When Emily Kam learned about the chance to do something good for the environment for her new hometown, she jumped on it. She enlisted her mother to shoot the video and made a spare-the-air public-service announcement just as hot, sunny weather threatens to plunge Utah into the high ozone days of summer.
Her video, "Take the Time: Clean Salt Lake City's Air," is the first YouTube entry submitted so far in a Clean Air Month contest. A riff on taking mass transit, Kam's short is part of a Utah Department of Environmental Quality campaign to inspire 30-second videos about what people can do to improve air quality. The entries for the contest, which offers more than $1,000 in cash prizes, are due by May 28.
"Everybody can be doing something, and it wouldn't take much time out of your day," Kam said. "It would help so much."
The contest is underway just in time for Utah's smog season, which starts in earnest in June and continues through August.
Ozone pollution causes what's often described as a sunburn on the lungs. It's made up of pollutants in exhaust from cars, factories, cooking and fumes that is "cooked" in the heat and sunshine. And it causes a variety of health problems for healthy people as well as vulnerable ones, including the very young, the very old and those with heart and lung trouble.
The Utah Asthma Program offers tools people can use to monitor smog's impact on themselves and other family members.
And the Utah Division of Air Quality provides three-day pollution forecasts and hourly monitoring reports throughout the smog season. In addition, the air-quality office has an email service that provides timely updates on health and advice on protecting the air.
"Not driving," said Bryce Bird, director of air quality for the state, "is the best way to prevent ozone pollution, but other things help as well."
Department of Environmental Quality Director Amanda Smith demonstrates another idea in a video announcing the contest. She rides her bicycle to work one day a week in summer.
"But there are other simple things people can do to help protect air quality and our health," she said. "For instance, switching to water-based paints, replacing old metal gasoline cans and not mowing lawns on hot, sunny days make a difference in lowering our ozone levels."
Kam moved here from California a year ago, and she says her first winter of Salt Lake City-style pollution episodes was "shocking," especially for a place that is otherwise so beautiful.
The high school senior says her video was fun to make. She plans to do more.
"I really want to help because I love Salt Lake City," Kam said. "It would take so little [to make a difference] so we all need to make the change."
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Summer 2013 video contest
O For more information on the Department of Environmental Quality's 30-second video contest aimed at educating Utahns about ozone and ways to improve summer air quality, go to 1.usa.gov/10zdIec.
Entries must be received by 5 p.m. May 28, 2013.