Air quality is certainly not just a Salt Lake City issue; it affects quality of life and economic development throughout the state of Utah.
So when it came to finding ways to make a difference for our air, Provo City leaders decided to take matters into their own hands. With the help of Envision Utah, they created the “Provo Clean Air Toolkit”, a website providing a centralized list of strategies and tools residents and businesses can implement to achieve cleaner air in Utah County. This successful partnership between Provo City and Envision Utah serves as a model for how other municipalities, organizations and businesses can work together to solve Utah’s unique air quality challenges.
Beginning in 2014 and culminating with the website launch this January, the toolkit idea started with the passion of the now-former Provo City Council member Hal Miller. Miller’s passion for addressing air quality issues and his tenacity on this project combined with a 2014 Utah Clean Air (UCAIR) grant and the partnership of Envision Utah, helped to ensure the toolkit process was completed in a collaborative and thorough manner. This collaboration was critical to accurately reflecting Provo resident’s ideas within the final toolkit.
“Our goal was to make sure that a number of stakeholders in the city were involved and on board,” said Ari Bruening, Envision Utah’s Chief Operating Officer. “We did this for a number of reasons, number one was to make sure that we included things in the toolkit that fit in Provo, that fit the values of the people in Provo, and could be implemented. Also, so that those who were involved would be excited about the outcome and willing to share it and spread the word.”
To hone in on the best way to present the toolkit and identify the types of strategies to include, Envision Utah hosted a series of stakeholder meetings. They invited the business community, the University, neighborhood chairs and a variety of City officials, to learn about air quality and what kinds of actions can make a difference, and then allowed the individual stakeholders to provide feedback about what they thought should be included in the toolkit.
Bruening said that from these meetings, it was determined a website would be the best format for the toolkit. “Whether you’re a resident or a business, it’s something you can easily access and click on and it would show you the tools that are appropriate for you,” he said. After building the website, Envision Utah brought it back to these stakeholder groups for more feedback and edits which led to the finished product, provocleanair.org.
Envision Utah works with organizations from across the state, but Bruening said collaborating with Provo was especially meaningful because of the City’s willingness to take the lead on addressing air quality.
Provo Mayor John Curtis recognizes there are steps everyone can take to make a difference for Utah’s air, and believes the toolkit brings those steps to the forefront. “Sometimes we feel overwhelmed with the problem being so large, but the toolkit is a way to break things down and provide people manageable tasks they can work on,” he said.
A Model for Success
Since the launch of the website in January, Curtis believes the toolkit has been successful for not only Provo residents, but also city leaders. For example, he said the toolkit has rallied a group of volunteer employees who meet to discuss ways to make Provo more sustainable by providing a framework or “game plan” for other future sustainability initiatives.
“The task before us now is to make sure that this isn’t just a pretty website,” Curtis acknowledged. “I view that falling largely on the city, to first of all, set an example ourselves by working on [implementing] the toolkit strategies and making progress.”
Although not the original intent of creating the Provo Clean Air Toolkit, the process and website itself have become replicable models for other cities and organizations. Curtis thinks the accessibility of the website has allowed others to look at it and have a “we can do that!” reaction, inspiring them to see a path that they hadn’t seen before.
“We hope others will follow suit, even if you don’t live in Provo, a lot of what’s on the website is something anyone can do,” Bruening added.
For the business community, Curtis and Bruening agree the most important action an organization can take is to simply do something. Although it can be easy to feel like seemingly small contributions are meaningless, big changes come through many individual efforts.
“Most of us sit back and wait for someone else to solve the air quality problem, but my personal belief is that the best way to handle this is hundreds of thousands of people doing hundreds and thousands of small things,” Curtis said. “Yes, there are some big issues that need to be tackled, but much of what’s outlined in the toolkit is changing behaviors on a very simple level.”
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