Getting Dirty: Why children need to be outdoors

Story and photos by KATIE HARRINGTON

A semi-weathered copy of Thoreau’s “Walden is perched on the top shelf of an IKEA bookcase in Nick Harrison’s bedroom, next to a collection of guidebooks, a stack of old climbing magazines and a French pocketknife — the handle made from the trunk of a cork tree. Harrison’s name is engraved on the blade.

A large, unfinished painting of southern Utah’s Castleton Tower is nestled into the corner of the room, near a box of paintbrushes and a piece of notebook paper with the title “2012 TO DO LIST” written across the top:

Keep a clear mind. Visit a different continent. Finish Castleton painting. Push my physical limits. Change someone’s life for the better.

Harrison, a 20-year-old student and a “liftie” at Alta Ski Area, grew up with the Wasatch Mountains in his backyard, inspired by their mystifying allure.

“I am drawn to the outdoors,” Harrison said. “These mountains are my constant source of motivation. I draw them. I climb them. But I didn’t fully appreciate what they had to offer until I got older. Survival, self-reliance, serenity: these are all things you can only truly learn by getting outside.”

But kids today don’t seem to see the outdoors the same way Harrison does.

Crowson (left) and Harrison pack their car for a climbing trip in April.

According to a national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids ages eight to 18 spend an average of 7.3 hours engaging in entertainment media in a typical day. This amounts to more than 53 hours per week.

Be Out There — a National Wildlife Federation campaign that hopes to reconnect children to the natural world — notes that a study in 2005 revealed that children are spending half as much time outdoors than they did 20 years ago.

Neil Crowson — Harrison’s roommate and adventurer counterpart — grew up down the street from Harrison, spending his childhood skiing in the Wasatch Mountains and rock climbing with his father.

“It’s really important for a kid to go out and get himself in the dirt, jump off rocks and cut his knees up, and get on the mountain at a young age,” Crowson said. “If kids do that, then they come to develop ambitions and learn to respect the mountains.”

Both Harrison and Crowson say they have — in one way or another — been defined by their outdoor surroundings, that growing up with the mountains as their playground has given them a sense of place and purpose in a seemingly uncertain world.

The walls of their living room are covered from ceiling to floor with personal photographs that share a common theme: being outside.

The gear room in the basement of their bungalow-style house is crammed with racks of ropes, climbing gear, bikes, skis, backpacks, tents and camp stoves—and a looming odor that can only be created from years of adventuring outdoors.

“I can’t ever see myself leaving the Wasatch completely,” Crowson said. “The people that founded these canyons, both in skiing and in climbing, have also founded tons of areas around the west coast. But you always see them coming back to Salt Lake and that’s because we hold the mountains with such high regard. They define us.”

But that defining power of the mountains — of the outdoors in general — is becoming increasingly sparse among today’s youth, as an increasingly technology-fueled lifestyle drives kids indoors — and keeps them there.

“It’s hard to learn a key set of morals as a kid when the world is changing so rapidly and technology is always advancing,” Crowson said. “It’s always hard to know how to become a man. But the beautiful thing about the outdoors is that it’s a constant. It’s timeless. So the same set of values that existed 100 years ago still exists today.”

Outdoor Nation — a community-based program created by young people, for young people — was founded in 2010 to address the growing disconnect between today’s youth and the outdoors.

“America is in a current state of crisis where its youth are choosing technology over nature, Xboxes (check the proper spelling on X box) over healthy lifestyles,” Outdoor Nation said on its website. “Green spaces in urban areas are either unsafe or non-existent. Families, schools, and media have failed to engage and excite youth about the benefits of the outdoors.”

Judy Brady, a licensed clinical social worker in Salt Lake City, said being outdoors is especially important for a child’s development because it fosters self-esteem.

“One of the ways in which we gain self-esteem is through task mastery,” Brady said. “When a child is outside, he or she gains personal self worth by problem solving, by completing new and challenging tasks.”

A series of studies published in a 2009 edition of Journal of Environmental Psychology found that being outside in nature makes people feel more alive.

“In vital states people demonstrate better coping and report greater health and wellness,” the study reported. “Being outdoors has been proposed to be good for health and well-being because when outdoors, people tend to both interact more with others and get more exercise.”

The sunlight also triggers serotonin and dopamine production, neurotransmitters that help maintain positive feelings in the brain, Brady said. Cases of seasonal depression are seen more often in the winter months because there is less sunlight and people spend less time outdoors.

“When we are surrounded by all man-made objects and man-made ideas — products of our own society — we become dysfunctional,” Crowson said. “We forget how to respond. We are alienated from each other because we are constantly around each other. When you are in the outdoors and there’s nothing but organic sounds, it gives you a chance to really bond with other humans.”

Allison Librett — a lawyer and fitness instructor in Salt Lake City — said that exposing her children to the outdoors at a young age has helped them establish and maintain relationships.

Librett has a nine-year-old and an 11-year-old, both of whom spend their summers at outdoor camps with children of diverse abilities and backgrounds.

“Fresh air, exercise, mental stimulation — these are all such important things for child’s development,” Librett said. “My kids have had the opportunity growing up to interact with the world around them, to know what their imprint is and that they have a purpose.”

Librett said that when her children spend long periods indoors — especially when they are on the computer or playing video games — she notices that they are much more anxious, emotional and frustrated.

Those emotions disappear when her children are engaged in outdoor activities.

Harrison said he hopes that today’s youth will realize what adventuring outdoors has to offer.

“Kids should be excited to get out, to be outside, to breathe fresh air, to see a full moon and a bunch of stars, and hear the coyotes,” Harrison said. “That’s the sickest thing to me: just hearing and seeing and feeling the world as it is. ”

And if Harrison’s convictions about the benefits of nature aren’t heartfelt and persuasive enough, then perhaps a passage marked in his copy of “Walden” is:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

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One World Café heightens the food expectations of the non-profit world

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by Tricia Oliphant

Imagine a menu that offers so much variety it actually changes on a daily basis. You choose your portions and then pay what you are able or what you think your meal was worth. If you do not have money to buy a meal, you can volunteer an hour of your time and eat for free.  Those who serve your food are also the people who helped prepare it, allowing you to find an immediate answer to the age-old question “It looks good, but what’s in it?”

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Such is the organization of One World Café, a non-profit community café in downtown Salt Lake City.

Denise Cerreta founded One World Café in 2003. It is now part of several non-profit cafés nationwide that make up the One World Everybody Eats Foundation. The café provides delicious, healthy meals to all who desire to eat, regardless of their financial situation.

When I heard about this revolutionary idea of choosing my portions and what I wanted to pay for them, I was curious about how it worked. I decided to give it a try with a friend.

Upon entering the café, we immediately noticed the friendly atmosphere. We were greeted kindly by one of the cooks/servers who directed us to choose our plate size. Although we were only required to pay what we deemed fair, we did see price suggestions according to the size of plate written on a blackboard (small: $4 to $6, medium: $7 to $9, large: $10 to $12.)

Our server then described each of the dishes laid out in front of us, buffet style. The main dishes included sweet curry over brown rice, a unique asparagus quiche on a potato crust, and seasoned beef bursting with flavor.

An assortment of fresh salads complimented each of the main dishes, including a zesty marinated carrot and cucumber salad, and a wild rice salad with celery and tomato.

We tried a bit of everything. We also chose a drink from a selection of coffee, tea, soymilk, almond milk, or water.

The One World Café offers a cozy, “feel like you’re eating in your mother’s dining room” atmosphere.  Each of several dining rooms contains only a couple of dining tables to provide a sense of privacy. A patio in front allows for dining al fresco.
In addition to the warm, inviting atmosphere and the plethora of food and dining options, the food itself at One World Café was simply succulent and mouthwatering. The ingredients were clearly fresh. Most were organic.

“I believe in getting food as close to the source as possible,” One World Café manager David Spittler said.

Sunflower Farmers Market donates many of the ingredients used at One World Café.  The café also participates in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where a monthly fee is paid to a local farm for its fresh produce.

Spittler became an advocate of fresh, organic food while he worked on a peach farm after high school.  The peaches they shipped to places such as Wal-Mart, Spittler said, were picked while they were still green, thus robbing the produce of many vital nutrients.

Using several of their favorite cookbooks, Spittler and a group of regular volunteers decide how to use the fresh ingredients as they prepare a weekly menu — about a week in advance.

“We try to make the menu as friendly to everyone as possible,” he said.

“My favorite cold dish was the Cucumber and Carrot Zest,” said customer Lauren Snow on a recent visit. “The ingredients were so simple but it had so much flavor, and it’s something I can make at home.”

One other point in One World’s favor: very little food at the café goes to waste. Because customers choose their portion sizes, they eat most of their food.

Furthermore, the food that is left over at the end of the day, such as salads, can often be reused in another dish the following day. Although the hot dishes are not reheated, Spittler said, they are often reused in a soup. Any leftover waste is recycled as compost.

One World’s kitchen is small, but out in the open for all to see.  Customers can watch their meals being cooked. With only one six-burner stove in operation, something is always cooking.

“We can’t prepare large quantities [of food] at one time,” said volunteer Isaac Hoppe. “This is a good thing because it’s fresh.”

Whether you’re looking for a pleasant dining atmosphere, a delicious variety of well-prepared dishes, or would simply like to help feed the hungry of Salt Lake City, the One World Café has something for everyone.

One World Café

41 S 300 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Hours: Wed -Sun, 8 a.m. -7 p.m.; Fri –Sat, 8 a.m. -9 p.m.

Phone: 801-519 – 2002519- 2002


City Creek Center opening brings thousands to downtown Salt Lake City

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by Tricia Oliphant

Crowds lined the walkway. Parents gripped the hands of their squirming children, who were eager to run off and explore. The shutters of cameras repeatedly clicked.

In one corner a musician put his soul into playing the blues on his saxophone.  In another, musician and performer Steven Sharp Nelson of The Piano Guys entertained a crowd with playful tunes on his cello. The laughter of a nearby group of adolescents resonated as they talked about their plans and what they wanted to see first.

That overflowing excitement most often only theme parks can create filled the masses swarming downtown for the opening of Salt Lake City’s first downtown mall in three decades.

City Creek Center opened on Thursday, Mar. 22, 2012. Like many others, I was drawn to the novelty and newness of City Creek. I decided I had to join thousands of others in visiting City Creek on its opening day so I could answer the question posed by a dear friend of mine, “Is it really as big a deal as it has been made out to be?”

Although City Creek offers ample parking in a giant, heated three-level underground parking garage, I chose to take the TRAX (Utah’s light rail system) to the new shopping center.  In spite of the train being loaded with anxious shoppers of all ages who were also heading for the mall, I thought it offered the convenience of not fighting downtown traffic or hunting for a parking place.

City Creek Shopping Center was funded entirely by cash reserves of the LDS Church and built on three church-owned blocks in downtown Salt Lake City. A sky bridge over Main Street connects two of the blocks and allows shoppers on the second level of the center to cross from one side to the other.

Upon arrival, I was impressed by the classy architecture and design of City Creek Center. I quickly realized this wasn’t just any ordinary mall when I noticed the glass roof is actually retractable. City Creek opens the roof when the weather is just right, providing a view of the open sky and surrounding skyscrapers.

Along with over 90 stores and restaurants, the shopping center offers a wildlife landscape downtown with the re-creation of the historic City Creek that winds through the shopping center’s walkways and plazas—complete with live fish.

In addition to the creek, the shopping center offers a variety of waterfalls, ponds and fountains (one of which is open to children who would like to cool off while splashing in the choreographed blasts of water.) I found each water feature to be quite beautiful and each added a sense of natural serenity to the busy shopping center.

“Standing at the base of the skyscrapers surrounded by rivers and waterfalls was a striking experience of both outdoors and the big city at the same time,” shopper Matt Argyle said. “It’s really breathtaking.”

Benches and tables rest on the edge of the creek and beside the waterfalls. These provide places to relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.

Some believe the quality of the food court can often make or break a shopping center.  City Creek’s food court is nothing to scoff at.

The massive food court is located next to the creek and a waterfall. Diners can eat inside (with many of the tables located next to giant windows in front of the water features) or can dine al fresco.  Both options offer a relaxing place to eat.

The food court is made up of everything from Subway to the Taste of Red Iguana to the Great Steak and Potato Company. Other restaurants, such as The Cheesecake Factory and Texas de Brazil Churrascaria, are also located in the shopping center.

By wandering through City Creek Shopping Center, it soon became clear that people came for much more than shopping and spending. This was a public event, a place for relaxing and enjoyment with friends and family. While taking all this in, I wondered about the future of City Creek and its potential impact on surrounding malls (such as The Gateway, a mere two blocks to the west).

Although City Creek attracted large numbers of people opening weekend, The Gateway was not left completely desolate.

“We were actually pretty busy opening weekend,” said Kara Johnson, an employee at Down East Basics, at The Gateway. Down East Basics, a moderately priced casual apparel store, is not duplicated at the new City Creek Center. “I expected it to be dead,” Johnson said.

Despite the crowds of people at City Creek Center opening weekend, many realized the stores at City Creek were more expensive than they had expected. “They came to Gateway because they knew what to expect,” Johnson said.

Unlike The Gateway, City Creek Center is closed on Sundays. This gives the older mall an extra day to attract shoppers and therefore compete with the novelty of the new shopping center.

Furthermore, although some of the stores are duplicated at both shopping centers (such as Forever 21), many are not. This gives a distinct shopping opportunity at each location.

Johnson said that because she has never been to many of the stores now located at City Creek, she would like to go there just to see what they’re like. “I just want to say I’ve been in a Tiffany’s.”

The uniqueness of the new stores to Utah clearly attracted crowds to City Creek Center.  However, many Utahans are known for being “frugal” and “resourceful”. Higher-end stores may not sit so well with a thrifty people.

“I love City Creek. It’s just so nice,” said Jannali Ouzounian, a new mother from Holladay. “I just wish I could afford to shop at all the stores. A wallet at Tiffany’s [costs] $600.”

“I think Utah could do a lot better by bringing in the outlets,” said University of Utah student Kelly Wolfe. She said that putting in stores such as the Tommy Hilfiger Outlet and Bloomingdale’s Outlet would not reduce the classy appeal of City Creek and would attract a greater portion of the Utah market.

Being a bargain hunter myself, I would love to shop at classy outlet stores downtown. However, I find the higher-end stores at City Creek to be alluring.

How long this allure will last remains in question.

“I think once all the hype wears off, City Creek will be just another mall,” said Utah State University student Elise Olsen. However, once all the hype does wear off, Olsen said she plans to shop at City Creek with hopes of finding good sales on high-priced items.

Only time will tell the fate of City Creek Center and whether it will continue attracting large crowds of people to the downtown area. In spite of this, I found City Creek Center to be beautifully constructed and thought it added class to Salt Lake City.

In answer to my friend’s question, City Creek is quite a big deal — for now.

Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective offers Community Bike Shop programs to west-side youth

Story and photo by CECELIA FENNELL

The University of Utah Community Bike Shop has a bike on the roof.

The Community Bike shop, located at the Salt Lake Center for Science Education, offers tools and know-how for people to fix their bikes. In addition to providing basic bike repairs, The Community Bike Shop offers youth programs.

Middle-school aged students residing on the west side of Salt Lake City volunteer at this community bike shop and teach other children from that community how to fix and repair bikes. Students learn how to teach the children by taking classes taught by bicycle instructors from the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective, a nonprofit organization located at 2312 S. West Temple.

Thanks to University Neighborhood Partners of the University of Utah, the Community Bike Shop and the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective — two organizations with similar missions — were able to partner.

“Through this partnership, volunteer instructors from the collective teach student volunteers how to fix bikes,” said Sarah Munro, associate director of UNP.

According to its website, UNP’s mission  is to “redress historical inequity by understanding systematic barriers that have prevented access to higher education and to rewrite that history so residents of the west side see themselves as holders and creators of knowledge.” UNP serves as a bridge between organizations with similar goals and interests, Munro said.

The Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective was founded in April 2002 by five bicycle enthusiasts: Jonathan Morrison, Edward Whitney, Brenton Chu, Brian Price and Jesse Ratzkin. Its mission “is to promote cycling as an effective and sustainable form of transportation and as a cornerstone of a cleaner, healthier and safer society.” According to the website, the “Collective provides refurbished bicycles and educational programs to the community, focusing on children and lower income households.”

The Collective offers seven programs and services, two of which are youth programs for children living on Salt Lake City’s west side. One, Earn-A-Bike, helps kids learn bicycle mechanics and confidence.

“Kids get to come in, pick out a bike and they get to keep it. The catch is they have to take it all apart and put it back together themselves,” said Jonathan Morrison, executive director of the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective.

Bike mechanical skills aren’t the only skills learned through Earn-A-Bike. According to the Collective’s 2009 annual report, “In addition to learning bike mechanics, the children are mentored in time and resource management and many students become valuable mentors to their classmates.”

Morrison sees the impact his instruction has on his students, how it affects not only them, but also the kids they will teach.

“The best part was when they used their extra time and knowledge to become a peer-mentor,” Morrison said. “As an Earn-a-Bike instructor, those moments where the student becomes the teacher make it all worth it,” he said.

Another youth program, Trips for Kids, reconnects city youth with Utah’s mountains through mountain biking. Participants are able to take trips to Bonneville Shoreline Trail, the Mormon Pioneer Trail and Liberty Park with the help of adult and youth volunteers. According to the annual report, “Trips for Kids opens up the world of cycling to at-risk youth through mountain bike trips, which include lessons in personal responsibility, achievement, environmental awareness, practical skills and the simple act of having fun.”

Locations of the Bicycle Collective have extended to the Day-Riverside Library, the Ogden Bicycle Collective and the University of Utah community bike shop, located near the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Each location shares its volunteers and other nonfinancial resources. While services are limited to low-income youth and families on the west side, everyone is invited to volunteer. Students at the U may wish to volunteer at the campus bike shop.

For more information, call 801-FAT-BIKE (328-2453).

U’s Sill Center pushes sustainable building efforts

Watch a multimedia video about the University of Utah’s Sill Center and their sustainability efforts.

Story and multimedia by JENNA LEVETAN

Construction all over campus causes students to pay a $17 fee in their tuition every semester. But one older building is adding new and innovative methods to save money and also energy.

The Sterling Sill Center is where the office of undergraduate studies is located and is a leader in housing sustainable projects on campus. It has solar panels on top of the building, organic gardens in front and the most recent project is in their backyard and is called an ice ball.

The ice ball is an experiment that could be a breakthrough in air conditioning.  The experiment is happening 40 feet underground behind the building. Professor Kent Udell spearheaded the idea of the ice ball with students from the department of mechanical engineering. An ice ball is a method of taking the cold winter air and saving it underground.

There are 19 pipes sticking out of the ground behind the building called thermosyphines. The pipes are what bring the cold air down underground.

“The basic concept is that we are trying to TIVO the seasons.  We are trying to store the winter cold that we are experiencing right now, take advantage of it in summer and get free air conditioning,” Udell said.

A special coolant fluid similar to Freon is put into the pipes that have both the liquid and vapor phase. The liquid is in the bottom of the pipes and the vapor is on top.

“What happens in the winter is that when the temperature outside drops below the temperature underground, that liquid in the bottom starts to boil.  As it boils the vapors come up, go to the condenser, condense, and the liquid runs back down. Then comes summer and we reverse it,” Udell said.

When the cold liquid comes back into the ground, it freezes the soil around the pipes, forming what people are calling an ice ball. The cold liquid will be pumped into the air conditioner and will be used to cool the building as the ice ball melts. The ice ball will grow to be about 35 feet in diameter.

Sill Center employees are hoping to use the energy gained by their solar panels to pump the liquid into the air conditioner making the ice ball truly environmentally friendly by using no electricity at all. St. Andrew personally asked Udell to use the backyard of the Sill Center for the ice ball.

“If this works it has immense potential for saving lots and lots of money and preventing a lot of pollution. And if it works hopefully we can expand the idea and not only change the way this building gets its air conditioning, but the world,” said St. Andrew.

Building the ice ball has cost just over $20,000, but Udell believes that the cost of installing the ice ball will be paid back in three years with all the money the school will save in air conditioning bills and it should last for decades.

The installation is now complete and Udell hopes it to be operational by summer 2011. If the ice ball turns out to be successful, Udell will work on a similar but separate project to keep the warm summer air stored to help them heat the building during the winter.

Another green project the Sill Center houses are the solar panels that were installed in December 2009. There are 30 plates of solar panels on the roof with three rows of 10. It only cost the university about $17,000 out of pocket to buy and install them after they got a grant from Rocky Mountain Power.

“We got a grant through Rocky Mountain Power for $30,000,” said Mark St. Andrew, assistant dean of undergraduate studies. “It is going to take us nearly 50 years to pay off these panels in the amount of energy that they are going to produce.”

Though the goal of solar panels are to save energy, the ones at the Sill Center produce much less then some may think.

According to the data from the Rocky Mountain energy manager, last year the panels only produced three percent of what the building uses in a year. The university will be in debt to the panels for so long because of the large out of pocket expense for the panels and the small dent of energy they actually produce.

The panels are only guaranteed to last for 30 years, meaning the university may be paying for them for nearly 20 years after they are gone. The employees at the Sill Center are aware that there are some conservative fiscal people who think they were a waste of money, but they stand by their decision of getting them because even without a return on investment the panels get people talking about alternative sources of energy.

The organic garden is a project funded by the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund. When Alex Parvas, founder of gardens, asked the Sill Center if she could grow the gardens in front of the building there they were more then pleased to say yes.

“The gardens are perfect at the Sill Center,” said Parvas. “Once they get fully in bloom it is going to be really pretty and hopefully a conversation starter since the building is so central on campus.”

The Sill Center and garden coordinators have also set up a patio area along side the building so students and faculty can have a spot on campus to picnic around the gardens.

The Sill Center will continue to look for innovative ways to improve sustainability on campus and remains optimistic about the future.

“There is no overall plan or master plan that we have hatched,” St. Andrew said. “It is just stuff that makes sense to do.”

Utah agencies prepare for the “big flood”

Watch a multimedia video about Salt Lake County’s flood preparations.

Story and multimedia by ROBERT CALLISTER

Salt Lake County Flood Control is preparing for the potential upcoming flood season due to last year’s heavy flooding. The floods resulted in millions of dollars of damage and the removal of a 20-foot-long bridge in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Experts from Flood Control Services say the levee failure was due to cracks and spillage from unattended creeks.

Salt Lake County Flood Control is preparing for the potential upcoming flood season. Politicians, police and fire authorities and county safety officials met today to coordinate efforts for this year’s possible flooding.

Nearly $3 million were appropriated to the state’s Flood Control and Emergency Services during this year’s legislative session to prepare for and prevent possible flood damage.

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon believes county officials will ready and have learned from 2010’s experience.

“Mother nature will ultimately decide what the flooding will be like this season,” he said. “But we have learned from last year and we want to be prepared. We will be prepared.”

Due to the rising concern and last year’s damage, the county currently has over 5,000 sandbags filled on pallets and plans to have 10,000 by the end of this month. It also has over 400 tons of large, angular rocks (rip rap) stockpiled and ready for distribution.

Scott Baird is the director of Salt Lake County Flood Control and Engineering. He is encouraged by the cooperation among the various active organizations.

“The most significant change of this year from last is the preparation and coordination system among the counties and local safety organizations,” he said.

Last year, the Little Cottonwood Creek flooded over its banks, causing millions of dollars of damage to surrounding residential areas. Over 1,500 volunteers helped by laying down sandbags to control eroded areas.

City officials are worries that this year’s weather patterns are much like that of last year’s. Intense snow storms, especially in the mountain regions, followed by rapid warming caused last year’s flooding. Officials say this year could possibly produce similar snow-melt patterns.

Baird believes there has been an adequate amount of work done to repair affected areas.

“We have done repair work to the channel,” he said. “We have got about $2 million of repair work that has gone in so far. With all of the resources we have stockpiled over the few months, there is not doubt we will be ready.”

Even though there were sizeable budget cuts this legislative session, there was still money appropriated to fund this moderately expensive project. This money has been used to coordinate efforts to gather thousands of tons of supplies and prepare heavy machinery.

Salt Lake County’s Flood Control and Operations Divisions have inventoried numerous pieces of heavy equipment, including back hoes, track hoes and more than 60 trucks available for hauling.

“We have been coordinating with surrounding cities to get their inventory of resources that we can use to augment our resources. On top of that we have contracts with contractors who can haul mobilized equipment and bring in materials.”

Michael Jensen, chief for the SLCO Fire Department, said they learned from the devastating floods of ‘83 and are ready for this year.

“It is night and day from the intense floods of 1983 and right now. We will be ready for whatever mother nature has to throw at us.”

County officials have advised citizens to be specifically cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers. Also, the instructed parents to never allow children to play around high water, storm drains, viaducts, or arroyos.

Additional safety tip information can be found in the Utah Department of Public Safety website.

University grants students money for sustainable projects

Watch a news broadcast about the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund.

Story and multimedia by JENNA LEVETAN

The Office of Sustainability is making students green ideas a reality with the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund. The program also known as SCIF oversees competitive grants for student projects focused on sustainability, education and energy efficiency at the University of Utah.

SCIF’s mission is to provide funding for real-world projects that improve the University of Utah’s environmental quality and make the campus more sustainable. Student funding like these are often known to get the ax because of school budget cuts. However, SCIF coordinator, Whitney Williams, says the program is safe because it actually creates jobs once the ideas are approved.

“I would say that we are in a little bubble,” Williams said. “We are not really affected by the economy. If anything we are more attractive because some students can use this as funding their own research, so it is sort of a job opportunity.”

A $2.50 fee in every student’s tuition solely funds the projects. The students involved in the Association Students at the University of Utah (ASUU) approved the charge in 2009, and they voted very much in favor of the campaign. With an estimated 30,000 students who pay tuition it designates about $75,000 to be granted to students.

Myron Willson, Director of the Office of Sustainability, believes that even though students have to pay a fee in the long haul they are actually reaping the benefits.

“There is a lot of student involvement and even though the program has only been going for one year I believe they will start seeing the evidence of sustainability soon,” Willson said.

Since the programs launch in January 2010, SCIF has funded 24 student projects; however, last year they did not use all of their money leaving them with $160,000 to award this semester.

“The average amount that usually goes to one project is $4,000,” Williams said. “So take that divided by $160,000 and that is a lot of projects we hope to fund.”

There is no set number of projects that will receive funding. It depends on how much money each project asks for.

SCIF funds projects that address financial, environmental, educational, visibility, creativity and longevity. With the economy hitting a lull, the financial aspect is considered the most important factor to the committee who determines which projects will receive funding. Student projects should be able to either make or save money and all projects should have a return on investment.

The organic gardens located at the Still Center were one project that was approved and is now in bloom. The project was submitted by a masters in science and technology graduate student, Alex Parvaz who was also an intern at the Office of Sustainability. She was given $2,828 for garden tools, compost bins and seeds. Her project is helping the university’s campus financially because the gardens produce organic food that are being sold to on-campus dining facilities, such as Chartwells as well as selling them to the community at the U’s farmers market.

“Selling the food at the farmers market has given us the money to help pay for basic maintenance, and students being able to eat the very food that they grow has been cool and delicious,” Parvaz said.

Another invention that you can see cycling around campus is the recycle cycle made by environmental studies undergraduate Derk Harris. He was given $4,200 to make five bicycles retrofitted with a bucket on the back to be used at campus events, especially football games.

“It is projected that eight tons of trash per game is thrown into our waste stream,” said Harris. “So the idea of the bike being able to have our volunteers at lease being able to have fun while they are riding around putting recycles in the bike.”

The bike is being made with the help of local bike shop Madsen Cycles. The owner of the bike shop, Jared Madsen, opted to split the cost of each bike. Because of this each bike only cost the Office of Sustainability and Harris $850 versus $1400.

Harris’s vision of the recycle cycle is to raise awareness of recycling on campus and increase the amount of goods recycled at campus events. So far only one bike has been made, but the other four are on the way. Any student can volunteer to ride the bike around campus to help clean up.

Because of all the money the SCIF program now has to give, Harris plans on applying for more grants and suggests that students to do the same. “The money is there and the office is willing to hear whatever as long as it helps students and campus,” said Harris. “Even if you do not have a complete idea they are willing to work with you to bring it to life.”

Every student is eligible to apply for funding to start a sustainable project or business on campus. Grants are awarded once a semester and students must find a facility member to sponsor them. To find out more information on how to apply visit the Office of Sustainability website.

Recycle-mania kicks off at the University of Utah

Story and photos by JENNA LEVETAN

The economy is affecting almost everyone, including the recycling market.

Joshua James, recycling coordinator for the University of Utah, talks about recycling on campus.the University of Utah campus the Office of Sustainability and Facilities Management are doing everything they can to keep students excited and involved with recycling. They hope the recycling competition, Recycle-mania will positively affect the way students think about where they put there trash.

This year the University will be competing with 630 other colleges and universities to see who can reduce, reuse and recycle the most on-campus waste. Recycle-mania is set up to create student involvement in recycling. Recyclables are removed at a lower cost than trash bound for the landfill, meaning if students are recycling more, the school spends less, and saves money.

The competition takes place over an eight-week period. All the schools will track and report how much is being recycled on campus by weight each week. Schools are then ranked according to who collects the largest amount of recyclables per capita, the largest amount of total recyclables, the least amount of trash per capita, or the highest recycling rate.

This is the University of Utah’s fourth year competing in the competition. The school began tracking recycling weights on February 6 and will do so until March 27.

Recycle-mania coordinator Joshua James has committed himself to making campus more sustainable. He wants the university to be a leader in sustainable efforts.

Recycling centers are used across campus to promote recycling.

“Students thinking more green is definitely happening,” James said. “Students becoming more involved with recycling has been easy with our poor economy.” James also says he hopes this competition will help expand economic opportunities while addressing environmental issues in a positive way.

Each year the university places higher in the competition. After a 75th-place finish in 2010 they are now hoping to get into the top 50. This year the university will be competing in the paper and plastic reduction category because they are the university’s most recycled materials.  According to the Recycle-mania website, on average, the University of Utah recycles about 8,000 pounds of paper and 300 pounds of plastic per week.

The Office of Sustainability is also reducing the waste of plastic by providing a water bottle filling station in the Union cafeteria. When students use the fountain it documents the number of water bottles saved per use.

To get more students involved, coordinators are amping up promotion this year by starting a Facebook page and twitter feed. Increased promotion of the competition will give students, faculty and staff an opportunity to respond and boost their recycling habits to earn the higher ranking they are shooting for.

Rob Wallace, vice president of communications for Recyle-mania, says making recycling appealing on college campus is important because students are an extremely influential demographic.

“I like to say that every 40-year-old wants to be 22, and so does every 12-year-old,” Wallace said. “Recycling is good for the environment, good for the economy, creates jobs and saves energy. If college students are saying it’s the right thing to do, others might start to pick up on it.”

The University of Utah’s recycling program was launched in July 2007. Since then, the program has continued to grow and is expected to increase by 40 percent this year.

Recycling has been made easy on campus with portable recycling centers. Each center has a bin for trash, paper, plastic and aluminum and some have bins for glass and cardboard. There are recycling centers in all of the 853 buildings on campus.

Putting the recyclables in the correct bin is crucial. If inappropriate materials are placed in the bins the stream will be contaminated and then rejected. James encourages everyone to look for the triangle reduce, reuse, recycle logo when recycling there products. To help prevent recycling contamination, if your trash does not have the triangle symbol do not put it in a recycling container.

If students and faculty commit to recycling there waste it will decrease disposal volumes in landfills. The good news is that recycling is growing. Just 30 years ago, very few facilities or campuses had any access to recycling at all. In 30 years, a strong and vital industry has grown with the help of students who want to protect natural resources. Though the future is still to be determined, this generation of youth can be the ones to take recycling to the next level. It can create more jobs, more supply and more demand. This generation can help innovate new products and processes, and create new uses for recovered materials. It’s a wide- open opportunity and it all starts with the commitment to do more. That’s what Recycle-mania is all about.

University of Utah pushes to become more sustainable

Watch Myron Willson, Director of Office of Sustainability at the University of Utah, talk about sustainability.

Story and multimedia by JENNA LEVETAN

With the help of the Office of Sustainability, the University of Utah is taking on major efforts to become more sustainable and carbon neutral.  Despite the falling economy, the budget for the Office of Sustainability is staying concrete and student projects have been expanding.

The Office of Sustainability is an on-campus program that is looking to help improve sustainable efforts. The office has been up and running since October 2007 and is located in the Annex building.

Over the last three years the sustainability staff has been working on promoting responsible practices and encouraging students to think green and adopt more eco-friendly behaviors. They want students to ask themselves if they are living beyond their ecological means. In other words, are you consuming more natural resources than nature can regenerate?

The sustainability office has also been mapping out a strategic plan for enhanced campus sustainability with anticipated cost savings and external funding opportunities.

The Office of Sustainability may seem like a program in danger of budget cuts, but because the office is funded by several different sources they are standing strong. The main base of funding comes from the health science campus, academic affairs and the facilities management program. The secondary source of funding comes from students. Every student gives the office $2.50 each semester in their tuition for a total of $150,000 a year.

The Office of Sustainability director, Myron Willson knows students don’t typically support these fees, but believes in the long run it will actually save students money.

“We are starting to see a difference,” Willson said. “We have energy saving programs, we have sponsored undergraduates for research opportunities, we are getting more and more students applying for funding to do their research or to do projects that they are interested in on campus. So I think people will start to see more evidence in the coming year.”

For the most part, budgeting priorities usually are given to projects that will help with green house gas reduction. However, they are willing to re-direct priorities when it comes to student ideas.

“This is an educational institute,” Willson said. “So when opportunities come up to work with students and curriculum to make a difference, there are programs and efforts that we do that may not have a direct or measurable impact, but long term it will grow support.”

With that money they are also sponsoring graduate students to do environmental research.

Getting students to become more sustainable has been easier for the office because the idea of being green has become somewhat trendy. The environmental studies program has been at the University of Utah since 1994, much before it was cool to be concerned with climate change. Since then it has been getting more popular every year.  According to University records, five years ago there were only 150 declared majors and today there are 265.

John Pruitt is a junior at the University of Utah and decided to become an environmental study major because he wants to make an economic impact.

“I’m interested in saving energy,” said Pruitt. “It could be argued economically, but I also look at it as being more efficient. All money starts from energy and it makes sense to be involved around it, and some may rub off on me more so in that field.”

Student involvement is increasing outside of the environmental study major as well. According to the University’s Recycling Coordinator Joshua James, being involved is as easy as knowing what the difference is between the black and blue garbage cans.  “With our poor economy students are doing more and more to help save them money,” James said. “With recycling increases, we have saved about $60,000 on trash dumping fees.”

The money that is saved from the trash dumping fees goes back into the recycling program and facilities management fund.

The university has evaluated virtually every aspect and mapped a path to a sustainable campus by doing everything from organic gardens, to recycling, to building energy and providing shuttles. While the economy continues to rise the campus is becoming more eco-friendly with changes the students can see.

Common octopus is anything but

Story and slideshow by KEITH R. ARANEO-YOWELL

Go to any Asian food market in Salt Lake City, and you will likely find bags of deep, blood-red flesh packed in ice. Go to any sushi restaurant and you’re likely to see on the sashimi or nigiri menu an item called “tako” (pronounced like the Mexican “taco”). Buy or order it for the first time and you’ll likely change any previously held beliefs about octopus.

Long considered a delicacy in Mediterranean and Asian (especially Japanese) cuisine, octopus is thought of by many to be prohibitively tough to prepare and chew.

“It’s rubbery, hard to bite and it doesn’t break apart very easily, even when it’s fully cooked,” said George Mateo, a visitor to the Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy.

Still, others wouldn’t hesitate to try it. Mason Childs, 21, works as a server at Market Street Grill. He said, “If it was on our menu at work I would probably try it once or twice.” contributor Mark Bittman writes, “If octopus is properly handled, without fuss, it is reasonably tender. It remains chewy, but so does lobster, or sirloin steak.”

Home cooks can reduce the rubbery texture of octopus using a number of different strategies.  These range from the unusual Italian method of boiling it with wine corks to the brutish, yet obvious, method of beating it against rocks.

Bittman wrote even though these methods are effective, the key to eliminating most of the toughness is slow cooking time at very low temperatures.

Sue Kim, the owner of the Oriental Food Market at 667 S. 700 East in Salt Lake City, said she probably only sells one bag containing four tentacles and the head of an adult common octopus every day on average.

Kim attributes the relatively low rate of sales to the “rubbery” label attached to octopus meat as well as its alien appearance, and at $24.99 per bag, and similar pricing in restaurants around town, it’s considered a delicacy and not a staple.

Nina Clark, 23, is an exercise and sports science major at the University of Utah who said she hopes to pursue a career in public health education. She said octopus is an uncommon dish in Utah because there’s no coast. “We’re not exposed to it,” Clark said. “We’re land-locked.”

Childs said he could see why some people would be hesitant to eat octopus. “They’re scary creatures. To think they can open a mason jar without hands and do it while sitting on top of it. They’re pretty violent in the ocean.”

Others hesitate because of the octopus’ unusual appearance. Lacy Mateo, 20, who was visiting the Living Planet Aquarium with her husband, George, said she would never eat octopus because of the suction cups. Clark expressed similar reservations because of the fluidity of octopus movement.

With a single bulbous sack (or mantle) housing all their internal organs, surrounded by eight suction cup-covered arms and skin that looks like it’s been dead for a number of decades along with its reputation for rubberiness, it’s no wonder Clark and the Mateos find the look of the meat “gross.”

For all their physical irregularities, however, John Lambert, aquarist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, said they pale in comparison to the strange behaviors he observes on a daily basis.

They can change the color and texture of their skin in a blink of an eye to avoid detection from predators. An article that appeared in Advanced Aquarists Online Magazine described the mimic octopus, which reproduces the rough appearance and movement of more than 15 different marine species native to its habitat of tropical Southeast Asia.

While feeding cancer crabs to the Giant Pacific Octopi at the California aquarium, Lambert, 52, and Aquarium Communications Director Ken Peterson, 61, described the difficulty associated with keeping their two Giant Pacific Octopi, Nano and November.

“There was an institution that was losing fish out of one of its tanks,” Lambert said. “They set up a camera over night and discovered that an octopus in an adjacent tank was crawling out at night, making its way over to the tank the fish were in, and helping itself and then returning to its own exhibit.”

Peterson later added that it had actually happened at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Because of the octopi’s desire to explore outside their enclosures, all outer edges of the octopus habitats are lined with Astroturf, which “prevents the octopus from being able to get a grip on it with their suction cups,” Peterson said.

Despite anecdotes of rather adventurous octopi, they spend most of their time in small crevices between rocks on the sea floor and are, therefore, extremely hard to fish. A fisherman for Monterey Fish Co Inc., who wished only to be called Dane, said just shrimp-trapping boats in Monterey regularly catch octopus.

Because the only hard structure in their bodies is a small parrot-like beak where all its tentacles converge, octopi can fit through the extremely small holes in shrimp traps. Lambert also said octopi are apt problem solvers and shrimping traps don’t really pose a challenge.

“They’re certainly very intelligent animals,” Lambert said. “[Researchers] put an item in a jar with a screw lid and the octopus can figure out how to unscrew the lid and get to the item. The first time they see it, it will be a challenge, but they work at it. They’re very tenacious animals.”

Their intelligence and ability to deform their bodies causes problems for shrimping boats in Monterey. Dane said, “Octopi will crawl into the traps and eat the shrimp.”

Shrimpers in Monterey lose an indeterminable amount of money each year due to octopus. According to the California Department of Fish and Game’s 2010-2011 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations, octopi can only be caught and kept if line or hand-caught.

“[Shrimpers] usually throw [octopi] back,” Dane said. One shrimper who doesn’t always follow regulations said, “If I’m going to lose my catch, I at least want to sell the thing that cost me my paycheck.” For obvious reasons, this fisherman asked that he and his boat not be identified.

With the exception of when fishermen actually bring in an octopus, it is very difficult to find restaurants in Monterey that serve octopus. This is partly due to the aquarium’s decade-long effort to raise awareness across the U.S. about common fishing practices.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium publishes reports on commonly eaten seafood items. According to the 2008 report for common octopus (the species that is sold for food), most of what is sourced for use in the American sushi industry is sold as common octopus, even if it is of a different species.

Kim said she orders the octopus in her store from a Japanese fishery.

According to the report, Kim’s octopus comes from either Morocco or Thailand where the preferred method of octopus fishing is a practice called bottom trawling, in which boats drag fishing nets along the sea floor.

Octopus distributors in Japan also work with fisheries in Spain that catch octopus in pots, which is an artificial habitat perfectly suited to octopus. These pots lie on the sea floor for two to three days before fishermen reel them back in to collect the octopi.

In either case, after it is caught, it is blanched and shipped to Japan to be prepared for sushi by removing the beak, the poison and ink glands, the eyes and the internal organs. It is then frozen and re-exported to the U.S.

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program assesses the ecological sustainability as well as the safety of eating seafood items commonly found in U.S. fish markets. According to the report, “due to the difficulty associated with discerning the actual country of origin of octopus found in US sushi restaurants, [octopus] should be avoided as a general rule. While Spanish octopus (especially pot-caught) is a preferred alternative to North African and Vietnamese octopus, it is rare that sufficient sourcing information is available to the consumer.”

The report, however, does little to address the adverse health effects of heavy metals that continue to build in species moving up the food chain.

In their report titled, “Bioaccumulation of Lead, Calcium and Strontium and Their Relationships in the Octopus vulgaris,” researchers Sonia Seixas and Graham Pierce found that “aquatic animals take up and accumulate lead from water, sediment and food.”

Because there is no way to rid tissue of lead by natural means, Seixas and Pierce observed “concentrations higher than the maximum legally permitted concentration of lead in food.”

Being conscious of how food gets to the dinner plate is a crucial element in public health, exercise and sports science major Nina Clark said. “That’s a big reason I try to avoid seafood in general. I’m aware of the patterns of how fish is shipped, exported and re-exported.”

Market Street server Mason Childs said the surprise he felt learning how octopus gets to the dinner table in a land-locked region illuminates a good deal about his previously held beliefs about seafood and sustainability. At the end of the interview, he asked for a copy of Seafood Watch.

“Eating is one of the most intimate things humans do,” Clark said. “It’s crucial that we educate ourselves on the repercussions of our choices.”