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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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Choose to Refuse! Plastic Free July is here!

If you’ve been looking for the sign to finally make the change, now is the perfect time to drop those pesky single-use plastics once and for all – Plastic Free July is here!

Plastic Free July began as a small project based in Australia but has turned into a global movement of people who are committed to cutting out single-use plastics from their lives to stop plastic pollution and save the planet. “Plastics” refers to a wide range of synthetic materials that can be molded and shaped into a variety of flexible and stiff byproducts. Believe it or not, there’s plastics in our chewing gum, skin care products, and even our clothes!  

Since 2011, Plastic Free July has empowered consumers to reduce their reliance on single-use plastics by sharing educational resources and encouraging people to come up with creative ways to reduce plastic usage at the source, reuse any plastics that can be used more than once, and properly recycle what can be recycled! 

Why is Plastic Free July Important? 

In 2021, the planet reached a total estimated number of 363,762,732,605 pounds of plastics across all the oceans. Plastics are one of the most prevalent pollutants across the globe, polluting waterways, habitats, and damaging the health of ecosystems and humans alike. Many durable plastics will take up to 400 years before they will breakdown.  

While recycling has helped make a dent in our plastic waste, the overarching goal is to reduce consumption.

Some plastics, like laundry detergent containers and milk jugs, are highly-desirable plastic products for recycling. However, other items like straws, plastic bags, and other flexible packaging, are harder to recycle, and often end up being a burden to consumers trying to properly dispose of them. Making some easy switches to eliminate unnecessary plastic waste at the source is an amazing way to start building a world without plastic waste and practice sustainability. 

(We recognize that the problem of plastic waste is not just a consumer issue; in fact — it’s much more systemic and related to the way corporations make products and the laws governing those practices. This is why Salt Lake City has signed on as an activator to the U.S. Plastics Pact. But while we work for larger, systemic change, we can also take matters into our own hands as consumers and reduce single-use plastics, where possible, in our own lives).

How Can I Participate in Plastic Free July?  

One of the easiest ways to get involved is to take the Plastic Free July Challenge! By registering for the challenge, you’re joining a community of people who are committed to reducing plastic pollution. You will also receive email updates with tips, tricks, and stories to help you keep your plastic free promise. 

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Salt Lake City Residents: Share your Feedback for the Community Renewable Energy Program

Solar panels on the rooftop of the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building.

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Salt Lake City has been a leader on climate initiatives for nearly two decades, taking on progressively more ambitious projects.

In 2016, the City passed a joint resolution establishing our “Climate Positive” goals, which include powering the entire Salt Lake City community with net-100% renewable electricity by 2032. This date was moved up to 2030 in a resolution from 2019.  

We’ve been busy making progress on these and other climate efforts over the last several years, most notably our work on the Community Renewable Energy Program (C-REP). 

What is the Community Renewable Energy Program? 

It began in 2019 when the Community Renewable Energy Act, also known as HB411, was passed by the State Legislature. HB 411 created a pathway for interested communities served by Rocky Mountain Power to work with the company to develop a program that will allow communities to match 100% of their annual electricity consumption with renewable energy flowing to the grid by 2030.  

Salt Lake City became eligible to participate in this Program due to the adoption of a Joint Resolution which resolves to achieve the goal of 100% renewable energy for community electricity supply by 2030.   

Today, Salt Lake City is working alongside 17 other communities to develop the Community Renewable Energy Program.

All residents, businesses, and industrial customers in participating communities will be automatically opted-in to the renewable energy program with the option to opt-out at several opportunities. 

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Getting to Know You: Particulate Matter 2.5

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 Particulate Matter? 

One of the most common, and most dangerous, components of air pollution is particulate matter (PM).

Particulate matter can be composed of many different materials such as smoke, dust, soot, or even drops of liquid. Some particulate matter, like smoke, is large and dark enough that we can see it in the air, but others are so small we cannot see it with the naked eye. In an academic setting, particulate matter is often titled according to size and measured in micrometers. For example, a particulate matter that is 10 micrometers is referred to as PM10. Compare that to a very fine grain of sand which is roughly 90 micrometers. 

The most common type of particulate matter in Utah’s air pollution is PM2.5. Particulate matter comes from primary and secondary sources.

A primary source of PM2.5 is anything that causes particle pollution directly, such as a wood stove, a forest fire, or a large dust storm or construction site on a windy day. Secondary sources are operations that emit gases which chemically create particulate matter. These are called “precursor emissions.” These can include operations like paint shops and dry cleaning operations. Some sources, like driving cars or power plants emit both direct and indirect PM2.5.

How does PM2.5 affect me? 

Aside from making our beautiful valley difficult to see during an inversion, particulate matter also has negative impacts on human health. Because PM2.5 is so small, it can travel deep into our bodies, putting stress on our respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Those who struggle with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other chronic respiratory issues can be adversely affected by the effects of PM2.5.

If you’ve ever experienced a flair-up of asthma symptoms during periods of high pollution, this is likely why. Even for individuals who are otherwise healthy, research from BYU found Utahns will have an average of 1.1 to 3.6 years taken off their lifespan due to heavy pollution. Yikes! 

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How to Have a More Sustainable Fourth of July

by SLCgreen intern Mariah Trujillo

The sun is shining and inviting us outside for barbecues, picnics, and other festive get-togethers.  

As the focus of our minds shifts to friends, food, and outdoor recreation, it can be easy to lose sight of sustainability and air quality. In the winter, it’s hard to forget about air quality—it’s right in front of us during inversion episodes.

However, summertime can bring a different kind of air pollution. High temperatures, bright sun, and  some holiday celebrations bring about their own slew of risks to our air quality.

Not to despair! The summer months provide the perfect opportunity to revisit our time-tested sustainable practices and learn about new ones. With that in mind, let’s learn how to celebrate a sustainable and clean Fourth of July! 

We’ll talk about air pollution, fire risk, alternative celebrations, food, and minimizing plastic waste. Read on!

Fireworks and Air Pollution

Fireworks, while a fun celebration, unfortunately, produce pollutants that contribute to poor air quality. This includes: coarse particulates (PM10) and fine particulates (PM2.5).  

The pollution can grow disturbingly high in the 12 hours immediately after Fourth of July and 24th of July celebrations—higher than we would see on all but the worst wintertime inversion days. 

High levels of particulate matter pose health risks to children, older people, and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions. Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, we have become increasingly aware of the importance of respiratory and lung health and how vulnerable our health can be. The particulates that fireworks release have impacts on health, including but not limited to: triggering asthma attacks, acute bronchitis flare-ups, increased vulnerability to respiratory illnesses, and even heart attacks and arrhythmias for those with heart disease. 

Fireworks Restrictions 

Of course, fireworks can also pose a wildfire risk during our persistent drought. Salt Lake County is currently categorized as a D3 – Extreme Drought Zone.  For this reason, the Salt Lake City Fire Marshall has banned the use of fireworks in certain areas of the city.  

To stay up to date with the current firework restrictions, check out the Salt Lake City Fire Department webpage containing the most recent regulations and information, including a map of areas of Salt Lake City where firework use is prohibited. Violating a “No Firework Zone” may result in a fine of $1,000 

Laser Light Shows 

Sheesh—with all the impacts of fireworks, you may wonder what else you could do to celebrate the Fourth and 24th in a way that does not create air pollution, risk wildfire, nor pose safety hazards (not to mention the stress that fireworks can cause to some veterans, pets, and young kids) 

Salt Lake City went through the same thought process. 

That’s why this July, Salt Lake City will NOT be hosting the traditional 4th of July and 24th of July fireworks shows at Jordan Park and Liberty Park.

Instead . . .  

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Mayor Mendenhall expands Air Quality Action Program for all City employees

PRESS RELEASE: June 30, 2022

As part of her commitment to improving air quality, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has expanded a program urging eligible employees citywide to telework and take other actions to reduce air pollution on mandatory air quality action days, as forecast by the Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ). 

“Driving is still the number one source of pollution during both the summer and winter months when air quality is at its worst, so this is one of the most important behavioral changes we can make,” said Mayor Mendenhall. “I encourage other employers across the Wasatch Front to join us in implementing a similar program with their workforces and commend those who already do this.”

The Mayor launched the Air Quality Action Program this past winter to a smaller group of employees. With the initial pilot proving successful, beginning July 1, all City employees will now receive automatic emails when the Division of Air Quality forecasts a “mandatory action day,” meaning the concentration of air pollutants measured in Salt Lake County are predicted to reach or exceed levels of air pollution that are unhealthy for sensitive groups.   

The City’s Sustainability Department designed the program notifications and communications, while the Information Management Services Department created a custom script and email that automatically pulls the forecast from DAQ’s website and notifies employees. The City’s program is similar to one the State of Utah also implements.

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It’s Pride Month – Let’s Talk about ‘Queer Ecology’

by SLCgreen intern Mariah Trujillo

Happy Pride Month! With the 2022 Pride Festival coming to a close in Salt Lake City earlier this month, SLCgreen would like to extend our celebration by discussing some of the ways that LGBTQIA+ history and sustainability go hand-in-hand!

(The term LGBTQIA+ refers to people of “all genders and sexualities, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual, and allies. While each letter in LGBTQIA+ stands for a specific group of people, the term encompasses the entire spectrum of gender fluidity and sexual identities.”)

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

Sustainability, with its goals of protecting natural resources, slowing the effects of climate change, and building resilient communities, exists at the crossroads of environmental and social justice.

Sustainability work requires an intersectional lens to maintain a commitment to diversity, equity, and justice.

While it might not be obvious how LGBTQIA+ studies is related to sustainability, scholars and theorists from both queer studies and environmental studies have banded together to bring the two seemingly different fields together with the term “Queer Ecology.”

At its heart, Queer Ecology enacts a practice of intersectionality that calls us to action through an understanding that the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights is a shared struggle with desire and actions to save our planet.

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Eighteen Utah communities join the Community Renewable Energy Agency, continue working with Rocky Mountain Power to meet their net-100 percent clean energy goals

PRESS RELEASE: JUNE 10, 2022

Salt Lake City’s 1 MW Solar Farm.

As of the May 31st participation deadline, 18 cities and counties across Utah have joined the effort to launch a default net-100% renewable electricity option for Rocky Mountain Power customers in their communities.

Participating communities stretch as far south as Springdale, as far east as Castle Valley, as far north as Ogden, and as far west as Kearns. Collectively, these communities account for about 25 percent of Rocky Mountain Power’s electricity sales in the state.

The Community Renewable Energy Agency (also called the “Utah 100 Communities”) formed in response to HB 411, a 2019 bill called the Utah Community Renewable Energy Act, that created a pathway for interested communities served by Rocky Mountain Power to collaborate on creating this first-of-its kind renewable electricity program.

The Agency is currently negotiating with Rocky Mountain Power on how to design the Community Renewable Energy Program, which aspires to match 100 percent of participating customers’ annual electricity consumption with renewable generation supplied to our grid, no later than 2030.

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