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Posts from the ‘Air Quality’ Category

Salt Lake City BIPOC-owned Westside businesses to receive funding to go solar

PRESS RELEASE: November 17, 2022

A year-long effort to create solutions for Black-, Indigenous-, and People of Color- (BIPOC) owned businesses on the Westside of Salt Lake City to pursue rooftop solar and battery storage has received a significant boost thanks to a commitment from American Express.

American Express recently announced a $5 million global commitment to help cities build resiliency and fight climate change ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference which took place in Egypt last week. The Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) has been awarded $1.2 million to work with three cities, including Salt Lake City, to install solar energy systems in our community.

American Express will provide $325,000 in philanthropic support to complement other incentives and financial strategies to help install solar with optional battery systems for small businesses on the Westside. These systems can lower energy costs for residents and businesses, can be more resilient than standard electric sources during extreme weather, support local clean energy jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

View of the Utah State Capital Building from 500 North.

“I’m thrilled with American Express’ generosity, which will build off the hard work our City team and partners have done to advance solar on our Westside,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “We have the tools to reduce climate emissions, strengthen community resiliency, and save our businesses and residents money through clean energy, and this collaboration is a perfect demonstration of that.”

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Inversion season is here! What can we do?

November 1 is the official start of inversion season along the Wasatch Front and it certainly feels like  winter is settling in around us!

But what exactly is an inversion? This natural phenomenon occurs when a high-pressure system is setting up, trapping cold air on the valley floors with warmer air above it. This warm air also traps all our pollution with the cold air, keeping it contained in the valley until the inversion breaks. 

What causes an inversion? 

Meteorologists on the news and the Utah Division of Air Quality will  warn you in advance before an inversion happens. Here are some signs that you can keep a look out for: 

  • Calm winds: this reduces the natural mixing of air temperatures. 
  • Clear skies: this increases the rate of cooling for air close to the ground. 
  • Long nights allow the cooling of the ground to continue over a longer period of time, resulting in a greater decrease in temperature near the surface. 
  • The sun is lower on the horizon during the winter, so it supplies less warmth to the earth’s surface and more to the atmosphere. 

In Utah, our inversions often occur right after snowstorms due to the increase in cold air near the ground and the clear skies warming up the upper atmosphere and acting as a lid to the cooler air below. 

Inversions are meteorological events that are common in mountain/valley geographies with our weather patterns.  When you pair inversions with human activity, you often wind up with pollution that sticks around.  Here along the Wasatch Front, a significant source of pollution comes from transportation(roughly 50%), as well as our homes and buildings (roughly 35%). That means each of us can make a difference to our air quality. 

What can you do? 

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Salt Lake City and Santa Fe join Boulder County and the City of Flagstaff to tackle climate crisis through regional partnership

PRESS RELEASE: October 5, 2022

A trailblazing partnership of local governments will soon pool resources to fund carbon dioxide removal (CDR) projects in the Four Corners region. The 4 Corners Carbon Coalition (4CCC), established by Boulder County, Colorado and the City of Flagstaff, Arizona, today welcomed Salt Lake City, Utah and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Earlier this year, Boulder County and Flagstaff invested seed funding to launch this coalition with the goal of spurring regional CDR innovation to fight climate change. The coalition will provide catalytic funding to accelerate CDR project deployment and business development.

CDR describes diverse processes, on land and at sea, that take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and durably lock it away in geological, biological and synthetic formations for decades, centuries, or even millennia. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), cutting emissions from fossil fuels is necessary, but it’s no longer sufficient to stem the worst effects of climate change.

“We’re so excited to round out the ‘Four Corners’ vision with two cities that recognize the importance of local leadership,” said Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy. “This collaboration gives local communities the opportunity to put our fingerprints on this emerging and necessary space of carbon dioxide removal (CDR); to hold ourselves and our partners to the highest standards; to show what community-based CDR might look like and the potential benefits of supporting vetted projects in our backyards.” 

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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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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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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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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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Connect SLC and Sustainability

Did you know that Salt Lake City is working on a new transportation master plan? Master plans are a great way to engage with your city and help make it a place YOU want to live in!

The last transportation master plan for Salt Lake City was published in 1996, over twenty years ago. In 2021, the Salt Lake City Transportation Division began Connect SLC, an extensive process to collect data, engage the public, and eventually create a new plan that better meets the needs of the city’s current residents.

Currently, the city is in Phase 2 of their civic engagement process and you can weigh in!

Phase 1 consisted of collecting values: air quality and the environment, reliability, safety, affordability, and equitable access to opportunity. With these values in mind, Phase 2 consists of expressing possible policy recommendations that the city could take and getting even more feedback from residents and user-groups!

What does this have to do with sustainability?

Everything! How we commute around the city has a major impact on the air we breathe, as well as other physical health concerns. Increasing access to safe routes for alternative transit increases the likelihood of people using it. This means fewer cars on the road, leading to lower emissions, and better air quality.

Additionally, improving accessibility to public transit makes choosing public transit more convenient, also increasing the likelihood of usage! This decreases the reliance on single-occupancy vehicles which in turn decreases emissions per person.

Data provided by the US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration

The Salt Lake City Transportation Department has created an interactive website featuring policy recommendations for each value and an opportunities to provide feedback and comments.

Take this easy opportunity to provide feedback for your city!