It’s Utah Climate Week, which means that there are opportunities statewide to get involved with climate action in Utah.
But taking steps to help the environment can also start at home. Improving at-home energy efficiency will help you shrink your carbon footprint and save money.
Why Energy Efficiency Matters
According to the EPA, around 40% of energy use in the United States is for generating electricity. Salt Lake City is working to move towards net-100% renewable electricity for the entire community by 2030. This means that more renewable energy will be fed into the grid, helping power everything from your lights to your phone chargers. But in the meantime, taking steps to improve your energy efficiency will go a long way to save energy!
For example, switching to a low flow showerhead may seem simple, but it can help you save $18 annually and cut 250 pounds of CO2, not to mention the water savings.
Using a power strip to avoid energy vampires like phone chargers can help you save $96 per year and cuts 1,200 pounds of CO2!
And washing your laundry in cold water can save 1,270 pounds of CO2 annually and $92!
Reducing your energy use cuts down on emissions that contribute to global warming as well as local air pollution. As a result, energy conservation and efficiency can help build a healthier and more resilient community.
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.
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.
THIS PROGRAM IS NOW FULL! THANK YOU FOR YOUR PARTICIPATION. PLEASE SEE LOWER PORTION OF THIS BLOG FOR A LIST OF FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS.
Gas-powered mowers put out a lot of pollution! It might come as a surprise, but running a gas-powered lawnmower for one hour produces the equivalent air pollution of driving your car 196 miles. This pollution impacts public health, hurting our lungs and cardiovascular systems.
Salt Lake City residents know that air quality is bad for our community’s health. Switching to an electric lawn mower is a small way that you can make a big impact on our air quality.
Salt Lake City wants to help lead the charge to electrification. Now is your chance to get a new electric lawn mower and say goodbye to your gas-guzzling mower for good. Residents who would like to exchange their old mower for an electric upgrade will receive a $300 rebate. Don’t have a lawn mower? You can still get a $150 rebate on the purchase of a new electric mower without a verified trade-in.
For Salt Lake City residents on government assistance, there will also be opportunities to get a mower for free.
There are 2,500 slots available to Wasatch Front residents on a first-come, first-serve basis with 1,000 of those funded by Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall just for Salt Lakers.
Salt Lake City’s Waste & Recycling team will even pick up your old lawnmower from your home as part of this exchange program.
Registration Opens April 5 at noon
Starting at noon on April 5, residents along the Wasatch Front can register to participate in the lawn mower exchange.
February is (finally!) here! And that means that the Clear the Air Challenge has begun!
In the last few years, Utahns have worked together to improve air quality in the Salt Lake Valley. Early last year, the EPA announced Salt Lake City and Provo were in compliance with federal standards for PM 2.5, the fine particulate matter that pollutes our air quality along the Wasatch Front. This significant milestone came after years of community wide work to take action to clear the air.
In 2020, we learned that the steps we took to slow coronavirus cases resulted in quick changes to our air quality. COVID-19 continues to threaten our community’s health and economic security, resulting in increased social inequities. Many of the changes we’ve made in this crisis are not sustainable in the long term. However, our work to improve Salt Lake City’s resiliency includes taking actions that support public health and security, and that address environmental issues like air quality.
This month, we challenge Salt Lake City community members to participate in the 12th annual Clear the Air Challenge! The Clear the Air Challenge is a chance to level up your efforts to improve air quality. The Challenge runs the entire month of February, chosen due to the seasonal inversion that makes wintertime air quality especially bad. However, the steps you take this month can make a difference for our air all year long.
For many of us who are still spending more time at home, the challenge will feel a little different this year. We’ve put together some helpful facts, tips, and inspiration to get you going on the 2021 Clear the Air Challenge!
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.”
Welcome to SLCgreen Connections, an occasional series highlighting SLCgreen’s fantastic local partners—the people and organizations with whom we work closely to make Salt Lake City a greener, more vibrant, and sustainable city!
Is going zero waste one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2021? Utah Recycling Alliance is here to help! Utah Recycling Alliance (URA) has been encouraging Utahns to recycle more and reduce waste since 2011. The non-profit promotes reuse, recycling, and resource conservation through programs developed to engage and educate residents statewide.
This year, like many organizations, URA has moved much of their programming online due to the pandemic. However, they have stayed busy, and the organization is gearing up for exciting new projects in 2021.
SLCgreen chatted with URA co-presidents David Johnston and Sarah Bateman to find out more about what URA has been up to in 2020. David and Sarah also filled us in on how you can get involved in building a zero waste future in the New Year!
The 3 R’s and Beyond
David, who is also the Permits Coordinator for SLCgreen’s Waste and Recycling Division, told us that URA started with a mission that went beyond recycling. “Although we’ve always been there to help Utahns around the state recycle in the right ways, many of what we now consider core programs are all about the other Rs” – including reduce, reuse, repair, and rot.
Sarah, who is the founder of the City of Orem’s Natural Resources Stewardship Committee and a full-time mom, joined URA because of her passion for encouraging zero waste in Utah County. Prior to joining URA, she “felt somewhat alone in advocating a low-waste lifestyle.” However, URA connected Sarah to other zero waste organizers who were just as passionate about waste reduction and conservation. Sarah says that she is “honored to work alongside this well-educated and skilled team of volunteers, dedicated to reducing waste in Utah.”
The organization relies on volunteer support to operate their diverse projects, which connect businesses, individuals, and local governments that are committed to zero waste efforts.
CHaRMs and Fix-It Clinics
In the past few years, URA has helped Salt Lake City residents divert unusual waste (including toothpaste tubes, old electronics, shredded paper, and other things that aren’t accepted in the City’s curbside recycling program) in the CHaRM events.
The acronym stands for Collection of Hard to Recycle Materials, and the events help divert a considerable amount of waste each year. David notes that “in 2019 alone, with the help of more than 40 additional volunteers, URA was able to divert almost 5,000 lbs. from the landfill, accepting material for recycling from more than 1,100 attendees.”
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.
Even during a pandemic, donating lightly used clothes, furniture, or otherhousehold goods is still the most sustainable way to manage your spring cleaning backlog. But where to go and how to keep everyone safe? We have some resources for you!
In the months following our collective action to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases, the air quality improved around the globe. According to University of Utah research, particulate matter pollution in Salt Lake City was reduced 59% as of May 6.
Although Salt Lake City is maintaining an “orange” status for our COVID-19 response, there has been an uptick in cases across Utah. In a city in which public health is harmed by poor air quality, any virus that affects the respiratory system is cause for concern. However, with the knowledge that stay at home orders temporarily reduced our local air pollution, we can learn more about possible ways of improving air quality in the future.
Let’s take a closer look at the ways air quality and COVID-19 interact – and some ways you can help protect the air and each other.