program began in 2009.

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