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Posts from the ‘Climate Change’ Category

Working Together for 100% Renewable Electricity

Despite the challenges of the past year, Salt Lake City and nearly two dozen other communities in Utah have made progress on the path to achieving community-wide net-100% renewable electricity. Shifting our communities to renewable electricity will significantly reduce Utah’s carbon footprint, and help lower emissions.

Salt Lake City is committed to meeting our Climate Positive goals on the community and municipal level. Prior to 2019, Rocky Mountain Power, Utah’s largest investor-owned utility, had made renewable energy accessible to residents in Utah through the Blue Sky program and the Subscriber Solar program.

However, in order to achieve net-100% renewable energy on a community-wide scale, Utah’s communities needed to go even further. In 2019, the Utah legislature passed HB 411, the Community Renewable Energy Act, that established a pathway that would allow Utah communities in Rocky Mountain Power’s service territory to opt-in to procure net-100% renewable electricity by 2030.

A total of 23 communities in Utah, including Salt Lake City, became eligible to move forward with the program in December 2019. But that was only the beginning! 2021 will be a critical year for this ambitious project, and the Utah 100 Communities have been working hard to continue to make progress. Read on for more details!

Photo of yellow aspens with snowy mountain backdrop and bright blue sky. Superimposed above the sky reads "Net-100% Renewable Electricity" in white text. A yellow vertical line separates the text from the Utah 100 Communities logo, a yellow block in the shape of the state of Utah that reads Utah100 Communities in grey text and has a stylized white mountain range on the bottom.

The Utah 100 Communities 

With nearly two dozen Utah communities, the Utah 100 Communities are preparing to bring renewable electricity to residents and businesses across the state.  At this stage, 21 communities are engaged in creating a governance agreement that will help guide important decisions as the program moves forward.

You might ask: Why are all of these communities working together? Can’t they each have their own program? Well, HB 411 stipulates that communities must work together on a joint agreement with each other, a joint filing with Rocky Mountain Power to Utah state regulators (the Public Service Commission), and ultimately on signing agreements to purchase power from the same renewable energy projects. In the end, this makes for a stronger program with a bigger impact. (See the timeline here). That’s why SLCgreen and our partner communities have been so hard at work over the last year!

And that’s why we were excited to welcome the public to our first discussion of our progress thus far.

In February 2021, the Utah 100 Communities gathered for public discussions related to the governance agreement and other necessary steps to move forward. The governance subgroup presented an agreement structure that will help make sure every community has a voice in important decisions and that costs are shared fairly.

If you missed the meeting, don’t worry: Check out the YouTube recording of the Utah 100 Community’s Local Governments Meeting below:

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Salt Lake City Passes Electrified Transportation Joint Resolution

January 13, 2021

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Salt Lake City Passes Joint Resolution Establishing Electrified Transportation Goals

Salt Lake City’s new Electrified Transportation Resolution, a joint resolution between Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the City Council, establishes a joint commitment to incorporate and promote clean energy transportation technology as an important solution in reducing carbon emissions and pollutants that impact air quality. 

The resolution includes goals of electrifying modes of transportation that have historically relied on gasoline, diesel or natural gas. Through the resolution, the City commits to expanding electric vehicles for its internal fleet and to working with external partners to electrify public transit and smart mobility platforms such as rideshare and car share. Through expansion of electric vehicle infrastructure, the City aims to encourage greater adoption of electric vehicle technology by the public and non-government fleets.

“As our city continues its push toward better air quality and environmental resilience, distilling our goals for electric transportation and committing to shifting our fleet is the right move,” Mayor Mendenhall said. 

“This is another solid step toward the City’s ongoing commitment to use cleaner energy and reduce pollution,” said City Council Chair Amy Fowler. “Both government and private industry must continue to take every action possible to enable clean fuel usage.”

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2020 Year In Review

Happy New Year!

2021 is here! SLCgreen is excited to move forward. But as we prepare for the year to come, we’re also ready to incorporate what we’ve learned from 2020.

At the beginning of 2020, SLCgreen was eagerly preparing for a new administration and planning for a year of innovative sustainability projects. After a busy 2019 we were ready to take the next steps towards bringing net-100% renewable energy to our community. A new state-of-the-art recycling facility was near completion. And an innovative resident-led food equity program was convening to help improve food access in Salt Lake City. 

The challenges of the past year have been harrowing. Within the first months of 2020, Salt Lake City pivoted our work to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. We experienced an earthquake that damaged our homes and businesses. Hurricane-force winds toppled thousands of trees and left many members of our communities without power for several days.  

Despite it all, SLCgreen was able to accomplish many of our goals with the help of our dedicated crews and community members. The challenges our community faced in 2020 laid bare the deep connections between equity, resiliency, and  climate action. The year required us take more direct actions to improve our emergency response plans, to better support the voices of residents who have been excluded in the past, and to expand our communications to facilitate more collaborative work.  

SLCgreen is ready to build off of what we learned during the past year, but before we set our sights on 2021, here are a few highlights from 2020. 

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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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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

Happy Earth Day!

This week, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Even after 50 years, Earth Day is more important than ever. Earth Day symbolizes a global desire to protect the planet and inspires thousands of actions – big and small – every year. Importantly, Earth Day serves as a reminder that collective action can make a difference.

50 Years of Earth Day

Following the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson joined forces with Denis Hayes, and other environmental activists to create a day dedicated to environmental stewardship. The first Earth Day included 20 million people across the country in peaceful demonstrations and actions for the environment. The event saw the creation of the recycling symbol; moreover, Earth Day sparked large-scale action to clean up pollution, protect wildlife, and, eventually, fight climate change.

The first Earth Day sent a signal to the U.S. government, demanding direct action to protect the planet. As a result of the demonstrations, the United States had the momentum and support needed to create the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Shortly thereafter, the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act were passed to empower the EPA with key protections for the environment.

With billions of participants celebrating every year by holding garbage clean ups, tree planting, and other volunteer efforts, Earth Day is one of the most significant days of environmental action.

And these efforts are more important than ever. We know that the health of the planet and the health of our communities are inter-connected. 

In 2020, climate action is society’s preeminent environmental issue and is the theme that the Earth Day Network dedicated to the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.

“The enormous challenge — but also the vast opportunities — of action on climate change have distinguished the issue as the most pressing topic for the 50th anniversary. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.”

The Earth Day Network on the theme for Earth Day 2020.

Indeed, the impacts of climate change– on vulnerable populations, on infrastructure and institutions, on disease vectors, on food availability & access, on public health, on the financial system — are wide-ranging and not dissimilar from what is happening now with the coronavirus pandemic. This is scary, but the good news is that we are showing how quickly we can mobilize to take action! And that too is one of the lessons from the first Earth Day 50 years ago today.

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Going Green at Home: 8 Sustainable Actions You Can Do From Home

Although staying at home during a beautiful Utah spring is hard, social distancing and isolation are critical to “flattening the curve” as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads. Read more about how to prepare for COVID-19 on the City’s webpage.

Even though we are spending more time inside, we can all take direct actions to help protect the environment this spring.

8 Sustainable actions from the comfort of your own home:

  1. Fix the thing on your Fix-it List: While Utah Recycling Alliance regularly hosts Fix-It Clinics for the more challenging appliances and tools, there are many ways to tackle the smaller tasks from home. Consider sewing that button back on your shirt or tinkering with your old record player. Any small action you take to make use out of the old rather than buying new will help the planet.
  2. Lights Out for Birds: Although Salt Lake City’s Tracy Aviary is temporarily closed due to COVID-19 concerns, you can still show your love for birds. Two-thirds of migratory bird species migrate at night. Take the Lights Out Salt Lake pledge and turn off your lights between 11:00pm and 6:00am during March-May and August-September to help the birds find their way.
  3. Recycle Right: Recycling is one of the most important ways individuals can reduce their impact on the environment. Because there is an expected increase in household waste while residents are practicing social distancing, it’s more important than ever to recycle right. Check out our curbside recycle guides for a refresher. You can also watch this video from Ashley on our Education Team explaining what goes into the blue and brown cans.
  4. Turn Your Garbage into Art: Art projects are a great way to engage with difficult subjects. For example, the Washed Ashore nonprofit turns ocean plastic into beautiful sculptures to draw attention to plastic pollution. Check out Clever Octopus, the local Creative Reuse Center, for more inspiration on how to make use of old materials.
  5. Don’t Waste Food: Food choices make up 25% of Utah’s household carbon footprint. Don’t let food go to waste. Find out more about Composting and Dining with Discretion here!
  6. Plant Trees – With Your Phone! You can help reforestation projects through social media. Starting April 22, Cities4Forests is hosting a global photo contest. They have pledged to plant 1 tree for every photo. Find the participation rules here. You can also try out Forest, an app that keeps you on task and helps plant trees. You even get to choose the species of trees you’re planting!
  7. Go Pesticide Free! As you gear up for spring gardening, help protect the environment by going pesticide free. Take the pledge here! (we will be delayed in delivering a sign to you, but will do so as soon as possible!)
  8. Keep Your Carbon Footprint Low: Limited travel means lower carbon footprints. For those teleworking or staying home to protect our community, take comfort in knowing you are protecting public health and reducing your travel-related carbon emissions. You can take things one step further by implementing some of these energy saving actions at home.

BONUS ACTIONS:

  • Take the 2020 Census! The U.S. Census helps determine federal funding and resources for our community. Help ensure that Salt Lake City counts! You will receive an invitation with a unique ID number in the mail. This number can be used to take the 2020 Census online. More information is available here.