September 26th to October 2nd marks the 5th annual Utah Climate Week! In Utah, we’ve experienced extreme heat, drought, and smoke from nearby wildfires all summer. Climate Week is an opportunity to work with local leaders to identify the impacts of climate change locally, and collaborate on solutions to ensure an equitable and resilient future for all Utahns.
Climate Week is organized by the Utah Climate Action Network, consists of local governments, non-profits, faith based organizations, businesses, and individuals who are working to build a more sustainable community. Each year, Climate Week gives us a chance to connect with each other and find solutions to the threat of climate change.
We need everyone’s help to Act on Climate in Utah and around the globe. There are many ways to take action, including investing in solar panels at your home, reducing your meat consumption, being mindful about energy use around the house, and finding ways to improve air quality like taking public transit or biking rather than driving.
Whether you’re a seasoned environmental advocate or you’re just starting out, Utah Climate Week is a chance to learn about the unique issues Utah faces as human caused climate change impacts our health, access to food, livelihoods, and communities. Participating in Utah Climate Week can help you find ways to Act On Climate all year.
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.
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.
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!
Earlier this spring we experienced a period of clean air due to lock-downs put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, Salt Lake City’s summer air quality has been recently impacted by smoke from nearby and regional wildfires, as well as from higher ozone pollution that is typical in the summer.
Bad air quality threatens everyone’s health, particularly those with sensitive respiratory systems. The effects of bad air even have the potential to make COVID-19 even worse.Your lungs are already irritated and inflamed due to pollution, and this makes them more susceptible to infections like COVID.
Ironically, the pandemic – coupled with rising temperatures caused by climate change – are also behind the record number of human-caused fires in Utah. The feedback loop linking pandemic, fires, and bad air is disturbing, but there are ways we can take actions to help protect the air.
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
We send our love to all of you. The events of the last few weeks have been a difficult and trying time for our country, our community, and our city.
We want to take this moment to acknowledge the profound injustice of black lives lost to white supremacy and police brutality across the country. We stand with the movement to bring greater justice to our entire community. Black lives matter.
Those of us who work in Salt Lake City government have felt so many emotions as we collectively work towards a community that is stronger, more equitable, more inclusive, and more responsive to you—our residents. We are working to ensure we are hearing all voices.
As the Sustainability Department, we’d also like to share our thoughts on the role we play in advancing equity within the City and our community.
We define “sustainability” as the balance between environmental, societal, economic, and equity needs. While “sustainability” is often thought of as only an “environmental” movement (and for much of its history it has been), we believe true sustainability prioritizes a healthy society in all of the ways that comes about.
Sustainability also means not jeopardizing our community’s future well-being over decisions we make in the present. And we’d also add: “over decisions that were made in the past.”
Many people are having conversations about what racism means in America in 2020. It’s impossible to discuss that without looking to our nation’s past.
We’re looking at health indicators that are worse in minority communities that make them more susceptible to air pollution, while at the same time, many are exposed to air pollution at higher amounts because of where they live (near industry, near highways, and by working in professions that increases exposure). There are also barriers to information, to health care, and to so many other resources that make these factors worse. So our efforts to reduce “air pollution,” also must mean addressing these inequities in all of the ways we can.
It’s similar with climate change. Of course, we know that temperatures are increasing everywhere, but they are rising more in areas with more concrete and fewer trees. We’re also looking at those who don’t have adequate home cooling, or who work outside, or who have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to heat. We’re looking at the way that climate change and higher temperatures increases ozone pollution and wildfire smoke and the spread of new diseases. As we’ve seen with coronavirus, these health impacts hit our most vulnerable first. And our minority communities are often on the frontline, due to many structural factors and decades of systemic racism.
These are global issues, but the impact is local.
Food access is another important area of focus for our department. Eating healthy, fresh food is not something that should be reserved for the privileged. But those who struggle in getting enough to eat, and in eating healthy foods are often poor and are often people of color. This is also a structural challenge we are confronting every day.
Please know that we are dedicated to advancing equity and racial justice at the forefront of all the sustainability work we do. This includes actively listening and involving the people in our work who are most impacted. At the same time, we recognize that sustainability has been dominated by white bodies and white privilege. We are at the center of government and it’s a reminder of how much further we have to go. We too are practicing and learning what anti-racism means.
We’re humbled to continue the conversation and are grateful for your feedback.
This week, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Even after 50 years, Earth Day is more important than ever. Earth Day symbolizes a global desire to protect the planet and inspires thousands of actions – big and small – every year. Importantly, Earth Day serves as a reminder that collective action can make a difference.
The first Earth Day sent a signal to the U.S. government, demanding direct action to protect the planet. As a result of the demonstrations, the United States had the momentum and support needed to create the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Shortly thereafter, the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act were passed to empower the EPA with key protections for the environment.
With billions of participants celebrating every year by holding garbage clean ups, tree planting, and other volunteer efforts, Earth Day is one of the most significant days of environmental action.
And these efforts are more important than ever. We know that the health of the planet and the health of our communities are inter-connected.
In 2020, climate action is society’s preeminent environmental issue and is the theme that the Earth Day Network dedicated to the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.
“The enormous challenge — but also the vast opportunities — of action on climate change have distinguished the issue as the most pressing topic for the 50th anniversary. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.”
Indeed, the impacts of climate change– on vulnerable populations, on infrastructure and institutions, on disease vectors, on food availability & access, on public health, on the financial system — are wide-ranging and not dissimilar from what is happening now with the coronavirus pandemic. This is scary, but the good news is that we are showing how quickly we can mobilize to take action! And that too is one of the lessons from the first Earth Day 50 years ago today.
It’s 2020 already and we can hardly believe it! Salt Lake City finished out 2019 strong alongside 19 communities that opted into the Community Renewable Energy Act’s pathway to achieve net-100% renewable energy.
But that’s not all SLCgreen got up to in 2019. It was a busy year, and as a community, we have taken major strides in accomplishing our goals. See our full 2019 Year in Review here and read below for a few of the major highlights.
Thanks to all our partners in City government, other government agencies, non-profit associations, neighborhood groups, business partners, and community councils, we are continuing to make SLC more sustainable and resilient.
You can take a look at the 2017 and 2018 reports to see what we’ve been working on over the last few years. Before we set our sights on 2020, here are a few highlights from 2019!
Air Quality, Climate Change & Energy
After a three-year collaboration with Park City, Summit County, Rocky Mountain Power, and the state legislature, we successfully saw passage of House Bill 411 the “Community Renewable Energy Act” in the 2019 legislative session. The law establishes a legal pathway for communities with 100% clean energy goals to achieve them in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Power.
Expanded public EV charging infrastructure, increasing the total number of city-owned EV charging ports to 38, plus 16 at the airport.
With Utah Clean Energy, launched “Empower SLC,” a neighborhood energy efficiency program targeting the 84116 and 84104 neighborhoods to improve energy efficiency and conservation measures that reduce pollution and lower utility costs. As of September, over 450 households have been engaged, resulting in an estimated savings of 335,353 kWh per year!
Developed an energy after-school curriculum for youth groups and created a new partnership with YouthCity on programming for the Fall 2019 programs. This resulted in the adoption of “energy” as the central theme of their Science Fair.
Hosted the Elevate Buildings awards luncheon, recognizing first-year reporting commercial buildings with ENERGY STAR scores 75 and above and Mayoral recognition of exceptional performers.
From September 29th through October 5th, Utah is celebrating the 3rd Annual Utah Climate Week.
Organized by Utah Climate Action Network, Utah Climate Week brings government, non-profits, academic institutions, faith-based organizations, businesses, and individuals together to address the impact of climate change in our communities. Utah Climate Week highlights the importance of collaborative climate action towards long-term resilience.
With workshops, panel discussions, film screenings, and local restaurant participation, Utah Climate Week 2019 emphasizes the impact of climate change on Utah and provides many opportunities to share ideas to address the challenges.
Taking a Cue from Annie Leonard, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Robert Swan
One side of this year’s truck wraps display useful mantras encouraging SLC residents to recycle. The other side features quotes from three prominent environmental activists:
Annie Leonard is the founder of The Story of Stuff Project, which advocates for reducing our consumption and being more thoughtful about where our stuff goes. As her truck wrap quote says: there’s no such thing as away.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is an environmental activist and former senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He currently serves as president of the grassroots Waterkeeper Alliance. His quote succinctly emphasizes the impact of sustainable living on our country’s well being.
Echoing Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s sentiment, Robert Swan’s quote is a call to action for every individual to take steps towards protecting the environment. Robert Swan is a climate activist and the first person to walk to the North and South pole. His organization, 2041, works to educate the public about the impact of climate change on the environment, especially at the poles.
By quoting these leaders, the truck wraps pinpoint the importance of community action geared towards protecting the environment and building sustainable communities.
One of the easiest ways to follow in the footsteps of these activists is to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Is Recycling Still Worth It?
Presented on the flip sides of the trucks are statistics about SLC’s waste management habits. In particular, they emphasize the importance of proper waste diversion in the form of recycling and composting.
Does that surprise you? With recycling changing as markets adjusted to new rules from China on contamination, there has been question as to whether recycling is even “worth it” any more.
We’re here to tell you it is and that’s a key point we wanted to emphasize with the new truck wrap designs. Let’s take a moment to dig in to that detail:
The recycling import ban that came from China in 2018 has complex causes and also underscores that recycling is a commodity market that has always experienced ups and downs.
But there is good news amid the shake-up. In particular, it’s forcing U.S. recycling processors and consumers to get back to basics: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle . . . Properly.