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Clear The Air Foundation

Evaluating the impact of journalism and communications
January 17, 2018

Clear The Air Foundation


When it came to Colorado’s air quality challenges, Colorado’s new auto dealers were too often viewed as part of the problem. But that misguided perception ignored the fact that new vehicles they sell produce far less air pollution than older cars.
“Most cars, especially new ones, are extraordinarily clean,” Malcolm Gladwell wrote in the New Yorker back in 2006. “A 2004 Subaru in good working order has an exhaust stream that’s just .06 percent carbon monoxide, which is negligible. But on almost any highway, for whatever reason—age, ill repair, deliberate tampering by the owner—a small number of cars can have carbon-monoxide levels in excess of 10 percent, which is almost 200 times higher.
In Denver, 5 percent of the vehicles on the road produce 55 percent of the automobile pollution.”


That means that every time a new car replaces an older, dirtier one, the air gets cleaner. SE2 helped the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association launch and promote the Clear the Air Foundation, a nonprofit that educates the public on the realities of car emissions and encourages people to recycle old high-polluting cars. Year after year, SE2 developed creative ways to maintain consumer and policymaker interest in the initiative.

  • A “Worst in Show” display at the Denver Auto Show featured a worn-out “gross emitter” that offered a sharp contrast the shimmering array of new vehicles.
  • Another auto show installation drew in visitors with an immersive video game that required them to dodge dirty old cars and catch new clean ones to clear the air.
  • A “Pollution Crusher” toy kit let people experience firsthand the excitement of crushing old cars and prompted national media coverage.



The Clear the Air Foundation has permanently removed nearly 3,000 older, high-polluting vehicles from Colorado’s roads.

“I’ve been in this business for 40 years and I know a cheap publicity trick when I see it. But sometimes they work.”- Automotive News executive editor on the Clear the Air Foundation’s Pollution Crusher kit