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.
Sustainability encompasses both environmental action and efforts to build just and equitable communities. Indeed, climate change and pollution disproportionately affect people of color around the world. Therefore, the work of environmental justice is directly tied to equity and social justice.
The connections between sustainability and equity have often gone unnoticed or even been rejected. Nevertheless, the links between systemic racism and environmental injustice are undeniable.
Better understanding these links can help us all work towards building a more equitable and sustainable society. We’ve been delving even deeper into this work and these connections in the last few weeks and wanted to share what we’re reading and learning. Here are some resources we’ve found helpful:
PBS Utah put together this short conversational series How to Talk to Kids about Race, featuring several people from our SLC community you might recognize.
Somini Segupta wrote an expansive guide entitled “Read Up on the Links between Racism and the Environment“ for the New York Times. The reading guide includes everything from hard science to sci-fi, and provides a broad platform for understanding racial injustice in the context of climate.
You can also check out a new website co-founded by environmentalists Leah Thomas, Diandra Esparza and Sabs Katz, Intersectional Environmentalist. The site provides information from environmentalists in different communities including Latinx and U.S. Indigenous Communities– communities which have also continued to fight oppression and environmental racism. Intersectional Environmentalist provides extensive reading lists to understand all of the intersections of environmental work. Founder Leah Thomas’ writing was recently featured in Vogue, where she links her work in environmental policy to anti-racism.
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.
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.
SLCgreen is thrilled to welcome Supreet Gill to the Sustainability Department as our new Program Manager!
Supreet brings 15 years of experience in community food systems and a passion for improving urban and ecological resilience through sustainable agriculture and equitable community engagement.
Supreet has engaged in food systems on all levels — as a farmer, program manager for a refugee agriculture project, coordinator of urban farming and farm to school programs, and nutrition educator, to name a few!
In her prior position with Salt Lake County’s Urban Farming and Open Space program, she worked on numerous projects focusing on public lands management and community food systems. She also served on Salt Lake City’s Food Policy Task Force (now Food Policy Council) and has deep connections in the local food community.
As Sustainability Departmentprogram manager, Supreet will continue building our existing programs as well as developing new ones to strengthen the capacity of community residents and leaders to enhance the regional food system.
In short, her work is dedicated to improving community health and well-being, as well as making sure all residents have access to healthy, affordable, local food.
That goal entails a deep focus on community partnerships. She’ll continue making connections in the community– with farmers, local food producers, and other stakeholders. She’ll also work to ensure that communities, groups, and individuals with lower-access to resources are involved as deeply as possible in Salt Lake City’s work.
Finally, Supreet’s role will also include bridging with other government entities– within and outside of Salt Lake City– to prioritize strategies related to social and environmental justice, improving the local food system, and fostering equitable access to healthy food.
We’re thrilled to have her on the team!
Say hello when you see her at an upcoming community event . . . or a garden around town!
The Salt Lake City Sustainability Department is excited to launch a new pilot energy efficiency project for households and small businesses.
We are seeking an organization to partner and help lead this effort in our community.
Learn more about the project vision (referenced in the Mayor’s 2017 budget speech), along with details on how interested organizations can respond, through the below Request for Proposal (RFP) details.
Salt Lake City Corporation Request for Proposal (RFP)
The seventh annual Utah Bike Summit will be held Friday, April 10, and will gather citizens, riders, bicycle advocates, government officials, tourism and health representatives, and Utah’s bike brands to discuss, plan, and promote efforts to make Utah the most bike-friendly state in the country. The Summit will take place at the Provo Library at Academy Square and is open to the public, regardless of where, how, and why you ride.
This year’s keynote speaker is Gary Fisher, Founding Father of the Mountain Bike. Gary is a dedicated bicycle advocate and responsible for laying the early foundations for mountain biking. He is credited with developing some of the greatest innovations, including drum brakes, triple chainrings, motorcycle-style brake levers and 29 inch wheels. Gary is a longtime bicycle advocate and works to inspire people to get out and ride.
In addition to the keynote address, the Summit program will include presentations addressing topics relevant to people who ride bicycles for both transportation and recreation. The afternoon agenda is packed with breakout sessions looking at topics varying from making bicycling an equitable transportation choice to e-bikes, promoting bicycle safety, and creating a bicycle friendly ecosystem. A post-summit reception closes out the day’s activities at The Underground Social Hall.
More information about the Utah Bike Summit and how to register can be found at www.bikeutah.org/2015summit. Early registration ends February 27th.