Ways to Improve Air Quality

aspen air quality before after

Aspen's Air Quality Success Story

During the 1970’s and 80’s, Aspen’s air quality was in peril. Smoke from fireplaces and exhaust from vehicles (trapped by temperature inversions) hung low over the city almost blocking out Aspen Mountain at times. In an effort to clear Aspen’s non-attainment status for particulate matter 10 microns or less in size (PM10), Aspen passed several clean air ordinances including a ban on wood burning fireplaces, restricting vehicle idling and cleaning up restaurant grill fumes.

One of the biggest factors in Aspen’s clean air today was the passage of paid parking in Aspen in conjunction with the amazing bus service provided by the Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RFTA).

Aspen maintains its clean air ordinances and transit programs to continue to breathe the clean mountain air and enjoy the mountain vistas Aspen is known for. Aspen was officially re-designated as meeting the Clean Air Act standards in 2002.

Actions You Can Take to Protect Air Quality

  • Switch your wood burning fireplace to a gas burning insert or gas appliance. Go to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for a list of approved indoor burning devices
  • If you have a wood burning fireplace, don't burn when the smoke won't dissipate from the area, such as on cold, clear and calm nights
  • Turn your engine off while your vehicle is parked
  • Use a windshield cover or ice scraper instead of your defrost for deicing your car
  • Switch to zero emission lawn equipment which uses electricity instead of gasoline
  • Use alternative transportation by taking RFTA, biking, walking or carpooling for your commuting trip, going to school or running errands.
  • Join Car-To-Go (local car share) and / or WE-cycle (bike share)
  • Avoid solvent-based products, which have pollution causing vapors (VOCs). Use water-based paint, stain and sealants.

Traffic % Air Quality

Most of Aspen’s PM-10 is caused by traffic. 83% of Aspen’s PM-10 pollution comes from dirt kicked up by traffic driving on paved roads. A small amount of additional PM-10 comes from vehicle exhaust. The PM-10 caused by traffic can only be lowered by trip reduction measures like carpooling, bus transit, light rail, walking, biking, and/or telecommuting along with the City’s street sweeping efforts. With up to 37,000 vehicle trips each day on Main Street, Aspen has a very difficult challenge: PM-10 harms peoples’ health and without reducing Aspen’s high traffic levels, PM-10 levels will be a concern.