Sustainability in the City: Exploring the Mountains and Parks of Utah

Mar 16, 2021 | Sustainable Lifestyle, Travel

The second installment of our sustainable city series takes us to various destinations in Utah, including Salt Lake City, Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks, and Park City.

by Ashley Probst.

Known for its top-notch ski towns, gorgeous national parks and other adventurous outdoor activities, Utah is the idyllic destination for escaping into nature. We were called to add this destination to our sustainable road trip, so we established a home base at an Airbnb in Salt Lake City and spent weekends exploring all that the Beehive State has to offer.

Although Utah’s capitol is currently on the American Lung Association’s list of Most Polluted Cities—citing its ozone air and short-term particle pollution—the city is taking steps to reduce its emissions and position itself as a leader in the use of clean energy.

In December, officials approved a joint resolution for its electrified transportation goals, which states that the city government is “committed to protecting the public health and safety of its residents, combating climate change, and ensuring access to clean air, clean water and a livable environment.”

The plan includes becoming a net-100% renewable electricity community by 2030 and achieving an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, as outlined in the Salt Lake City’s Climate Positive 2040 plan. Petroleum-fueled transportation currently accounts for about 20% of energy-related emissions, so this new resolution will include electrifying the city’s fleet vehicles and buses as well as adding more charging stations for residents’ electric vehicles.

In addition to improving air quality, the city has also implemented an energy benchmarking ordinance for large commercial buildings and is actively campaigning to reduce the use of harmful chemicals, such as pesticides, in its communities. 

Salt Lake City also manages and funds an e2 Business program, which provides resources to help the “business community run in a more environmentally and economically sustainable manner.” Participating companies receive benefits like free sustainability consulting and strategizing as well as access to an energy efficiency revolving loan fund.

One of our favorite things about traveling sustainably is learning about the initiatives that various cities are implementing—we love to see progress! We also love supporting local businesses that share our mission of doing good for the planet and its people. Here are some of our top recommendations for all the ecotourists out there.

Traveling by Taste

Our first stop on this sustainable road trip was Sedona, Arizona, where we experienced picturesque desert vibes. After driving up to our second destination in northern Utah—and stopping at the iconic Horseshoe Bend viewpoint along the way, as pictured below—we were greeted by a significant change in scenery.

Our first excursion included a walk through one of the local parks followed by dinner at Pago, which translates to “single vineyard” or “small farm.” The dining establishment utilized green building techniques in its construction, which included the use of recycled materials and eco-resin accents, as well as water-conserving toilets. It also provides eco-friendly takeout containers, recycles glass and paper products, and emphasizes the importance of community involvement. 

Another unique dining experience was at Table X, which also offers a seasonal, chef-curated menu that is “focused on using sustainable products and climate conscious practices.” Diners can choose between a seven- or nine-course tasting (which can be made vegetarian) that features ingredients sourced from local farms as well as the restaurant’s on-site French-style kitchen garden. This James Beard Foundation Award semi-finalist is a must-try while in the city.

If you’re looking for a vegan option, Zest Kitchen & Bar is a healthy, e2-approved eatery that serves plant-based, soy- and gluten-free plates that can be paired with fresh juice cocktails. This 21+ establishment is a place where you can eat and drink organic, locally sourced fare. Its mission is to focus on “plant-based for health, the animals and our planet.”

Some of our favorite tastes were of The Last Dance, a bourbon-based cocktail with mango balsamic and ginger that is touted as a Salt Lake City Magazine contest winner, and the barbecue jackfruit pizza with cashew-chive cheese and almond Parmesan on a gluten-free crust. But the best part was dessert: a salted caramel chocolate hazelnut tarte, which was a balanced bite with a beautiful presentation.

In Our Natural Element

Our first couple of weeks in the city clearly consisted of delicious cuisine! But it was time to get out of the urban environment and head south to two of our favorite national parks: Bryce Canyon and Zion. Exploring nature is our favorite means of tuning in with the energy of Mother Earth and we love picking up trash along the way! Here are some pictures of the sights we got to experience during this part of the journey:

We were also pleased to see sustainable initiatives namely at Zion National Park, with the likes of EV charging stations; infographics about the importance of pollinators like bees and butterflies; comprehensive recycling bins for various materials; to-go coffee cups made of post-consumer recycled materials; and even reusable face masks by one of our brands, ChicoBag, available for purchase in the gift shop.

There was also a call to “take the #ZionPledge” and be a good steward by helping to protect the park through actions like packing out trash, recycling what you can and disposing of other waste appropriately, and to preserve the natural environment to keep it beautiful for all to enjoy.

Highly Honorable Mentions

Once we returned to the city, we were admittedly sore from all of the hiking we did over the weekend and decided to book a Swedish massage at the Healing Mountain Massage School. Here, you can choose from an array of working professionals or students. The latter is much cheaper and a wonderful option if you’re on a budget.

The school is an e2 business and incorporates sustainable practices like installing LED lights and recycling, as well as utilizing fragrance-free lotion, locally farmed honey, organic coconut oil and an organic salt scrub (also available in the attached crystal shop) in its treatments. Knowing these elements are being implemented make for an even more relaxing massage.

Another e2 business that provides a fun, leisurely activity is the Tracy Aviary & Botanical Garden in Liberty Park. Not only is this an educational venture for all ages, there is also a Conservation Science Program that “helps conserve birds and their habitats through community science.” It even has a volunteer portal where you can sign up to participate in the likes of bird walks and feeder watching, all in the name of science.

If you like to experience your adventures in the confines of your home, you can find a wide variety of literature at Central Book Exchange. This small bookstore offers an exchange program, so you can turn in your used books for a discount. It’s a great way to give a second life to any reads you don’t plan on revisiting and to replace it with new-to-you titles.

For a delectable breakfast to enjoy while flipping through your new books, we thoroughly  enjoyed the vibes at Kings Peak Coffee Roasters—try the Specialty Toast with tomato jam, sliced avocado, goat cheese, salt and pepper alongside a seasonal latte. Another coffee spot is Publik Coffee Roasters, which also has delicious specials. Both of these options are e2 businesses, so even more reason to support them.

Another vegan eatery we highly recommend is Bud’s Sandwich Shop, which is a cute (and literal) hole-in-the-wall takeout restaurant that’s also in the e2 directory. We ordered the lavender lemonade with the buffalo “chicken” sandwich and only wished we had tried it sooner so we could have enjoyed it more often as a tasty and healthier lunch option.

Naturally, we saved one of the best dining experiences for last. This time, at Provisions, an American restaurant with a bit of Asian influence that prides itself on using “regional, organic and sustainable ingredients whenever possible.” Here, we dined on organic mushroom steamed buns, the Seafood Khao Soi, as well as a seasonal dessert and cocktails.

This was the perfect way to end our stay in Salt Lake City before embarking on the nearly 13-hour drive to Seattle, Washington. Though we did break up our journey by stopping in Boise, Idaho, which is another sustainable city worth mentioning. Stay tuned for our next installment of this series for more on the City of Trees.


Foodie Paradise in Park City

Since it was so close by, we took a day trip to Park City, Utah, and had a delicious experience hopping between various eateries. But first, we would be remiss to not mention the sustainable initiatives in this ski resort town. Its climate goals include net-zero carbon emissions and 100% renewable electricity for city operations by 2022 and community wide by 2030. The other main pillars of this strategy include energy efficiency, electrification and regeneration, as well as water conservation and recycling.

Upon our arrival in Park City, we went straight to Harvest, an Australian-style cafe that’s open for breakfast and lunch. This eatery sources “many of our ingredients from local farmers and small-scale producers” and makes a point to use the best seasonal options available. The coffee is also made using fair-trade beans that are roasted locally, which serves as the perfect pairing with any plate. We sat on the patio to enjoy a dirty chai latte and the Buddha Bowl of Goodness, both of which were generous portions with gorgeous presentations.

From there we went to Ritual Chocolate, where we were able to set up a secluded workspace to be productive while warming up with organically grown and ethically sourced sipping chocolate made using the company’s signature bean-to-bar method. Good news: You don’t have to travel to Utah to try these treats, as there is an online store with a plethora of options available to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Once we finished work for the day, we made our way to another dining establishment for dinner. If you’re planning a trip to Park City, the New American restaurant Twisted Fern is one of the city’s top-rated restaurants for good reason. Self-touted as being “committed to honoring the roots of our ingredients,” sustainability and conscious living are focal points of the eatery’s business model. Here, we tried the Blackberry Old Fashioned, the locally sourced elk entree, and a rich brownie sundae for dessert (pictured below).

And yes, there were plenty of leftovers that we enjoyed the next night as well—no food goes to waste on our watch!

Please note: COVID-19 restrictions apply, but are subject to change and vary by state.

Pago, Zest Kitchen & Bar, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Bud’s Sandwich Shop, Harvest, and Twisted Fern photos by Ashley Probst.


**Check out part one of this series about Sedona, AZ here. And if you’re looking for sustaianble accomodations across the U.S. for your travels, see our list of the 30 best sustaianable Airbnbs and Hipcampuses here