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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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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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Salt Lake City Thanks Frontline Waste & Recycling Staff in Celebration of Waste & Recycling Workers Week

June 15, 2021

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Salt Lake City Thanks Frontline Waste & Recycling Staff in Celebration of Waste & Recycling Workers Week

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City is thanking its frontline waste & recycling staff this week in honor of Waste & Recycling Workers Week which occurs annually the week of June 17.

Salt Lake City employs 55 men and women who are responsible for collecting the refuse from 42,000 homes and businesses every week. Their essential work is critical to residents’ health and safety, making Salt Lake City a cleaner, more resilient community every day. Every year, Salt Lake City crews empty between 4.7 to 4.8 million curbside bins. This year, Waste & Recycling collected an average of 3,630 tons of trash per month, 1,454 tons of compost per month, and 775 tons of recycling per month.

“Our City maintains its world-class beauty and high standard of cleanliness in large part due to the tireless daily efforts of the people who work in our Waste and Recycling Division,” said Mayor Mendenhall. “They are on the front line but work behind-the-scenes. We often don’t think twice when the trash, recycling, and yard waste seamlessly disappear from our curbs. So this week I encourage all residents to join me in thanking these public servants for their critical work. A simple wave as the truck rolls by really makes their days.”

Residents who wish to send a message may also call and leave a voicemail on the customer service line at 801-535-6999 or by sharing a message with @slcgreen on social media.

In addition to the operational staff, Salt Lake City’s Waste and Recycling Division includes an Education Team that works directly with residents, helping make sure recyclables and compostable materials end up in the right bins. In 2020, the Education Team checked 551,592 waste carts throughout the City, helping reduce contamination and empowering residents to know how to recycle correctly.

The Waste & Recycling customer service team also provides daily assistance to community members, which was even more critical throughout 2020 due to the “inland hurricane” and resulting debris cleanup, as well as general increased waste disposal needs as more Salt Lakers stayed home.

“Our crews have worked courageously and tirelessly throughout the entire pandemic and natural disasters to keep each other safe and deliver uninterrupted service to our residents,” said Chris Bell, Waste and Recycling Division Director. “I couldn’t be more proud of their resolve and ability to maintain our high service standards.”

On top of curbside collection, Salt Lake City Waste & Recycling provides resident support and education, the bulky waste collection program Call 2 Haul, special event waste and recycling permitting, and overseeing of the business recycling ordinance and construction and demolition recycling ordinance.

This year, the Call 2 Haul program collected an average of 168 tons of trash and 14 tons of recycling per month. In addition to their normal collection program, Call 2 Haul also assisted with Salt Lake City’s lawn mower exchange, picking up hundreds of gas-powered lawn mowers from residents who switched to electric mowers.

For More Information:

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Idle Free Ordinance Update: Keep Our Air Clean!

Salt Lake City is moving into a hot and already-record-breaking summer.

A warming climate makes air pollution worse – from increased wildfires to the formation of ground-level ozone.

As temperatures go up, so does ground-level ozone. This is the ozone that forms when emissions from our cars, lawnmowers, other sources of combustion, and certain chemical products react with sunlight and heat.

Ozone is damaging to our lungs and cardiovascular systems. It’s an invisible, odorless chemical, but being exposed to it is described like “receiving a sunburn on your lungs.”

That’s why it’s important for everyone to work together to reduce pollution. Check out the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s list of best practices for reducing ozone during these hot, sunny days.

One of the biggest ways to reduce air and ozone pollution is to drive less. Vehicle exhaust contributes a sizeable chunk of our ozone pollution.

And if you do have to drive? Remember to turn your engine off and be idle free when stopped in your vehicle (when not in traffic).

Excess vehicle exhaust threatens our air quality and the overall health of our communities. That’s why in 2011, Salt Lake City enacted one of the first Idle Free Ordinances in the state.

The Idle Free Ordinance prohibits unnecessary idling over two minutes within Salt Lake City limits. The ordinance prioritizes our community’s commitment to improving local air quality.

Idle Free Ordinance Update

Thanks to a 2019 state legislative change, Salt Lake City was able to update our 2011 Ordinance this year to better serve its purpose of limit idling in Salt Lake City. Specifically, the law (HB148) allows Salt Lake City to issue only one warning before issuing a ticket for idling. Previously, the city was required to issue three warnings.

Check out the 2021 formal ordinance adoption language here.

The idling time limit will stay the same: unnecessary idling for more than two minutes is prohibited.

Some idling, of course, is necessary. For example, when stopped for an official traffic control device or signal, or if you the health and safety of a driver or passenger (including service animals) requires it. However, in ordinary driving situations, lengthy stops are generally limited, and when you do make a stop, remember to turn the key and be idle free!

You can read the full ordinance on the SLCgreen website.

Image of Idle Free sign. The teal bordered sign says "Idle Free City City Ordinance 12.58.030" at the top with a Salt Lake City logo at left. In the middle of the sign is a graphic of an idling car that is enclosed by a red circle with a slash through the middle. Black text at the bottom reads "Turn your key. be idle free!" Under that, in a teal banner and lime green text reads "2 Minute Time Limit" and finally, in black text on white at the bottom "It's Our Health, and the Law."
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How to Safely Dispose of Old Batteries

Batteries, whether alkaline or lithium, give us the power we need (literally) to keep everything from smoke detectors to our cell phones going. But when it comes time to throw away used batteries, it’s not always clear what to do.

All batteries consist of a combination of chemicals often including mercury, lead, cadmium, nickel and silver, all of which must be properly managed to prevent harm to individuals and the environment. While all batteries require careful disposal, lithium batteries can be particularly hazardous. When exposed to high pressure or high temperatures, that materials in a lithium battery degrade, allowing combustible chemicals to interact and ultimately causing fires.

Photo of bucket of batteries of different varieties waiting appropriate disposal.
Batteries aren’t all alike, and they require proper disposal.

It is uncommon for lithium batteries to pose a threat in our homes. However, if lithium batteries wind up in the recycling bin, they endanger the recycling crews, trucks, and recycling facilities. Compaction of a battery, especially in warmer times of year, could start a fire inside the truck.

Additionally, they pose a threat to crews collecting and sorting materials at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).

Not only can lithium batteries burn skin, they can start larger fires within trucks, MRFs and other facilities.

In fact, batteries cause hundreds of fires a year at recycling facilities around the country.

How to Properly Dispose of Batteries

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SLCgreen Thanks Director Vicki Bennett for 20 Years of Service

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.

Shaping Sustainability

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.

Photo of Vicki Bennett in front of solar panels with a sign reading #ActOnClimate.
Vicki Bennett urges everyone to #ActOnClimate at the opening of Salt Lake City’s 1 MW solar farm.

Internationally Recognized

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-winning Utah 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.”

Photo of Vicki Bennett with President Barack Obama.
President Obama and Salt Lake City Sustainability Director Vicki Bennett.
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Join Our AMA: Salt Lake City’s Progress on Achieving 100% Clean Electricity

Graphic promoting upcoming Ask Me Anything Event. Shows mountains with large wind turbine.

Join Mayor Erin Mendenhall and SLCgreen for our upcoming AMA on Wednesday, May 26.

Salt Lake City and 22 other Utah communities are making exciting progress towards a transition to net-100% clean electricity by 2030. This means that our electric grid will be shifting to clean energy, helping us reduce our community carbon emissions and build community resiliency. On top of that, Salt Lake City is also working towards achieving 90% clean electricity for municipal operations.

In 2019, Salt Lake City passed a joint resolution to shift to net-100% clean electricity for the entire community. To achieve this ambitious goal, Salt Lake City is working with the Community Renewable Energy Program, a program made possible by the Community Renewable Energy Act (House Bill 411). This Act allows local governments to procure net-100% renewable electricity on behalf of residents and businesses.

Working with the state’s largest investor-owned utility, Rocky Mountain Power, 23 Utah Communities became eligible to participate in this innovative program . Powering the community with net-100% renewable electricity is an essential step towards a robust clean energy future for Salt Lake City. Now, the 23 Utah 100 Communities are building a Governance Agreement to guide the communities in our steps forward.

Ask Us Anything!

Mayor Mendenhall and SLCgreen are eager to answer your questions about this ground breaking program. On Wednesday, May 26, we’ll be answering your questions about the Utah 100 coalition, Salt Lake City’s 100% clean electricity goals, and our exciting progress in shifting municipal operations to 90% clean electricity.

Learn more about the Utah 100 Communities and Salt Lake City’s renewable energy goals.

Join the AMA on Facebook here!

Watch the AMA Here!

Keep Recycling: Corrugated Cardboard

Getting packages delivered at home was already a growing trend before 2020. When the pandemic began, home deliveries surged, as did the demand for one particular resource: cardboard.

With both individuals and companies stocking up on necessary household goods, cardboard demand skyrocketed. While recycling has always been a crucial element of carboard production, it is more important than ever to keep up with the demand and save trees!

In the past year, the amount of cardboard recycled through Salt Lake City’s residential collection program has grown by 8%!

Put another way, of the 780 tons of material that Salt Lake City collects per month, 273 tons is corrugated cardboard.

Breaking Down the Facts about Corrugated Cardboard:

Corrugated cardboard is a lightweight and sturdy way to ship products. Corrugated boxes became popular in the early 1900s, and we’ve been using them ever since. Because corrugated carboard is so readily recyclable, corrugated boxes have become the largest recycled paper and paperboard product in the U.S..

Over 90% of American products are packaged with corrugated cardboard. But making sure to properly recycle it is the tricky part! Keep these details in mind when you’re recycling this excellent resource:

Graphic reminding folks to break down cardboard boxes before recycling them. White text on a green banner says Please break down your boxes. Questions? Call (801) 535-6999. There is a photo of broken down boxes and a green arrow pointing at a blue recycling bin.
  • Is It Clean? If you’re recycling a cardboard box that was used for food packaging (i.e. a pizza box), remember that food grease contaminates the material. If you can, salvage as much of the box as possible and recycle the clean pieces.
  • Is It Empty? When you’re sorting out your cardboard boxes, be sure to check to make sure you’ve emptied it of any plastic bags, packing peanuts, or Styrofoam pieces. The same rule applies for any plastic wrapping.
  • Is It Flat? Before you throw that box in the blue bin, please flatten it to make sure that it is easily picked up and hauled away by our Waste & Recycling teams.

Properly sorting out corrugated cardboard helps our Waste & Recycling team recover this important and sustainable resource!

For more information about recycling in Salt Lake City, visit the SLCgreen website.

Check out this video to see how cardboard and other recyclables are processed in Salt Lake City’s new materials recovery facility (MRF):

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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Plan Your 2021 Earth Day

There are activities throughout the month of April

Fifty-one years ago, the United States participated in the first Earth Day, an event which ultimately resulted in the creation of the EPA. Clean Air Act, and Clean Water Act. Honoring Earth Day gives us the opportunity to reengage with our sustainability goals as individuals and as a community.

Every year, the Earth Day Network sets a theme to help direct engagement. This year’s theme is “Restore Our Earth,” a theme that helps focus our attention on conservation, restoration, and building sustainable and equitable communities long-term.

Even the smallest actions like recycling or walking instead of driving can have a big impact.

This year, Salt Lake City kicked off April by helping residents exchange their two-stroke gas-powered lawn mowers for electric mowers. Replacing 1,000 mowers will make a big impact on cleaning our air and improving public health.  

As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Salt Lake City organizations have rallied to fill our Earth Day calendar with plenty of fun and safe things to do. Scroll down to find out more about the upcoming Earth Day events!

Get Outside for Earth Day

If you’re the kind of person who wants to get in the dirt on Earth Day, you’re in luck. There are several opportunities this month to get outside and help the planet!

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