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Salt Lake leaders highlight local efforts to clean the air, contribute to healthier communities

Published: Saturday, July 27 2013 4:20 p.m. MDT

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Bike Share SLC announce a Green Bike partnership bike share program in Salt Lake City Tuesday, June 19, 2012.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Public utility managers in Salt Lake City don't just concern themselves with the hundreds of miles of pipe that deliver water to area residents.

They're in frequent consultation with climate scientists regarding the community's "likely climate future," which means studying changes in weather patterns and runoff.

"We're doing everything we can to plan for this," said Vicki Bennett, director of sustainability for Salt Lake City.

"If we have earlier snowfall or less snowfall, how can we better store water for our city. This is something on the forefront of all of our long-term planning."

Bennett was part of a group of government and community leaders who spoke Saturday at the Downtown Farmers Market on the impacts of climate change and local efforts they say make a difference.

Jason Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, said small lifestyle changes could go a long way to "change our little corner of the world."

"Sometimes it's not the big things that we do. It's the little things that really make a difference in air quality, climate change and all those other aspects," Mathis said.

Shopping at the Downtown Farmers Market is a green choice in many respects, said market manager Kim Angeli-Selin.

For starters, sellers must live within 250 miles of Salt Lake City to be eligible to market their food or crafts at the twice-weekly market.

"About 90 percent of people that sell here are within 50 miles of town," she said.

Not only is the food farmers sell at the market fresh, more nutritious and better tasting, she said, "it really works to reduce the pollution that is generated from the global transportation of food."

Angeli-Selin encouraged market shoppers to include more locally produced food into the meals they prepare at home. "The more local food you can incorporate into your dishes is a really great way to do your part in creating a more sustainable Salt Lake City," she said. Meanwhile, Ben Bolte, director of GREENbike, explained the environmental benefits of Salt Lake City's new bike share program.

In its inaugural year, the program is expected to eliminate 20,000 cold car starts as well as 80,000 vehicle miles traveled about the city.

"Next year, we'll be up to 118,000 miles that won't be traveled," Bolte said.

Bennett said the city's commitment to sustainability and the reduction of carbon-based pollution is evident in its efforts to build energy-efficient buildings and repurpose existing buildings.

Detective Dennis McGowan of the Salt Lake City Police Department encouraged market shoppers to visit the city's new public safety building on its last day of public tours, which was Saturday.

"It's a net zero facility, which means it generates all the energy it uses," he said.

The project includes 73,000 square feet of solar panels, which are mounted on the facility's roof, canopy and an off-site parcel.

"It's probably one of the most advanced green tech buildings in the world," McGowan said.

While the city has taken deliberate steps to curb pollution and encourage sustainability, Bennett said individuals and businesses must also play a role.

"All of the city employees have free transit passes, which is something we encourage other businesses to do," she said.

Costs for residential solar installations have "dropped precipitously," Bennett said, noting the city should recover the taxpayers' investment in the public safety building solar project within three to four years.

"We really do feel like Salt Lake City's doing a lot. We are also asking you as residents do as much as possible," she said.

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com

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