This is an archived article that was published on in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If you're looking into purchasing a new vehicle, I hope you go about buying one as a conscious consumer.

You don't have to drive a Prius to make a difference. I simply implore you to consider environmental impact.

In the Salt Lake Valley alone, there are close to a million people, and each year more drivers congest the roadways. The more vehicles on the road means that much more carbon dioxide polluting the air, the primary contributor to climate change. Every year citizens complain about the inversion and related health issues, ranging from respiratory infections to cancer due to breathing in our blanket of toxins.

Inversions will inevitably happen (winter inversions being when cold air is trapped under a layer of warm air), but that doesn't excuse us from individual choices that exacerbate the eye- and lung-burning winter haze we are subjected to.

The price of gasoline has continued to drop to record lows, hovering around or under the $2 mark in the Salt Lake Valley. The temptation to purchase a large vehicle might now seem a more viable option since you can afford to fill it up more frequently.

Not everyone is a rancher or construction worker and truly needs a truck for getting around. I cannot accept the prevalent ignorance and then constant complaining by citizens who only add to the problem but aren't willing to do anything to change their own lifestyles.

For anything to get done around here, it is necessary for local citizens to not only get engaged in their own choices on a daily basis, but to inform themselves and be a part of a community that wants to create positive change.

Does someone who lives in a city really need to drive a monster truck or SUV around town? You can convince yourselves about the energy efficiency of a large vehicle, but at the end of the day, it's still a large, gas-guzzling vehicle that continues to support the fossil fuel industry and pollutes our air with every use.

Passing an emissions test doesn't let you off the hook. This is the time of year to research the vehicle that will maximize not only your lifestyle needs but also will minimize your personal impact on the environment.

I think it is critical that everyone consciously engage in making smarter investments that will serve you, not rob you of a healthier future, investments that will support the jobs and products that a thriving present, and future needs. When you decide to invest in a vehicle, you're also investing in not only your own health and your family's, but your community and everyone downwind of you.

We all have to breathe the same air, so please consider your best options and become a conscious consumer.

Heather J. Hansen is a University of Utah senior majoring in Environmental and Sustainability Studies and a University of Utah Hospital employee.