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Posts from the ‘Air Quality’ Category

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!

It’s Bike Month!

At SLCgreen, we love biking for many reasons! Not only is choosing to commute with a bike better for human health, it’s also super beneficial to the environment (which also relates to our health).

This week, celebrate Bike Month by joining us on Mayor’s Bike to Work Day!

When: Wednesday, April 17th at 7:30am

Starts: Allen Park

Ends: City & County Building

Why do we love bikes?

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!

Join Us in Celebrating Earth Day 2022!

Earth Day is coming up this Friday, April 22!

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.

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Salt Lake City Hosted Region 8 Administrator KC Becker for Environmental Forum

This past week we had the pleasure of hosting the Region 8 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator KC Becker and her colleague Mark Smith for a round table discussion with advocates from 14 environmental groups and agencies across the city.

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.


The 2022 Lawnmower Exchange is Almost Here!

Salt Lake City residents can pre-register now to swap out their polluting lawnmowers for an electric upgrade

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The State of Utah’s Lawnmower Exchange is back, and Salt Lake City will once again be participating!

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.

Last year, we provided funding for the exchange of 509 mowers, removing 4.02 tons of pollution from the airshed each and every year.

This year, our goal is to swap out 1,000 gas-guzzling mowers for clean electric options.

The 2022 Lawnmower Exchange

Switching to an electric lawn mower is a small way that you can make a big impact on our air quality.

Program highlights:

  • This year, the program is a coupon-based program ($299) for the online purchase of an electric mower of your choice through the vendors Home Depot or Redback.
  • FIRST, enter the lottery through our Salt Lake City resident pre-registration form NOW, or by signing up on the State’s website beginning at noon on April 4.
  • The State will notify you via email on Wednesday, April 6 if you have been randomly selected to participate.
  • SECOND: If you were selected, recycle your mower by taking it to a metal recycler OR by scheduling a pickup through Call 2 Haul.
  • After your mower has been recycled, you will receive a recycling verification number. Enter it on this site to unlock your coupon code.
  • THIRD: ORDER ONLINE: Once you select a vendor (Home Depot or Redback), you cannot change your mind and pick a different vendor! Input the coupon code at checkout.
  • You will have through April 17 to place your online order. Coupons will be invalid after that point.
  • $299 coupons will not work on an electric mower retailing less than $299.

For more information, visit slc.gov/sustainability/lawnmower/.

If you are not a Salt Lake City Resident, sign up at lawnmower.utah.gov on April 4th at 12pm.

Thank you for helping improve air quality!

Mayor Mendenhall Releases 2021 Report Card; Outlines Achievements and Priorities in her 2022 State of the City Address

Last week, Mayor Mendenhall released her 2021 Report Card, showing how the City fared on achieving the goals she laid out in January 2021.

We encourage you to check it out– particularly the “Air and Energy” page which details many of the projects we have worked on.

See the Mayor’s 2021 Report Card here.

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Then this week, Mayor Erin Mendenhall delivered her third State of the City address.

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:

From transitioning the City to net-100 renewable energy to expanding free public transit and planting trees, Salt Lake City is making significant efforts to improve the City’s air quality. 

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:

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