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Paying for Poor Air: The Cost of Regional Air Pollution

By SLCgreen intern Kelbe Goupil

Air quality, air quality, air quality…will we ever stop talking about it? Until our air is consistently clean and no longer putting our health and economy at risk, probably not.

Bad air day in Salt Lake City

Talking about air pollution is important to us here at SLCgreen, not only because of how harmful it is to our health but also because of how expensive it is.

Let’s face it: bad air is damaging our economy. And not just in Utah. Air pollution in the U.S. costs the nation at least $131 billion in damages annually, including higher healthcare costs. Globally, the cost of pollution-related death, sickness, and welfare is $4.6 trillion per year, which is about 6.2% of the global economy.

Let’s talk about why that is and what can be done about it. 

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Truck Wraps Deliver Words of Wisdom, Inspire Recycling

Every year, Salt Lake City’s low-emission waste collection trucks get a new look. In years past, the vehicles highlighted downsizing your garbage cans, the beauty of recycling, and the goal to ditch disposables. This year, the truck wraps deliver words of wisdom to inspire more thoughtful consumption and better recycling habits.

Truck wrap with Annie Leonard quote: There is no such thing as away. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.

Taking a Cue from Annie Leonard, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Robert Swan

One side of this year’s truck wraps display useful mantras encouraging SLC residents to recycle. The other side features quotes from three prominent environmental activists:

Annie Leonard is the founder of The Story of Stuff Project, which advocates for reducing our consumption and being more thoughtful about where our stuff goes. As her truck wrap quote says: there’s no such thing as away.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is an environmental activist and former senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He currently serves as president of the grassroots Waterkeeper Alliance. His quote succinctly emphasizes the impact of sustainable living on our country’s well being.

Echoing Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s sentiment, Robert Swan’s quote is a call to action for every individual to take steps towards protecting the environment. Robert Swan is a climate activist and the first person to walk to the North and South pole. His organization, 2041, works to educate the public about the impact of climate change on the environment, especially at the poles.

By quoting these leaders, the truck wraps pinpoint the importance of community action geared towards protecting the environment and building sustainable communities.

One of the easiest ways to follow in the footsteps of these activists is to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Truck wrap with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. quote: The most patriotic thing you can do is to take care of the environment and try to live sustainably.

Is Recycling Still Worth It?

Presented on the flip sides of the trucks are statistics about SLC’s waste management habits. In particular, they emphasize the importance of proper waste diversion in the form of recycling and composting.

Does that surprise you? With recycling changing as markets adjusted to new rules from China on contamination, there has been question as to whether recycling is even “worth it” any more.

We’re here to tell you it is and that’s a key point we wanted to emphasize with the new truck wrap designs. Let’s take a moment to dig in to that detail:

The recycling import ban that came from China in 2018 has complex causes and also underscores that recycling is a commodity market that has always experienced ups and downs.

But there is good news amid the shake-up. In particular, it’s forcing U.S. recycling processors and consumers to get back to basics: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle . . . Properly.

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Happy Anniversary to SLC’s Square Kitchen!

Welcome to SLCgreen Connections, an occasional series highlighting SLCgreen’s fantastic local partners—the people and organizations with whom we work closely to make Salt Lake City a greener, more vibrant, and sustainable city!

Can you believe it? It’s been over a year since Salt Lake City’s Square Kitchen opened. This labor of love took 8 years to fully realize and was one of our Department’s core Local Food access programs.

In that time, Square Kitchen’s Analia Valdemoros and Tham Soekotjo have truly taken the idea of an “incubator kitchen” from a dream to a thrilling reality while maintaining a strong focus on client support, flexibility, and creativity.

We met with Ana and Tham at the Square Kitchen facility on 751 West and 800 South to learn more about their first year of operation and take a peek at some of the local food businesses that got their start at the unique incubator space.

Square Kitchen
751 W. 800 S.
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Plastic Free July is Here!

Have you been wanting to reduce the amount of plastic waste in your life, but needed a push to get started? Plastic Free July is the perfect time to cut out those unnecessary plastics.

Plastic Free July  logo.

What is Plastic Free July?

Most of us know that plastic is a big issue for the environment. Plastic pollutes our oceans, threatens wildlife, and introduces toxic chemicals into our environment. That’s where Plastic Free July comes in.

Plastic Free July is an international campaign that promotes reducing our use of single-use plastics. The movement began in Australia and has spread worldwide. Now, millions of participants are finding creative ways to substantially reduce the amount of plastic waste in their homes and communities.

Eco-friendly 4th of July

Summer is a time of celebration, picnics, and the 4th of July. Extra parties and holidays don’t have to mean extra waste. You can keep plastic out of your 4th of July festivities and all your summer celebrations!

Help make July plastic free by remembering these helpful tips:

  • Bring your own bags to the store: Whether you’re prepping your 4th of July barbecue or going on your normal grocery run, pack your reusable shopping bags. Plastic bags cannot be recycled in the blue bins, so bringing reusable bags makes a world of difference. While most people know to bring their own grocery bags, not everyone thinks to bring their own produce bags. Consider finding canvas or mesh bags for your fruits and veggies.
  • Use reusable containers/packaging: Another way to reduce your plastic use is by rethinking the packaging. You can pack meals in reusable beeswax wraps, or Tupperware containers. You can even bring your own containers when you’re shopping for bulk ingredients like nuts, trail mix, or baking supplies.
  • Bring your own reusable cutlery, glasses, and plates: Encourage guests to bring theirs from home, which saves you the dish washing.
  • Bake goods at home: Many snacks and desserts like chips, crackers, cookies, etc. come in individual plastic packaging. But remember: there’s nothing better than a homemade treat! Get creative in the kitchen and find a recipe online for tasty, homemade snacks for your gathering.
  • Make more eco-friendly swaps: Once you start to notice it, there are many plastic-free alternatives to the products we buy. For example, you can bring soda in cans instead of bottles or buy in bulk instead of individual packaging. If disposable plates/cups are an absolute must, use paper instead of plastic or Styrofoam.

Sustainable SLC

Going plastic free can seem daunting, especially when everything we buy seems to be wrapped in the stuff. It can be difficult to find places that accommodate a plastic free lifestyle. Thankfully, Salt Lake City has some great resources for your plastic free journey.

Hello! Bulk Markets

Hello Bulk is a package free grocery store where you bring your own containers and fill up on a variety of bulk goods. They carry the widest variety of bulk foods and household products in the area. They offer several options for baking goods, herbs and spices, beans and nuts, tea and coffee body care, cleaning supplies and a lot more. When you bring in your own container, Hello! Bulk will weigh the jar and get the tare. Then you fill up on all the goods, plastic free!  

Check out Hello! Bulk Markets at 355 N 500 W, Salt Lake City, UT 84116.

Animalia

A great local shop for all things sustainable is Animalia. Animalia boasts several handmade and sustainable goods, curated with conscious thought towards transparency in business, and artisans who take pride in their products. They feature several sustainable swaps to help you refuse plastic, from glass straws, produce bags, and reusable mugs. Animalia also has a refill station for body care and house cleaning items including shampoo, lotion, deodorant, dish soap, laundry detergent, and more.

You can visit Animalia at 280 900 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84111.

Animalia bulk items

Thrift Shops

Clothes might not seem like much of a culprit for plastic, but plastic shows up in surprising ways. Many synthetic fabrics including polyester, nylon, acrylic, faux leather, suede, and fur, are all actually plastic. Washing these fabrics releases tiny plastic fibers. These fibers can make their way into the ocean, threatening sea life and our food chain.

What’s worse is that many of these synthetic fabrics are used in fast fashion items – garments that are worn for a short amount of time and then never used again. Fast-fashion can be anything from a trendy branded sweatshirt, to a faux-leather statement bag.

While not specifically single-use, clothing still contributes to the plastic problem. Buying used from vintage and thrift stores is a great way to give old items new life, and prevent new plastics from entering the waste stream.

Your Local Grocer

There are many other grocery stores that offer items in bulk, mainly snacks, grains, and spices, including national chain stores such as Whole Foods, WinCo, Smith’s, and Sprouts. Some stores may have policies against bringing containers from home, however; so be sure to ask whether you’re allowed to bring your own container. Some people suggest bringing canvas or mesh bags instead of jars to help lighten the load.

Join the Plastic Free July Challenge

Go plastic free this month and join the millions of others dedicated to keeping our streets, oceans, and planet clean. Small actions done by many can make a huge difference in the long run.

Learn more about Plastic Free July at https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/ and take on the challenge. Find stories on how others have reduced their use of single-use plastics at home and in their communities. They also feature several helpful tips on how you can go plastic free this month (and year-round)!

Salt Lake City Recognized for Climate Achievements

We’re excited to report that the United States Conference of Mayors honored Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, recognizing Salt Lake City efforts to move towards the city’s Climate Positive goals.

Check out the press release below for more details!

Salt Lake City Skyline

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 28, 2019

Salt Lake City receives prestigious recognition of climate achievements at U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting

Today at its annual conference, the United States Conference of Mayors recognized Mayor Jackie Biskupski for her leadership to advance renewable energy and tackle climate change. Presented at the “Climate Luncheon,” Mayor Biskupski was recognized for Salt Lake City’s efforts to transition to net-100 percent clean electricity, which made significant strides in 2019 with the passage and enactment of HB 411, the Community Renewable Energy Act.

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Electrified Transportation Really is Cleaner!

by SLCgreen intern Kelbe Goupil

We talk a lot about electric vehicles at SLCgreen (seriously – check it out).

That’s because they’re one of the critical pieces of transitioning our community to a lower carbon footprint (and they’re pretty fun to drive too).

Therefore, over the last several years, SLCgreen has developed policies to promote electric vehicle adoption in the community at large and in our government fleet.

But this support is not without substantive research and justification.

While EVs are a key part of the puzzle, they’re not a panacea to climate change or our air quality problems. Other forms of transportation (biking, walking, riding the bus or train) and good urban planning are just as important.

Today, however, we are taking a deep dive on a common question regarding electric vehicles– just how clean are they?

Read on and dig in.

Electric Vehicle Charging Station
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Summer is Here! Review the 7 Leave No Trace Principles

Liberty Park

Summer is here and with it a nearly endless offering of entertainment options! From grilling in the park and attending concerts and festivals, to hiking, running, and biking on local trails, there are many ways to get outside.

But while you’re out there, remember to take care of our natural spaces– both in and outside of our city!

The Leave No Trace principles aren’t just for going in the backcountry. They should be applied everywhere— including our local parks, gardens, and canyons.

Using these principles helps keep human impacts to a minimum and ensures access to these places and activities will be around for many years to come.

Leave No Trace is more than just packing out trash

Leave No Trace has developed a simple platform that has helped millions of people learn how to protect and respect the outdoors. The Principles are based on respect for nature and other visitors — and they are supported by scientific research.

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