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!
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 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 ahead! 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.
Large-scale public art is rolling through Salt Lake City’s neighborhoods thanks to a recent City initiative that invited local artists to use City refuse trucks as their canvases.
The seven new waste and recycling vehicles are wrapped in vinyl prints of original works by local artists Trevor Dahl, Matt Monsoon, and Brooke Smart.
“These works of public art will travel Salt Lake City’s streets every day, reaching every corner of the city,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “I’m thrilled these vehicles, which provide such a critical utilitarian purpose, can also spread beauty to residents in all our neighborhoods.”
The artists were chosen from the Salt Lake City Arts Council’s pool of local artists with whom the City works on a number of public arts projects, from sculptures to murals to street art and more. Each artist created two original designs.
“We take pride in our trucks—and in the graphics we put on them,” said Sophia Nicholas, Sustainability Department Deputy Director. “Each year, we brainstorm a new creative campaign and work with a graphic designer to bring it to life. It’s been a fun and effective way to spread the word about things like ditching disposables, choosing reusable bags, the importance of recycling overall, and now, sharing art by local artists.”
The City’s fleet of 37 refuse trucks collect the trash, recycling, and compost from approximately 42,000 sites every week, hauling the waste from all areas of the city to the landfill or appropriate recycling facilities. Each truck travels approximately 300 miles each week.
“We know that almost any object, place, or space has the potential to serve as a canvas for the incredibly talented artists of our city, including the sides of a refuse truck!” said Taylor Knuth, Deputy Director of the Salt Lake City Arts Council. “The Arts Council hopes that residents and visitors of Salt Lake who see these trucks will not only enjoy these captivating works by local artists, but also take action to protect our unique, beautiful, and vibrant landscapes.”
If you’ve been looking for the sign to finally make the change, now is the perfect time to drop those pesky single-use plastics once and for all – Plastic Free July is here!
Plastic Free July began as a small project based in Australia but has turned into a global movement of people who are committed to cutting out single-use plastics from their lives to stop plastic pollution and save the planet. “Plastics” refers to a wide range of synthetic materials that can be molded and shaped into a variety of flexible and stiff byproducts. Believe it or not, there’s plastics in our chewing gum, skin care products, and even our clothes!
Since 2011, Plastic Free July has empowered consumers to reduce their reliance on single-use plastics by sharing educational resources and encouraging people to come up with creative ways to reduce plastic usage at the source, reuse any plastics that can be used more than once, and properly recycle what can be recycled!
Why is Plastic Free July Important?
In 2021, the planet reached a total estimated number of 363,762,732,605 pounds of plastics across all the oceans. Plastics are one of the most prevalent pollutants across the globe, polluting waterways, habitats, and damaging the health of ecosystems and humans alike. Many durable plastics will take up to 400 years before they will breakdown.
While recycling has helped make a dent in our plastic waste, the overarching goal is to reduce consumption.
Some plastics, like laundry detergent containers and milk jugs, are highly-desirable plastic products for recycling. However, other items like straws, plastic bags, and other flexible packaging, are harder to recycle, and often end up being a burden to consumers trying to properly dispose of them. Making some easy switches to eliminate unnecessary plastic waste at the source is an amazing way to start building a world without plastic waste and practice sustainability.
(We recognize that the problem of plastic waste is not just a consumer issue; in fact — it’s much more systemic and related to the way corporations make products and the laws governing those practices. This is why Salt Lake City has signed on as an activator to the U.S. Plastics Pact. But while we work for larger, systemic change, we can also take matters into our own hands as consumers and reduce single-use plastics, where possible, in our own lives).
How Can I Participate in Plastic Free July?
One of the easiest ways to get involved is to take the Plastic Free July Challenge! By registering for the challenge, you’re joining a community of people who are committed to reducing plastic pollution. You will also receive email updates with tips, tricks, and stories to help you keep your plastic free promise.
Did you know that last week was International Compost Week? This year’s theme isRecipe 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 localSalt 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.
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. .
Are you excited about communicating sustainability information to the public? Do you have writing or social media experience?
SLCgreen’s Sustainability Division is hiring a Part-Time Outreach Coordinator.
This position is focused on communications and outreach. The Outreach Coordinator will write, help manage our social media, design outreach materials, connect with the public, supervise our summer internship program, manage our outreach event calendar, and attend community events throughout the summer.
We’re looking for an energetic and passionate individual to support SLCgreen’s mission to protect natural resources, reduce pollution, slow climate change, and establish a path toward greater resiliency and vitality for all aspects of our community.
This position is 24-29 hours/week at $18/hour. Applications close February 13, 2022.
During the holiday rush, sustainability may not be the first thing on your mind. Fortunately, there are a number of measures you can take to ensure your festivities are more eco-friendly and sustainable.
No matter how you celebrate, we at SLCgreen hope you find this information helpful and wish you the best of times and a very happy New Year!
One great option for your home Christmas tree is a live native potted tree. When you’re done with it, plant it after the holidays or let it live on as a house plant. As an added bonus, a live tree will absorb carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen for cleaner air.
Check with your local nursery or garden center for advice on the best type of tree, depending if you are planning to replant or keep it inside. If you can, hold off and plant it in late March or early April. This will increase the tree’s chance of surviving long term.
When stringing up lights this season, think “less is more.” For the lights you do put up, go for LED lights, which are 80-95% more efficient than traditional bulbs and will last longer. (This is a good reminder to switch out any other traditional light bulbs you may have in your home for LEDs too!)
Make sure you have your lights on a timer so they only are on when you want them to be. Some LED Christmas lights are even solar powered!
Electronic Waste (also known as e-waste) is one of the fastest growing waste streams. It may come as a surprise, but it is estimated that in 2021, 57.4 million tons of e-waste will be produced worldwide. Unfortunately, only 17.4% of that waste, which can contain harmful as well as rare materials, is expected to be properly recycled. Statistics like this are why the WEEE Forum, an international group dedicated to developing best practices for managing waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), created International E-Waste Day.
Join SLCgreen in commemorating International E-Waste Day on October 14, 2021 by learning more about e-waste and how to properly recycle these materials.
Managing e-waste can be dangerous when not taken to the proper facility. Besides making your data an easy target if old phones or computers wind up in the wrong place, e-waste can also pose a threat to the health of waste management workers. By taking care to properly dispose of your e-waste, you can protect yourself and others while also putting valuable resources to good use!
What to do with E-Waste in Salt Lake City?
Navigating all the options for proper household waste management can be tricky. Luckily, if you live in Salt Lake City, there are many ways to recycle your e-waste:
Call 2 Haul: Salt Lake City residents can schedule a bulky waste pick up once a year through the Call 2 Haul program. Call 2 Haul will pick up bulky items that don’t fit or belong in your weekly curbside containers including e-waste, and make sure that the materials are properly handled and correctly diverted.
Specialty Recycling Services: Some businesses and specialty recyclers are able to accept e-waste for recycling and disposal. Check out our Specialty Recycling Services page for more resources for materials that don’t belong in your recycling or trash.
Whether you’re clearing out old tech, or just upgrading your phone, take the time to dispose of your e-waste safely. Remembering to recycle e-waste will help protect the environment from harmful chemicals and can save valuable resources for reuse!
In honor of International E-Waste Day, share this information with your networks to spread the word about what to do with electronic waste!
by SLCgreen outreach coordinator Stephan Sveshnikov
As part of SLCgreen’s goal to reach zero waste by 2040, Salt Lake City signed on to a new initiative, the U.S. Plastics Pact. The Plastics Pact affirms SLCgreen’s commitment to a circular economy for plastics, which envisions that all the plastics used by our community will be reusable, recyclable, or compostable, so that they stay in the economy and out of the environment.
What is the U.S. Plastics Pact?
The U.S. Plastics Pact brings together government entities, businesses, nonprofits, research institutions, and other stakeholders in a common vision of a circular economy for plastics (check out the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Initiativefor more information!). Having a diverse group of organizations sign the pact ensures that the problem of plastics can be tackled at every level where issues arise, collectively.
This vision aims to ensure that plastics never become waste by eliminating the plastics we don’t need, innovating to ensure that the plastics we do need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable, and circulating all the plastic items we use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.
By joining the U.S. Plastics Pact, activators agree to deliver the following four targets:
Target 1: Define a list of packaging that is to be designated as problematic or unnecessary by 2021 and take measures to eliminate them by 2025
Target 2: 100% of plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025
Target 3: Undertake ambitious actions to effectively recycle or compost 50% of plastic packaging by 2025
Target 4: By 2025, the average recycled content or responsibly sourced bio-based content in plastic packaging will be 30%
Signing the pact is part of Salt Lake City’s Zero Waste Resolution, in which the city adopted “Zero Waste as a guiding principle for all city operations and for outreach and actions within the community” and set the ambitious goal of eliminating waste by 2040. The Climate Positive 2040 plan, which followed the resolution, provided a roadmap to reaching zero waste. The City’s goal is to reach 50% diversion rate in the next several years, with a 70% diversion goal by 2025.
What are we doing to get there?
Salt Lake already has a number of innovative programs in addition to our curbside recycling program to ensure we meet our ambitious goals.
Our Waste & Recycling Division is actively researching ways to recycle the few plastics we currently can’t process
If going zero waste is one of your long-term goals, Utah Recycling Alliance offers resources including pop-up CHaRM events, and fix-it clinics. And although Plastic Free July has already passed this year, you can apply the same plastic free tips to implement the circular economy on a smaller scale in your own household.
Check out the full guide to what you can recycle in Salt Lake City’s curbside program here (don’t forget, you can recycle plastic bags and films and many grocery stores) and remember, reducing and reusing are the first two steps to zero waste, before you even start recycling! As the last step on that chain, containers you put into your SLC bins are recycled in North America and turned into new plastic products, keeping them in use.
This summer, SLCgreen’s Debbie Lyons stepped into the role of Sustainability Department Director after the retirement of our long-time director Vicki Bennett. We are thrilled that Debbie will oversee the City’s goals to achieve 100% community renewable energy, reduce emissions connected to climate change, conserve resources, reduce air pollution, and improve community access to fresh, healthy food. Join us in celebrating Debbie’s new role with a look back at how her career has shaped Salt Lake City’s innovative programs and initiatives for over 25 years!
Prioritizing Safety and Sustainability
After earning a degree in Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety from BYU, Debbie started her work with Salt Lake City in 1995 as an intern with the Public Services Department. During her time as an intern, Debbie was instrumental in developing elements of Salt Lake City’s Waste & Recycling program that continue to have significant impacts, including the first City-wide curbside recycling and compost programs, the expansion of glass recycling around the state, and the City & County Building’s first office paper recycling program.
Salt Lake City Thanks Frontline Waste & Recycling Staff in Celebration of Waste & Recycling Workers Week
SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City is thanking its frontline waste & recycling staff this week in honor of Waste & Recycling Workers Week which occurs annually the week of June 17.
Salt Lake City employs 55 men and women who are responsible for collecting the refuse from 42,000 homes and businesses every week. Their essential work is critical to residents’ health and safety, making Salt Lake City a cleaner, more resilient community every day. Every year, Salt Lake City crews empty between 4.7 to 4.8 million curbside bins. This year, Waste & Recycling collected an average of 3,630 tons of trash per month, 1,454 tons of compost per month, and 775 tons of recycling per month.
“Our City maintains its world-class beauty and high standard of cleanliness in large part due to the tireless daily efforts of the people who work in our Waste and Recycling Division,” said Mayor Mendenhall. “They are on the front line but work behind-the-scenes. We often don’t think twice when the trash, recycling, and yard waste seamlessly disappear from our curbs. So this week I encourage all residents to join me in thanking these public servants for their critical work. A simple wave as the truck rolls by really makes their days.”
Residents who wish to send a message may also call and leave a voicemail on the customer service line at 801-535-6999 or by sharing a message with @slcgreen on social media.
In addition to the operational staff, Salt Lake City’s Waste and Recycling Division includes an Education Team that works directly with residents, helping make sure recyclables and compostable materials end up in the right bins. In 2020, the Education Team checked 551,592 waste carts throughout the City, helping reduce contamination and empowering residents to know how to recycle correctly.
The Waste & Recycling customer service team also provides daily assistance to community members, which was even more critical throughout 2020 due to the “inland hurricane” and resulting debris cleanup, as well as general increased waste disposal needs as more Salt Lakers stayed home.
“Our crews have worked courageously and tirelessly throughout the entire pandemic and natural disasters to keep each other safe and deliver uninterrupted service to our residents,” said Chris Bell, Waste and Recycling Division Director. “I couldn’t be more proud of their resolve and ability to maintain our high service standards.”
On top of curbside collection, Salt Lake City Waste & Recycling provides resident support and education, the bulky waste collection program Call 2 Haul, special event waste and recycling permitting, and overseeing of the business recycling ordinance and construction and demolition recycling ordinance.
This year, the Call 2 Haul program collected an average of 168 tons of trash and 14 tons of recycling per month. In addition to their normal collection program, Call 2 Haul also assisted with Salt Lake City’s lawn mower exchange, picking up hundreds of gas-powered lawn mowers from residents who switched to electric mowers.