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Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day is celebrating its 51st anniversary on April 22! Salt Lake City residents can celebrate with activities and events this weekend and throughout the month of April.

As you plan your Earth Day fun, remember that Earth Day doesn’t have to be limited to April 22. We all can reduce our impact every day.

This year we thought it’d be fun to imagine taking advantage of many of Salt Lake City’s programs to help lead a more sustainable life. Come along for the ride. . . perhaps you’ll discover something new . . .

In the Yard

From planting a water-wise landscape to using an electric lawn mower rather than a gas-powered one, your very own front yard is a great place to improve your household’s environmental footprint!

You can also make your garden healthier for the whole community – pets and pollinators included. You may have seen the little green Pesticide Free hexagonal signs in your neighborhood. Salt Lake City residents are taking steps to grow beautiful gardens without toxic chemicals. Going pesticide free can help you keep your family and neighbors healthy, and your yard safe for pollinators– we still have plenty of signs, so take the pledge and request yours today! We’ll deliver it to your home for free.

Photo of green pesticide free sign in front of a garden of blooming red, white, and yellow flowers.

Waste and Recycling

Recycling and composting every day helps us make the most of our resources. Taking the extra step to recycle materials like aluminum, cardboard, paper, and plastic containers is an excellent way to reach your zero waste goals. Have questions? Watch Ashley on our Education Team walking you through what to put in your recycling and compost containers.

You can also sign up for a smaller garbage can to save money.

And don’t forget about glass! If you have not yet signed up for curbside glass recycling, you can do so here— or take your glass to a drop-off location near you.

Have an item you’re not sure what to do with? Check out our specialty recycling page to see if it can be recycled through a special program.

At Home

Using low-flow shower heads saves energy and water. Switching to LED light bulbs can reduce up to 500 pounds of CO2 annually, while using cold water for washing your clothes saves 1,270 pounds annually! Find more energy saving tips on SLCgreen’s Household Energy Action Tips.

Although going 100% vegan is a great way to help shrink your carbon footprint, limiting animal products a few times a week is also impactful.

Reducing food waste is also an often-overlooked way to reduce potent methane emissions and help others.

For example you can volunteer with the local non-profit Waste Less Solutions to share your excess garden produce with those who need extra food. You can also volunteer with them to deliver meals that would otherwise go to waste to service agencies.

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Plan Your 2021 Earth Day

There are activities throughout the month of April

Fifty-one years ago, the United States participated in the first Earth Day, an event which ultimately resulted in the creation of the EPA. Clean Air Act, and Clean Water Act. Honoring Earth Day gives us the opportunity to reengage with our sustainability goals as individuals and as a community.

Every year, the Earth Day Network sets a theme to help direct engagement. This year’s theme is “Restore Our Earth,” a theme that helps focus our attention on conservation, restoration, and building sustainable and equitable communities long-term.

Even the smallest actions like recycling or walking instead of driving can have a big impact.

This year, Salt Lake City kicked off April by helping residents exchange their two-stroke gas-powered lawn mowers for electric mowers. Replacing 1,000 mowers will make a big impact on cleaning our air and improving public health.  

As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Salt Lake City organizations have rallied to fill our Earth Day calendar with plenty of fun and safe things to do. Scroll down to find out more about the upcoming Earth Day events!

Get Outside for Earth Day

If you’re the kind of person who wants to get in the dirt on Earth Day, you’re in luck. There are several opportunities this month to get outside and help the planet!

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2021 Lawn Mower Exchange: Swap Out Your Polluting Lawn Mower for an Electric Upgrade

THIS PROGRAM IS NOW FULL! THANK YOU FOR YOUR PARTICIPATION. PLEASE SEE LOWER PORTION OF THIS BLOG FOR A LIST OF FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS.

Gas-powered mowers put out a lot of pollution! It might come as a surprise, but running a gas-powered lawnmower for one hour produces the equivalent air pollution of driving your car 196 miles. This pollution impacts public health, hurting our lungs and cardiovascular systems.

The EPA also estimates that lawn mowers account for 5% of the nation’s total air pollution! The good news is that switching to an electric mower is much cleaner. They’re easier to maintain and quieter to operate too! Improving air quality is why DEQ and Salt Lake City have partnered on the lawnmower exchange program.

Clean Air For All

Salt Lake City residents know that air quality is bad for our community’s health. Switching to an electric lawn mower is a small way that you can make a big impact on our air quality.

Salt Lake City wants to help lead the charge to electrification. Now is your chance to get a new electric lawn mower and say goodbye to your gas-guzzling mower for good. Residents who would like to exchange their old mower for an electric upgrade will receive a $300 rebate. Don’t have a lawn mower? You can still get a $150 rebate on the purchase of a new electric mower without a verified trade-in.

For Salt Lake City residents on government assistance, there will also be opportunities to get a mower for free. 

There are 2,500 slots available to Wasatch Front residents on a first-come, first-serve basis with 1,000 of those funded by Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall just for Salt Lakers.

Salt Lake City’s Waste & Recycling team will even pick up your old lawnmower from your home as part of this exchange program.

Registration Opens April 5 at noon

Starting at noon on April 5, residents along the Wasatch Front can register to participate in the lawn mower exchange.

To qualify for the exchange, please remember the following eligibility guidelines:

  • Residents must be 18 years or older to participate
  • Only one rebate will be issued per household
  • Value of rebate will not exceed value of electric mower
  • Taxes and fees not included in rebate
  • Receipts must not predate 2/25/21

Prior to recycling their old mower, residents who want to participate in the exchange will need to empty their lawn mowers of gas and oil and take this household hazardous waste to the Salt Lake Valley Landfill’s Household Hazardous Waste drop-off area.

If you just have oil to dispose of, but no gas, you can take it to one of the many locations which accept used oil.

For more information visit lawnmower.utah.gov.

Frequently Asked Questions:

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SLCgreen Welcomes Brian Emerson!

Earlier this year, SLCgreen said goodbye to Food & Equity Program Manager, Supreet Gill. Supreet helped shape the Food & Equity program, shepherding forward the first cohort of our innovative Resident Food Equity Advisors program.

Now, it’s time for a new program manger to pick up the torch.

SLCgreen is thrilled to welcome Brian Emerson to the role! Let us introduce you . . .

Brian Emerson has over 15 years of experience working on food and sustainability issues. He is passionate about the role cities can play in building more just and sustainable food systems, and is eager to support programs that connect social justice and community resiliency.  

Photo of Brian Emerson standing in a verdant garden with a small red chicken on his shoulder. There is a large chicken coop behind them. Brian is white, and has short brown hair and a reddish brown beard. He is wearing a blue zip up hoodie and is looking at the camera with friendly seriousness.
Brian Emerson, Salt Lake City’s Food & Equity Program Manager, befriends a backyard chicken.

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Brian’s career began at Wasatch Community Gardens, helping educate our communities and transform unused spaces into vibrant gardens. Since then, he has worked with Local Futures, researching different approaches to addressing food, energy, and economic needs. Brian also worked with Utahns Against Hunger, where he advocated for critical food justice and anti-poverty policies. In his role at Utahns Against Hunger, Brian witnessed the connections between equity and food access, and helped support efforts to alleviate these disparities.  

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e2 Business Highlight: Tracy Aviary

Salt Lake City’s e2 Business Program is a free consulting and marketing program for Salt Lake City businesses run out of the Sustainability Department. The program is dedicated to helping Salt Lake’s business community run in a more environmentally and economically sustainable manner. We take pride in recognizing the achievements of our members! If you are interested in joining the program or browsing current members, please visit our e2 Business webpage.

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Tracy Aviary, one of the nation’s only free-standing aviaries, will be marking its 83rd anniversary this year. Over the past decades, the iconic landmark in the heart of Liberty Park has become a leader in environmental education and conservation.  

Tracy Aviary goes above and beyond their work with bird conservation, emphasizing local ecosystem conservation efforts through community science programs, as well as participating in critical global species conservation work. Moreover, Tracy Aviary has been taking steps towards reducing their own environmental impact.

Photo of front of Tracy Aviary Visitors center with lights shining behind copper metal façade.

A longtime member of the e2 Business Program, Tracy Aviary has marked several sustainability milestones such as the addition of 18kW of on-site solar energy, as well as a 67% recycling diversion rate. One recent achievement is in realizing their 2018 goal of reducing energy consumption by more than 10% in 2019 and 2020.

“Reducing our energy consumption and focusing on sustainable energy is one of the ways we can make the biggest impact when combating climate change. Slowing climate change not only helps native birds, who are highly sensitive to changes in their environment, but all the plants and animals we share our ecosystems with.

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Working Together for 100% Renewable Electricity

Despite the challenges of the past year, Salt Lake City and nearly two dozen other communities in Utah have made progress on the path to achieving community-wide net-100% renewable electricity. Shifting our communities to renewable electricity will significantly reduce Utah’s carbon footprint, and help lower emissions.

Salt Lake City is committed to meeting our Climate Positive goals on the community and municipal level. Prior to 2019, Rocky Mountain Power, Utah’s largest investor-owned utility, had made renewable energy accessible to residents in Utah through the Blue Sky program and the Subscriber Solar program.

However, in order to achieve net-100% renewable energy on a community-wide scale, Utah’s communities needed to go even further. In 2019, the Utah legislature passed HB 411, the Community Renewable Energy Act, that established a pathway that would allow Utah communities in Rocky Mountain Power’s service territory to opt-in to procure net-100% renewable electricity by 2030.

A total of 23 communities in Utah, including Salt Lake City, became eligible to move forward with the program in December 2019. But that was only the beginning! 2021 will be a critical year for this ambitious project, and the Utah 100 Communities have been working hard to continue to make progress. Read on for more details!

Photo of yellow aspens with snowy mountain backdrop and bright blue sky. Superimposed above the sky reads "Net-100% Renewable Electricity" in white text. A yellow vertical line separates the text from the Utah 100 Communities logo, a yellow block in the shape of the state of Utah that reads Utah100 Communities in grey text and has a stylized white mountain range on the bottom.

The Utah 100 Communities 

With nearly two dozen Utah communities, the Utah 100 Communities are preparing to bring renewable electricity to residents and businesses across the state.  At this stage, 21 communities are engaged in creating a governance agreement that will help guide important decisions as the program moves forward.

You might ask: Why are all of these communities working together? Can’t they each have their own program? Well, HB 411 stipulates that communities must work together on a joint agreement with each other, a joint filing with Rocky Mountain Power to Utah state regulators (the Public Service Commission), and ultimately on signing agreements to purchase power from the same renewable energy projects. In the end, this makes for a stronger program with a bigger impact. (See the timeline here). That’s why SLCgreen and our partner communities have been so hard at work over the last year!

And that’s why we were excited to welcome the public to our first discussion of our progress thus far.

In February 2021, the Utah 100 Communities gathered for public discussions related to the governance agreement and other necessary steps to move forward. The governance subgroup presented an agreement structure that will help make sure every community has a voice in important decisions and that costs are shared fairly.

If you missed the meeting, don’t worry: Check out the YouTube recording of the Utah 100 Community’s Local Governments Meeting below:

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Salt Lake City Says Farewell to Supreet Gill

Food & Equity are critical aspects of our work at SLCgreen. Food exists at the intersection of environmental resilience and community. Our interactions with the food system are complex and made even more complicated by inequities that limit our community members’ access to fresh, nutritious, and culturally-relevant foods.  

Supreet Gill guided SLCgreen’s food and equity work since August 2019.  As Program Manager, Supreet built on our existing programs, dedicating her time to improving community health and well-being by spearheading efforts to improve access to healthy, affordable food. The pandemic revealed just how closely linked food, equity, and climate can be. Despite the challenges of the past year, Supreet worked diligently to alleviate some of the disparities in our food system.  

Supreet has helped shape our department’s food access and equity work, but now it is time to say farewell to our colleague and friend. She and her family are moving out of state. While we hate to see our co-workers go, we’re excited to see what Supreet will do next! And we have a chance to reflect on everything Supreet has done to support our community.  

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Get Ready for Spring: Go Pesticide Free!

Does all this snow have some of you daydreaming about spring and gardening?  

Luckily spring is just around the corner, and now is a great time to start planning a pesticide free yard, garden, and home! Pesticides are often used on lawns and in gardens to limit weeds and associated pests. Unfortunately, pesticides (including herbicides, rodenticides, insecticides, and fungicides) have negative health impacts on people and the environment. 

Being pesticide free means choosing methods of controlling these weeds and pests in ways that are healthy for the environment and for you and your family!  

Salt Lake City has been working with Healthy Babies Bright Futures since 2016 to reduce exposures to harmful chemicals—many of which we unknowingly come in contact with on a daily basis. A common source of harmful chemical exposure is through pesticides and lawn fertilizer use. Salt Lake City’s Sustainability Department partnered with Beyond Pesticides to create a public resource guide for a less toxic approach to pest management and lawn care.

Why are pesticides an issue? 

Chemical pesticide use and exposure have been shown to have negative health effects on humans. Serious health effects of pesticide exposure include birth defects, childhood cancer, acute poisoning, brain tumors, and asthma. Avoiding pesticides in your yards will help protect the health of our communities.

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Take the Clear the Air Challenge and Improve Air Quality At Home

February is (finally!) here! And that means that the Clear the Air Challenge has begun!

In the last few years, Utahns have worked together to improve air quality in the Salt Lake Valley. Early last year, the EPA announced Salt Lake City and Provo were in compliance with federal standards for PM 2.5, the fine particulate matter that pollutes our air quality along the Wasatch Front. This significant milestone came after years of community wide work to take action to clear the air.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed our air quality, too. Efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve resulted in considerable reductions in PM 2.5 and other air pollutants, up to a 59% reduction in particulate matter by May 2020.

In 2020, we learned that the steps we took to slow coronavirus cases resulted in quick changes to our air quality. COVID-19 continues to threaten our community’s health and economic security, resulting in increased social inequities. Many of the changes we’ve made in this crisis are not sustainable in the long term. However, our work to improve Salt Lake City’s resiliency includes taking actions that support public health and security, and that address environmental issues like air quality.

Clear the air challenge banner. A photo of the wasatch front in winter shows clear blue sky. Text reads "Take the Clear the Air Challenge February 1st-28th."

This month, we challenge Salt Lake City community members to participate in the 12th annual Clear the Air Challenge! The Clear the Air Challenge is a chance to level up your efforts to improve air quality. The Challenge runs the entire month of February, chosen due to the seasonal inversion that makes wintertime air quality especially bad. However, the steps you take this month can make a difference for our air all year long.

For many of us who are still spending more time at home, the challenge will feel a little different this year. We’ve put together some helpful facts, tips, and inspiration to get you going on the 2021 Clear the Air Challenge!

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Sustainable Food Systems & Culturally Relevant Food

Salt Lake City is committed to supporting our local food system, enhancing access to fresh, healthy, and sustainable food for our communities. Building a sustainable and resilient local food system is both an environmental concern and one rooted in social equity.

SLCgreen supports community gardens and encourages our community to eat locally and limit food waste in order to reduce our household carbon footprints. Furthermore, we recognize that a resilient environment is directly connected to social, economic, and environmental equity. A truly sustainable food system ensures access to nutritious fresh food for everyone in our community.

In 2020, the pandemic and local emergencies jeopardized food access and deepened existing social inequities. The need for food assistance increased by 300%. Food pantries, emergency programs, and mutual aid organizations work to relieve those gaps in access, but fresh and culturally relevant foods are not always readily available.

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