By Emerson Andrews, Sustainability Office
When you look west from the University of Utah, the air quality problem is apparent—especially during the winter. A thick, brown layer of particulate matter hangs over Salt Lake City; you can’t help but think that with each breath you take, you are breathing in pollution.
It is because of this all too common experience that Warren Beecroft, a student in the Environmental & Sustainability Studies Program, decided to take action and help his community breathe cleaner during unhealthy air days. This semester, Warren is conducting the first campus-wide Air Filtration Mask Distribution Program. During the fall semester, Beecroft worked to secure $11,900 from the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF) in order to purchase 1,000, custom-made University of Utah-branded reusable filtration masks from Vogmask. These masks will be made available on campus as part of the Air Filtration Mask Distribution Program. This program aims to protect the University community while encouraging active transportation by offering these masks at an 83-percent discount off the retailer’s price during the spring semester.
To purchase a mask all you’ll need is $5, your uNID number, and the commitment to take alternative forms of transportation.
The masks provide two benefits. The first, and most obvious, is that the masks will protect people from breathing in toxic air. The second is that by using these masks the wearer is making a visible statement that the air in Salt Lake City is not safe.
“This program sets out to address an issue that has, in the past, brought about a fair amount of discussion, but limited action,” says Beecroft. “The masks are important to the campus community because they might serve as a catalyst in bringing about more concrete long-term solutions to our state’s pollution problem.”
This project works in tandem with other University efforts regarding air quality such as the Air Quality Task Force Report, the Program for Air Quality, the Clean Air for U Challenge, and the Air Quality Monitoring Center.
Air quality awareness and protection from its impacts relates to the sustainability of good health in individuals, as well as issues of environmental sustainability stemming from transportation choices. The University of Utah is predominantly a commuter campus. Because there are so many people commuting to campus each day, it is important that each and every person travel wise on their way to and from campus.
“One of the most direct contributions an individual can make in reducing their personal contribution to air pollution is transitioning to active transportation methods such as biking or walking,” says Beecroft.
If you are interested in getting a mask for yourself, please fill out this form.
Emerson Andrews is the SCIF coordinator at the Sustainability Office.