Skip to content
Search Main Menu Utah Department of Environmental Quality
Secondary Navigation

Be Water Wise: Plant What’s Native to Utah

By Kate Johnson

I grew up in a family that didn’t have money to spare, so my mother was relentless about making us turn off lights, keep the thermostat low, don’t waste water, and so on. The Energy Crisis of the early 1970s led to much media attention about ways to conserve energy, and my brother’s comment to my mother at the time was there was nothing for us to change in our routine: we were already doing all the things!

Nothing has changed as I’ve gotten older, but my focus now is more about
the inherent value of using resources wisely and conservatively. What I don’t use today I hope may be available in the future for my nieces, nephews, friends and neighbors.

On water use, my husband and I have chosen to keep our yard in the most natural state possible. The native plants of Utah know a thing or two about conserving water, after all! Our trees and shrubs are mostly Gambel Oak, Chokecherry, Serviceberry, and some pines and junipers. We’ve planted Elderberries and other fruit-bearing bushes, which are beautiful and also beneficial to wildlife. Native flowers like Penstemon, Butterfly Weed, Globe mallow and others are beautiful to look at and are great for the native pollinators. (And this is the time of year to plant them, before it gets too hot!) We use a drip system to water what needs to be watered, and the system is on timers that we fine-tune during the year, depending on how hot it is and how much rain we’ve been getting.

Not that we don’t have some not-so-guilty pleasures—we have some fruit trees and enjoy some vegetable and flowering plants that do need more regular watering—but we keep those where they are easy to give extra water to individually.

Kate JohnsonThese things do take a little planning and maintenance, but you don’t have to do them all at once. And keep in mind that once you’ve made a few changes, you might have more time to spend with your family on the weekends.

Tired of mowing the lawn? Get rid of some of it and plant some Utah natives. Insects and birds will thank you, you’ll use a lot less water, and you’ll have more time to spend with your family and friends.

I am an Environmental Program Manager in the Division of Drinking Water and oversee the Source Protection program. I’m a geologist by profession, married, love the outdoors, sewing, gardening, and bird watching, and just got a pair of in-line skates that I am nervous (yet excited) about trying out.

This entry was originally published on April 18th, 2014, updated on December 7th, 2016, and posted in news.

Make Your Own Household Cleaner

By Frances Bernards

You don’t have to be a mad scientist to either make your own household cleaner or purchase cleaners that are good for you and the environment. It’s very confusing to choose the best cleaners when confronted with labels that say “natural” or “environmentally-friendly” in the grocery store; how can you distinguish between what’s truly good for you and the
environment from what’s being “green-washed?”

Frances BernardsOne way to keep from being “green-washed” is to look for third-party verification symbols when shopping for household cleaners. If a company says its household cleaner is good for the environment, your first thought should be, “who else says so?” I look for labels from groups like EPA’s Design for the Environment, Green Good Housekeeping Seal, Green Seal, or EcoLogo. These independent or nonprofit organizations have investigated the manufacturer’s claim so I don’t have to. Check out Consumer Report’s Greener Choices program. It includes an Eco-label center that provides consumers with an evaluation of labels on personal care products and household cleaners as well as food.

Needless to say, making your own household cleaner is probably the greenest option of all. Here’s a recipe for an effective kitchen degreaser:

  1. Fill a 24 ounce (approximate) spray bottle with half water and half vinegar.
  2. Add 1 T. Castile Soap (Dr. Bronner’s or other) and 1 T. Citrus Cleaner (Citra-Solv or other). You can purchase a citrus cleaner at your local grocery store (I know Smith’s has it) as well as at Whole Foods Markets.

That’s all there is to it, simple!

You can keep your house—and the environment—clean by taking these few simple steps. Check out Consumer Report’s Homemade Household Cleaners for more recipes or look for the green labels you can trust. Happy green cleaning!

I am an environmental scientist working in DEQ’s Office of Planning and Public Affairs providing businesses with pollution prevention and sustainability resources as well as technical assistance. Outside of work, I am an avid mountain/road biker and skier, and I enjoy the music scene in Salt Lake City.


This entry was originally published on April 17th, 2014, updated on February 10th, 2017, and posted in news.

Want a Clean Vehicle?

By Glade Sowards

I work in the Mobile Sources section at DEQ—we’re the folks who look at emissions from vehicles.

A few weeks back, a couple of us from the Mobile section bumped into DEQ director Amanda Smith as we were coming back from a meeting. She told us she was glad to run into us because her family is considering trading in their older car, and she wanted to get our advice on the best options for purchasing a clean vehicle.

Vehicle emission standards are a complicated mix of two programs—one Vehiclesmanaged by EPA and the other by California—and a mind-numbing alphabet soup of tiers and bin levels (e.g., Tier 2 Bin 5, LEV II, SULEV II, PZEV). It can be pretty confusing.

We hear variations on Amanda’s question a lot in Mobile, but her request made us think about all the other people who want to make a green choice when they buy a car and want clear information. So we decided to put together a Clean Car Fact Sheet to help folks know what to look for when they purchase a vehicle.

The first thing you want to look for is the Smog Rating that’s included on the window stickers of all new cars. The dirtiest vehicles have a Smog Rating of one, while the cleanest vehicles get a rating of 10. The average new car has a rating of around 5. So if you’re in the market for a new car, simply look at the Smog Rating on the window sticker and select the highest rating for the vehicle type that meets your needs. Ideally, we recommend trying to get a clean vehicle with a score of 8, 9, or 10.

Shopping around online before you buy? Interested in a used vehicle? No problem. You can compare cars by make, model and year on the Department of Energy’s fuel economy website. You might be surprised and find a minivan that has lower emissions than a compact car. If you want to look for the most environmentally-friendly vehicles, check out EPA-certified SmartWay vehicles. The website lets you search for cars by state so you can see what your options are here in Utah.

Once you know the ropes, you can become a savvy car buyer and find just the right vehicle to meet your needs and help the environment at the same time. Check it out!

I am an environmental scientist in the Division of Air Quality Mobile Source and Transportation Section. I have a B.A. in Economics and Environmental Studies from Grinnell College and an M.S. in Forestry from Michigan Technological University. I worked at the Utah Energy Office for seven years before coming to work at DAQ. I enjoy playing music, road trips, camping, packrafting and hiking with my girlfriend Elizabeth and our dog, Whiskey.




This entry was originally published on April 16th, 2014, updated on February 10th, 2017, and posted in news.

Solar Energy is POWERfully Successful

By John Kennington

I’m somewhat a tinkerer and like to keep busy at home with an occasional project. So over my 30-plus years in Utah, I’ve stacked up more than a few “home projects” on this modest little abode. As a child of the 1960’s in California, I developed an earthy consciousness that’s kind-of stuck with me over the years. Naturally, that inclination has worked itself into some of these home projects. That’s to say, some of my boondoggles, from adding insulation or skylights, or a “sun room,” to most recently, a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, has actually, really, resulted in some energy savings here at home!

As you may be aware, Rocky Mountain Power allows PV system owners to connect their systems to the electrical grid in “net metering” mode. That is, when your system produces more power than the home is using, that power is pushed back into the grid, essentially turning your electric meter backwards. So you get credit for the excess power you produce, and can also draw any extra power you need from the grid when your system is producing less than your home is using (night time and cloudy days). You are able to save production credit for a full year, until the credit is set back to zero every April Fool’s Day.

Fortunately, over the past year that just ended about two weeks ago, the sun shined on us and our PV system was able to produce more power than we used over the entire year. Many thanks to my powerfully frugal family!

15april2014_john-225x300Want to learn more about solar energy or how you can go solar at your home? Check out Solar Simplified, Utah’s one-stop shop for information on solar energy for your home or business.

I’ve worked in the Division of Water Quality for some 23½ years now and am presently engaged in the Clean Water Act program to protect Utah’s natural surface waters. I’m here to help protect and enhance our quality of life and the tremendous natural beauty we all enjoy in Utah. Although not a native, I’ve lived here in the same house for some 36 years, so this is really “Home!”


This entry was originally published on April 15th, 2014, updated on February 10th, 2017, and posted in news.

Fresh Produce Takes Root in Your Garden

By Lisa Mechem

Spring is my favorite time of year. Fresh produce begins, trees are budding and daffodils are blooming.

My family and I prefer to “eat fresh produce” as much as possible. Bending to weed a garden has gotten to be a bit much, so now I grow tomatoes in pots on the deck or porch and herbs in the window. Soon, I will plan my commute home to take advantage of the produce stands from local growers along my route.

We found the Community Co-Op based here in Salt Lake City a few years ago. They try to have at least 80 percent of their products and fresh produce comes from local sources. It gives us a source for fresh foods year-round and also helps support Crossroads Urban Center and Food Pantry, so it helps others too.

As the weather warms up, I like to prepare dinners that are quick, appetizing and vegetarian. One of my favorites is a garden salad with drained, canned kidney or black beans. I use salsa for the dressing (preferably home-made). A slice of melon or other fresh fruit to finish makes a fantastic dessert.

This is the perfect time of year to plant your garden, visit your Farmer’s Market, select foods from local farms, and make healthy dinners using fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s good for your health and helps the environment too!

Lisa MechamI’ve been a compliance inspector in the X-Ray program of the Division of Radiation Control for about 2 ½ years. My background is in veterinary medicine and I had my own practice for many years. I enjoy most of the local pastimes, including sand-dunning, fishing, sewing, baking, and RV camping (tents went the way of weeding gardens).

This entry was originally published on April 14th, 2014, updated on April 10th, 2017, and posted in news.

Hate Junk Mail? Here’s How to Stop it

By Bethany Hyatt

Do you, like me make the daily trek out to your mailbox in dread of  unwanted junk mail waiting for you?

As you make that walk to the mail box, are you hoping that there isn’t only junk mail but a personal letter from a friend, or an invitation to the block party on Friday night?

As a single, apartment-dwelling, working woman, I personally don’t want, or pay attention to, Junk Mailmost of the mail that appears day-after-day in my mail box.

While the oversized glossy ad about the new, super-powered lawnmowers on sale at the local hardware store is flashy. I’m really not a fan of receiving junk mail that clearly has zero relevance to me.

Add on the countless credit card offers, insurance deals and too-good-to-be-true deals, and I’m drowning in wasted paper.

I’m guessing that I’m probably not the only person in Utah that loathes receiving loads of irrelevant junk mail every day.

Here are a few things I’ve done to cut down on my junk mail:

  • I’m not a big shopper, so I pass along the weekly local coupons to my neighbor—a mother of four who is working to get the most from every hard-earned dollar.
  • I created an account with TrustedID that helps me self-select which catalogs, phone books and mailing lists I want to unsubscribe from. Going through the site also helped me to identify companies that, while I do pay for certain services, send me loads of junk trying to upsell me for other services. The site was helpful in guiding me through the steps I needed to take to request a halt to unwanted solicitations.
  • I’ve been making inquiries to see what recycling options are available for me and my neighbors to recycle our paper goods, since my apartment complex currently does not offer convenient recycling dumpsters. Wish me luck!
You can start managing your mail today using DMA Choice. The great thing about stopping unwanted mail delivery is that you are saving trees. This small action also helps to conserve water and reduce waste in the landfill.
It’s a win-win for everyone!

I am a new face at DEQ, just having started Fall 2013 in the Office of Planning and Public Affairs. Raised in Utah, I have many fond memories of exploring Utah’s State Parks with my family. Goblin Valley State Park is hands down my favorite destination. I graduated from BYU with a degree in communications, I’m a proud BYU football season ticket holder (go Cougars!), and I love the Wasatch Mountains in the fall.



This entry was originally published on April 13th, 2014, updated on December 14th, 2016, and posted in news.