Taking the Clear The Air Challenge

Clear the Air Challenge is a month-long competition where participants try to cut out as many automobile trips as possible.

By Sidney Rogers

The morning started off with great excitement and anticipation. It was my first day as an intern in the Communications Office at The Department of Environmental Quality.

I started questioning what I had gotten myself into when my coworker suggested that I ditch my trusty car for a day and write about my experience.

It seems I had joined the team right on time to participate in the Salt Lake Chamber’s Clear The Air Challenge— a month-long competition where participants try to cut out as many automobile trips as possible.

I love the idea of improving air quality and now it was my turn to do what I could to help.

The goal was to make it from my house in Murray to DEQ headquarters by 9 a.m. Seems simple enough. The only problem, I hadn’t been on a bus or TRAX in more than 10 years.

Utah DEQ intern, Sidney Rogers, used her bike and public transit to take the Clear The Air Challenge.

I received my license the day I turned 16 and I have been driving ever since. No matter how long or short the trip was, I could easily hop into my car and go. I didn’t consider using public transportation. I had a car, it seemed only logical to use it. But I was up for the challenge and wanted to do my part.

My endeavor took some planning ahead. From my house to the closest TRAX station was a 35-minute walk or 11 minutes by bike. Considering my exposure to the early morning mid-winter air, I chose the quicker option. Before going to bed, I made sure my bike was in good working order, checked what time my train left and what the temperature would be. In the morning, I transferred my belongings from a handbag to a backpack, bundled up and hit the road just as the sun was rising.

During my commute to the TRAX station, my struggles were, frozen fingers, unfit sidewalks and one pesky pedestrian light that never gave me the okay to cross. But once I made it to the station safely, I purchased my ticket and successfully boarded the train. I felt accomplished. Normally by this time, I would be fighting traffic and stressing about backed up lanes. Instead, I felt at peace, enjoying the view from my seat.

As people came and went at each stop, I became curious of their stories. Where is she going? What kind of job does he have? My morning routine would never allow me to think about people in this way. But in that moment, being among so many strangers, who like me were just trying to get somewhere, I felt more human. I realized that I am part of a much bigger picture. The choices I make, affect all these people aiming to live happy healthy lives.

One train transfer, a short walk, and one hour later, I had reached my destination.

I was happy and a bit proud of myself. Sure, I ventured out of my comfort zone, burned a few hundred calories, and saved the air 15.4 lbs. of CO2 emission. But I was happiest about how enlightening the experience was. I became so much more aware of my actions, surroundings, and of the people who live in my community. Though this experiment was only one day, I realized that change is not accomplished through one person’s big effort, but often through many people’s small efforts. If everyone embraced the challenge to make one small change in their daily routine, we would see some great improvements in the environment we live in.

It isn’t too late to sign up for the Clear The Air Challenge. To register, visit cleartheairchallenge.org.

I am studying communications at Weber State University, and an intern for DEQ.  I enjoy sightseeing eating delicious food, and people who make me laugh to the point of tears.