Twenty years ago, in the cartoon Captain Planet, a green-mulleted, blue-hued man’s fight to save the planet from pollution entertained the children who, as adults today, have reintroduced a sense of urgency into the environmental movement. Granted, the fight to save the planet didn’t end after its initial 1970s heyday, but the Reagan era certainly suppressed its mainstream appeal.
Every show began by saying, “Our world is in peril.
Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, can no longer stand the terrible destruction of our planet.” Five Planeteers from around the world each were given a magic ring, four harnessing the power of each of the elements and the fifth tapping the power of the heart. If needed, the Planeteers combined their powers to beckon Captain Planet.
Throughout Utah, many organizations have taken up the Planeteers’ mission, focusing on one of those five magic circles. Join the fight with one of them to make a mark, or find a group for every one of the rings of power and become a true Captain Planet.Earth
Wasatch Community Gardens
345 E. 400 South
Urban farming is woven into in the founding of Salt Lake City. Historically, in the “Plot of Zion” planning grid, each city block was designed with houses around the perimeter and a community garden in the center. With rapid growth, the gardens were lost, but in 1989, visionaries incubated Wasatch Community Gardens at the Crossroads Urban Center, initially planned to be a carp fishery. Since then, the program has steadily grown and now offers many wide-ranging programs, from seed storage and canning to gardening and cooking classes. WCG is also working with the city’s Open Spaces program to make more land available for food production.
“People want to connect with their neighbors,” says executive director Claire Uno, who says there’s no one gardener demographic—students, families, refugees and senior citizens often work side by side in the community plots. Gardening gains popularity in times of crisis, so it’s become increasingly popular in the past couple of years. Beyond the recession, however, Uno says there’s been a paradigm shift: People want more intimate connection with their food and nature. And, with Utah boasting the country’s second-worst soil, growing veggies here means that you can grow them anywhere.
Save Our Canyons
68 S. Main
Save Our Canyons—the area’s first environmental activist organization—has been defending undeveloped land and advocating nature conservancy in the Wasatch canyons since 1972. It helped create Utah’s first wilderness area, Lone Peak, in 1978, and in 1984, Twin Peaks and Mount Olympus areas were also designated. Currently, SOC is working with U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, to expand the existing wilderness areas and create a new one encompassing the north side of Millcreek Canyon.
Additionally, SOC is the watchdog for sneaky landusers and developers, especially at the local government level. At day’s end, its mission can’t be accomplished without an educated and activated population. So, it is constantly reaching out and teaching, with KRCL 90.9 FM news briefs, the Westminster Wasatch Front Forum and local environmental discussions. And, it practices what it preaches, cleaning and working miles of trail every year. This summer, SOC will focus on American Fork Canyon.Wind
Moms For Clean Air
From securing children in car seats to childproofing homes to providing a balanced diet for their broods, moms are plenty busy. But that wasn’t enough for several multitasking mamas who took a very effective stance against pollution. “We’ve altered the conversations about air quality; it’s now a kitchen-table topic. Above all, we’re moms defending our children. Period,” says Cherise Udell, founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air. During its first year in 2008, aided by state Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City, the organization was able to pass a bill to retrofit all of Utah’s school buses to produce lower emissions; now, the fleet’s all cleaned up. This year, UMFCA is launching a Four Seasons Campaign to target the unique pollutants and potential air problems for each season. Moms, obviously, know best.
BlueSky Energy Program
Rocky Mountain Power
You can support renewable energy for less than $2 a month ... although that might sound like an infomercial, it isn’t. We’re talking about the Blue Sky energy program, offered by Rocky Mountain Power. OK, so corporations are mostly what Captain Planet fought against, but at least RMP offers the masses— more than 31,000 in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho—an opportunity to vote with their dollar by supporting renewable energy.
That entails buying a minimum of one 100-kilowatthour block for $1.95, and upward from there. The money goes toward purchasing Green-e Energycertified renewable-energy certificates from windenergy facilities in the region. There’s no way for that specific wind-generated energy to go directly to the purchaser’s house; think of it as a donation and pledge for the greater good. Those Blue Sky bucks also fund and support small-scale, local-community developments of certified renewable-energy sources, such as wind, solar and geothermal.Water
Water Week (May 1-8, 2010)
Utah might just be the only state with official designation for a weeklong water celebration—even the Boy Scouts only get one day. In 2007 Stephanie Duer, water conservation coordinator for the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities, set out to create an event to deliver information about water conservation. She took the idea from engineer-run American Water Works Association, but she says most folks found a lecture approach stuffy and boring.
The event is based on educating about the water cycle, how it becomes potable and how and why conservation is important—especially in Utah—but it’s not about lecturing. She sought out enigmatic speakers and movies, like Tapped, to liven things up. Each year, more organizations get involved with the May festivities; in 2009, Hogle Zoo and Tracy Aviary joined in the fun, along with a water-inspired poetry slam.
Friends of the Great Salt Lake
There’s less than half a million visitors per year to the Great Salt Lake, in large part because the lake is easily misunderstood. While too many people see a shallow, stinky lake with too many bugs, the Friends of the Great Salt Lake see a system, interconnected and valuable, whether for recreative, economic, consumptive and nonconsumptive uses. They recognize what so few understand as an amazing natural resource in the city’s backyard. “It’s so dang subtle, it’s hard to teach the pithy issues and value of the system and our responsibility as stewards,” says FOGSL executive director Lynn de Freitas.
FOGSL also helps protect the lake from overuse and polluters. Thanks to their efforts, it just might not become toxic or vanish like Eastern Europe’s Aral Sea.Fire
Raser Technologies, Inc.%u2028
5152 N. Edgewood Drive,%u2028 Provo
Provo-based Raser Technologies is best known for its 100-mpg electric Hummer, but it also makes energy in southern Utah that’s virtually emission free, using generators in a space the size of a Hummer sales lot or two. As one of the most sought-after forms of renewable energy, geothermal can be produced around the clock without the sun or wind. It’s been possible to harness geothermal for about 100 years, but Raser has made it more accessible. Typically requiring groundwater at over 400 degrees Fahrenheit to produce steam (which turns turbines, generating electricity), Raser’s system can use water at just 280 degrees.
Renewable portfolio standards drive the purchase of geothermal. California has ’em; Utah, not so much. So, unfortunately for Utah, all of Raser’s energy goes to Anaheim, Calif. When Raser’s generators reach full capacity, it will produce approximately 10 megawatt hours, powering 8,000-10,000 homes. If you think that’s a lot, a consultant firm, GeotherEX, recently estimated Utah, at full capacity, could produce up to 238 megawatt hours of geothermal power. This is, at minimum, an untapped resource.
Many people have heard about eco-nuts who beg for used vegetable oil from restaurants to run their biodiesel trucks—which they converted in their garages. Now, however, veggie cars can be driven by those without an engineering degree. Naturol Fuels offers state-of-the-art conversion equipment for 100 percent veggie burning and biodiesel and will even install it. For hybrids, more gas stations are also offering biodiesel, especially during the summer. A word of warning: It’s pricey, running into the thousands of dollars. That’s why Naturol specializes in converting long-haul fleets. But, for some, lowering emissions, reducing dependency on foreign oil and dropping fuel costs make it worthwhile.
Salt Lake City Division of Sustainability & Environment
City & County Building
451 S. State, Room 145
Businesses use about 55 percent of Salt Lake City’s energy, and production cutbacks could have a big impact on energy consumption. So, the city government’s been helping businesses become more environmentally responsible and economically viable—the two Es in e2. They started the program in 2003. Program coordinator Bridget Stuchry attributes the program’s popularity less to the businesses and more to customers demanding to know if companies are green, prompting companies to seek help.
Consultants from e2 do a site visit, look at all the possible energy inputs and then help determine pragmatic goals. “Some companies will have really lofty goals, so we help them realize small steps ... like efficient light bulbs,” Stuchry says. Upon adopting e2’s plan and showing results, they’re certified and receive a neat little decal. The best part: It’s free. Stuchry says, “Sustainable business is nothing more than smart business.”
Live Green SLC! Fair
May 8, 2010
Looking to make a eco-lifestyle upgrade but need help? Love barbecues but hate all the wasted paper plates? Well, the Live Green SLC! Fair is the place to be. Now in its seventh year, it has the largest green exposition in Utah—over 100 booths of businesses, services and advocacy groups offering resources for all things green.
In 2009, the music stage was bicycle powered. This year, there will be a solarpowered beer garden and an EcoChic Fashion Show. Don’t bring that old doomand-gloom attitude to this party. “Part of our mission is to have solution-oriented exhibits,” says festival coordinator Kim Angeli, who says she’s switched her vehicle to biodiesel and learned gardening and chicken-raising skills from advice at the fair.
While it might seem strange to have this event after Earth Day, the weather is better and it launches the summer festival season. You’ll never see Library Square as green.