Saturday, March 22, 2008

Utah Environmental Resources

There are all sorts of things we can do to save energy. First of all we should know where our energy comes from. Coal? Solar? Hydro-electric? Reducing electricity consumption from a coal fired power plant can have an impact on global warming if we all act collectively. Turn off lights, unplug appliances you are not using, use energy star certified appliances, clean the back of your refrigerator regularly, find programs that support alternative energy such as wind or solar. You can also simply lower your thermostat and put on a sweater in winter or open a window in summer. When you have your own place, look into passive solar design, double and triple pained windows, and solar panels. And of course, hold your elected officials accountable, and put pressure on them to support a green economy.
If you live in the West, chances are your water is coming from a long distance away. In Utah, we depend on giant reservoirs and catchments of water up Provo and Rock canyons for our water. This water has been diverted from natural hydrological cycles to water lawns, agricultural fields and fill bathtubs. Of course it isn’t wrong to use water, but the more conscientious we are about our use, the more the water can stay in the rivers, stream and lakes. Limit shower time, REPLACE lawns with native and drought tolerant vegetation, don’t wash drive ways sweep them. And of course, hold your elected officials accountable, and put pressure on them to support a green economy.
Links: (Central Utah Water Conservancy District)
FOOD and General consumption
This, in my humble opinion is the most important! What we eat and what we consume are intimately connected to the ecological and social problems we face. Our cheap food is heavily subsidized by fossil fuels and drenched with fertilizers and pesticides that affect our water ways and drinking water. That inexpensive t-shirt you’re wearing was probably produced in China for a pittance, at the expense of US manufacturing jobs. On average, the food on our table comes from about 1,200 miles away! These are usually called FOOD MILES. This combined with toxic and destructive industrial food production practices are wreaking havoc on our earth and our health. Buying organic and fair trade food and products is a great step to reducing out impact, but it is even more impactful if we buy LOCAL organic food. Local food is usually grown by small farmers, who use fewer chemicals, and who have a stake in the local economy. Supporting them means they won’t have to sell their land to a sub-divider! So start small, buy more organic products at the store, DO NOT shop at Wal-Mart, patronize farmers markets and support local farmers before buying store bought organics.
Another thing we can do is reduce or stop our meat consumption. Meat production in the US is both unethical and environmentally destructive. Another thing we can do is reduce, reuse and recycle our waste. Provo and Utah generally are not the best recyclers, if you are dedicated, there are ways to recycle most things.* And of course, hold your elected officials accountable, and put pressure on them to support a green economy.
Links: (food Miles)
This one is pretty obvious, when we drive we emit all kinds of bad stuff, this not only affects the climate, but also our local air quality and water ways. Utah has what are called inversions, which trap all the pollution from cars in the valley, causing serious respiratory problems for children and elderly. So, use public transport, drive less, bike and walk more, plan errands around a single trip. Or you can offset your emissions with a reputable NGO like Carbon Fund. And of course, hold your elected officials accountable, and put pressure on them to support a green economy.
Ecological Literacy/sense of place
In reducing our impact on the planet it is also ESSENTIAL that we acquaint ourselves with the natural systems and beings that surround us. Ecological Foot Print can be measured quantitatively, but literacy is a qualitative impact that each of us has to find for ourselves. Understanding the basics of the hydrological cycle, carbon cycle, learning to identify local flora and fauna, volunteering with invasive plant removals or river clean ups, hiking, camping, hunting responsibly, etc. These are only a few ways in which we can reconnect to the land, gaining a better understanding of why all the other things are necessary in the first place. And of course, hold your elected officials accountable, and put pressure on them to support a green economy. (Ecological Foot Print Quiz)
Political Engagement and awareness
Lastly, it is ESSENTIAL that we are engaged with the ongoing debates on the local, state, and national political stage. There are very real differences in how candidates approach the environment; research each and come up with your own conclusions about who might be the best candidate to guide us to the green economy. Stay up with news, and read books and articles about relevant issues, then write editorials, articles, emails, or letters to appropriate representatives about your concerns.

A few General Organizations:

BYU and Utah Organizations
Eco-Response BYU- The Utah Valley Sierra Forum- The June sucker recovery project- The Utah Native Plant Society-
Tree Utah-
Slow Food Utah-
Utah Rivers Council-
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance-
Salt Lake Sierra Club-
Wasatch Community Gardens-
Post Carbon Salt Lake-
Nature Conservancy Utah -
HEAL Utah (nuclear waste Issue) –
Mormons for Equality and Social Justice –
University of Utah Office of Sustainability –
On World CafĂ© –
Save Our Canyons –
Utah Environmental Congress –
Utah Vital Signs Report -
Utahans for better transportation -
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment -
Friends of the Great Salt Lake –
Utah Back Country Volunteers-
Utah Society for Environmental Education –
Utah Moms for Clean Air –

*Recycling in Utah
Waste Management is pretty much the only local recycler, but it’s tough to get apartments to sign up with them, there is no city mandate for recycling. So you can either take your recyclables to the city drop off @ 1625 South Industrial Parkway This the Provo city Compost station, which is open Spring/Summer/Fall Monday - Friday 8 am -6 pm, and Saturdays 8 am - 5 pm. Winter hours are Monday - Thursday 8 am - 6 pm. Its basically a big space to dump organic waste, but there is a large green waste management bin a the far end.
You can recycle-Paper, cardboard, 1 & 2 plastic, aluminum and tin cans: NO GLASS
You can also recycle paper, aluminum cans, and cardboard at BYU campus.
There is one place in Salt Lake that recycles glass, if you ever want to make the trip:
Rocky Mountain Recycling Inc (801) 975-1820 2950 W 900 S Salt Lake City, UT
Other Utah Recycling Organizations:
If you would like a tour the Waste Management Recycling Facility in West Jordan call: (801) 280-8200 press zero and ask to talk with Troy Larson

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