Small changes, big impacts: Event brings environmental tips to residents on Salt Lake City’s west side

Meylin Alzaga dragged her three children, her mother-in-law and sister-in-law out of Saturday’s sunshine into Rose Park Elementary School to learn about weatherizing their house, how the region’s seasonal inversions work, and how to reduce water use while taking a shower.

Marly, 10; Jason, 6; and Aaliyah, 4, gave their rapt attention — while Rosalia Ramirez and Joyce Ramirez looked on — as the family moved from table to table at a Salt Lake City event called "The Environment & You,” with information and handouts about different aspects of environmental awareness.

“We came because we care about the Earth and our children’s future,” Alzaga said. “We want to make small changes that can have a big impact.”

The weekend gathering at the Rose Park Community Learning Center, attached to the elementary school, was sponsored by Empower SLC, the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office, Salt Lake City School District, Rocky Mountain Power, Dominion Energy, Utah Clean Energy, Youth Works, and University of Utah Health.

“Our goal is to educate people about the impact of their actions on earth, water, and air,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski as she pointed to various booths. “We want to get the younger generation to take action and make a difference in creating sustainable and inclusive communities.”

Shelby Stults of Utah Clean Energy handed out 80 energy-efficient LEDs to attendees from ZIP codes 84104 and 84116 in exchange for traditional light bulbs.

“Upgrading just five traditional light bulbs to an LED can save a household $60 in energy costs, and prevent 500 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere,” Stults told nearly 100 residents who attended.

Environmental groups also gave out some 50 low-flow shower heads, organizers said.

Maria Lopez came looking for ways to bring down her water bill and walked out with one of the shower head. Her sister, Yolanda Gonzalez, who lives in an apartment, got one, too.

Youth Works, a Salt Lake County service group, trains youngsters 11-18 on how to help install those bulbs and shower heads. But they also paint houses and do yardwork for free.

Then there was the ever-popular dry-ice and bubbles demonstration from the U.’s Program for Air Quality, Health, and Society. Chemical engineering student Katrina Le showed how she made an air quality sensor from Legos.

Organizers Angela Romero, director of Youth and Family Programs for Salt Lake City; and Daniel Mendoza, a professor of atmospheric science with a joint appointment in pulmonology, said they were pleased with Saturday’s event.

They wanted to offer efficient but affordable solutions, Mendoza said, “not just about installing solar panels or driving an electric car.”

The air pollution inversion that hangs over the Salt Lake Valley every winter creates “dirtier air in some ZIP codes than in others,” Mendoza said. Rose Park is hit harder than neighborhoods on Salt Lake’s more affluent east side, he said, due to its proximity to Salt Lake International Airport, to industrial complexes, gravel pits, and railroad lines.

Romero, also a Utah state lawmaker from District 26, covering portions of west Salt Lake City and West Valley City, noted that many workshops and conferences require Rose Park residents to travel to get there.

This time, she said, “we wanted to come to them.”