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Earth Day in Salt Lake

Innovative Sustainability Efforts

Thursday April 22, 2021
By Sean Buckley

In Salt Lake, "sustainability" and "being green" are more than just buzz words - they're a way of life. With the nearness of the Wasatch Mountains and the daily availability of incredible outdoor recreation and scenery, the desire to protect those natural resources is strong. Earth Day is important to recognize and remember, and many Salt Lake businesses and organizations have creative methods in staying sustainable year-round. Here are a few examples.

Bike to Save the Planet

Salt Lake adopted a bikeshare program in 2013, GREENbike, and now it boasts 47 stations and more than 600 bikes. Since then, riders have prevented more than 6.3 million vehicle miles from hitting local roads and offset upwards of 5.76 million pounds of carbon dioxide from polluting the air. The program is affordable, convenient, and environmentally friendly - give it a try!

More than One Way to Hug a Tree

TreeUtah is an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in Utah by planting, stewardship, and education. With volunteers throughout the state, they use donations to plant trees that will live for generations. Focusing on planting in parks and along streets, they help increase urban canopy cover and mitigate the heat island effect in areas with a lot of paved surfaces. They also plant in schools to give experience to students and in restoration areas in public lands in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources and the US Forest Service.

Drinking Beer is Good for the Environment?

Utah's oldest brewery, Wasatch Brewery and Squatters Craft Beers, is not only award-winning, it practices sustainability in everything it does. Their brewing operations have sustainability built in, and the company continually looks for ways to improve. For example, all spent grain from the brewing process is collected and donated to a local farmer, who uses the grain for feed. Liquid waste and leftover materials from tank bottoms are stored and then shipped to be turned into methane and then electricity. Since March 2019, 982 tons of brewing waste have resulted in the production of over 3,500 dekatherms of renewable natural gas - enough natural gas to supply 504 homes for an entire month. In the canning process, a previous method of can washing was replaced by an air rinser, saving more than 150 gallons of water per hour. Who knew that drinking beer could be so good for the environment?

New Airport, New Green Initiatives

Salt Lake's brand-new $4 billion state-of-the-art airport, Salt Lake City International, is leading the way in sustainability. Opened in the fall of 2020, the design of the new airport is 32% more efficient. All airlines now use electric ground support equipment, water-efficient plumbing fixtures are installed throughout, and larger windows are used throughout to provide energy-saving natural light. Drought tolerant landscaping is being utilized, and in addition to electric buses, electric charging stations have been added to the traveller parking areas. The very design of the the airline concourses were reimagined to allow airplanes to have direct access to gates rather than waiting and idling, which saves significantly on fuel usage (not to mention fliers' patience!)

You Are Here Initiative

The Salt Palace Convention Center, through its You Are Here initiative, promotes and encourages sustainable practices in every area of the events industry. Large meetings and conventions generate a great deal of waste, and the Salt Palace team work hard to divert as much of that waste as possible through conventional and creative means. Recycling stations abound throughout the building, including for name badges. The landfill diversion rate is 60% through recycling, material donation, and food rescue for both the Salt Palace and the Mountain America Exposition Center, and their goal is to produce zero waste by 2040. They partner with more than 100 community non-profit organizations, art and theater programs, schools and small businesses. Since 2018, more than 1.5 million pounds of materials have been recycled, 560,000 pounds of material have been donated, and 166,000 pounds of food have been donated. In addition, the Salt Palace houses the nation's largest convention center rooftop solar array - 600,000 square feet.

Salt Palace Solar Panels

Art that also Saves the Earth

Dreamscapes is an immersive art attraction where visitors enter a world of RE-imagination. Nearly 100 artists, builders, and audio-visual wizards have contributed to this gem - and the materials they use of come from donated recyclable materials from community partners like the Salt Palace. This unique display has been recognized regionally and nationally for sustainability initiatives including Resourcefulness Award 2019, Green Business Award 2020, and Learn By Design SXSW EDU Finalist 2020. Through their up-cycling, recycling, and repurposing landfill diversion efforts, they have removed the equivalent of 800,000 car miles worth of CO2 from the air. Dreamscapes is cool and green - make sure to check it out!