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Posts tagged ‘sustainability’

Eating Local

by SLCgreen intern Mariah Trujillo

Last week we celebrated Utah Climate Week but did you know it was Eat Local Week too? This is a weeklong event developed by Urban Food Connections of Utah, that challenges participants to eat food grown or raised within a 250-mile radius.  

Eat Local Week is intended to highlight and celebrate regional harvests, local agriculture, and Utah’s agricultural heritage. Supporting strong local food systems is one way to build a more resilient community and it can help reduce emissions. Climate change, rising temperatures, and changing precipitation patterns are rapidly changing our agricultural system.  

On July 17, Salt Lake City reached our all-time city record high temperature of 107owhich was repeated several times throughout this summer and into September! High temperatures during extended growing seasons affect the health and yield of crops that haven’t been adapted to a specific regional climate. Supporting our local farmers and their farms builds and invests in communities and helps them become more resilient to our changing climate. 

What does “local food” mean? 

Local food is grown and produced within a small distance from where the consumer purchases it.  On average, produce in the United States travels 1,500 miles from production point to the consumer’s plate. Local food, on the other hand, usually travels a maximum distance of 100-250 miles. Some common locally produced food items include fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, eggs, dairy products, and honey.  

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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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Introducing Salt Lake City’s Harrison Community Garden! 

Last month, we celebrated the opening of the Harrison Community Garden with Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Council Member Darin Mano, Wasatch Community Gardens, and the Salt Lake City Public Lands Department. Located along 700 East at Harrison Avenue, just south of Liberty Park, the newest addition to Salt Lake City’s family of community gardens provides plots for as many as 50 gardeners to grow vegetables.  

This is the eighth active garden in Salt Lake City boundaries established under our Green City Growers program, which identifies vacant or under-utilized City property with access to a water line and other conditions that support a successful and sustainable community garden. The City partners with local non-profit Wasatch Community Gardens to manage and run the gardens on Salt Lake City property through this program. 

Every community garden is a labor of love, but the Harrison Garden overcame multiple obstacles to ultimately receive funding from the City’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to make it a reality. (Pssst… community applications are due Sept. 30, 2022 for the next round of CIP funding). 

Community gardens are more than just for the growers!  

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It’s Really Hot Out Here, So Let’s Go Plant Some Trees

Mayor Erin Mendenhall planting a tree in 2021 as part of her 1,000 Trees Initiative.

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After the intense heat experienced by many of us this summer you probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this past July was Salt Lake City’s warmest one yet and the heat wave is continuing with us as September begins.

But did you know that Salt Lake County’s summer days are abnormally hotter than those in nearby rural areas? Our culprit is referred to as the urban heat island. 

What is the Urban Heat Island? 

Urban heat islands occur as the built environment of a city attracts heat and prevents it from being released by covering up naturally absorbing sources. For example, grass absorbs heat but covering it with concrete for a sidewalk that attracts warmth will make the city hotter. Researchers have found that the cumulative effect of all these heat-attracting sources results in cities being up to 17 degrees hotter than surrounding areas! Research conducted by the University of Utah used temperature monitors throughout the valley to measure our urban heat index. This research discovered that our parks with grass and shade are two degrees cooler than nearby residential neighborhoods.  

The benefits that shady parks and park strips provide in reducing the urban heat island are just one of the reasons that Salt Lake City places an emphasis on maintaining them. The important role tree cover plays in reducing heat is evident when looking at the images of Salt Lake City below. The map on the left shows the Urban Heat Island Effect by noting how much hotter it can be in that area. The darker the red the hotter it is. The map on the right shows the percentage of tree cover canopy in the entire neighborhood. The darker the green, the more canopy cover in the neighborhood. When comparing the two images it becomes evident that when there are more trees, the urban heat index is lower.  

Additionally, the image below provides another useful visual to understand what the Urban Heat Island Effect looks like in Salt Lake City. The image, taken from satellite by NASA, shows 300 West to the Wasatch Foothills. The image, taken on a hot summer day, demonstrates the Urban Heat Island Effect in action. Orange, red, and yellow indicate hot areas and blue and green illustrate the cool areas. With this in mind, it becomes clear that areas with less vegetation are the hottest. For example, Liberty Park, which is near the bottom left-hand corner, is very blue on the map indicating that it’s cool. 

How can you reduce heat and contribution to the urban heat island? 

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Getting to Know You: Ground Level Ozone

by SLCgreen intern Emalee Carroll

As Salt Lake City residents we are well acquainted with air pollution, but do we know what’s in it? With the Clear Air Challenge happening over the summer, we at SLCgreen wanted to take some time to provide a rundown on some of the different types of air pollution in Salt Lake City, what you can do about it, and what the city is currently working on and has done to make a difference!

What is Ground Ozone? 

As we enter the thick of summer and all the fun outdoor activities that come with it, let’s break down a major summertime pollutant – ground level ozone. Ozone gas is naturally occurring in our atmosphere, helping to protect us from harmful UV radiation. However, ozone is not found naturally at ground level. Rather, the gas is known as a “secondary pollutant” meaning it’s created through a series of reactions between compounds in the air. This process is facilitated by heat and sunlight which is why ozone levels are typically higher in the summer months. 

How-ground-level-ozone-forms

How does Ozone Affect SLC residents? 

Like PM 2.5, studies have shown ozone also has adverse impacts on respiratory health. Ozone gas can reach deep into our lungs, damaging cells like a sunburn would, and trapping air in the alveoli. This process can cause coughing, throat irritation, chest pain, and congestion. Additionally, ozone can aggravate respiratory diseases such as asthma, COPD, and chronic bronchitis. 

Aside from harming the health of Salt Lake residents, ozone can also negatively impact local ecology. When ground-level ozone enters the membranes of leaves, it reduces the ability of the plant to photosynthesize sunlight, slows growth, and ultimately weakens the organism. In extreme circumstances, this can lead to a loss of trees and other plants, which affects both the quality of life in urban settings, as well as the health of the overall ecosystem and animals that rely on those plants for food. 

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Choose to Refuse! Plastic Free July is here!

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. 

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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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