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Posts from the ‘Green Spaces’ Category

Help SLC Stay Cool this Summer

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.

Learn more about energy efficiency year-round from Empower SLC. 

Photo of house with many shade trees and water-wise plants.
Planting water-wise plants and trees that provide shade can help your house stay cool even when it’s hot outside. Learn more about water-wise gardening on SLC’s Public Utilities page.

What else can we do?

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Caring for SLC’s Trees

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.

Watch the video from the 2019 Summer Planning Series walking tour on our SLC Urban Forest.

​Caring for the Urban Forest 

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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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Going Green at Home: Support Pollinators

Spring is here! While many of our normal spring activities are cancelled this year, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy springtime in Utah and do your part for the planet.

Maybe you’re a skilled gardener, or maybe you want a new hobby to brighten up your front yard. Whatever the case may be, one of the best ways to go green from home is to make a home for pollinators.

A photograph of a monarch butterfly sharing a milkweed plant with a bee.
Both monarchs and bees love nectar-rich plants like milkweed.

Make Your Yard a Monarch Waystation

The migratory monarch butterflies help pollinate natural spaces across the country. Sadly, habitat loss has lead to a rapid decline in monarch populations that mirrors declines in other pollinator species. In the Rocky Mountains, the monarch butterfly population has declined over 97%.

However, we can help monarchs by giving them their favorite plant: milkweed. Monarchs love milkweed. In fact, it is the only plant that monarch caterpillars eat. Without milkweed, monarchs cannot survive. You can help protect monarchs and other pollinators by creating a monarch friendly habitat or waystation in your yard.

In Utah, the Showy Milkweed and Swamp Milkweed are the most common milkweed species. Adult monarchs and other pollinators also benefit from having other native nectar-rich plants around. You can order milkweed seeds from Save Our Monarchs or your favorite seed seller. Find more information about Utah’s native plants here!

Another way to support monarch conservation is by becoming a Citizen Scientist. Help track milkweed and monarchs throughout the state and contribute to our scientific understanding of monarch populations and habitats. By protecting monarchs, we support biodiversity in our local environments.

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Autumn is the time for yard care

 . . . Fall is an important time of year for employing organic and sustainable gardening methods.

Pesticide Free SLC!

Preparing for next year– Be Pesticide Free!

The fall is a key part of the gardening cycle because it allows us to prepare our garden for the winter and sets us up for a productive spring and summer.

Most pesticides and fertilizers used today are produced with harmful chemicals that even when applied correctly can have adverse effects on the environment, pollinators, and human health.

But don’t worry– there are plenty of ways to have a healthy garden and lawn without using noxious chemicals.

Leave the Leaves

Not all leaves need to be raked up and disposed of immediately:

  • Consider that your leaves are a free fertilizer and weed suppressant! This makes them perfect for organic gardening.
  • Leaves also provide important winter habitat for butterflies, bees, and other beneficial bugs.
  • Finally, “leaving your leaves” reduces emissions associated with polluting leaf blowers. Keeping leaves out of the landfill also prevents the generation of potent methane emissions.

So how can you use leaves?

Use whole leaves around perennials, trees and bushes, or lightly layered on lawn (they may need to be shredded first). You can also create a leaf pile that will decompose into “leaf mold“– a rich, valuable compost amendment to be used in warmer months. Or– if you’re like me– simply pile your leaves on your vegetable garden bed and turn them into the soil in the spring before planting.

And if you still have too many leaves, use your curbside compost can to dispose of them (please keep them out of the gutters and storm drains). If you have a lot of leaves, give us a shout and we’ll help you get an extra container or two.

Here are a number of helpful resources on “leaving leaves”:
Xerces Foundation      National Wildlife Federation     Leave Leaves Alone

Use organic amendments to improve the health of your soil

Materials like the aforementioned leaves, as well as other compost, manure, bone meal, etc. can be used to balance the pH of your soil and will release nutrients into the soil to create a vibrant ecosystem and help your garden grow. Mulches can also be great for keeping weeds down, retaining moisture, and feeding the soil. Other organic soil enhancers, like coffee grounds, tea bags, and even newspaper can be an important tool in keeping your garden thriving. Learn more about amending your soil.
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Have you seen the new Washington Square Garden?

Salt Lake City’s 18-year old conservation demonstration garden continues to thrive with a new site plan and plants

The Washington Square Water Wise Garden with City and County Building in background.
The Washington Square Water-Wise Garden

This spring, the Salt Lake City Parks Division planted a new garden in Washington Square on the east side of the City-County Building on 200 East between 400 and 500 South.

The bright flowers, colorful foliage, and sweet smells have greeted visitors all summer as they enter the Capital City’s flagship municipal building.

As we wind down the summer season, we thought it’d be fun to highlight the new garden—and take a walk down memory lane to celebrate the original creation of this special space back in 2001.

The First Conservation Garden

It was just before the 2002 Olympics brought the world to Salt Lake City, and this signature outdoor space was re-constructed to demonstrate the City’s commitment to sustainability. At that time, it was one of the first examples in Salt Lake City showcasing how beautiful a low-water garden can be.

At the end of the last century (20th that is), the area to the east of the City-County Building was a mixture of grass, annuals, and asphalt– which, as you can imagine, was more parking-centric and the grass was thirsty.

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Explore the Jordan River Parkway

by SLCgreen intern Atticus Olmedo

From Bear Lake and Antelope Island to Timpanogos and Goblin Valley, Utah is a hotbed for hiking trails and natural excursions. But for many, the Jordan River Parkway doesn’t immediately come to mind as a prime recreational destination. This may be a result of the Parkway’s location, locked between the suburban enclaves and urban centers. But don’t be fooled. People, organizations, and governments have rallied behind the Jordan River Parkway’s potential with a vision for sustainability.

And this month is all about celebrating the Jordan River with a month full of activities. Let’s dig in!

The Jordan River System

Thousands of years ago when Lake Bonneville was receding, the river wound its way through ancient sediments left by the prehistoric lake. Eventually, the river helped establish pond and wetlands. Today, the Jordan River flows approximately 50 miles from Utah Lake north towards the Great Salt Lake’s wetlands. The river is primarily fed from the creeks that travel through the Salt Lake Valley.

The ecology of the river has evolved considerably. Because the river collects water from streams throughout the valley, it also collects pollution and detritus. However, thanks to restoration efforts, the parkway and river have become more hospitable for natural and recreational use.

The river is lined with deciduous oaks, aspens, willows, and cottonwood trees. Invertebrates provide an important source of food for other river species, particularly native carp and trout. Prior to urbanization, coyotes, big-horned sheep, wolves, and mule deer made the river their home. Now, raccoons, red foxes, jackrabbits, and common muskrat can be spotted in the habitat. Birds including magpies, sparrow hawks, and even pheasants are also common.

A bike trail along the parkway

Nature in our Backyards

For the fitness and nature enthusiasts alike, The Jordan River Parkway Trail offers a low-cost fitness and natural excursion option to locals who may not have the means to access far away wildlife areas.

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Summer is Here! Review the 7 Leave No Trace Principles

Liberty Park

Summer is here and with it a nearly endless offering of entertainment options! From grilling in the park and attending concerts and festivals, to hiking, running, and biking on local trails, there are many ways to get outside.

But while you’re out there, remember to take care of our natural spaces– both in and outside of our city!

The Leave No Trace principles aren’t just for going in the backcountry. They should be applied everywhere— including our local parks, gardens, and canyons.

Using these principles helps keep human impacts to a minimum and ensures access to these places and activities will be around for many years to come.

Leave No Trace is more than just packing out trash

Leave No Trace has developed a simple platform that has helped millions of people learn how to protect and respect the outdoors. The Principles are based on respect for nature and other visitors — and they are supported by scientific research.

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Celebrate Pollinators at “Bee Fest” this Saturday

by SLCgreen Intern Atticus Olmedo

Bee Fest is on June 15!

Pollinators: we need them! And this Saturday, June 15, you can join Catalyst Magazine, Wasatch Community Gardens, and Slow Food Utah to help celebrate pollinators at the 9th Annual Bee Fest.

The event, which kicks off Pollinator Week (June 17-23), will be abuzz with pollinator activities including poetry readings, bee-friendly craft projects, games, and even an all-ages costume contest. If you care about pollinators, you won’t want to miss Bee Fest!

We’ll be there tabling and discussing our Pesticide Free SLC campaign. Come by, say hi, and pick up your free yard sign to show your commitment to chemical-free yard care that supports pollinators (and our health and environment).

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Interested in Joining a New Community Garden?

Growing fresh greens at the Gateway Community Garden, which opened in 2018.

Community gardens provide Salt Lake City with fresh, locally grown food and a vibrant space to connect with our neighbors. Salt Lake City’s community gardens are popular locations for everything from volunteering to learning about urban farming. Indeed, in conjunction with Wasatch Community Gardens (WCG), Salt Lake City has successfully developed seven community gardens in almost every corner of the city through our Green City Growers program.

These gardens include the Off Broadway Community Garden, Liberty Wells, Rose Park, Cannon Greens, 9-Line, Popperton Plots, and the Gateway Garden. Not only do these gardens support Salt Lake City’s dedication to increase local food production, they invigorate our neighborhoods by putting vacant lots to use in ways that support community engagement and biodiversity — all while limiting our communities’ carbon footprints.

Salt Lake City’s community gardens activate our neighborhoods, giving residents a space to engage with friends and neighbors and to grow fresh produce. And we just can’t get enough of them!

In order to continue to make community gardens accessible and ensure that locally grown food stays a priority, both Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have proposed new community gardens to be built in 2020.

But the City, County, and WCG can’t do it alone. We need a strong show of support from nearby residents, indicating that the gardens will receive enough use.

Salt Lake City is working with WCG to establish Richmond Park Community Garden. Similarly, Salt Lake County and WCG are collaborating on a new garden in Sugar House Park. You can read more about the gardens below. If you would be interested in gardening at either of these parks, sign the petitions below to show your support.

Richmond Park

Salt Lake City highlighted Richmond Park for a potential garden. The park, which already has a fantastic playground, is nestled between 500 and 400 East along 600 South in downtown Salt Lake City.

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