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Eating Local

by SLCgreen intern Mariah Trujillo

Last week we celebrated Utah Climate Week but did you know it was Eat Local Week too? This is a weeklong event developed by Urban Food Connections of Utah, that challenges participants to eat food grown or raised within a 250-mile radius.  

Eat Local Week is intended to highlight and celebrate regional harvests, local agriculture, and Utah’s agricultural heritage. Supporting strong local food systems is one way to build a more resilient community and it can help reduce emissions. Climate change, rising temperatures, and changing precipitation patterns are rapidly changing our agricultural system.  

On July 17, Salt Lake City reached our all-time city record high temperature of 107owhich was repeated several times throughout this summer and into September! High temperatures during extended growing seasons affect the health and yield of crops that haven’t been adapted to a specific regional climate. Supporting our local farmers and their farms builds and invests in communities and helps them become more resilient to our changing climate. 

What does “local food” mean? 

Local food is grown and produced within a small distance from where the consumer purchases it.  On average, produce in the United States travels 1,500 miles from production point to the consumer’s plate. Local food, on the other hand, usually travels a maximum distance of 100-250 miles. Some common locally produced food items include fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, eggs, dairy products, and honey.  

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Utah Climate Week Win: Salt Lake City’s Comprehensive Sustainability Policy Now Includes All-Electric Provisions 

What This Means and Why it is Important for our Air Quality and Climate 

It’s the Sixth Annual Utah Climate Week and we’re bringing you news and tips from around Salt Lake City.

Today, we wanted to highlight an exciting update made in 2022 to Salt Lake City’s internal Comprehensive Sustainability Policy.

This policy was originally put in place in 2017 to cover a wide range of practices affecting Salt Lake City Corporation’s internal operations, standards, and protocols across seven different policies.

Each policy addresses the rules, regulations, and sustainable practices that must be considered and/or implemented while executing City operations that fall within one of the seven following categories: air quality and climate change, chemical reduction, materials management, petroleum storage tanks, property acquisition or sale, sustainable procurement, and water.   

For example, the policy includes things as far-ranging as reducing paper waste and minimizing the use of plastic water bottles, to setting the standard when it comes to how we construct or remodel our municipal buildings.

We are practicing what we preach when it comes to sustainability!

The City’s Comprehensive Sustainability Policy was already significant in requiring that new construction or major renovation projects of City buildings over 10,000 square feet be evaluated for Net Zero Energy and be built to achieve at least LEED Gold. Salt Lake City’s Net Zero Public Safety Building and two Net Zero fire stations (FS 14 and FS 3) were constructed with these high environmental standards.

In 2022, at the urging of Mayor Mendenhall, we took the policy even further to require the evaluation of all-electric provisions for major new construction or renovation.

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It’s National Public Lands Day! Let’s Talk About Climate Change

Did you know that public lands play a critical role in shaping the future of climate change?

In Utah, 45 million tons of fossil fuels are extracted each year from federal public lands, the equivalent emissions of 9.7 passenger cars driven for one year. These extraction practices, designed to help fuel our energy grids, creates a positive feedback loop. The University of Calgary explains, “Similar to how keeping money in a savings account earns interest and compounds to earn more money, positive climate feedback increases some initial change in the climate.”

But what are public lands?

These are areas of land and water that are today collectively owned by U.S. citizens and managed by government agencies. These lands can consist of national parks, monuments, forests, wild and scenic rivers, Bureau of Land Management lands, wilderness and wilderness study areas, watersheds, and municipal lands, to name a few. Each agency oversees how these lands are managed to balance the multitude of uses these areas have- from recreational activities like hiking, kayaking, or rock climbing, to energy development, logging, and mining.

These large patches of continuous wild lands are also important for maintaining habitats for wildlife, allowing for safe migration due to climate change, and they can function as carbon sinks! Trees and plants suck CO2, a major contributor to climate change, from the air during photosynthesis. As they grow, they can absorb great volumes in their leaves, trunks, and roots. The older and bigger they get, the more carbon they store!

While we might not think of Utah as being a dense forest, the forests we do have play pivotal roles, just as much as the desert in helping support ecosystems and wildlife. The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, contains over a net acreage of 2,169,596 acres of forested land, imagine all the CO2 this massive forest in our backyard is absorbing!

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Utah Climate Week is Coming Up!

We are a week away from the Sixth Annual Utah Climate Week (September 25th through October 1st)! Check out the list of events compiled by the Utah Climate Action Network (a project of Utah Clean Energy) and mark your calendar to get involved. 

The goal of Utah Climate Week is to provide opportunities for YOU to connect with broader communities about climate action and the great work that is happening in Utah across a range of sectors to #ActOnClimate 

This year has seen a lot of press surrounding the impacts of climate change on Utah, covering everything from the impacts of a shrinking Great Salt Lake, to our hotter summers and how that affects local food.  

Learn and engage with leaders from local governments, non-profits, faith-based organizations, businesses, and individuals, see below for a list of events!  

Calendar of Utah Climate Week events.

It’s not too late to organize your own event! Big or small, Utah Climate Week is open to everyone. Get in touch with Utah Clean Energy to request an event be posted to the website

Salt Lake City is also bringing back a second Mayor’s Bike to Work day on September 28th! Biking for your commute is an incredible way to decrease your individual emissions and improve your health.

Looking to get a head start on your climate week? 

Join Bill Barron for the last leg of his 650 mile ride to call attention to climate change and the need for bipartisan solutions. He’ll finish his tour of the state on September 17 with a ride up Little Cottonwood Canyon, culminating with speakers and refreshments at Alta. Speakers include Salt Lake City Public Utilities’ Director, Laura Briefer and SLCgreen’s own Deputy Director Sophia Nicholas! 

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Introducing Salt Lake City’s Harrison Community Garden! 

Last month, we celebrated the opening of the Harrison Community Garden with Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Council Member Darin Mano, Wasatch Community Gardens, and the Salt Lake City Public Lands Department. Located along 700 East at Harrison Avenue, just south of Liberty Park, the newest addition to Salt Lake City’s family of community gardens provides plots for as many as 50 gardeners to grow vegetables.  

This is the eighth active garden in Salt Lake City boundaries established under our Green City Growers program, which identifies vacant or under-utilized City property with access to a water line and other conditions that support a successful and sustainable community garden. The City partners with local non-profit Wasatch Community Gardens to manage and run the gardens on Salt Lake City property through this program. 

Every community garden is a labor of love, but the Harrison Garden overcame multiple obstacles to ultimately receive funding from the City’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to make it a reality. (Pssst… community applications are due Sept. 30, 2022 for the next round of CIP funding). 

Community gardens are more than just for the growers!  

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It’s Really Hot Out Here, So Let’s Go Plant Some Trees

Mayor Erin Mendenhall planting a tree in 2021 as part of her 1,000 Trees Initiative.

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After the intense heat experienced by many of us this summer you probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this past July was Salt Lake City’s warmest one yet and the heat wave is continuing with us as September begins.

But did you know that Salt Lake County’s summer days are abnormally hotter than those in nearby rural areas? Our culprit is referred to as the urban heat island. 

What is the Urban Heat Island? 

Urban heat islands occur as the built environment of a city attracts heat and prevents it from being released by covering up naturally absorbing sources. For example, grass absorbs heat but covering it with concrete for a sidewalk that attracts warmth will make the city hotter. Researchers have found that the cumulative effect of all these heat-attracting sources results in cities being up to 17 degrees hotter than surrounding areas! Research conducted by the University of Utah used temperature monitors throughout the valley to measure our urban heat index. This research discovered that our parks with grass and shade are two degrees cooler than nearby residential neighborhoods.  

The benefits that shady parks and park strips provide in reducing the urban heat island are just one of the reasons that Salt Lake City places an emphasis on maintaining them. The important role tree cover plays in reducing heat is evident when looking at the images of Salt Lake City below. The map on the left shows the Urban Heat Island Effect by noting how much hotter it can be in that area. The darker the red the hotter it is. The map on the right shows the percentage of tree cover canopy in the entire neighborhood. The darker the green, the more canopy cover in the neighborhood. When comparing the two images it becomes evident that when there are more trees, the urban heat index is lower.  

Additionally, the image below provides another useful visual to understand what the Urban Heat Island Effect looks like in Salt Lake City. The image, taken from satellite by NASA, shows 300 West to the Wasatch Foothills. The image, taken on a hot summer day, demonstrates the Urban Heat Island Effect in action. Orange, red, and yellow indicate hot areas and blue and green illustrate the cool areas. With this in mind, it becomes clear that areas with less vegetation are the hottest. For example, Liberty Park, which is near the bottom left-hand corner, is very blue on the map indicating that it’s cool. 

How can you reduce heat and contribution to the urban heat island? 

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How to Improve your Indoor Air Quality

Earlier this month, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the Sustainability Department held an Indoor Air Quality Summit, bringing together city officials, academic researchers, building managers, and interested organizations to discuss the current status of indoor air quality, as well as possible initiatives and solutions that could be taken to help create a healthier environment both inside and out.

Speakers included Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall; Daniel Mendoza, Research Assistant Professor at the University of Utah; and Nicholas Rice, the Corporate Industrial Hygiene Manager at Intermountain Health, with SLCgreen’s own Peter Nelson hosting. 

While outdoor air pollution is a recurring topic in Salt Lake City discussions, indoor air pollution has become more significant as the correlation between outdoor and indoor air quality are researched. In her opening remarks, Mayor Mendenhall explains, “We know that buildings and homes are a critical space for indoor and outdoor air quality because our buildings produce a significant portion of the air we breathe outside.” 

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Solar Salt Lake launches to make it easier for Salt Lake City residents to go solar together

PRESS RELEASE: August 4, 2022

Solar Salt Lake offers limited-time discounts on rooftop solar and education to local residents

Salt Lake City is excited to launch a new program, Solar Salt Lake, that will make it easier for residents to install rooftop solar on their homes through discounted bulk purchase pricing and free education from a community-selected solar installer. 

Starting Thursday, residents can sign up to learn more about the program and enroll to have their home virtually evaluated for eligibility.  

This program is helping to achieve Salt Lake City’s goal of moving towards 100% renewable energy for our community electricity supply by 2030,” said Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “We’re working on the utility-scale with our Community Renewable Energy Program, but rooftop solar still plays a critical role in meeting our resiliency, climate, and economic goals. This is another important way that Salt Lake City is taking action to mitigate climate change and improve air quality.”

The Salt Lake City Sustainability Department developed the program under Mayor Mendenhall’s leadership. The program will help up to 50 Salt Lake City residents install rooftop solar on their homes by the end of the 2022 calendar year while taking full advantage of federal tax credits on top of the bulk purchase pricing.

The City went through a competitive Request for Proposals process in spring 2022 to identify a solar installer with a trusted track record that can offer bulk discounts exclusively for Salt Lake City residents. Gardner Energy was selected by the City.

To participate and take advantage of the discount pricing, residents need to sign the enrollment form to have their home virtually evaluated by September 2, and then sign a contract with Gardner Energy no later than September 16, 2022.

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Salt Lake City partners with local artists to create six original pieces for new refuse trucks

PRESS RELEASE: July 22, 2022

Large-scale public art is rolling through Salt Lake City’s neighborhoods thanks to a recent City initiative that invited local artists to use City refuse trucks as their canvases. 

The seven new waste and recycling vehicles are wrapped in vinyl prints of original works by local artists Trevor Dahl, Matt Monsoon, and Brooke Smart. 

“These works of public art will travel Salt Lake City’s streets every day, reaching every corner of the city,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “I’m thrilled these vehicles, which provide such a critical utilitarian purpose, can also spread beauty to residents in all our neighborhoods.”

The artists were chosen from the Salt Lake City Arts Council’s pool of local artists with whom the City works on a number of public arts projects, from sculptures to murals to street art and more. Each artist created two original designs.

“We take pride in our trucks—and in the graphics we put on them,” said Sophia Nicholas, Sustainability Department Deputy Director. “Each year, we brainstorm a new creative campaign and work with a graphic designer to bring it to life. It’s been a fun and effective way to spread the word about things like ditching disposables, choosing reusable bags, the importance of recycling overall, and now, sharing art by local artists.”

The City’s fleet of 37 refuse trucks collect the trash, recycling, and compost from approximately 42,000 sites every week, hauling the waste from all areas of the city to the landfill or appropriate recycling facilities. Each truck travels approximately 300 miles each week.

“We know that almost any object, place, or space has the potential to serve as a canvas for the incredibly talented artists of our city, including the sides of a refuse truck!” said Taylor Knuth, Deputy Director of the Salt Lake City Arts Council. “The Arts Council hopes that residents and visitors of Salt Lake who see these trucks will not only enjoy these captivating works by local artists, but also take action to protect our unique, beautiful, and vibrant landscapes.”

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Getting to Know You: Ground Level Ozone

by SLCgreen intern Emalee Carroll

As Salt Lake City residents we are well acquainted with air pollution, but do we know what’s in it? With the Clear Air Challenge happening over the summer, we at SLCgreen wanted to take some time to provide a rundown on some of the different types of air pollution in Salt Lake City, what you can do about it, and what the city is currently working on and has done to make a difference!

What is Ground Ozone? 

As we enter the thick of summer and all the fun outdoor activities that come with it, let’s break down a major summertime pollutant – ground level ozone. Ozone gas is naturally occurring in our atmosphere, helping to protect us from harmful UV radiation. However, ozone is not found naturally at ground level. Rather, the gas is known as a “secondary pollutant” meaning it’s created through a series of reactions between compounds in the air. This process is facilitated by heat and sunlight which is why ozone levels are typically higher in the summer months. 

How-ground-level-ozone-forms

How does Ozone Affect SLC residents? 

Like PM 2.5, studies have shown ozone also has adverse impacts on respiratory health. Ozone gas can reach deep into our lungs, damaging cells like a sunburn would, and trapping air in the alveoli. This process can cause coughing, throat irritation, chest pain, and congestion. Additionally, ozone can aggravate respiratory diseases such as asthma, COPD, and chronic bronchitis. 

Aside from harming the health of Salt Lake residents, ozone can also negatively impact local ecology. When ground-level ozone enters the membranes of leaves, it reduces the ability of the plant to photosynthesize sunlight, slows growth, and ultimately weakens the organism. In extreme circumstances, this can lead to a loss of trees and other plants, which affects both the quality of life in urban settings, as well as the health of the overall ecosystem and animals that rely on those plants for food. 

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