DEQ Employees Take Opportunity to Clear the Air

By Jared Mendenhall

Forty-eight percent of winter air pollution along the Wasatch Front comes from mobile sources. Mobile source pollution is the emissions produced by cars and trucks. Reducing these emissions, is one of the easiest things residents can do to improve air quality.

During February, the Salt Lake Chamber sponsors the Clear the Air Challenge. The goal of the Challenge is to help residents learn helpful tools to cut tailpipe emission. Competitors track online how many car trips they save by carpooling, telecommuting, chain tripping, walking and taking public transit.

Employees at the Department of Environmental Quality shared with us how they took part in this year’s Challenge and why they feel it is an important tool in helping Utahns clear the air?


“The Clear the Air Challenge is easier than people think. It only takes a few minutes to participate. It also helps people try out other forms of transportation. Sometimes all it takes is that first trip to realize how easy it is not to drive.”

Jeff Studenka
Environmental Scientist

“I only live 7.5 miles from work. I like to ride my bike when it’s warmer. It saves money and I can get in some exercise.”

Kevin Okleberry
Environmental Scientist

Jeff Studenka [left] and Kevin Okleberry [right] take Trax with other Division of Water Quality employees during the annual Clear the Air Challenge.

Jeff Studenka [left] and Kevin Okleberry [right] take Trax with other Division of Water Quality employees during the annual Clear the Air Challenge.


“Carpooling is the only time in the day I get my husband all to myself. We work close together so it only makes sense to take one car. Plus, I hate to drive. So I let my husband deal with traffic and other drivers. I just go along for the ride.”

Jenny Potter
Executive Assistant

Jenny Potter carpools every morning with her husband. Why? She hates driving and likes clean air.

Jenny Potter carpools every morning with her husband. Why? She hates driving and likes clean air.


Mat Carlile
Environmental Planning

“We know that cars are our biggest cause of air pollution. Efforts to try and reduce trips and cold starts are important in reducing those emissions.”

Glade Sowards
Environmental Scientist

Mat Carlile [left] and Glade Sowards [right] double dip for their Clear the Air Challenge by logging a carpool in an electric vehicle.

Mat Carlile [left] and Glade Sowards [right] double dip for their Clear the Air Challenge by logging a carpool in an electric vehicle.


“Honestly, I don’t like scrapping ice off my windshield. It’s a lot easier just to walk to TRAX. I like to play video games when I’m on the train. That’s why I take public transit. Any chance we have to move cars off the road helps in so many ways—traffic congestion, air quality.”

Kristy Weber
DEQ Meteorologist

Kristy Weber and her Fiancé enjoy the ease of taking public transit.

Kristy Weber and her Fiancé enjoy the ease of taking public transit.


“Riding public transit can be very relaxing. The first time or two is stressful, for sure. Once you figure out the route, though, it’s a great way to get around. I always bring a book.”

Rik Ombach
Environmental Scientist

Rik Ombach [right] and co-workers from Utah's Division of Air Quality make a lunch run to downtown on the train.

Rik Ombach [right] and co-workers from Utah’s Division of Air Quality make a lunch run to downtown on the train.


“Technology allows us to take a more flexible approach to work. At DEQ we need someone covering certain responsibilities seven days a week. It just makes more sense to log on from home and do the work then to drive all the way into the office for just a few hours. ”

Kimberly Kreykes
DEQ Meteorologist

DEQ Meteorologist Kimberly Kreykes doesn't bother driving in to work on the weekends to update the weather report. Telecommuting helps her save time and reduces emissions.

DEQ Meteorologist Kimberly Kreykes doesn’t bother driving in to work on the weekends to update the weather report. Telecommuting helps her save time and reduces emissions.


“I ride transit because it is cheaper than driving and because I believe that every little bit helps and we should all be taking steps to reduce our impact on our environment.”

Thomas Ball Environmental Scientist

Tom Ball stays entertained while ridding Trax into work.

Tom Ball stays entertained while ridding Trax into work.

Learn more about wintertime air pollution in Utah here. Learn more about the Clear the Air Challenge here.

I am a public information officer for DEQ and a former marketer and magazine editor. Follow me on Instagram @Jarv801.