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Posts from the ‘Climate Change’ Category

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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It’s National Public Lands Day! Let’s Talk About Climate Change

Did you know that public lands play a critical role in shaping the future of climate change?

In Utah, 45 million tons of fossil fuels are extracted each year from federal public lands, the equivalent emissions of 9.7 passenger cars driven for one year. These extraction practices, designed to help fuel our energy grids, creates a positive feedback loop. The University of Calgary explains, “Similar to how keeping money in a savings account earns interest and compounds to earn more money, positive climate feedback increases some initial change in the climate.”

But what are public lands?

These are areas of land and water that are today collectively owned by U.S. citizens and managed by government agencies. These lands can consist of national parks, monuments, forests, wild and scenic rivers, Bureau of Land Management lands, wilderness and wilderness study areas, watersheds, and municipal lands, to name a few. Each agency oversees how these lands are managed to balance the multitude of uses these areas have- from recreational activities like hiking, kayaking, or rock climbing, to energy development, logging, and mining.

These large patches of continuous wild lands are also important for maintaining habitats for wildlife, allowing for safe migration due to climate change, and they can function as carbon sinks! Trees and plants suck CO2, a major contributor to climate change, from the air during photosynthesis. As they grow, they can absorb great volumes in their leaves, trunks, and roots. The older and bigger they get, the more carbon they store!

While we might not think of Utah as being a dense forest, the forests we do have play pivotal roles, just as much as the desert in helping support ecosystems and wildlife. The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, contains over a net acreage of 2,169,596 acres of forested land, imagine all the CO2 this massive forest in our backyard is absorbing!

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Utah Climate Week is Coming Up!

We are a week away from the Sixth Annual Utah Climate Week (September 25th through October 1st)! Check out the list of events compiled by the Utah Climate Action Network (a project of Utah Clean Energy) and mark your calendar to get involved. 

The goal of Utah Climate Week is to provide opportunities for YOU to connect with broader communities about climate action and the great work that is happening in Utah across a range of sectors to #ActOnClimate 

This year has seen a lot of press surrounding the impacts of climate change on Utah, covering everything from the impacts of a shrinking Great Salt Lake, to our hotter summers and how that affects local food.  

Learn and engage with leaders from local governments, non-profits, faith-based organizations, businesses, and individuals, see below for a list of events!  

Calendar of Utah Climate Week events.

It’s not too late to organize your own event! Big or small, Utah Climate Week is open to everyone. Get in touch with Utah Clean Energy to request an event be posted to the website

Salt Lake City is also bringing back a second Mayor’s Bike to Work day on September 28th! Biking for your commute is an incredible way to decrease your individual emissions and improve your health.

Looking to get a head start on your climate week? 

Join Bill Barron for the last leg of his 650 mile ride to call attention to climate change and the need for bipartisan solutions. He’ll finish his tour of the state on September 17 with a ride up Little Cottonwood Canyon, culminating with speakers and refreshments at Alta. Speakers include Salt Lake City Public Utilities’ Director, Laura Briefer and SLCgreen’s own Deputy Director Sophia Nicholas! 

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It’s Really Hot Out Here, So Let’s Go Plant Some Trees

Mayor Erin Mendenhall planting a tree in 2021 as part of her 1,000 Trees Initiative.

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After the intense heat experienced by many of us this summer you probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this past July was Salt Lake City’s warmest one yet and the heat wave is continuing with us as September begins.

But did you know that Salt Lake County’s summer days are abnormally hotter than those in nearby rural areas? Our culprit is referred to as the urban heat island. 

What is the Urban Heat Island? 

Urban heat islands occur as the built environment of a city attracts heat and prevents it from being released by covering up naturally absorbing sources. For example, grass absorbs heat but covering it with concrete for a sidewalk that attracts warmth will make the city hotter. Researchers have found that the cumulative effect of all these heat-attracting sources results in cities being up to 17 degrees hotter than surrounding areas! Research conducted by the University of Utah used temperature monitors throughout the valley to measure our urban heat index. This research discovered that our parks with grass and shade are two degrees cooler than nearby residential neighborhoods.  

The benefits that shady parks and park strips provide in reducing the urban heat island are just one of the reasons that Salt Lake City places an emphasis on maintaining them. The important role tree cover plays in reducing heat is evident when looking at the images of Salt Lake City below. The map on the left shows the Urban Heat Island Effect by noting how much hotter it can be in that area. The darker the red the hotter it is. The map on the right shows the percentage of tree cover canopy in the entire neighborhood. The darker the green, the more canopy cover in the neighborhood. When comparing the two images it becomes evident that when there are more trees, the urban heat index is lower.  

Additionally, the image below provides another useful visual to understand what the Urban Heat Island Effect looks like in Salt Lake City. The image, taken from satellite by NASA, shows 300 West to the Wasatch Foothills. The image, taken on a hot summer day, demonstrates the Urban Heat Island Effect in action. Orange, red, and yellow indicate hot areas and blue and green illustrate the cool areas. With this in mind, it becomes clear that areas with less vegetation are the hottest. For example, Liberty Park, which is near the bottom left-hand corner, is very blue on the map indicating that it’s cool. 

How can you reduce heat and contribution to the urban heat island? 

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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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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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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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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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SLC Ranks 8th in EPA’s Top Mid-sized Cities for ENERGY STAR buildings

Salt Lake City is known for many things- hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics, being the subject of several TV shows and films over the years (including an episode in the newest Stranger Things season), and poor air quality to name a few. However, we can also add ranking 8th in the EPA’s Top Mid-sized Cities with the most ENERGY STAR certified buildings in the previous year, to that list!

What makes ENERGY STAR buildings so special? They’re more efficient than their peers!

Over 75% more efficient than similar buildings nationwide, in fact. Due to their efficiency, these buildings use an average of 35% less energy than typical buildings. Nearly 39,000 diverse buildings have earned the ENERGY STAR since 1999, ranging from the Empire State Building to an elementary school in the mountains of Alaska. Together, these buildings have saved more than $5 billion on energy bills and prevented nearly 22 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions—equal to the annual emissions of more than 2.7 million homes. 

Salt Lake City boasts 26 ENERGY STAR certified buildings which prevented 31,500 metric tons of CO2 from being emitted last year! (That’s more than Utah’s other ENERGY STAR claim to fame, Provo, who placed second this year with 75 buildings. ;-p )

Unico Properties received the Salt Lake City Elevate Buildings Energy Management Award in 2019 in recognition for their work upgrading the HVAC and damper systems in the 250 Tower following a Rocky Mountain Power wattsmart Business audit.

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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!