Moving into the summer months it’s important to remember that air quality is still an issue. As we commute around the city, to work, festivals, and/or the farmer’s market, biking provides an environmentally friendly alternative to single occupancy vehicles. In the summer, pollution from cars, industry, and a multitude of chemical products, combined with high temperatures and bright sunshine, lead to harmful ozone levels.
Choosing to ride a bike is a great way to personally reduce your impact on climate change and help reduce air pollution!
Read on for ways to get involved by volunteering, taking action, or learning what you can do to celebrate Earth Day every day!
Earth Day Events
Salt Lake City has had a wealth of Earth Day focused events going on all month. Looking for something to do before the month is over to celebrate all the cool things our planet does? Wanting to learn some ways you can help keep our Earth healthy or support those pushing for big changes? Do we have the website for you!
Check out our Earth Day 2022 website for a list of amazing events going on across the city.
This weekend, there’s an Earth Day Jordan River Clean Up with HEAL Utah; Party for the Planet events with both Tracy Aviary and Hogle Zoo (come say “Hi!” if you see us at Hogle Zoo!); or watch the Climate Change Film Tour with Utah Clean Energy and The Nature Conservancy at the Salt Lake Film Society’s Broadway Cinema.
Can’t make it this weekend? Don’t worry, we’ve found events to last you through the rest of the month.
The EPA provides support and research to protect and improve public and environmental health, as well as enforces and regulates environmental protections. Region 8 is made up of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Montano, North Dakota and South Dakota, and 28 Tribal Nations.
KC Becker, the current Region 8 administrator, has 18 years of experience as a public servant for both federal and state organizations. Prior to being appointed as the Region 8 administrator, KC served in the Colorado State Legislature for 4 terms, spending two years as House Majority Leader and two years as the Speaker of the House – at the time, one of only seven female speakers in the United States.
The purpose of the meeting was to bring together local sustainability movers and shakers to hear about their/our concerns surrounding environmental issues in Utah and how the EPA can help!
Earlier in the day, she met with Mayor Erin Mendenhall, learned about Salt Lake City’s unique environmental projects and issues, and shared EPA’s priorities. Administrator Becker also spent some of her time in Utah meeting with the State Department of Environmental Quality.
The EPA is currently focusing on supporting initiatives it has funding for through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill- specifically looking at the redevelopment of brownfields, infrastructure improvements and upgrades, lead pipes, and cleaning up Superfund sites.
Administrator Becker spoke about the EPA’s mission to center environmental justice in all aspects of its work; building stronger relationships with environmental justice groups, community groups, and other non-governmental organizations; and ensuring that all decisions are science-based and focusing on public health outcomes.
Representatives from local groups highlighted their desire for EPA’s support or advice on issues related to air quality, the recent Inland Port developments, the health of the Great Salt Lake, water quality and access, uranium waste in southern Utah, and funding opportunities for the many goals and initiatives of the groups attending.
Overall, the meeting was invigorating and inspiring. Administrator Becker left us with much to do and the support (within her ability) of our regional EPA leaders.
In case you didn’t hear about last year’s lawnmower exchange, the program consists of residents exchanging their gas-powered mower for a (max: $299) coupon for an electric mower.
You might be wondering: Why lawnmowers? Lawnmowers are a significant source of air pollution. In terms of emissions, running a gas-powered lawn mower puts out the equivalent criteria pollution to driving a car 64 miles, according to the Division of Air Quality.
Switching to an electric mower is much cleaner. They’re easier to maintain and quieter to operate too!
Launching and funding this program every year is one of Mayor Mendenhall’s goals.
In addition to acknowledging the challenges of 2021 with the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness, and affordable housing, the Mayor detailed significant progress on air quality and environmental initiatives.
She praised the determination residents and business owners have shown throughout the pandemic and other challenges the City has faced. “The City has shown tremendous resilience and grit; and incredible grace in trying to help others through this time,” she said.
With environmental achievements, the Mayor described historic progress:
“These are the kind of steps I dreamed of as an air-quality advocate — our city is taking unprecedented control of its energy future,” Mayor Mendenhall said. “Every tree we plant, every mower we swap out, every public-transit ride, every energy-efficient upgrade and every net-zero building that goes up – combined with the 100 percent renewable energy that will soon flow into our city – we are making history together.”
That progress has come through four key approaches: removing pollution, investing in better data, reducing the volume of emissions created, and working to deliver 100 percent renewable energy to the entire city by 2030.
Here are a few highlights as they relate to sustainability from her speech:
How is it already mid-January already?! We’ve been busy here the last two weeks on projects for the new year which we’re excited to share with you.
Before that, we’re taking some time to reflect on 2021 and all of the work we accomplished with your support. It’s also an important time to take stock; learn from the experiences we had in 2021; and continue to improve our programs, services, and operations.
Saying Goodbye to Team Members and Welcoming New Ones
In 2021, SLCgreen certainly felt the impacts of the “Great Resignation.” We said goodbye to Food & Equity Manager Supreet Gill and welcomed Brian Emerson. In the spring, we parted with the founding director of our Sustainability program, Vicki Bennett, who led our team for 20 years and is also recognized around the country as a leader on these issues.
With Vicki’s retirement, Debbie Lyons stepped up to be Sustainability Director and Sophia Nicholas moved from Communications Manager to the Deputy Director role. We also toasted Shannon Williams, Special Projects Assistant, who moved on to an exciting new role in a new state; while welcoming Bimini Horstmann who hails from Boston (with a stop over at Davidson College) and has a passion for rock climbing and environmental science. And, for the first time, we have a dedicated air quality manager position, filled by Catherine Wyffels who joined our team in the summer. She has brought a wealth of insight and expertise to our department. (See blog).
It didn’t stop there! We gave Gregg Evans, our Financial Manager, to the Public Lands Department (luckily he didn’t go far) but were thrilled to welcome Angie Nielsen to our team in the critical accounting role for our department. Finally, December closed out with Max Barnewitz– the “voice” behind the SLCgreenblog and so many of our outreach functions– moving on to an exciting position with Art Access.
We are proud of how our staff, both seasoned and new, integrated into a cohesive and energetic team tackling a variety of projects this past year.
At the beginning of 2021, the deep connections between equity, resiliency, and climate action were clearer than ever due to 2020’s challenges. It set an important focus for our work last year:
Air Quality, Energy Efficiency, & Electrification
Even with more people than ever working from home in 2021, wildfire and inversion seasons still occur. We developed many new programs and engaged with the public to address these issues from an equitable as well as a scientific lens. Additionally, SLCgreen continued strong efforts to move city departments towards electrification and improve energy efficiency. Some notable achievements in the air quality, energy efficiency, and electrification realms include:
We had an amazing December with lots of storms and snow that filled our mountains and gave kids around the neighborhood plenty of opportunities to build snowmen.
But this week the dreaded high pressure took hold and we’re looking at several days, if not a couple of weeks, of inversions. This means that whatever we emit into the air stays there. And pollution doubles every day. Yuck!
This is the time for us all to prioritize ways to reduce our contribution to the haze.
It’s also a fitting time for Salt Lake City to launch a new air quality program.
As you’ll recall, Salt Lake City works hard to create programs, projects, and policies to improve air quality:
Exciting news! Yesterday the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City (RDA) passed a new sustainability policy that is one of the most significant in the country when it comes to reducing air pollution and climate emissions! As of December 14th, new buildings funded by the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City (RDA) will be more energy efficient, all-electric, and climate friendly in accordance with its Sustainable Development Policy adopted by the RDA Board of Directors.
The RDA works to update Salt Lake City’s infrastructure in order to foster vibrant communities and neighborhoods as well as stimulate economic growth.
With the new Sustainability Policy, RDA-funded buildings will need to meet three new requirements:
1. Projects must achieve a federal ENERGY STAR score of 90 or higher. ENERGY STAR scores range from 1-100. A score of 90 indicates that the building scores higher than 90% of its peers based on criteria related to Property Type, Property Use Details, and Energy Data. These metrics are evaluated on a case-by-case basis depending on the building type.
2. Buildings must operate without on-site fossil fuel combustion. This means that no propane or natural gas can be utilized in building operations. Fossil fuels such as these produce large amounts of carbon dioxide and other harmful products that worsen air quality and trap heat in the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change. Rather than fossil fuels, buildings will operate using electricity for heat, and sourcing that from more sustainable alternatives such as solar electricity.
3. Projects need to participate in Salt Lake City’s energy benchmarking program, Elevate Buildings. SLCgreen’s Elevate Buildings program aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality by requiring commercial buildings above 25,000 sq ft to benchmark and report energy usage.
The policy also outlines additional net zero guidelines for projects utilizing specific RDA financing programs.
Read the press release that went out today to learn more!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 2021
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Redevelopment Agency Moves Needle on Mayor Mendenhall’s Air Quality Goals with New Sustainable Development Policy
Update will spur RDA-funded projects to incorporate sustainable building practicesand technologies that reduce building-related climate emissions and local air pollution
November marks the beginning of inversion season in the Salt Lake Valley. This is the time of year when pollutants including PM 2.5 get trapped in the valley, obscuring the mountains and posing dangerous health risks to our communities.
Protecting our airshed and reducing pollution wouldn’t be possible without the collective actions of everyone coming in and out of Salt Lake City. While transportation contributes a significant portion of the local air pollution, other factors including building efficiency and home energy use can also contribute to pollution. Studies have shown that air pollution disproportionately affects communities of color, partially as a result of source location and historical redlining of neighborhoods. Air quality continues to be a major equity concern for Salt Lake City, where proximity to major highways, industrial areas, and fewer trees make some parts of Salt Lake City more polluted than others. By addressing air pollution’s many sources, Salt Lake City can help improve air quality.
Keep reading to find out more about what you can do to help everyone breathe a little easier!
As we celebrate the 5th Annual Utah Climate Week, it is a great time to take stock of the ways we can act on climate at home. In our last post, we talked about the importance of energy efficiency. The cheapest and most “renewable” energy is the energy we don’t waste.
After you’ve made energy efficiency improvements to your home, it’s time to look at the type of fuel you’re using to power it!
As our electricity sources get cleaner, moving towards partially or fully electrifying your home is one of the many ways you can use to reduce your carbon footprint, as well as reduce local air pollution. When we advocate for building electrification, we mean switching to using all-electric appliances and heating/cooling systems in your home.
Building electrification can be accomplished at any stage — whether you are updating an old or broken appliance, renovating your space, building a new home, or just looking for ways to live more sustainably.
Benefitting the Environment
It may come as a surprise, but choosing energy efficient electric appliances and scaling-back the use of natural gas, heating oil and other fossil fuels will significantly reduce your household’s greenhouse gas emissions.
You might be thinking: But if my electric grid is powered primarily by fossil fuels, how will switching out my gas appliances for electric lower my carbon footprint? The short answer is energy efficiency and a grid transitioning to renewable sources.