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Posts from the ‘Sustainable Food’ Category

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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Check out the SLC Sustainability 2021 Year in Review!

Happy New Year!

How is it already mid-January already?! We’ve been busy here the last two weeks on projects for the new year which we’re excited to share with you.

Before that, we’re taking some time to reflect on 2021 and all of the work we accomplished with your support. It’s also an important time to take stock; learn from the experiences we had in 2021; and continue to improve our programs, services, and operations.

Every January, we release a Year in Review with our high-level accomplishments as well as priorities for the year ahead. Below are a few highlights. Make sure to check out the full document for more!

Read the full 2021 Year in Review here.

Saying Goodbye to Team Members and Welcoming New Ones

In 2021, SLCgreen certainly felt the impacts of the “Great Resignation.” We said goodbye to Food & Equity Manager Supreet Gill and welcomed Brian Emerson. In the spring, we parted with the founding director of our Sustainability program, Vicki Bennett, who led our team for 20 years and is also recognized around the country as a leader on these issues.

With Vicki’s retirement, Debbie Lyons stepped up to be Sustainability Director and Sophia Nicholas moved from Communications Manager to the Deputy Director role. We also toasted Shannon Williams, Special Projects Assistant, who moved on to an exciting new role in a new state; while welcoming Bimini Horstmann who hails from Boston (with a stop over at Davidson College) and has a passion for rock climbing and environmental science. And, for the first time, we have a dedicated air quality manager position, filled by Catherine Wyffels who joined our team in the summer. She has brought a wealth of insight and expertise to our department. (See blog).

It didn’t stop there! We gave Gregg Evans, our Financial Manager, to the Public Lands Department (luckily he didn’t go far) but were thrilled to welcome Angie Nielsen to our team in the critical accounting role for our department. Finally, December closed out with Max Barnewitz– the “voice” behind the SLCgreenblog and so many of our outreach functions– moving on to an exciting position with Art Access.

We are proud of how our staff, both seasoned and new, integrated into a cohesive and energetic team tackling a variety of projects this past year.

At the beginning of 2021, the deep connections between equity, resiliency, and climate action were clearer than ever due to 2020’s challenges. It set an important focus for our work last year:

Air Quality, Energy Efficiency, & Electrification

Even with more people than ever working from home in 2021, wildfire and inversion seasons still occur. We developed many new programs and engaged with the public to address these issues from an equitable as well as a scientific lens. Additionally, SLCgreen continued strong efforts to move city departments towards electrification and improve energy efficiency. Some notable achievements in the air quality, energy efficiency, and electrification realms include:

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Going Green for the Holidays!

We can hardly believe it, but the holidays are here! This is a great time of year to support Salt Lake City’s efforts to build a more sustainable and resilient community.

Climate action is on all our minds following COP26, which brought world leaders together to create a pathway towards climate action. While the work internationally must be done, everyone has a part to play and small, locally driven climate action can add up to make change. So as you gear up for the holidays, we have some helpful reminders for ways you can be more sustainable!

A holiday greeting graphic shows the Salt Lake City and county building at center with the words Happy Holidays written over the top. Colorful fall leaves and shapes adorn the sides and the SLCgreen logo is at bottom.
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Salt Lake City Signs the Glasgow Food & Climate Declaration

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, will be held in Glasgow Scotland October 31 to November 12. The international conference aims to evaluate past goals and set new targets to address the climate crisis. The COP26 goals include reducing global emissions by investing in renewable energy and addressing global climate inequities to support communities and natural habitats that are already endangered by climate change.

COP26 engages with climate change on an international scale, looking for ways to solidify and act on goals set at previous conferences. However, local governments including city government also can play an active role in implementing policies and programs to fight climate change and build resilient communities.

As part of our work to #ActOnClimate, Salt Lake City became a signatory to the Glasgow Food & Climate Declaration: “A commitment by subnational governments to tackle the climate emergency through integrated food policies and a call on national governments to act.”

Salt Lake City’s growing food programs, which include the Food Policy Council and the Resident Food Equity Advisors, are already advancing policy to help build a more equitable and accessible food system. The Glasgow Food & Climate Declaration ties in another important aspect of their work– the connection between food systems and climate resilience.

Green infographic describes the relationship between food and climate. The green background has a picture of the planet Earth at center with graphics depicting Environmental Degradation, Socio-Economic Inequalities, Health Inequalities, and the Climate Crisis.
The Glasgow Food & Climate Declaration connects climate action to local food policy.

Food & Climate

While it may seem surprising, food systems are an important part of understanding and addressing climate change. Indeed, plant-based and meat based foods, packaging, transportation, and land use all contribute varying degrees of emissions that contribute to global warming. It has been estimated that food waste alone produces enough green house gases that if food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter! In total, Global Food Systems account for 1/3 of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In Utah, only 2% of vegetables and 3% of fruit consumed is in grown in-state. Moreover, in Utah, 25% of our household emissions are caused by our food choices. We can help shrink our individual impact by reducing our meat consumption, avoiding food waste, and eating locally-grown food when possible.  SLCgreen’s Dining with Discretion page outlines many useful resources to help you eat healthy and sustainably!

What is Salt Lake City Doing?

Salt Lake City’s climate action goals and policy includes the local food system alongside other key initiatives to mitigate climate change. The Salt Lake City Food Policy Council is already working to address inequities tied to environmental racism and the food system. This year, the Food Policy Council joined the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future’s Food Policy Council initiative to create more equitable food policies. In addition to this work, the first cohort of Salt Lake City’s Resident Food Equity Advisors provided a detail report to the City to help set priorities that will guide future decisions related to local food. In an effort to understand our local food system more fully, the Salt Lake City Food Policy Council is also taking steps to update our Community Food Assessment, including climate as an assessment factor.

By signing the Glasgow Food & Climate Declaration, Salt Lake City signals our support for more sustainable food policies that will help drive climate action. Moreover, coupled with the efforts already being made to create a more accessible local food system, Salt Lake City’s participation in the declaration shows our commitment to holistic and community focused strategies to act on climate and better understand our food system.  

Salt Lake City’s Food Policy Council is Building a More Equitable & Sustainable Food System

by SLCgreen Outreach Coordinator Stephan Sveshnikov

There are over three hundred food policy councils in the U.S., representing towns, cities, tribes, counties, and entire states. Salt Lake City’s Food Policy Council (FPC) is one of three in Utah, with another council in Ogden and one at the state level. Food Policy Councils unite community organizations to help guide policy related to our food systems. They inform local government on everything from food access and urban agriculture to food waste and climate concerns.

Salt Lake City’s Food Policy Council (formerly the Food Policy Task Force) was created in 2009. The group identifies policy and program opportunities and makes recommendation for how to create a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient community food system. Their first project was a sustainable code revision, which made it easier to keep chickens, bees, and grow food in Salt Lake. The FPC has supported the Sustainability Department on a variety of other initiatives over the last decade, including the SLC FruitShare program, the curbside composting program, the Square Kitchen Culinary Incubator, the Local Food Microgrant Fund, and much more. Fourteen members representing various sectors of the food system make up the FPC, from small farmers, to anti-hunger organizations, advocates for immigrant and refugee communities, and representatives of the public health sector.

This year, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future launched an initiative to help food policy councils around the country confront systemic racism and inequities in their local food systems. Fifteen councils from fifteen different states were selected to participate, including the Salt Lake City FPC! The initiative will help Salt Lake City as our FPC takes its next steps to build a more equitable food system.

Food, Equity, and Sustainability

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Urban Farming Highlight: The Village Co-Op

by SLCgreen outreach coordinator Stephan Sveshnikov

One of the many ways SLCgreen furthers our sustainability goals is through supporting our local food system. Salt Lake City is committed to providing and facilitating funding for local food programs to enhance access to fresh, healthy, and sustainable food. In recent years, we’ve worked to relax ordinances to allow for backyard chickens and beekeeping, expanded the number of community gardens in the city, and contracted with Green Urban Lunchbox to run the SLC Fruitshare program.

Have you ever wondered how much food you could grow in your yard if you took the time to garden? We produced a Food Map that helps you find an estimate of your yard’s food production potential and provides resources that will educate and empower you to grow more food.

Many Salt Lake City locals are already growing thriving gardens. We recently sat down with one of Salt Lake’s urban farmers, Darin Mann, to talk about his garden, water reduction efforts, and food justice advocacy.

Growing Community

Darin Mann calls his neighborhood the “Venice of Salt Lake.” The garden of cabbages, kale, tomatoes, and everything in between, known officially as the “Village Co-op,” is nestled between  Fairpark and Rose Park, in one of the most ethnically diverse places in the state of Utah. On the other side of his farm stands a mosque and, next to it, a Buddhist temple. Just down the street is the Virgin of Guadalupe Catholic Church. An oasis of green in a crossroads of cultures.

Darin knows the neighborhood well. His farm isn’t called the Village Co-op for nothing: “Every single day I have at least 30 neighbors coming and talking to me about my garden,” he says. Add to that number the 200 families signed up to receive produce box alerts and upwards of 300 volunteers this season alone, and you start to see the sort of impact a small urban farm can have on the surrounding community.

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Resident Food Equity Advisors Reflect on the Past Year

Mayor Mendenhall and seven of the inaugural Salt Lake City Resident Food Equity Advisors, with the project consultant.

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Last year, as part of the city’s overall focus on equity and as part of an effort to co-create programs with residents, rather than for them, the Sustainability Department piloted the Resident Food Advisors Program.

Thirteen residents from a diverse set of experiences and backgrounds explored issues in the food system and strategized solutions for their communities, discussing everything from food vouchers to a food leadership academy, and in their final report, published last month, advocated the idea of an “Edible Salt Lake City” and made recommendations for how the city can achieve greater food equity.

We caught up with a few of the Advisors after their recent meeting with Mayor Erin Mendenhall to see how they’re feeling now that the report is out.

Zana Jokic, from Sarajevo, whose work as a medical interpreter has given her a unique perspective on healthy food access among immigrant communities, said she’s been sharing the report with everyone. “I’m so proud of our work,” she said. “I’m passing it around to friends, families, organizations,” anyone and everyone she can think of.

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Richmond Park Becomes Latest Addition to Salt Lake’s Community Gardens

Salt Lake City is proud to support Wasatch Community Gardens’ work to grow the City’s robust collection of community gardens. Last month, Salt Lake City and Wasatch Community Gardens (WCG) celebrated the opening of the newest addition: the Richmond Park Community Garden.

Wasatch Community Gardens and Salt Lake City partners at Richmond Park Community Garden.

Green City Growers

Over the years, Salt Lake City has partnered with WCG through the Green City Growers program to help coordinate the use of city-owned or managed land for community garden plots. The plots are managed by WCG and help Salt Lake City residents build a more robust and sustainable food system.

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SLC Budget Prioritizes Maintaining High Standard of Service, Providing Equitable and Sustainable Opportunities

Salt Lake City Mayor Mendenhall’s new 2021-2022 city budget emphasizes financial stability for Salt Lake City, as well as “opportunities for an abundant, transformational, equitable future for all the city’s communities.”

The $350 million budget allocates funds to numerous initiatives and programs that will help Salt Lake City implement recommendations from the Commission on Racial Equity in Policing as well as expanding support for affordable housing. Salt Lake City will continue to prioritize building a sustainable and resilient city for all residents.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, residents have had unprecedented access to local government, connecting with departments more than ever. As SLCgreen moves into the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, we aim to build from this access, inviting more of our community into the decision making process, and working with the community towards greater sustainability and resiliency for all.

The newly approved budget allows Salt Lake City to continue to invest in critical public services, renewable energy projects, air quality, food access, climate equity, and more, which are described below.

Waste and Recycling Rate Increase

The adopted budget contains a rate increase on garbage containers. As you may recall, the Sustainability Department undertook a large public engagement process in late 2019/early 2020 to evaluate residents’ satisfaction with our waste & recycling services, and to seek feedback on how they’d like to see future rate increases occur.

While we do not take lightly the fact that rate increases impact everyone– and some more than others– we want you to know that we have worked hard for years cutting costs and streamlining our operations to forestall the need for a rate increase. However, it has been nearly seven years since we last raised rates. In that time, the cost of doing business has increased– impacting everything from purchasing and maintaining our refuse vehicles, to disposing of garbage at the landfill, to keeping up with the cost of living. For a couple of years, there were also fees associated with processing the City’s recyclables. (So far in 2021, we have begun to make money again on recycling which is great news. We are committed to maintaining a robust program through the ups and downs of the recycling commodity market).

You can visit this page to learn more about the rate increases, the survey, and what to expect. As always, if you have questions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at slcgreen@slcgov.com

Projects on Energy, Food, Air Quality & More

In our policy division, we are moving forward with some impactful and important projects. Here’s a closer look at some of what’s in store for the Sustainability Department’s Energy & Environment Division:

  • Advancing Salt Lake City’s Community Renewable Energy Goals

The Community Renewable Energy Program (C-REP), empowered by the Community Renewable Energy Act, H.B. 411, will help Salt Lake City reach its goal of community-wide net-100% renewable electricity. In 2022, Salt Lake City will work with other participating communities to bring Salt Lake City closer to its goal of 100% renewable electricity for the whole community. Learn more on the Utah100 Communities’ website.

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Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day is celebrating its 51st anniversary on April 22! Salt Lake City residents can celebrate with activities and events this weekend and throughout the month of April.

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 . . .

In the Yard

From planting a water-wise landscape to using an electric lawn mower rather than a gas-powered one, your very own front yard is a great place to improve your household’s environmental footprint!

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.

Photo of green pesticide free sign in front of a garden of blooming red, white, and yellow flowers.

Waste and Recycling

Recycling and composting every day helps us make the most of our resources. Taking the extra step to recycle materials like aluminum, cardboard, paper, and plastic containers is an excellent way to reach your zero waste goals. Have questions? Watch Ashley on our Education Team walking you through what to put in your recycling and compost containers.

You can also sign up for a smaller garbage can to save money.

And don’t forget about glass! If you have not yet signed up for curbside glass recycling, you can do so here— or take your glass to a drop-off location near you.

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.

At Home

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.

For example you can volunteer with the local non-profit Waste Less Solutions to share your excess garden produce with those who need extra food. You can also volunteer with them to deliver meals that would otherwise go to waste to service agencies.

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