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How to Have a More Sustainable Fourth of July

by SLCgreen intern Mariah Trujillo

The sun is shining and inviting us outside for barbecues, picnics, and other festive get-togethers.  

As the focus of our minds shifts to friends, food, and outdoor recreation, it can be easy to lose sight of sustainability and air quality. In the winter, it’s hard to forget about air quality—it’s right in front of us during inversion episodes.

However, summertime can bring a different kind of air pollution. High temperatures, bright sun, and  some holiday celebrations bring about their own slew of risks to our air quality.

Not to despair! The summer months provide the perfect opportunity to revisit our time-tested sustainable practices and learn about new ones. With that in mind, let’s learn how to celebrate a sustainable and clean Fourth of July! 

We’ll talk about air pollution, fire risk, alternative celebrations, food, and minimizing plastic waste. Read on!

Fireworks and Air Pollution

Fireworks, while a fun celebration, unfortunately, produce pollutants that contribute to poor air quality. This includes: coarse particulates (PM10) and fine particulates (PM2.5).  

The pollution can grow disturbingly high in the 12 hours immediately after Fourth of July and 24th of July celebrations—higher than we would see on all but the worst wintertime inversion days. 

High levels of particulate matter pose health risks to children, older people, and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions. Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, we have become increasingly aware of the importance of respiratory and lung health and how vulnerable our health can be. The particulates that fireworks release have impacts on health, including but not limited to: triggering asthma attacks, acute bronchitis flare-ups, increased vulnerability to respiratory illnesses, and even heart attacks and arrhythmias for those with heart disease. 

Fireworks Restrictions 

Of course, fireworks can also pose a wildfire risk during our persistent drought. Salt Lake County is currently categorized as a D3 – Extreme Drought Zone.  For this reason, the Salt Lake City Fire Marshall has banned the use of fireworks in certain areas of the city.  

To stay up to date with the current firework restrictions, check out the Salt Lake City Fire Department webpage containing the most recent regulations and information, including a map of areas of Salt Lake City where firework use is prohibited. Violating a “No Firework Zone” may result in a fine of $1,000 

Laser Light Shows 

Sheesh—with all the impacts of fireworks, you may wonder what else you could do to celebrate the Fourth and 24th in a way that does not create air pollution, risk wildfire, nor pose safety hazards (not to mention the stress that fireworks can cause to some veterans, pets, and young kids) 

Salt Lake City went through the same thought process. 

That’s why this July, Salt Lake City will NOT be hosting the traditional 4th of July and 24th of July fireworks shows at Jordan Park and Liberty Park.

Instead . . .  

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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 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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Join Us in Celebrating Earth Day 2022!

Earth Day is coming up this Friday, April 22!

Read on for ways to get involved by volunteering, taking action, or learning what you can do to celebrate Earth Day every day!

Earth Day Events

Salt Lake City has had a wealth of Earth Day focused events going on all month. Looking for something to do before the month is over to celebrate all the cool things our planet does? Wanting to learn some ways you can help keep our Earth healthy or support those pushing for big changes? Do we have the website for you!

Check out our Earth Day 2022 website for a list of amazing events going on across the city.

This weekend, there’s an Earth Day Jordan River Clean Up with HEAL Utah; Party for the Planet events with both Tracy Aviary and Hogle Zoo (come say “Hi!” if you see us at Hogle Zoo!); or watch the Climate Change Film Tour with Utah Clean Energy and  The Nature Conservancy at the Salt Lake Film Society’s Broadway Cinema.

Can’t make it this weekend? Don’t worry, we’ve found events to last you through the rest of the month.

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Salt Lake City Hosted Region 8 Administrator KC Becker for Environmental Forum

This past week we had the pleasure of hosting the Region 8 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator KC Becker and her colleague Mark Smith for a round table discussion with advocates from 14 environmental groups and agencies across the city.

The EPA provides support and research to protect and improve public and environmental health, as well as enforces and regulates environmental protections. Region 8 is made up of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Montano, North Dakota and South Dakota, and 28 Tribal Nations.

KC Becker, the current Region 8 administrator, has 18 years of experience as a public servant for both federal and state organizations. Prior to being appointed as the Region 8 administrator, KC served in the Colorado State Legislature for 4 terms, spending two years as House Majority Leader and two years as the Speaker of the House – at the time, one of only seven female speakers in the United States.

The purpose of the meeting was to bring together local sustainability movers and shakers to hear about their/our concerns surrounding environmental issues in Utah and how the EPA can help!

Earlier in the day, she met with Mayor Erin Mendenhall, learned about Salt Lake City’s unique environmental projects and issues, and shared EPA’s priorities.  Administrator Becker also spent some of her time in Utah meeting with the State Department of Environmental Quality.

The EPA is currently focusing on supporting initiatives it has funding for through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill- specifically looking at the redevelopment of brownfields, infrastructure improvements and upgrades, lead pipes, and cleaning up Superfund sites.

Administrator Becker spoke about the EPA’s mission to center environmental justice in all aspects of its work; building stronger relationships with environmental justice groups, community groups, and other non-governmental organizations; and ensuring that all decisions are science-based and focusing on public health outcomes.

Representatives from local groups highlighted their desire for EPA’s support or advice on issues related to air quality, the recent Inland Port developments, the health of the Great Salt Lake, water quality and access, uranium waste in southern Utah, and funding opportunities for the many goals and initiatives of the groups attending.

Overall, the meeting was invigorating and inspiring. Administrator Becker left us with much to do and the support (within her ability) of our regional EPA leaders.


The 2022 Lawnmower Exchange is Almost Here!

Salt Lake City residents can pre-register now to swap out their polluting lawnmowers for an electric upgrade

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The State of Utah’s Lawnmower Exchange is back, and Salt Lake City will once again be participating!

In case you didn’t hear about last year’s lawnmower exchange, the program consists of residents exchanging their gas-powered mower for a (max: $299) coupon for an electric mower.

You might be wondering: Why lawnmowers? Lawnmowers are a significant source of air pollution. In terms of emissions, running a gas-powered lawn mower puts out the equivalent criteria pollution to driving a car 64 miles, according to the Division of Air Quality.

Switching to an electric mower is much cleaner. They’re easier to maintain and quieter to operate too!

Launching and funding this program every year is one of Mayor Mendenhall’s goals.

Last year, we provided funding for the exchange of 509 mowers, removing 4.02 tons of pollution from the airshed each and every year.

This year, our goal is to swap out 1,000 gas-guzzling mowers for clean electric options.

The 2022 Lawnmower Exchange

Switching to an electric lawn mower is a small way that you can make a big impact on our air quality.

Program highlights:

  • This year, the program is a coupon-based program ($299) for the online purchase of an electric mower of your choice through the vendors Home Depot or Redback.
  • FIRST, enter the lottery through our Salt Lake City resident pre-registration form NOW, or by signing up on the State’s website beginning at noon on April 4.
  • The State will notify you via email on Wednesday, April 6 if you have been randomly selected to participate.
  • SECOND: If you were selected, recycle your mower by taking it to a metal recycler OR by scheduling a pickup through Call 2 Haul.
  • After your mower has been recycled, you will receive a recycling verification number. Enter it on this site to unlock your coupon code.
  • THIRD: ORDER ONLINE: Once you select a vendor (Home Depot or Redback), you cannot change your mind and pick a different vendor! Input the coupon code at checkout.
  • You will have through April 17 to place your online order. Coupons will be invalid after that point.
  • $299 coupons will not work on an electric mower retailing less than $299.

For more information, visit slc.gov/sustainability/lawnmower/.

If you are not a Salt Lake City Resident, sign up at lawnmower.utah.gov on April 4th at 12pm.

Thank you for helping improve air quality!

SLCgreen is Hiring: Part-Time Sustainability Outreach Coordinator

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.

Click here for more information and how to apply!

Have a Happy and Sustainable Holiday!

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!

Christmas Trees

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.

If you go for a cut tree, use your SLC curbside compost bin to dispose of it after the holidays. Make sure to cut it up so it fits in the bin and remove any tinsel or non-organic decorations (Just be sure to dispose of it before the wintertime suspension of compost bin collection, beginning the week of January 24, 2022).

If you can’t cut up your tree for the compost bin, no problem. Leave it curbside and we’ll be by during the month of January to collect it.

No matter what you do, do not burn your tree. Burning during the winter is a significant source of pollution. (Burning during No Burn Days is also against State regulation and violates Salt Lake County Health Department rules).

Energy Efficiency

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!)

Y_Christmas_Tree_2
LED lights look great on me!

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!

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Keeping the Air Clean this Winter

November marks the beginning of inversion season in the Salt Lake Valley. This is the time of year when pollutants including PM 2.5 get trapped in the valley, obscuring the mountains and posing dangerous health risks to our communities.

Protecting our airshed and reducing pollution wouldn’t be possible without the collective actions of everyone coming in and out of Salt Lake City. While transportation contributes a significant portion of the local air pollution, other factors including building efficiency and home energy use can also contribute to pollution. Studies have shown that air pollution disproportionately affects communities of color, partially as a result of source location and historical redlining of neighborhoods. Air quality continues to be a major equity concern for Salt Lake City, where proximity to major highways, industrial areas, and fewer trees make some parts of Salt Lake City more polluted than others. By addressing air pollution’s many sources, Salt Lake City can help improve air quality.

Keep reading to find out more about what you can do to help everyone breathe a little easier!

Photo of Salt Lake City from northern foothills on bad air day. Smog fills the valley and obscures the Oquirrh Mountains in the west.

How Can You Help Clean Up the Air?

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