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Posts tagged ‘climate change’

Utah Climate Week Win: Salt Lake City’s Comprehensive Sustainability Policy Now Includes All-Electric Provisions 

What This Means and Why it is Important for our Air Quality and Climate 

It’s the Sixth Annual Utah Climate Week and we’re bringing you news and tips from around Salt Lake City.

Today, we wanted to highlight an exciting update made in 2022 to Salt Lake City’s internal Comprehensive Sustainability Policy.

This policy was originally put in place in 2017 to cover a wide range of practices affecting Salt Lake City Corporation’s internal operations, standards, and protocols across seven different policies.

Each policy addresses the rules, regulations, and sustainable practices that must be considered and/or implemented while executing City operations that fall within one of the seven following categories: air quality and climate change, chemical reduction, materials management, petroleum storage tanks, property acquisition or sale, sustainable procurement, and water.   

For example, the policy includes things as far-ranging as reducing paper waste and minimizing the use of plastic water bottles, to setting the standard when it comes to how we construct or remodel our municipal buildings.

We are practicing what we preach when it comes to sustainability!

The City’s Comprehensive Sustainability Policy was already significant in requiring that new construction or major renovation projects of City buildings over 10,000 square feet be evaluated for Net Zero Energy and be built to achieve at least LEED Gold. Salt Lake City’s Net Zero Public Safety Building and two Net Zero fire stations (FS 14 and FS 3) were constructed with these high environmental standards.

In 2022, at the urging of Mayor Mendenhall, we took the policy even further to require the evaluation of all-electric provisions for major new construction or renovation.

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It’s National Public Lands Day! Let’s Talk About Climate Change

Did you know that public lands play a critical role in shaping the future of climate change?

In Utah, 45 million tons of fossil fuels are extracted each year from federal public lands, the equivalent emissions of 9.7 passenger cars driven for one year. These extraction practices, designed to help fuel our energy grids, creates a positive feedback loop. The University of Calgary explains, “Similar to how keeping money in a savings account earns interest and compounds to earn more money, positive climate feedback increases some initial change in the climate.”

But what are public lands?

These are areas of land and water that are today collectively owned by U.S. citizens and managed by government agencies. These lands can consist of national parks, monuments, forests, wild and scenic rivers, Bureau of Land Management lands, wilderness and wilderness study areas, watersheds, and municipal lands, to name a few. Each agency oversees how these lands are managed to balance the multitude of uses these areas have- from recreational activities like hiking, kayaking, or rock climbing, to energy development, logging, and mining.

These large patches of continuous wild lands are also important for maintaining habitats for wildlife, allowing for safe migration due to climate change, and they can function as carbon sinks! Trees and plants suck CO2, a major contributor to climate change, from the air during photosynthesis. As they grow, they can absorb great volumes in their leaves, trunks, and roots. The older and bigger they get, the more carbon they store!

While we might not think of Utah as being a dense forest, the forests we do have play pivotal roles, just as much as the desert in helping support ecosystems and wildlife. The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, contains over a net acreage of 2,169,596 acres of forested land, imagine all the CO2 this massive forest in our backyard is absorbing!

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Utah Climate Week is Coming Up!

We are a week away from the Sixth Annual Utah Climate Week (September 25th through October 1st)! Check out the list of events compiled by the Utah Climate Action Network (a project of Utah Clean Energy) and mark your calendar to get involved. 

The goal of Utah Climate Week is to provide opportunities for YOU to connect with broader communities about climate action and the great work that is happening in Utah across a range of sectors to #ActOnClimate 

This year has seen a lot of press surrounding the impacts of climate change on Utah, covering everything from the impacts of a shrinking Great Salt Lake, to our hotter summers and how that affects local food.  

Learn and engage with leaders from local governments, non-profits, faith-based organizations, businesses, and individuals, see below for a list of events!  

Calendar of Utah Climate Week events.

It’s not too late to organize your own event! Big or small, Utah Climate Week is open to everyone. Get in touch with Utah Clean Energy to request an event be posted to the website

Salt Lake City is also bringing back a second Mayor’s Bike to Work day on September 28th! Biking for your commute is an incredible way to decrease your individual emissions and improve your health.

Looking to get a head start on your climate week? 

Join Bill Barron for the last leg of his 650 mile ride to call attention to climate change and the need for bipartisan solutions. He’ll finish his tour of the state on September 17 with a ride up Little Cottonwood Canyon, culminating with speakers and refreshments at Alta. Speakers include Salt Lake City Public Utilities’ Director, Laura Briefer and SLCgreen’s own Deputy Director Sophia Nicholas! 

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It’s Really Hot Out Here, So Let’s Go Plant Some Trees

Mayor Erin Mendenhall planting a tree in 2021 as part of her 1,000 Trees Initiative.

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After the intense heat experienced by many of us this summer you probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this past July was Salt Lake City’s warmest one yet and the heat wave is continuing with us as September begins.

But did you know that Salt Lake County’s summer days are abnormally hotter than those in nearby rural areas? Our culprit is referred to as the urban heat island. 

What is the Urban Heat Island? 

Urban heat islands occur as the built environment of a city attracts heat and prevents it from being released by covering up naturally absorbing sources. For example, grass absorbs heat but covering it with concrete for a sidewalk that attracts warmth will make the city hotter. Researchers have found that the cumulative effect of all these heat-attracting sources results in cities being up to 17 degrees hotter than surrounding areas! Research conducted by the University of Utah used temperature monitors throughout the valley to measure our urban heat index. This research discovered that our parks with grass and shade are two degrees cooler than nearby residential neighborhoods.  

The benefits that shady parks and park strips provide in reducing the urban heat island are just one of the reasons that Salt Lake City places an emphasis on maintaining them. The important role tree cover plays in reducing heat is evident when looking at the images of Salt Lake City below. The map on the left shows the Urban Heat Island Effect by noting how much hotter it can be in that area. The darker the red the hotter it is. The map on the right shows the percentage of tree cover canopy in the entire neighborhood. The darker the green, the more canopy cover in the neighborhood. When comparing the two images it becomes evident that when there are more trees, the urban heat index is lower.  

Additionally, the image below provides another useful visual to understand what the Urban Heat Island Effect looks like in Salt Lake City. The image, taken from satellite by NASA, shows 300 West to the Wasatch Foothills. The image, taken on a hot summer day, demonstrates the Urban Heat Island Effect in action. Orange, red, and yellow indicate hot areas and blue and green illustrate the cool areas. With this in mind, it becomes clear that areas with less vegetation are the hottest. For example, Liberty Park, which is near the bottom left-hand corner, is very blue on the map indicating that it’s cool. 

How can you reduce heat and contribution to the urban heat island? 

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Getting to Know You: Ground Level Ozone

by SLCgreen intern Emalee Carroll

As Salt Lake City residents we are well acquainted with air pollution, but do we know what’s in it? With the Clear Air Challenge happening over the summer, we at SLCgreen wanted to take some time to provide a rundown on some of the different types of air pollution in Salt Lake City, what you can do about it, and what the city is currently working on and has done to make a difference!

What is Ground Ozone? 

As we enter the thick of summer and all the fun outdoor activities that come with it, let’s break down a major summertime pollutant – ground level ozone. Ozone gas is naturally occurring in our atmosphere, helping to protect us from harmful UV radiation. However, ozone is not found naturally at ground level. Rather, the gas is known as a “secondary pollutant” meaning it’s created through a series of reactions between compounds in the air. This process is facilitated by heat and sunlight which is why ozone levels are typically higher in the summer months. 

How-ground-level-ozone-forms

How does Ozone Affect SLC residents? 

Like PM 2.5, studies have shown ozone also has adverse impacts on respiratory health. Ozone gas can reach deep into our lungs, damaging cells like a sunburn would, and trapping air in the alveoli. This process can cause coughing, throat irritation, chest pain, and congestion. Additionally, ozone can aggravate respiratory diseases such as asthma, COPD, and chronic bronchitis. 

Aside from harming the health of Salt Lake residents, ozone can also negatively impact local ecology. When ground-level ozone enters the membranes of leaves, it reduces the ability of the plant to photosynthesize sunlight, slows growth, and ultimately weakens the organism. In extreme circumstances, this can lead to a loss of trees and other plants, which affects both the quality of life in urban settings, as well as the health of the overall ecosystem and animals that rely on those plants for food. 

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Mayor Mendenhall expands Air Quality Action Program for all City employees

PRESS RELEASE: June 30, 2022

As part of her commitment to improving air quality, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has expanded a program urging eligible employees citywide to telework and take other actions to reduce air pollution on mandatory air quality action days, as forecast by the Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ). 

“Driving is still the number one source of pollution during both the summer and winter months when air quality is at its worst, so this is one of the most important behavioral changes we can make,” said Mayor Mendenhall. “I encourage other employers across the Wasatch Front to join us in implementing a similar program with their workforces and commend those who already do this.”

The Mayor launched the Air Quality Action Program this past winter to a smaller group of employees. With the initial pilot proving successful, beginning July 1, all City employees will now receive automatic emails when the Division of Air Quality forecasts a “mandatory action day,” meaning the concentration of air pollutants measured in Salt Lake County are predicted to reach or exceed levels of air pollution that are unhealthy for sensitive groups.   

The City’s Sustainability Department designed the program notifications and communications, while the Information Management Services Department created a custom script and email that automatically pulls the forecast from DAQ’s website and notifies employees. The City’s program is similar to one the State of Utah also implements.

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It’s Pride Month – Let’s Talk about ‘Queer Ecology’

by SLCgreen intern Mariah Trujillo

Happy Pride Month! With the 2022 Pride Festival coming to a close in Salt Lake City earlier this month, SLCgreen would like to extend our celebration by discussing some of the ways that LGBTQIA+ history and sustainability go hand-in-hand!

(The term LGBTQIA+ refers to people of “all genders and sexualities, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual, and allies. While each letter in LGBTQIA+ stands for a specific group of people, the term encompasses the entire spectrum of gender fluidity and sexual identities.”)

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

Sustainability, with its goals of protecting natural resources, slowing the effects of climate change, and building resilient communities, exists at the crossroads of environmental and social justice.

Sustainability work requires an intersectional lens to maintain a commitment to diversity, equity, and justice.

While it might not be obvious how LGBTQIA+ studies is related to sustainability, scholars and theorists from both queer studies and environmental studies have banded together to bring the two seemingly different fields together with the term “Queer Ecology.”

At its heart, Queer Ecology enacts a practice of intersectionality that calls us to action through an understanding that the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights is a shared struggle with desire and actions to save our planet.

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Eighteen Utah communities join the Community Renewable Energy Agency, continue working with Rocky Mountain Power to meet their net-100 percent clean energy goals

PRESS RELEASE: JUNE 10, 2022

Salt Lake City’s 1 MW Solar Farm.

As of the May 31st participation deadline, 18 cities and counties across Utah have joined the effort to launch a default net-100% renewable electricity option for Rocky Mountain Power customers in their communities.

Participating communities stretch as far south as Springdale, as far east as Castle Valley, as far north as Ogden, and as far west as Kearns. Collectively, these communities account for about 25 percent of Rocky Mountain Power’s electricity sales in the state.

The Community Renewable Energy Agency (also called the “Utah 100 Communities”) formed in response to HB 411, a 2019 bill called the Utah Community Renewable Energy Act, that created a pathway for interested communities served by Rocky Mountain Power to collaborate on creating this first-of-its kind renewable electricity program.

The Agency is currently negotiating with Rocky Mountain Power on how to design the Community Renewable Energy Program, which aspires to match 100 percent of participating customers’ annual electricity consumption with renewable generation supplied to our grid, no later than 2030.

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It’s Bike Month!

At SLCgreen, we love biking for many reasons! Not only is choosing to commute with a bike better for human health, it’s also super beneficial to the environment (which also relates to our health).

This week, celebrate Bike Month by joining us on Mayor’s Bike to Work Day!

When: Wednesday, April 17th at 7:30am

Starts: Allen Park

Ends: City & County Building

Why do we love bikes?

Moving into the summer months it’s important to remember that air quality is still an issue. As we commute around the city, to work, festivals, and/or the farmer’s market, biking provides an environmentally friendly alternative to single occupancy vehicles. In the summer, pollution from cars, industry, and a multitude of chemical products, combined with high temperatures and bright sunshine, lead to harmful ozone levels.

Choosing to ride a bike is a great way to personally reduce your impact on climate change and help reduce air pollution!

International Compost Week 2022!

Did you know that last week was International Compost Week? This year’s theme is Recipe for Regeneration: Compost which means focusing “on the crucial role recycling our food scraps and yard trimmings plays by creating compost, which when added to soil results in a recipe that makes our food more nutritious, the air we breathe cleaner and our climate healthier overall.” Last week, from May 1 – May 7, we celebrated everything compost!

Composting is the most local form of recycling. By taking our food scraps and turning them into compost at our local Salt Lake Valley Landfill and then returning them to our yards and gardens to produce healthy and beautiful plants, we create a closed loop! The landfill is located at 6030 W. California Ave. (1300 S.), Salt Lake City , UT 84104 and is open Monday through Saturday from 7am to 5pm. If you have questions, you can contact the landfill at 385-468-6370.

Why Compost?

Prevents soil erosion- Composting prevents erosion by binding soil together, increasing infiltration, and slowing the surface flow of water.

Manages stormwater- Compost helps to control water flows on and through soil, thereby proving to be a capable tool for stormwater management.

Promotes healthier plant growth- Compost balances soil density, adds and retains nutrients, and discourages disease, pests and weeds.

Conserves water- Compost retains and efficiently transfers water through the soil, allowing surrounding plants to maximize water for growth. This in turn saves you money by minimizing the amount of irrigation you will have to provide to your project!

Reduces Waste- Compost is generally made from waste (food scraps, yard waste, organic byproducts, etc) that is diverted from landfill flows. This reduces the amount of waste going to landfills and it upcycles those materials into a productive, environmentally beneficial product.

Combats climate change- Composting cuts down on greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere and makes ecosystems more resilient to rising temperatures. .

Reduces project management costs- Compost promotes healthy plant growth, thereby reducing mortality and subsequent replacement costs. Additionally, compost promotes drought resistance which lowers artificial irrigation costs.

Improves soil health- Compost adds nutrients and soil biota, and improves the biological, chemical and structural health of soils.

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