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Posts tagged ‘green’

We’re Dreaming of a “Green” Christmas

The holiday season can be a time of joy, time spent with friends and family, gift giving, good food, and rewatching our favorite comfort movies.  It’s also a time when thinking about and acting on sustainable alternatives is important! 

Holidays bring about plastic and paper waste, increased travel emissions, food waste, and the never-ending debate over plastic versus real trees. Check out some our tips for navigating this holiday season as sustainably as possible! 

Shop local: 

We’ve talked about the importance of shopping local for our food, but shopping local for gifts is also important! Keeping our shopping to our local, small businesses helps support the local economy. Additionally, shopping locally minimizes carbon emissions because travel is minimized for consumers and purveyors.  Supporting small, local businesses also helps to sustain our town centers and can help reduce sprawl and automobile use

Food waste: 

Food waste is a major issues even outside of the holiday season- about 40% of all food produced in the US never gets eaten.  This amount increases by an additional 25% between Thanksgiving and New Years! Here are a couple of easy ways to minimize your food waste: 

  • Plan a head! Figure out your menu ahead of time and plan for the amount of people who will be attending your event. Try and plan foods that you will enjoy eating as leftovers or can repurpose into other dishes (like turkey soup, curry, or sandwiches!). Consider doing more plant-based options for an increased impact! 
  • Compost! Any of the raw fruit and vegetable scraps created in the cooking of your delicious feast  can go into your compost bin to be turned into compost for you to use during the next planting season! Learn more about composting in SLC here
  • Send people home with leftovers! Tell your guests to bring their own to-go containers to help you eat through any remaining leftovers. 
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A Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be a difficult holiday for those practicing vegetarianism or veganism- with food being such a focal point and the main dish often being meat based. While there are other ways to contribute towards a sustainable lifestyle, how we eat is a major player in our individual carbon footprints. In Utah, these choices contribute to nearly 25% of our  household carbon footprint. Learn more about Dining with Discretion and the importance of understanding the intricacy of our food systems!

A vegetarian Thanksgiving can be easy, there are vegetarian/vegan roasts you can get at the store, but there’s something about creating a flavorful dish to share with your guests that took preparation and dedication. We wanted to make this holiday a little easier for our vegetarian and vegan friends this year so we made a menu, just for you!

Appetizers:

Stuffed Mushrooms

Kale and White Bean Artichoke Dip*

Candied Spiced Nuts

Pastry Wrapped Cranberry Brie

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Waste is Spooky! Here’s Some Tips for a Sustainable Halloween

It’s almost Halloween- a holiday of costumes, candy, and decorations! But can we do that sustainably? We sure can and we’re here to give you some fun, helpful ideas! 

Decorations 

Decorations can create a lot of waste with items that we don’t always reuse. Similar to other holidays, invest in decorations you can use year after year, or create decorations using items you already have! Check out these ideas for decorations we made using stuff from around the home. And don’t forget, you can compost your pumpkins after the festivities as long as there’s no wax or paint on them! 

Here are some other ideas from when the SLCgreen team decorated our office, sustainably, a few years ago. 

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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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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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What We’re Thankful For

This graphic shows SLC’s residential recycling impact for one month (June 2019 at 585 tons). From Jan – Oct, we’ve collectively diverted 6,466 tons of recycling and 14,320 tons of green waste through our curbside programs.

There is always a lot to do during the holidays, but before we tuck into our plant-based Thanksgiving dinners or go find the second-hand treasures to complete our holiday look, we want to take a minute to count our blessings and thank you!

Without your engagement in sustainable actions and participation in SLCgreen’s programs, we could not have the positive impact we do.

Sometimes it’s all too easy to think “What I do doesn’t matter” or “What difference is one person going to make?” But when you take that individual impact and add it up on a community scale, those little sustainability actions really do make a difference!

Take recycling. We can vouch for the impact all of you have on the thousands of tons of waste diverted from our landfill each year to recycling and compost. 

So today, please join us in celebrating these aspects of our community that help us be stronger and more sustainable. 

We’re always thankful for recycling!

Salt Lake City is working towards our zero waste goals. In June, we recycled 585 tons of cans, bottles, paper, and cardboard. To put this in perspective, this saved the equivalent of 5,732 mature trees, 2,238 cubic yards of landfill airspace, enough water to meet the daily needs of 41,625 people, and enough electricity to fulfill the annual needs of 175 homes!  All this recycling helped us avoid 2,018 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which makes for cleaner air too!

Multiply those numbers by 12 and you have the average impact of Salt Lake City’s curbside recycling program over the year. 

Your recycling is making a difference! Thank you!

We know that recycling has been in the news a lot lately. It’s gotten confusing. Some people are even wondering whether it’s “worth it” anymore. Numbers like the above remind us just how important it is. Thank you for continuing to recycle.

Here are some easy ways to keep up the good recycling habits this holiday season:

We’re thankful for small businesses

The Saturday after Thanksgiving is #SmallBusinessSaturday. Buying locally-made goods supports our economy and is often a more sustainable way to shop. When you shop at a small local business, you support local artisans and business owners and reduce the environmental impacts associated with shipping and packaging!

Clever Octopus is ready for fun on #SmallBusinessSaturday!

Here are a few fun local events to check out:

Following Small Business Saturday, #GivingTuesday is around the corner. Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to give back to our community by donating money, goods, and volunteer time to worthy causes!

We’re thankful for sustainable holiday DIYs!

Unless you’re willing to keep your fake holiday tree for a very long time, real trees can actually be a more sustainable option. However, there is an even more sustainable – and entertaining – option: DIY Holiday Decor!

Check out these fun trees made with upcycled plastic bottles, bike wheels, and even old hubcaps! Another option is to make your tree using old tomato cages and fabric or fresh cut bows as a wrapping!

Fun holiday decorating can help us feel cozy and festive! We know it’s tempting to get your fireplace going. But before you do, please check the air quality and make sure there aren’t any restrictions. You can protect the air by eliminating vehicle idling and respecting burning restrictions. Moreover, you can make your holiday cozy with just a little creativity — no real fire necessary:

Our friends in Public Services enjoy their hand-made holiday fireplace!

We’re thankful for YOU!

We want to take a minute to thank our SLCgreen team! Our readers, residents of Salt Lake City and beyond, are helping us reach our goals when it comes to reducing waste and building more sustainable communities. We hope you have a wonderful and sustainable holiday season!

Autumn is the time for yard care

 . . . Fall is an important time of year for employing organic and sustainable gardening methods.

Pesticide Free SLC!

Preparing for next year– Be Pesticide Free!

The fall is a key part of the gardening cycle because it allows us to prepare our garden for the winter and sets us up for a productive spring and summer.

Most pesticides and fertilizers used today are produced with harmful chemicals that even when applied correctly can have adverse effects on the environment, pollinators, and human health.

But don’t worry– there are plenty of ways to have a healthy garden and lawn without using noxious chemicals.

Leave the Leaves

Not all leaves need to be raked up and disposed of immediately:

  • Consider that your leaves are a free fertilizer and weed suppressant! This makes them perfect for organic gardening.
  • Leaves also provide important winter habitat for butterflies, bees, and other beneficial bugs.
  • Finally, “leaving your leaves” reduces emissions associated with polluting leaf blowers. Keeping leaves out of the landfill also prevents the generation of potent methane emissions.

So how can you use leaves?

Use whole leaves around perennials, trees and bushes, or lightly layered on lawn (they may need to be shredded first). You can also create a leaf pile that will decompose into “leaf mold“– a rich, valuable compost amendment to be used in warmer months. Or– if you’re like me– simply pile your leaves on your vegetable garden bed and turn them into the soil in the spring before planting.

And if you still have too many leaves, use your curbside compost can to dispose of them (please keep them out of the gutters and storm drains). If you have a lot of leaves, give us a shout and we’ll help you get an extra container or two.

Here are a number of helpful resources on “leaving leaves”:
Xerces Foundation      National Wildlife Federation     Leave Leaves Alone

Use organic amendments to improve the health of your soil

Materials like the aforementioned leaves, as well as other compost, manure, bone meal, etc. can be used to balance the pH of your soil and will release nutrients into the soil to create a vibrant ecosystem and help your garden grow. Mulches can also be great for keeping weeds down, retaining moisture, and feeding the soil. Other organic soil enhancers, like coffee grounds, tea bags, and even newspaper can be an important tool in keeping your garden thriving. Learn more about amending your soil.
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Summer is Here! Review the 7 Leave No Trace Principles

Liberty Park

Summer is here and with it a nearly endless offering of entertainment options! From grilling in the park and attending concerts and festivals, to hiking, running, and biking on local trails, there are many ways to get outside.

But while you’re out there, remember to take care of our natural spaces– both in and outside of our city!

The Leave No Trace principles aren’t just for going in the backcountry. They should be applied everywhere— including our local parks, gardens, and canyons.

Using these principles helps keep human impacts to a minimum and ensures access to these places and activities will be around for many years to come.

Leave No Trace is more than just packing out trash

Leave No Trace has developed a simple platform that has helped millions of people learn how to protect and respect the outdoors. The Principles are based on respect for nature and other visitors — and they are supported by scientific research.

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Goal: Reduce food waste this holiday season

agriculture basket close up colorful

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, bringing the friend and family food fest with it! While we prepare the feast and give thanks for the plentiful food we have, it is important to consider the amount of food that goes to waste this holiday season.

Food is one of the most important areas of sustainability in our daily lives and it is often overlooked! Reducing food waste is important for everyone because it saves both money and resources.

Did you know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 35 percent of turkey meat cooked at Thanksgiving gets wasted?

That’s a lot of wasted resources!

When we reduce food waste we save:

  • The resources and water used to grow crops and raise animals
  • Manufacturing and energy resources
  • Transportation resources and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Money by buying less and throwing away less
  • Disposal costs and emissions

That last one is significant– food sent to landfills is a powerful source of methane. A whopping 40 percent of food meant for eating is thrown away.

All of this rotting food produces a lot of greenhouse gases. In fact if food waste could be represented as its own country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the U.S.

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Glass Recycling: Providing Possibility

by Tera Clausen

There is no such thing as away when it comes to waste. It is out of sight out of mind, but it is never truly gone. When things are thrown away, they go to a landfill to pile up in a heap. Some of the items will eventually break down, while many others will not. The reality of the trash heap can be summed up in a word: hopelessness. It is the end of the road, and the possibilities of re-creation and re-purposing are gone. However, recycling brings back possibility.

As the newest intern at SLC Green, my first official order of business was to tour some of the recycling facilities for Salt Lake City. This tour was a front row seat to possibility. One of the stops for the SLCgreen crew was Momentum Recycling. Momentum was founded in 2008, and in 2012 became the exclusive glass recycler for Salt Lake City.

In 2012, Momentum was bringing in about 200 tons of recycled glass. In the past four years, since expanding their curbside services, they now bring in approximately 1,000 tons per month! I will be honest, it was overwhelming to see how many glass bottles were waiting to be sorted and recycled, but the beauty of possibilities also struck me. Instead of hopelessly ending in a landfill, these items could become something new and useful.

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