During the recent inversion, groups on the Weber State University campus have been working on creating better air quality. These organizations include the Environmental Issues Committee and the Energy and Sustainability Office.
The Environmental Issues Committee is working on getting the entire campus to be idle-free. Campus vehicles are currently not allowed to idle, but students, faculty and staff are still allowed to idle in their own cars.
“It wastes fuel and contributes to unpleasant air,” said English professor Hal Crimmel. “We are trying to get students into student services . . . and interact with other students.”
Crimmel was in charge of the Environmental Issues Committee, but stepped down last year. He is now temporarily in charge while the current chair is on maternity leave.
The improvements started in 2009, when WSU President Ann Millner and other WSU faculty signed the Climate Action Plan. The plan was for the university to be carbon-neutral by the year 2050.
One of the main things the organizations are trying to do is raise awareness about the air quality. Crimmel said Utah has the dirtiest air in the country during the winter.
“The committee’s greatest single push is get students out of their cars,” said Eric Ewert, a member of the Environmental Issues Committee. “Take the bus, walk, get them to stop idling. We are driving everywhere at a prolific rate.”
Ewert said that, although the inversion is something that cannot be stopped, there is a way for people to improve the air, making it less harmful. The inversion traps the pollutants put into the air, making it unhealthy to breathe.
“What we have to focus on is not filling the air with our waste,” Ewert said. “We can’t change the inversion, but we can change our lifestyle.”
Jennifer Bodine, the sustainability coordinator in the Energy and Sustainability Office, said students, faculty and staff commuting to and from WSU is where the largest amount of emissions comes from, according to the office’s annual report.
“It’s never good when they are telling pregnant women and children and the elderly to stay inside,” Bodine said. “It’s pretty incredible that we aren’t doing more.”
Bodine said that, since the Climate Action Plan was put into position, the university has been doing better with sustainability. Since then, the university has saved more than $1 million in utility bills.
Crimmel suggested that students look at www.airquality.utah.gov to understand the current health problems with the inversion. The website gives a day-by-day analysis of the level of particle matter in the air per county. When the level reaches more than 55.5, it is considered unhealthy.
“A lot of people think these issues don’t affect them personally,” Crimmel said. “It affects everybody. Others things you can escape, but air touches everybody.”
The Environmental Issues Committee is also working on smoke-free zones on campus. In February, the issue will go to the faculty senate for approval. The committee conducted a survey of students about the smoke-free zones, and 90 percent said they were in favor of them.
“We are trying to support what the students would like to see,” Crimmel said.
The Energy and Sustainability Office is also working on a few projects, including an upgrade in campus lighting and upgrading the insulin for the tunnels under the university. Both projects have been in the works for a few years. The lighting in the Dee Events Center was recently changed to LED lights, which use half the power.
The office will also be hosting the annual Sustainability Summit on Feb. 28. It costs $10 to attend, and the event will help inform students about what they can do to be sustainable through a series of workshops.