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Posts from the ‘Air Quality’ Category

Act on Climate: The 4th Annual Utah Climate Week is September 21 – 27, 2020

Home damage from the hurricane-force wind storm Salt Lake City experienced on Sept. 8, 2020.

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So far 2020 has been a record year for climate-related natural disasters. Alongside the global coronavirus pandemic, severe weather like what we experienced with last week’s wind storm, record breaking temperatures in August, and fires burning throughout the Western United States, have shown us first-hand the effects of climate change in our backyards.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to call attention to climate change– and the urgency of taking action at all levels.

We’re in luck because the Fourth Annual Utah Climate Week is coming up from September 21 – September 27 and offers everyone the platform not only to learn and engage, but also to call attention to climate change during what has seemed like a year of jumping from one immediate crisis to another.

So many people are struggling and so many are exhausted with all 2020 is bringing to bear on our communities. We hear that and we feel it too.

And that’s exactly why we must continue looking at the big picture, and to draw the connections between immediate events and the larger harm we’re doing to our planet.

This year’s Climate Week will be a little different– there won’t be in-person events, but there are a suite of interesting and engaging events taking place online and we hope to see you at one or more of them.

Then join us on social media to highlight why you care about climate change. Use the tags #UtahClimateWeek and #ActOnClimate to call attention to this issue!

If you’re not a big social media user, take the opportunity to do some learning, then perhaps have a conversation with your friends, family, or other networks. Whatever you do: Learn. Activate. Engage. Let’s go!

Utah Climate Week 2020

See the full Utah Climate Week schedule of events here.

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Utah Climate Week is an annual event– now in it’s fourth year– and is coordinated by the Utah Climate Action Network, Utah Clean Energy, and many partners. The week provides a chance to learn, share resources, and re-commit to the necessary work to #ActOnClimate.

Check out the list of events here.

We’ve been involved in planning and coordinating one event in particular and we’d like to invite you to attend.

The Utah Sustainable Business Coalition and the Salt Lake City e2 Business Program are hosting a panel discussion on how local businesses of all sizes are working to improve sustainability at their companies.

The event will be held on Tuesday, September 22 from 10:00-11:00 a.m. on Zoom. Click here to register!

Register for the Utah Sustainable Business Coalition during Climate Week here.

Environmental Justice and Climate Change

As we have noted in previous blog posts, sustainability and resiliency intersect with environmental, social, economic, and equity work.

Communities of color are disproportionately affected by climate change. In Utah, the health threats of air pollution are the most obvious example. On a global scale, climate change and pollution are affecting us all, especially coupled with COVID-19, starting with communities who are already experiencing systemic racism and inequity.

Because these areas of life are directly connected, it is important to take action on every level. Individuals; businesses; and local, state, and national governments have an important role to play in addressing inequity and supporting sustainability.

What Can You Do?

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Coping with Bad Air During a Pandemic

Earlier this spring we experienced a period of clean air due to lock-downs put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, Salt Lake City’s summer air quality has been recently impacted by smoke from nearby and regional wildfires, as well as from higher ozone pollution that is typical in the summer.

Graph from Utah Division of Air Quality depicts pronounced spike in pollution on August 20 due to California forest fires.
The Utah Division of Air Quality’s monitors showed a pronounced spike in pollution on August 21 as the winds brought wildfire smoke from California’s devastating fires.

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Bad air quality threatens everyone’s health, particularly those with sensitive respiratory systems. The effects of bad air even have the potential to make COVID-19 even worse. Your lungs are already irritated and inflamed due to pollution, and this makes them more susceptible to infections like COVID.

Ironically, the pandemic – coupled with rising temperatures caused by climate change – are also behind the record number of human-caused fires in Utah. The feedback loop linking pandemic, fires, and bad air is disturbing, but there are ways we can take actions to help protect the air.

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Staying Cool this Summer and as the Climate Warms

Photo of Salt Lake City looking towards east-bench foothills on sunny day.
Summer in Salt Lake City can be beautiful, but rising temperatures make staying cool a challenge.

Staying cool during Utah summers is always difficult when the thermometer climbs above 90, 95, and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

This year it’s even more challenging with the necessity of staying home, and the closures or limitation on public swimming pools, splash pads, and some cooling centers.

With more people spending more time at home, utility bills and household waste have spiked.

As the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) points out, there are other ways to stay cool than by cranking up the A/C. Here are a few ideas that work especially well in our desert climate:

  • Stay Hydrated! Staying hydrated will help you stay cool and healthy, even when it’s hot! Read more about the signs of dehydration here.
  • Use your windows! Windows can be your best friend. Try to open things up at night to help cool your space down, but close the blinds or use window coverings when it starts to get hot our during the day.
  • Fans: Be strategic about box fans or overhead fans – they can help keep things cool and reduce the need for AC. But save energy by turning them off before you leave the house!
  • Optimize Space: Keep doors shut to areas you’re not using – that way you’ll be cooling a smaller space, which is more energy efficient!
  • Cook Carefully: Opting for recipes that don’t use the oven or require a long time on the stove will help keep your kitchen cooler – and may even help with your indoor air quality.
  • Switch to LED lights: Using more efficient lighting will help you save energy and money. LEDs, and other home energy efficiency improvements, can help you cut your energy bills and keep space cooler. Typical incandescent lights also put off more heat, so switching to LED reduces the heat burden in your home.

Salt Lake County Opens Two Cooling Centers this Weekend

The National Weather Service – Salt Lake City tweets about the heat risk forecast for July 11 and 12, 2020.
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Air Quality & COVID-19

In the months following our collective action to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases, the air quality improved around the globe. According to University of Utah research, particulate matter pollution in Salt Lake City was reduced 59% as of May 6.

The collective social distancing practices resulted in reducing our community’s overall emissions – and cleaning up Utah’s notoriously bad air. But the lockdowns were an impermanent (and unfortunate) solution: as more cities reopen, emissions – and COVID-19 cases – are again on the rise.

Although Salt Lake City is maintaining an “orange” status for our COVID-19 response, there has been an uptick in cases across Utah. In a city in which public health is harmed by poor air quality, any virus that affects the respiratory system is cause for concern. However, with the knowledge that stay at home orders temporarily reduced our local air pollution, we can learn more about possible ways of improving air quality in the future.

Let’s take a closer look at the ways air quality and COVID-19 interact – and some ways you can help protect the air and each other.

Photo of inversion in Salt Lake valley.
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Environmental Justice and Equity Resource Guide

Parents Jami and Mohamed discuss the importance of involving your community when talking about race and racism with your kids. See the video and full series of conversations at PBS Utah.

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Sustainability encompasses both environmental action and efforts to build just and equitable communities. Indeed, climate change and pollution disproportionately affect people of color around the world. Therefore, the work of environmental justice is directly tied to equity and social justice.

The connections between sustainability and equity have often gone unnoticed or even been rejected. Nevertheless, the links between systemic racism and environmental injustice are undeniable.

Better understanding these links can help us all work towards building a more equitable and sustainable society. We’ve been delving even deeper into this work and these connections in the last few weeks and wanted to share what we’re reading and learning. Here are some resources we’ve found helpful:

  • PBS Utah put together this short conversational series How to Talk to Kids about Race, featuring several people from our SLC community you might recognize.
  • Somini Segupta wrote an expansive guide entitled Read Up on the Links between Racism and the Environment for the New York Times. The reading guide includes everything from hard science to sci-fi, and provides a broad platform for understanding racial injustice in the context of climate.
  • You can also check out a new website co-founded by environmentalists Leah Thomas, Diandra Esparza and Sabs Katz, Intersectional Environmentalist. The site provides information from environmentalists in different communities including Latinx and U.S. Indigenous Communities– communities which have also continued to fight oppression and environmental racism. Intersectional Environmentalist provides extensive reading lists to understand all of the intersections of environmental work. Founder Leah Thomas’ writing was recently featured in Vogue, where she links her work in environmental policy to anti-racism.
Photograph shows mountains with inversion hovering over valley.
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SLCgreen’s Commitment to Racial Equity and Sustainability

Dear friends,

We send our love to all of you. The events of the last few weeks have been a difficult and trying time for our country, our community, and our city.

We want to take this moment to acknowledge the profound injustice of black lives lost to white supremacy and police brutality across the country. We stand with the movement to bring greater justice to our entire community. Black lives matter.

Those of us who work in Salt Lake City government have felt so many emotions as we collectively work towards a community that is stronger, more equitable, more inclusive, and more responsive to you—our residents. We are working to ensure we are hearing all voices. 

As the Sustainability Department, we’d also like to share our thoughts on the role we play in advancing equity within the City and our community.

We define “sustainability” as the balance between environmental, societal, economic, and equity needs. While “sustainability” is often thought of as only an “environmental” movement (and for much of its history it has been), we believe true sustainability prioritizes a healthy society in all of the ways that comes about.

Sustainability also means not jeopardizing our community’s future well-being over decisions we make in the present. And we’d also add: “over decisions that were made in the past.”

Many people are having conversations about what racism means in America in 2020. It’s impossible to discuss that without looking to our nation’s past.

Historical racism informed structures, policies, and attitudes that continue to affect our society to this day, including our environment and health.

In our work, the connection between environmental health and equity is pretty clear. When we talk about reducing air pollution, we’re not just talking about clearing our skies so we can see the mountains. We’re recognizing that communities of color are disproportionately affected by air pollution, even in Salt Lake City.

We’re looking at health indicators that are worse in minority communities that make them more susceptible to air pollution, while at the same time, many are exposed to air pollution at higher amounts because of where they live (near industry, near highways, and by working in professions that increases exposure). There are also barriers to information, to health care, and to so many other resources that make these factors worse. So our efforts to reduce “air pollution,” also must mean addressing these inequities in all of the ways we can.

It’s similar with climate change. Of course, we know that temperatures are increasing everywhere, but they are rising more in areas with more concrete and fewer trees. We’re also looking at those who don’t have adequate home cooling, or who work outside, or who have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to heat. We’re looking at the way that climate change and higher temperatures increases ozone pollution and wildfire smoke and the spread of new diseases. As we’ve seen with coronavirus, these health impacts hit our most vulnerable first. And our minority communities are often on the frontline, due to many structural factors and decades of systemic racism.

These are global issues, but the impact is local.

Food access is another important area of focus for our department. Eating healthy, fresh food is not something that should be reserved for the privileged. But those who struggle in getting enough to eat, and in eating healthy foods are often poor and are often people of color.  This is also a structural challenge we are confronting every day.

Please know that we are dedicated to advancing equity and racial justice at the forefront of all the sustainability work we do. This includes actively listening and involving the people in our work who are most impacted. At the same time, we recognize that sustainability has been dominated by white bodies and white privilege. We are at the center of government and it’s a reminder of how much further we have to go. We too are practicing and learning what anti-racism means.

We’re humbled to continue the conversation and are grateful for your feedback.

-The Salt Lake City Sustainability Team

Salt Lake City Fire Station 14 Wins Prestigious National Award

Salt Lake City’s Fire Station 14, courtesy of architects Blalock & Partners,

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The Engineering News Record (ENR) chose Salt Lake City’s Fire Station 14 as their “Best of the Best Project” in the national Government/Public Building category. This is the seventh award for Utah’s first Net Zero energy fire station which was built in 2018.

The latest award, which is detailed in the March 23 issue of ENR, is the culmination of a year-long process during which construction experts from ten different regions selected finalists. Those 200 finalists then moved to the national competition and were vetted by a different panel of judges.

Fire Station 14 is believed to be not only Utah’s, but the nation’s, first Net Zero energy fire station. That means it produces as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis.

It’s also expected to become certified as LEED Gold, showing it meets a range of holistic sustainability benchmarks, including material management, waste diversion, water conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and more.

The project was recognized last year as the Best Government/Public Building for the Mountain States Region. As a result, it was automatically entered into ENR’s national “Best of the Best” Competition. Representatives from Zwick, the general contractor, anticipate accepting the award as a representation of the collaboration between the architects, Blalock & Partners, Salt Lake City (Engineering/Fire Dept.), and themselves.

Fire Station 14, near California Ave. and 3800 West, and Fire Station 3, in Sugar House, are both Net Zero and were opened within months of each other in 2018.

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Electric Vehicle Usage Increasing in Salt Lake City

Transportation accounts for nearly 50% of the pollutants that accumulate during inversions. Reducing emissions from cars is a great way to protect our air. Electrified transportation is a step towards cleaner air, healthier communities, and a stronger economy.

Graphic depicts air pollution statistics on orange clouds. Text reads: 
"Percent pollution reduced by an EV along the Wasatch Front. 57% PM10, 81% PM2.5, 98% SOx, 90% NOx, 99% CO, 99% VOC."
Electric Vehicles can significantly reduce air pollution.

EVs in Salt Lake City

Luckily, more and more Utahns are investing in electric vehicles (EV). Based on the number of unique charging sessions at Salt Lake City Corporation’s 36 Level 2 public EV stations (not including those at the Airport), there has been an exciting uptick in EV use in Salt Lake City.

In 2019, there were 21,371 unique charging sessions (meaning a car charged for longer than 5 minutes) at Salt Lake City public stations, compared to 12,870 in 2018.

Salt Lake City is following the national trend of growing EV use. According to the Edison Electric Institute, there are close to 1.5 million EVs being driven in the U.S. as of December 2019. Utah has seen its share grow to approximately 2% of total vehicles now comprised of electric, plug-in electric, or hybrid vehicles, and we want to continue pushing that number higher.

With EVs becoming more popular, Salt Lake City is working to strengthen the City’s EV infrastructure. In 2018, SLCgreen and Utah Clean Energy created the Electric Transportation Roadmap. Since then, Salt Lake City has installed 36 Level 2 charging stations at sites around the city, plus over a dozen at the Airport. These stations are free to use for 2 to 4 hours depending on the station.

Support Fellow EV Drivers: Don’t Hog the Charging Stations

Salt Lake City is pleased to see that charging sessions have increased significantly since the stations were initially installed. Up until now, Salt Lake City has not had to enforce the charging time limit. However, because more people are using the stations, drivers need to be mindful of their fellow EV users and respect the time limit.

In 2017, 1,500 sessions exceeded the time limit. That number has grown to 4,600 in 2019. While these only represent a small portion of the total charging sessions (80% of sessions were within the limit), it is still an inconvenience for other drivers who may need to fuel up.

Graphic shows graph of how many sessions exceed posted time limit.

Due to the growing demand for charging stations, the time limits will be actively enforced beginning March 9. Please be courteous to your fellow EV drivers and be mindful of the time limit. Drivers who exceed the posted time limit may be ticketed $75.

Vehicle charging usage may be monitored via the ChargePoint cloud system to determine if a vehicle has overstayed the posted parking time limit.

The public may also report potential EV stall overstays to the Compliance main line at 801-535-6628.

Clean Machines

Although electric cars still rely on electricity which is not (yet) wholly derived from renewable resources, they are still cleaner than gas-powered cars. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the average gasoline-only car produces 381 grams of CO2e per mile, while the plug-in hybrid produces only 191 grams and a battery EV produces only 123.

Graphic compares average CO2 emissions of gas-powered, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric vehicles. Stats are described in above paragraph.
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Ride the Bus, Clear the Air, Take the Survey!

The Clear the Air Challenge is a little more than halfway over. This month, we’ve been inspired to see more of our friends and colleagues carpooling, walking, biking, and taking public transit to get around Salt Lake City.

Transportation emissions cause nearly 50% of the pollutants that become trapped in our airshed during inversions, so finding ways to get out of the car makes a difference!

That also why Salt Lake City continues to invest in programs that make using transit easier and more affordable for residents.

Have you heard of the Frequent Transit Network?

In 2018, the City passed a sales tax and bond initiative called Funding our Future, with the goal of increasing funding to support public safety, street repair, better transit service, and greater housing opportunities.

A robust transit system is the backbone of a thriving community. It also supports the city’s goal of curbing carbon emissions and clearing the air, so we are grateful that Salt Lake City voters supported it!

After significant public outreach, the first phase of the transit expansion began in August 2019.

Three east-west UTA bus routes were enhanced to provide more transit, for more people, with more convenience and reliability.

What does “Frequent Transit Network” mean?

Very simply, it means buses that run every 15 minutes during peak times, with early-morning, later-night, and Sunday service. That means you can rely on these lines to get you where you need to go, on your schedule.

Critically, these lines also offer key east-west connectivity, which is an enhancement to the Salt Lake City transportation network. These routes are the 2, 9, and 21 routes.

Graphic describing the Frequent Transit Network. Text reads "For the first time, Salt Lake City has launched a Frequent Transit Network. 200 South Route 2, 900 South Route 9, 2100 South Route 21." The graphic includes an illustration of a UTA bus.

Routes 2 (200 S), 9 (900 S), and 21 (2100 S) now provide: 

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Join the Clear the Air Challenge 2020

Are you ready for a new challenge? How about one that will help you save money, burn calories, and improve our air quality? Salt Lake City employees are already on board and want to invite you to join the 2020 Clear the Air Challenge. During the month of February, keep our air clear of pollutants by limiting your driving!

You can aim to reduce your “driving-alone” trips every day in February, or pick a goal that’s manageable for you. It all helps!

If you don’t have a team and want to challenge yourself, please join the Clear the Air Challenge SLCgreen Team!

What is the Clear the Air Challenge?

Since 2009, Utahns have been participating in the month-long Clear the Air Challenge. During February, when air quality in Utah is historically bad, participants track their trips with the goal of avoiding single-occupancy vehicle travel and reducing air pollution. Participants carpool, bike, walk, telecommute, trip chain, take public transit, drive electric vehicles, and ride electric bikes or scooters– all to help clear the air!

In 2019, participants in the Clear the Air Challenge eliminated 84,421 single-occupancy vehicle trips. This saved 1,244,624 miles of traveling and $0.4 Million! Together, all these efforts reduced 359.8 tons of CO2!

This year, the Clear the Air Challenge needs everyone’s help to reach the goal of eliminating 100,000 single-occupant trips.  

Clear the Air to Protect Our Health

Winters in Utah can be beautiful, but when inversion starts, polluted air gets caught in our valleys. PM 2.5 and other pollutants threaten our health the well-being of our communities.

On bad air days, our activity is limited. Moreover, children, older adults, and people with heart diseases or respiratory problems are at a higher risk for suffering from poorer health due to bad air. Poor air quality is associated with a range of negative impacts including pregnancy losspremature deathchild asthma, and increased cases of pneumonia.

In Salt Lake City, nearly 50% of air pollution comes from cars, trucks, and other vehicles. That’s why the Clear the Air Challenge is more important than ever.

We love it when the air is clear!

What We’re Doing

Salt Lake City Corporation employees are already signing up to do their part to Clear the Air this year (see our previous Challenge roundup).

Each participating department has its own team. Salt Lake City employees live all over the Wasatch Front. Many of us take public transit to work every day. Others carpool or bike. For the month of February, we’re doing all we can to cut back on our single occupancy car rides!

Salt Lake City departments compete with each other for the coveted Clear the Air Challenge “Mayor’s Cup” and “SLCgreen Team Spirit” award.
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Thanks to the recent public transit expansions, the robust network of bike paths for the sunny days, as well as the Clear the Air Challenge app’s handy carpool guide, the Clear the Air Challenge will make February an exciting and competitive month!

Join SLCgreen’s Clear the Air Challenge Team

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