SMD club focuses on improving air quality in Utah

Spring 2018 has been an exciting semester for the Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) Club. Early in the semester, the club underwent some leadership changes, with myself elected as President and Damon Ashcraft as Vice President of the club. The club also saw a large increase in membership, growing to nearly 15 members. With these changes, the members decided to set some goals and action plans for the club moving forward. First, we wanted to continue our partnership with the Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF), a coalition of student clubs at Utah Valley University (UVU) by assisting to host dignitaries from all around the world. We also decided to add our voice to those who are addressing air quality in the state of Utah and immediately began brainstorming ideas to help in that crucial effort.

Cougar Einfeldt, Emmanuel Omaria and Kyler Pigott host a table at UVU

Our first impression, as primarily political science majors, was to write legislation addressing the poor air quality experienced across the Wasatch Front. We started research on how to write and present a law in the Utah 2019 Legislative session, once we had a basic grasp of the process, we dove in. During the early stages of our data gathering, we learned about an on-campus research group, whose focus was also air quality, and intended their research to be used for legislation. We met with the leadership of that group and decided to work together towards this monumentally important issue. Currently, we are in the stages of benchmarking air quality legislation and policy of other states, foreign governments, and large-scale companies. At the end of May we will meet with the research team again to compile data and begin the more formal process of writing and proposing the legislation based off the data found.

Emmanuel Omaria explains to UVU student how to improve air quality in Utah (front), while  Caitlin Tomly speaks with UVU faculty member about initiative to increase public transit usage on campus (back)

Because of the grandeur of the previous goal discussed, we also set a smaller goal of reducing on campus emissions through by encouraging students and faculty to utilize the public transit system that runs throughout Utah. We accomplished this by tabling throughout the semester, in different locations around campus. During these events, we approached students and faculty alike as they passed in the hallways, and had a short but informative discussion with them about the impact of vehicle emissions on air quality. Then it was easier for us to encourage them to take the bus, carpool, or even bike to campus, as a personal commitment they can make to reduce particle pollution in our communities. We also offered information on the transit routes, and helped them understand exactly how they could utilize the system.

While it is difficult to quantify exactly how much of an impact our tabling made on the emissions produced by the school, the events did draw the attention of several faculty members, who in turn provided us with more opportunities to take part in the schools efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Specifically, faculty member Ms. Colleen Bye connected us with members of the university’s faculty Senate in charge of planning and coordinating efforts to reach UVU’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. With this connection, we will contribute to the agenda of an upcoming event “Sustainability Day” at UVU on October 1st, 2018.

Through Colleen, we contacted several groups at Brigham Young University, also focused on reducing emissions by utilizing alternate transportation. We are currently coordinating efforts with them to create multi-campus initiatives. Additionally we are working with student led groups at both Brigham Young University and University of Utah to host a Climate Campaign event, to highlight the efforts of universities across Utah in addressing climate and sustainability issues. These intercollegiate efforts will not only highlight each universities impact on the issues, but especially UVU’s engaged learning model for student led projects.

Moving forward, the SMD club is increasing it’s utilization of the engaged learning model by submitting a written statement to the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) 2018 session (the HLPF is the highest forum of the United Nations focused on sustainability and climate issues). We plan to attend the event in New York in July, and submitted already a draft for oral and written statements. If either of them is accepted, then members of the SMD club secure their place at the HLPF. Finally, we are working to register the UIMF as either a non-profit, or an non-governmental organization, in order to open up even more opportunities for engaged learning in later years.

Kyler Pigott, President Sustainable Mountain Development Club at Utah Valley University 



Damon Ashcraft-Raising funds to promote sustainable mountain development