With this year’s drought, growing water-wise, pollinator-friendly yards is more important than ever. Whether you’re investing in water conservation landscaping or working on maintaining the vitality of your lawn after our extreme summer, going pesticide free can help keep your yard – and community – healthy and flourishing.
Pesticides can pose health risks, especially for children, pregnant women, and older populations. Many pesticides are also linked to declines in bird and pollinator populations. Eliminating the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers is a great step towards protecting our community from harmful chemicals.
Establishing a healthy organic yard may require a little extra work up front, and fall is the perfect time to get started!
We’ve gathered some of our best tips and resources to help you restore soil health in your yard and eliminate pesticides in your lawn care. Check it out!
This summer, SLCgreen’s Debbie Lyons stepped into the role of Sustainability Department Director after the retirement of our long-time director Vicki Bennett. We are thrilled that Debbie will oversee the City’s goals to achieve 100% community renewable energy, reduce emissions connected to climate change, conserve resources, reduce air pollution, and improve community access to fresh, healthy food. Join us in celebrating Debbie’s new role with a look back at how her career has shaped Salt Lake City’s innovative programs and initiatives for over 25 years!
Prioritizing Safety and Sustainability
After earning a degree in Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety from BYU, Debbie started her work with Salt Lake City in 1995 as an intern with the Public Services Department. During her time as an intern, Debbie was instrumental in developing elements of Salt Lake City’s Waste & Recycling program that continue to have significant impacts, including the first City-wide curbside recycling and compost programs, the expansion of glass recycling around the state, and the City & County Building’s first office paper recycling program.
by SLCgreen outreach coordinator Stephan Sveshnikov
With much of the West seeing record temperatures this summer and 98% of Utah in an extreme drought, it’s a good time to remind ourselves of what we can do to keep our city a little bit cooler and ourselves safe.
While you’ve heard a lot of discussion about saving water during this drought, today we also want to talk about reducing the urban heat island effect— which helps save water, reduce ambient temperatures, and support a healthier ecosystem.
What is an Urban Heat Island?
Cities are always hotter than the average surrounding temperature because of what’s called the “Urban Heat Island” effect. Because the concrete, black asphalt, and black roof shingle material absorbs extra heat and releases it, city temperatures can rise by as much as 18 degrees Fahrenheit compared to the surrounding area on a cloudless day! This, in turn, raises the energy consumption of the city, because our air conditioners have to work harder to keep us cool.
How can I reduce my home energy consumption during the summer?
What can you do to reduce the Urban Heat Island effect at your home or business?
First start with your own building. Saving energy means you’ll be more comfortable, save money, and reduce the ambient heat going into the neighborhood.
Cover your windows! When it’s hot, about 76 percent of sunlight on windows enters in the form of heat, according to the Department of Energy. Keeping blinds closed on the sunny side of the house or installing solar screens will keep your house from heating up as much.
Set the AC ten degrees higher if you’ll be gone from home all day, and set it at 78 degrees F or warmer if you are home. Cool off with cold drinks, a trip to the mountains, or turn on a fan to circulate air in the room you’ll be in.
Avoid using your stove and oven during the hottest parts of the day.
Energy efficient evaporative coolers (also called “swamp” coolers) are perfectly-suited to Utah’s arid desert climate and can cut cooling costs by 75% compared to a central AC!
Plant shade trees around your home. The more shade around your house, the less it will absorb direct heat from the sun, and the less your AC or swamp cooler has to work.
Insulate! Make sure you have the appropriate level of insulation in your home. Insulation helps keep your house warm in the winter, but it also helps keep it cool in the summer, because the fewer leaks you have, the less that cold air you’ve worked so hard for can escape.
Vicki Bennett’s remarkable 20-year career with Salt Lake City Corporation reflects the changes in local and national work to protect the environment and act on climate. As director, Vicki has overseen SLCgreen’s work to reduce carbon emissions, improve city-wide waste diversion, support air quality initiatives, ensure that the City is prioritizing community sustainability, and direct equitable policies related to food security and energy. Under Vicki’s direction, Salt Lake City has become an internationally-recognized leader in sustainability.
After 20 years, SLCgreen’s beloved director is retiring. Vicki leaves an outstanding legacy, and she will be deeply missed by her friends and colleagues in the City. Her retirement gives us an opportunity to take a look at Vicki’s many accomplishments, and how our community has been shaped by her dedicated service.
Vicki became the Environmental Manager for Salt Lake City Corporation in 2001, a role meant to help regulate chemical use and reduce environmental pollution in the city. However, environmental work was quickly shifting towards addressing climate change. Vicki’s role expanded into sustainability, a field that connects equity and economic stability with environmental protection.
Thanks to Vicki, SLCgreen grew into one of the first sustainability departments in the country. As a Environmental Manager, Vicki served on Governor Huntsman’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Council on Climate Change in 2007. During Mayor Ralph Becker’s administration, Vicki was placed in charge of a new Sustainability Division. SLCgreen eventually became its own department under Mayor Jackie Biskupski.
The realities of climate change became more and more apparent over that time. As a result, Vicki’s work shifted from climate mitigation to long-term adaptation and resilience. In the changing landscape of climate action, Vicki has continued to shape a vision of sustainability that supports the most vulnerable in our communities and activates our residents to participate in climate work on all levels.
Vicki’s steady leadership and stalwart commitment to advocacy has positioned Salt Lake City as an international leader in climate action. Vicki’s legacy is one of collaboration and dedication to connecting with others in order to make positive changes.
When world governments called on countries to commit to emissions reductions in the Kyoto Protocol, Salt Lake City was one of the first cities to join. Examining energy efficiency and tracking carbon emissions was the first step in addressing Salt Lake City’s sustainability goals.
Vicki’s ability to connect with people locally and around the world has helped Salt Lake City focus on critical sustainability initiatives. In Utah, she is a founding member of the award-winningUtah Climate Action Network, a group dedicated to collaborating on climate action in Utah. Vicki also helped launch the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, an organization dedicated to “connecting local government practitioners to accelerate urban sustainability.”
As you plan your Earth Day fun, remember that Earth Day doesn’t have to be limited to April 22. We all can reduce our impact every day.
This year we thought it’d be fun to imagine taking advantage of many of Salt Lake City’s programs to help lead a more sustainable life. Come along for the ride. . . perhaps you’ll discover something new . . .
You can also make your garden healthier for the whole community – pets and pollinators included. You may have seen the little green Pesticide Free hexagonal signs in your neighborhood. Salt Lake City residents are taking steps to grow beautiful gardens without toxic chemicals. Going pesticide free can help you keep your family and neighbors healthy, and your yard safe for pollinators– we still have plenty of signs, so take the pledge and request yours today! We’ll deliver it to your home for free.
Have an item you’re not sure what to do with? Check out our specialty recycling page to see if it can be recycled through a special program.
Using low-flow shower heads saves energy and water. Switching to LED light bulbs can reduce up to 500 pounds of CO2 annually, while using cold water for washing your clothes saves 1,270 pounds annually! Find more energy saving tips on SLCgreen’s Household Energy Action Tips.
Although going 100% vegan is a great way to help shrink your carbon footprint, limiting animal products a few times a week is also impactful.
Reducing food waste is also an often-overlooked way to reduce potent methane emissions and help others.
SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City’s Department of Sustainability is pleased to announce Trolley Square Ventures has won the 2020 Energy Project of the Year as part of the City’s annual Elevate Buildings Award.
The Elevate Buildings Awards is the Sustainability Department’s public recognition campaign honoring organizations that have gone above and beyond to reduce their emissions through innovative programs and efficiency upgrades. One of the key priorities of Mayor Mendenhall’s administration is to lead the way on environmental resilience and sustainability and improving the impact that our buildings have on air quality is a major part of the City’s environmental goals.
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.”
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.
Salt Lake City’s urban forest suffered notable damage in the September 8 wind storm. The carefully maintained forest consists of nearly 85,000 public trees.
Sadly, the City lost approximately 1,500 public trees from city parks, the cemetery, park strips, and medians. We estimate that another 3,000 public trees were damaged and are in need of repair– on top of the private trees from yards that were lost or damaged.
This is certainly a sad occurrence for our environment and community– especially if you lost a beloved tree.
However, as Urban Forester Tony Gliot describes in the video below, storms are a natural part of our ecosystem and we have the opportunity to come together and re-plant many of these trees that were lost.
Salt Lake City’s Urban Forestry Division works hard to care for our existing trees and to help plant more. Even before the storm, tree planting was a priority for our city. Not only do city trees help make our streets beautiful, they help make Salt Lake City more resilient.
Urban forests are critical parts of green infrastructure, providing natural air and water filtration, mitigating the Urban Heat Island effect, and helping with carbon drawdown. As a result, trees can help make Salt Lake City a pleasant and climate resilient community.
Want to learn more about Salt Lake City’s urban forest and how you can help support our trees? Read on!
Trees vs. Climate Change
The green infrastructure provided by trees provides something we all love in the summer: shade. According to the EPA, the maximum temperatures of shaded surfaces can be between 20–45°F cooler than unshaded areas. This is especially important in cities where buildings, roads, and city infrastructure absorb the daytime heat. The absorbed heat effectively warms the entire city, making cities warmer than surrounding areas resulting in what is called an Urban Heat Island.
By making cities a little cooler in the summer, trees and vegetation help us cut down on the energy we use to cool buildings – and the associated carbon use and pollution. Trees are also able to help filter the air pollutants and sequester the carbon dioxide that we do produce. The EPA also notes that trees absorb rainwater, which is an important part of protecting our stormwater.
Recognizing these benefits is one reason why Salt Lake City has a long-term Urban Forest Action Plan. Check out the video from last year’s Summer Planning Series, which discussed the benefits of trees and how the City is working to increase our canopy to serve our entire community.
It’s time for the 12th annual DIY Festival. Normally held at the Salt Lake Fairgrounds, this year’s Craft Lake City will be virtual to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This year’s festival is putting their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) and Craft skills to work by building an entire virtual gallery for attendees to explore.
The virtual space is a unique way to engage with the community. You can pop on your VR (virtual reality) goggles, or just navigate from your computer, and explore the rooms and workshops via a personalized avatar.
But don’t be alarmed – Craft Lake City is still the same event you know and love. You’ll be able to learn about local STEM programs, as well as visit the booths of local artisans. The 3-day festival has something for everyone!
Visit Craft Lake City
If you love the SIMS, Minecraft or other Virtual Reality games, you’ll love exploring the online DIY Festival. But even if you’re not familiar with virtual spaces, there is lots to be excited about for this year’s festival.
Salt Lake City hasbeen a long-time sponsor of the festival and we’rethrilled that the organizers have figured out a way to bring the event to the community again this year.
SLCgreen usually sets up a table in the STEM center at the festival and we areexcited to be part of this year’s virtual space. With the help of the Craft Lake City teams, we built our very own SLCgreen gallery! Take a peek below:
In the SLCgreen Virtual Gallery, you can learn more about :
Sustainability encompasses environmental, societal, economic, and equity needs. SLCgreen works to fight climate change, reduce emissions, ensure access to local food, and keep our air and water clean. All of SLCgreen’s environmental efforts directly link to equity and social justice.
SLCgreen is dedicated to helping the community build a more sustainable and resilient future. We hope you will visit us at the DIY Festival and tell us what “Sustainability” means to you!
Support Local Vendors
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a serious toll on the health and economic well-being of our communities. Part of building a sustainable community is helping to support the economic and equity needs in our City. It is more important than ever to support local artists and STEM developers– and Craft Lake City presents a fun and easy way to do that.
There are many reasons to buy local. Shopping at local businesses helps support our local economy, but has the added benefit of being more environmentally sustainable. Local purchases reduce the need for bulky packaging and help cut down on emissions associated with delivery.
Find a full list of participating artists and creators here.