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This student group is asking people to give the gift of clean air by utilizing public transportation

Utah Valley University Sustainability Clean Air Campaign project leaders Emery Williams, left, and Kiersten Thomson hand out T-shirts and ask students and faculty to pledge to ride public transportation, which is free for all students, staff and their dependents, in Orem on Wednesday.

Utah Valley University Sustainability Clean Air Campaign project leaders Emery Williams, left, and Kiersten Thomson hand out T-shirts and ask students and faculty to pledge to ride public transportation, which is free for all students, staff and their dependents, in Orem on Wednesday. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)


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OREM — For Utah Valley University student Caitlyn Bennett, winter is a time too often filled with health issues and hospital visits.

"For most, December consists of 12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 lords a-leaping and so on," Bennett said. "For me, December consists of 12 ER visits, 11 IVs and 10 calls to my mom, letting her know I'm in the hospital."

When Bennett was 16 years old, she was diagnosed with severe asthma and vocal chord dysfunction.

"It wasn't until a little while after I received my diagnosis that I learned that a large contributing factor to my health was the air quality," Bennett said.

This is one of the reasons that Bennett, along with other UVU Sustainability Clean Air Campaign students on Wednesday, unveiled their new Give the Gift of Clean Air campaign, encouraging students and community members alike to make a pledge to utilize public transportation in an effort to reduce emissions.

The campaign is the latest cog in a series of initiatives undertaken by the university to improve its sustainability measures.

Utah Valley University students Ashley Jones, left, and Caitlyn Bennett, who has severe asthma and vocal cord disfunction, hug after speaking at a press conference about the Give the Gift of Clean Air campaign at the Utah Transit Authority Orem Central Station in Orem on Wednesday. UVU students and staff were to urged to pledge to ride public transit to improve Utah air quality.
Utah Valley University students Ashley Jones, left, and Caitlyn Bennett, who has severe asthma and vocal cord disfunction, hug after speaking at a press conference about the Give the Gift of Clean Air campaign at the Utah Transit Authority Orem Central Station in Orem on Wednesday. UVU students and staff were to urged to pledge to ride public transit to improve Utah air quality. (Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

In 2018, the university committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. Additionally, UVU Sustainability Committee member Thomas Bretz, said that by next year the university will derive 92% of its electricity from solar power.

According to the EPA, ​greenhouse gas emissions from transportation account for about 27% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

To help combat this, UVU and Utah Transit Authority in 2018 entered into a "landmark" agreement that allows all UVU students, faculty and staff — as well as their dependents and spouses — to be eligible for a UTA pass that provides free access to UTA buses, TRAX, FrontRunner and the Utah Valley Express line in Orem and Provo.

It's had an impact, too.

"3,335,000 pounds of CO2 was reduced. just from UVX (Utah Valley Express) alone and gasoline was reduced (by) 170,000 gallons," said Mary DeLaMare-Schaeffer, UTA general manager of the TIMP Service Unit.

In addition to the Give the Gift of Clean Air campaign, students are planning to launch a social media campaign to promote UVU's agreement with UTA, in hopes of getting more students, staff and faculty to take advantage of the service.

"We really just want everybody to ride at least once. Then they will feel more comfortable doing it more often and maybe the things that keep them from riding will be dissolved and they'll just be able to keep riding," UVU student Ashley Jones said. "We really hope that everybody that takes the pledge will ride at least once and that, in some small way, we can lower the emissions of this area."

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Utah higher educationUtah transportationUtah air qualityUtahEducationUtah County
Logan Stefanich is a reporter with KSL.com, covering southern Utah communities, education, business and military news.

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