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Posts tagged ‘pollution’

We've Got the December Bad Air Blues

The view from the SLCgreen office on Dec. 4, 2019.

With a week of air that has been some of the worst in the country, it’s no wonder we’re all feeling frustrated. Salt Lake City’s current air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups and requires mandatory action of limited driving and no wood burning. For most of us, Salt Lake City’s notoriously bad air is a nuisance and health concern, limiting our activities and turning our skyline grey. Moreover, pollutants like PM 2.5 are dangerous, especially for older residents, children, pregnant women, and people with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. Air quality is a public health concern, as well as an economic one.

It may come as a surprise that although transportation currently contributes nearly half of the emissions causing Salt Lake City’s bad air, buildings are catching up. Indeed, houses and buildings currently contribute roughly 38% of emissions, and industry point sources produce the other 13%. As emissions standards on cars are becoming more strict, managing emissions from houses and buildings is a growing priority.

PM 2.5 is the primary winter concern in Salt Lake City’s airshed. The particulate matter poses serious health risks and gets trapped in the Salt Lake valley during inversion. Most of the PM 2.5 is a direct result of precursor emissions from tailpipes, smokestacks, and chemicals that mix to form PM 2.5 in the atmosphere.

When you look outside, it may feel like there’s no good news. However, per capita pollution in Utah is decreasing. Salt Lake City is taking steps to help clean the air and protect our public health and environment. Find out how you can keep our airshed (and lungs!) clean and healthy.

What is SLC doing?

Reducing combustion and emissions are a key step towards cleaning the air.

Salt Lake City has many air quality initiatives in place that are helping clean the air. Among these include the continued expansion of EV infrastructure, expanding cleaner vehicles in our fleet, and implementing our energy benchmarking ordinance for nearly 1,000 commercial buildings. Additionally, the HIVE pass provides residents with access to UTA’s public transit system at a reduced cost.

Salt Lake City built the nation’s first Net Zero energy Public Safety Building.
In 2018, Salt Lake City converted five parking enforcement vehicles to all-electric Chevy Bolts. As of Oct. 2019, the Salt Lake City fleet has over 135 hybrids, 32 all-electric vehicles, 72 compressed natural gas heavy duty vehicles, and 117 clean diesel heavy duty vehicles.

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Can Fashion be Sustainable?

On this blog and in general sustainability circles, we often talk about the environmental and health impacts of plastics, vehicle emissions, buildings, air travel– even the food we eat.

But today we want to take a deep dive into something we haven’t discussed very much. It’s a sector which is lesser-known, but hugely impactful in terms of waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions. We’re talking about clothing and textiles.

Did you know that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Americans throw away 25% more trash than during the rest of the year?!

As the Black Friday flurry and holiday gift-buying season approaches, it’s a good time to be mindful of this impact and how we can take charge of minimizing our environmental footprints.

It may come as a surprise, but the fashion industry is a significant contributor to our landfills, as well as to 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, almost as much as the entire European Union!! The clothes industry also creates plastic pollution, threatens public health and the environment through intense chemical pollution, and takes up an enormous amount of landfill space.

Clothes are definitely a necessity and are also a fun way to express one’s creativity. But today, we want to emphasize the impact of the textile industry and why we need to think more carefully about the clothing purchases we make.

Laying Out the Issue

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the environmental impacts of clothes production include:

  1. High reliance on nonrenewable resources
  2. High use of hazardous chemicals
  3. High land use (competing with agriculture)
  4. High greenhouse gas emissions (1 ton of textiles generates 17 tons of CO2)
  5. Textile production requires 93 billion cubic meters of water annually (4% of the global freshwater withdrawal)
  6. Microplastic pollution into the ocean
  7. Poor working conditions for garment workers (slavery and child labor included)

These impacts are increasing due to the rise of fast fashion.

Global Material Flows for Clothing in 2015 (Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2015)
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World Environment Day: What We Can Do to Combat Indoor and Outdoor Air Pollution

by SLCgreen intern Linda Derhak

World Environment Day 2019

Since 1974, June 5th has been a day for global action to protect the environment. Celebrated in over 100 countries, the UN’s World Environment Day raises awareness on urgent issues such as plastic pollution, sustainable consumption, wildlife crime, and climate change. The day empowers people around the world to create change as individuals and communities. This year’s host country, China, is bringing attention to a pressing global crisis: air pollution.

Global air pollution is worsening. According to the UN, 9 out of 10 people breathe in polluted air and it causes 7 million premature deaths a year. China is leading a charge against air pollution, and countries world-wide are helping make sure people have access to clean air.

Here in Utah, we have our own struggles with air quality — mainly with seasonal issues such as PM2.5 pollution in the winter and ozone pollution in the summer. Across the Beehive State, air pollution leads to increased illness. Salt Lake City and other communities statewide are working to improve air quality and the State’s Department of Air Quality has led many efforts over the years to reduce pollution.

But more is needed.

In honor of #WorldEnviornmentDay and the goal to #BeatAirPollution, here are some easy ways we can all be part of the effort to improve indoor and outdoor air quality.

World Environment Day Air Pollution Statistics
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SLC Debuts on National City Scorecard for Energy Efficiency

2015-city-scorecard-web

Mayors and local lawmakers in America’s largest cities continue to take innovative steps to lower energy costs for consumers and businesses, increase their resilience, and reduce pollution through increased energy efficiency, according to the 2nd edition of the City Energy Efficiency Scorecard, released today by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

Salt Lake City makes its debut on the list this year, coming in #19 on the city scorecard. Check out the summary below for all the details! You can also explore the entire ACEE City Scorecard.

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Open Letter from Mayor Becker on Air Quality

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As you may know, air quality has been a major focus of my work as mayor. My administration has been working on bringing greater attention to the issue and I’ve been advocating for aggressive, meaningful steps to that can be taken by Salt Lake City, state government, industry and individuals to help clean our air.

This is a complex problem and the only way we’re going to solve it is with a comprehensive solution. Let’s come together and fix this problem right away-we can’t wait, the time for talk is over, we need to take action.

Mayor Becker delivers his State of the City address on air quality to a packed house.

Mayor Becker delivers his State of the City address on air quality to a packed house.

During my recent State of the City Address on solving the air quality problem, I proposed key actions that must be taken in order to accomplish this goal.

With clean air as our goal, Salt Lake City has adopted anti-idling ordinances, more than doubled our bike lanes and introduced the City’s first solar farm. For the upcoming year, we are launching the City’s first-ever multiple transit pass and are creating an incentive program to phase out wood burning stoves.

In addition to what Salt Lake City is doing, I’ve also outlined what the state ought to do. Those actions should include:

  • Allocating More Money for Public Transit
    • Increased funding for public transit in Salt Lake City would allow for buses and trains to run more frequently. We must make it more affordable and accessible for individuals to drive less and ride more.
  • Making Lower Sulfur Gasoline a Requirement
    • Tier 3 gasoline has lower levels of sulfur and therefore helps decrease emissions. It is widely available to us but is not required. Mandating that it be required would provide an immediate impact on our air quality.
  • Requiring Buildings to Use Power Efficiently
    • Utah’s energy code standards date back to 2006, lagging far behind many national and international standards. Adopting an updated building code for energy efficiency would help reduce energy use and improve air quality.
  • Making the True Cost of Driving Transparent at the Pump
    • Gas prices have a significant impact on how much people drive their cars. Raising the gas tax would help pay for better roads while also encouraging less driving and improving air quality.
  • Allowing Utah to set Utah-specific air quality standards
    • Setting air quality standards tailored to Utah’s needs is imperative if we are to improve our air quality. Generic national conditions will not work in Utah, and we need to set air quality standards that will work for us.

These are real solutions that will not only produce tangible differences, but produce them quickly. We have received a great response from the community, and are looking to turn that response into results.

If the state is unable to do these things for any reason, I’ve asked that they grant local governments the ability to make these changes because we will get it done at the local level. Enough is enough.

There are 2 things that I would ask of you in order to help improve our air quality.

  1. Lobby your legislators — Ask them to support these measures that I am bringing up and consider the other proposals that will clean up our air.
  2. If they do not support these measures, ask your legislators to grant authority to the local level, so that we can take care of our own problems. We can get this done on the local level if the state can’t or won’t.

I would also implore you to work with your legislators, and not against them. To be effective and to make real change, we need to work together in a respectful and civil manner. While it is important to let your voice be heard, it is equally important to do so in a manner which conveys respect and encourages cooperation.

One of the most memorable moments of my State of the City speech was when a class of 4th graders from Whittier Elementary School took the stage and sang a song they wrote about the inversion and what needs to be done. Our children are, at the end of the day, the most important reason we must strive to clean our air and these kids said it better than anyone could. Watch the video.

There has been enough talk, and it is time for action. A change must be made, and it is up to each and every one of us to make that change.
I hope you will join me in the fight to help improve the air quality of Salt Lake City.

Warm Regards,

Ralph Becker
Mayor
P.S. If you were unable to attend my State of the City address in person, the full text of the speech and some additional information about the issue can be found here.
Also the Salt Lake City Tribune ran a terrific op-ed that discusses the ideas I laid out in my air quality address and if you’re interested, you can read it here.

Special Event: The Air We Breathe

The-Air-We-Breathe

On Tuesday, February 4, KUED and a variety of community partners will come together for an evening to explore “The Air We Breathe.”

The free community event begins with a preview of “The Air We Breathe,” a locally-produced, 30 minute documentary that examines Utah’s air quality.

Attendees will also hear from Robert Grow, Executive Director of Envision Utah, and have a Q&A with University of Utah Program for Air Quality, Health & Society Director Dr. Robert Paine.

SLCgreen will be there, and we hope you will too!

The Air We Breathe Film Screening & Event
Tuesday, February 4
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
University of Utah
Huntsman Cancer Institute, Auditorium (6th Floor)
RSVP to the Facebook event

[VIDEO] Get Inspired to Clear the Air

‘Tis the season for New Years Resolutions.

While you’re revisiting resolutions to exercise, eat healthy and spend more time with those you love (a great way to start the new year!), consider making one more resolution — to help clear the air.

Through the winter Care to Clear the Air project (2010-2012), a series of videos captured the stories of residents making a resolution to limit their impact on air quality by driving less.

Watch the videos below to hear from people that have done everything from moving closer to where they work, to biking, carpooling and taking public transit.

Their stories will inspire you to make your own resolution to help clear the air!

Kyle LaMalfa shares his commitment to take public transit.


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5 Ways to Limit Your Impact During an Inversion

Winter inversion season is here (collective sigh) and the Salt Lake Valley is currently in the grips of it’s first official inversion.

While periods of poor air quality can feel overwhelming, we’re here to offer five simple things you can do to limit your impact and protect your health. As we all know, whatever we put into the air during an inversion, we’re stuck with. So every little bit helps! Read more

Utah’s New Air Quality Alerts

Say goodbye to the basic Green, Yellow and Red air quality days!

Utah’s Division of Air Quality has updated their air quality alert system to more clearly and precisely communicate about action days and health alerts related to Utah’s air quality.

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Air Quality Grants Available

ucairwebsite

The Utah Clean Air Partnership (more commonly known as UCAIR) is now accepting proposals for their new grants program.

The purpose of the program is to provide incentives to the private sector, government entities, and individuals to reduce emissions of criteria pollutants that cause Utah’s poor air quality.

Grants will be used to promote investment by the private and public sector in emission-reducing technology, lower emission vehicles, energy efficiency and other proven methodologies for reducing or eliminating emissions, including education of the public.

The program will also encourage creative thinking and promote the development of new technology, but will be based on solid metrics and performance standards that demonstrate actual emissions reductions. A loan program will be announced at a later date.

Visit the UCAIR website for more information, and to download the application form.