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Working Together for 100% Renewable Electricity

Despite the challenges of the past year, Salt Lake City and nearly two dozen other communities in Utah have made progress on the path to achieving community-wide net-100% renewable electricity. Shifting our communities to renewable electricity will significantly reduce Utah’s carbon footprint, and help lower emissions.

Salt Lake City is committed to meeting our Climate Positive goals on the community and municipal level. Prior to 2019, Rocky Mountain Power, Utah’s largest investor-owned utility, had made renewable energy accessible to residents in Utah through the Blue Sky program and the Subscriber Solar program.

However, in order to achieve net-100% renewable energy on a community-wide scale, Utah’s communities needed to go even further. In 2019, the Utah legislature passed HB 411, the Community Renewable Energy Act, that established a pathway that would allow Utah communities in Rocky Mountain Power’s service territory to opt-in to procure net-100% renewable electricity by 2030.

A total of 23 communities in Utah, including Salt Lake City, became eligible to move forward with the program in December 2019. But that was only the beginning! 2021 will be a critical year for this ambitious project, and the Utah 100 Communities have been working hard to continue to make progress. Read on for more details!

Photo of yellow aspens with snowy mountain backdrop and bright blue sky. Superimposed above the sky reads "Net-100% Renewable Electricity" in white text. A yellow vertical line separates the text from the Utah 100 Communities logo, a yellow block in the shape of the state of Utah that reads Utah100 Communities in grey text and has a stylized white mountain range on the bottom.

The Utah 100 Communities 

With nearly two dozen Utah communities, the Utah 100 Communities are preparing to bring renewable electricity to residents and businesses across the state.  At this stage, 21 communities are engaged in creating a governance agreement that will help guide important decisions as the program moves forward.

You might ask: Why are all of these communities working together? Can’t they each have their own program? Well, HB 411 stipulates that communities must work together on a joint agreement with each other, a joint filing with Rocky Mountain Power to Utah state regulators (the Public Service Commission), and ultimately on signing agreements to purchase power from the same renewable energy projects. In the end, this makes for a stronger program with a bigger impact. (See the timeline here). That’s why SLCgreen and our partner communities have been so hard at work over the last year!

And that’s why we were excited to welcome the public to our first discussion of our progress thus far.

In February 2021, the Utah 100 Communities gathered for public discussions related to the governance agreement and other necessary steps to move forward. The governance subgroup presented an agreement structure that will help make sure every community has a voice in important decisions and that costs are shared fairly.

If you missed the meeting, don’t worry: Check out the YouTube recording of the Utah 100 Community’s Local Governments Meeting below:

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Get Ready for Spring: Go Pesticide Free!

Does all this snow have some of you daydreaming about spring and gardening?  

Luckily spring is just around the corner, and now is a great time to start planning a pesticide free yard, garden, and home! Pesticides are often used on lawns and in gardens to limit weeds and associated pests. Unfortunately, pesticides (including herbicides, rodenticides, insecticides, and fungicides) have negative health impacts on people and the environment. 

Being pesticide free means choosing methods of controlling these weeds and pests in ways that are healthy for the environment and for you and your family!  

Salt Lake City has been working with Healthy Babies Bright Futures since 2016 to reduce exposures to harmful chemicals—many of which we unknowingly come in contact with on a daily basis. A common source of harmful chemical exposure is through pesticides and lawn fertilizer use. Salt Lake City’s Sustainability Department partnered with Beyond Pesticides to create a public resource guide for a less toxic approach to pest management and lawn care.

Why are pesticides an issue? 

Chemical pesticide use and exposure have been shown to have negative health effects on humans. Serious health effects of pesticide exposure include birth defects, childhood cancer, acute poisoning, brain tumors, and asthma. Avoiding pesticides in your yards will help protect the health of our communities.

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Take the Clear the Air Challenge and Improve Air Quality At Home

February is (finally!) here! And that means that the Clear the Air Challenge has begun!

In the last few years, Utahns have worked together to improve air quality in the Salt Lake Valley. Early last year, the EPA announced Salt Lake City and Provo were in compliance with federal standards for PM 2.5, the fine particulate matter that pollutes our air quality along the Wasatch Front. This significant milestone came after years of community wide work to take action to clear the air.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed our air quality, too. Efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve resulted in considerable reductions in PM 2.5 and other air pollutants, up to a 59% reduction in particulate matter by May 2020.

In 2020, we learned that the steps we took to slow coronavirus cases resulted in quick changes to our air quality. COVID-19 continues to threaten our community’s health and economic security, resulting in increased social inequities. Many of the changes we’ve made in this crisis are not sustainable in the long term. However, our work to improve Salt Lake City’s resiliency includes taking actions that support public health and security, and that address environmental issues like air quality.

Clear the air challenge banner. A photo of the wasatch front in winter shows clear blue sky. Text reads "Take the Clear the Air Challenge February 1st-28th."

This month, we challenge Salt Lake City community members to participate in the 12th annual Clear the Air Challenge! The Clear the Air Challenge is a chance to level up your efforts to improve air quality. The Challenge runs the entire month of February, chosen due to the seasonal inversion that makes wintertime air quality especially bad. However, the steps you take this month can make a difference for our air all year long.

For many of us who are still spending more time at home, the challenge will feel a little different this year. We’ve put together some helpful facts, tips, and inspiration to get you going on the 2021 Clear the Air Challenge!

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Sustainable Food Systems & Culturally Relevant Food

Salt Lake City is committed to supporting our local food system, enhancing access to fresh, healthy, and sustainable food for our communities. Building a sustainable and resilient local food system is both an environmental concern and one rooted in social equity.

SLCgreen supports community gardens and encourages our community to eat locally and limit food waste in order to reduce our household carbon footprints. Furthermore, we recognize that a resilient environment is directly connected to social, economic, and environmental equity. A truly sustainable food system ensures access to nutritious fresh food for everyone in our community.

In 2020, the pandemic and local emergencies jeopardized food access and deepened existing social inequities. The need for food assistance increased by 300%. Food pantries, emergency programs, and mutual aid organizations work to relieve those gaps in access, but fresh and culturally relevant foods are not always readily available.

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Waste Less Solutions Introduces Restaurant Certification Program

Welcome to SLCgreen Connections, an occasional series highlighting SLCgreen’s fantastic local partners—the people and organizations with whom we work closely to make Salt Lake City a greener, more vibrant, and sustainable city!

On average, we waste one full meals worth of food ever 2.3 days. In a state in which many people are food insecure, discarded edible food is a substantial waste. Food waste is also financially wasteful and uneaten food – especially meat – contributes to a larger carbon footprint. Luckily, Salt Lake City based nonprofit Waste Less Solutions is working to solve the food waste problem. Founder and President Dana Williamson started Waste Less Solutions in 2017 in an effort to reduce food waste in our community. The food rescue program works to divert edible food from donors in the food industry to individuals experiencing food insecurity with the help of receiving agencies including the YWCA, Rescue Mission, and the Boys & Girls Club. To date, Waste Less Solutions has saved 339,048 pounds of food, serving 282,540 meals to underfed community members, and saving $586,533 worth of food.

Scan of a fact sheet on recycled seed paper. Text is in green and orange and black. At the top is a green and orange stripe. Green text reads "DID YOU KNOW" followed by two columns of facts. "If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter after the US and China" 
"Reducing our food waste is the third best solution to reverse greenhouse hases"
"55% of leftover restaurant food doesn't get taken home"
"38% of leftovers taken home aren't eaten"
"Did you know the best way to reheat pizza is in a skillet"
Below the columns reads "when planning your week, plan a leftover night to make sure your leftovers are enjoyed. Create an 'eat first shelf' in your fridge; put your leftovers there so family knows it's something they are encouraged to enjoy."

At the bottom in larger font reads Enjoy Your Leftovers and a orange carrot Waste Less Solutions logo. The bottom of the page reads "This handmade paper is embedded with a hearty mix of wildflower seeds. Plant this card under a thin layer of soil and water thoroughly."
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Salt Lake City Recognizes Business Leadership in Energy Efficiency

Image of  a trolley car parked in an outside urban space with written text in a blue banner below that reads "Elevate Buildings Congratulates Trolley Square Ventures: 2020 Energy Project of the Year."

January 28, 2021

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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City’s Department of Sustainability is pleased to announce Trolley Square Ventures has won the 2020 Energy Project of the Year as part of the City’s annual Elevate Buildings Award

The Elevate Buildings Awards is the Sustainability Department’s public recognition campaign honoring organizations that have gone above and beyond to reduce their emissions through innovative programs and efficiency upgrades. One of the key priorities of Mayor Mendenhall’s administration is to lead the way on environmental resilience and sustainability and improving the impact that our buildings have on air quality is a major part of the City’s environmental goals. 

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The Dos and Don’ts of Appliance Recycling

Recycling and properly disposing of appliances of any size can feel daunting. Dealing with old fridges, coffee makers, irons, and other household appliances are tricky – especially because they are made up of different materials and can’t go in the normal mixed recycling bin.

To help manage old appliances in a sustainable way, we wanted to talk about how to best divert them for reuse and recycling! Whether they’re in working condition and just need a new home, or are no longer usable, we have some ideas for how to best get rid of old appliances.

Photo of old washer and dryer in a basement.

Does it still work? If yes, give it a new home!

The most sustainable product is often the one you already own, so limiting new purchases and putting appliances to reuse is one of the best ways to reduce waste. If you are looking to upgrade to a new appliance, don’t toss out that old one. If it’s in good condition, consider donating it to a local organization or even try selling it online.

Some good places to consider donating to are The Road Home, YWCA, Palmers Court, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and similar organizations. You can find more suggestions on this larger list from our website. It’s best to call ahead to organizations to double-check what goods they accept.  

Consider hosting a virtual yard sale, or even listing your old appliances for free online through Craigslist, KSL, Nextdoor, and other social media apps. 

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Salt Lake City Passes Electrified Transportation Joint Resolution

January 13, 2021

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Salt Lake City Passes Joint Resolution Establishing Electrified Transportation Goals

Salt Lake City’s new Electrified Transportation Resolution, a joint resolution between Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the City Council, establishes a joint commitment to incorporate and promote clean energy transportation technology as an important solution in reducing carbon emissions and pollutants that impact air quality. 

The resolution includes goals of electrifying modes of transportation that have historically relied on gasoline, diesel or natural gas. Through the resolution, the City commits to expanding electric vehicles for its internal fleet and to working with external partners to electrify public transit and smart mobility platforms such as rideshare and car share. Through expansion of electric vehicle infrastructure, the City aims to encourage greater adoption of electric vehicle technology by the public and non-government fleets.

“As our city continues its push toward better air quality and environmental resilience, distilling our goals for electric transportation and committing to shifting our fleet is the right move,” Mayor Mendenhall said. 

“This is another solid step toward the City’s ongoing commitment to use cleaner energy and reduce pollution,” said City Council Chair Amy Fowler. “Both government and private industry must continue to take every action possible to enable clean fuel usage.”

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2020 Year In Review

Happy New Year!

2021 is here! SLCgreen is excited to move forward. But as we prepare for the year to come, we’re also ready to incorporate what we’ve learned from 2020.

At the beginning of 2020, SLCgreen was eagerly preparing for a new administration and planning for a year of innovative sustainability projects. After a busy 2019 we were ready to take the next steps towards bringing net-100% renewable energy to our community. A new state-of-the-art recycling facility was near completion. And an innovative resident-led food equity program was convening to help improve food access in Salt Lake City. 

The challenges of the past year have been harrowing. Within the first months of 2020, Salt Lake City pivoted our work to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. We experienced an earthquake that damaged our homes and businesses. Hurricane-force winds toppled thousands of trees and left many members of our communities without power for several days.  

Despite it all, SLCgreen was able to accomplish many of our goals with the help of our dedicated crews and community members. The challenges our community faced in 2020 laid bare the deep connections between equity, resiliency, and  climate action. The year required us take more direct actions to improve our emergency response plans, to better support the voices of residents who have been excluded in the past, and to expand our communications to facilitate more collaborative work.  

SLCgreen is ready to build off of what we learned during the past year, but before we set our sights on 2021, here are a few highlights from 2020. 

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Catch Up With Utah Recycling Alliance

Welcome to SLCgreen Connections, an occasional series highlighting SLCgreen’s fantastic local partners—the people and organizations with whom we work closely to make Salt Lake City a greener, more vibrant, and sustainable city!

Is going zero waste one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2021? Utah Recycling Alliance is here to help!  Utah Recycling Alliance (URA) has been encouraging Utahns to recycle more and reduce waste since 2011. The non-profit promotes reuse, recycling, and resource conservation through programs developed to engage and educate residents statewide.

This year, like many organizations, URA has moved much of their programming online due to the pandemic. However, they have stayed busy, and the organization is gearing up for exciting new projects in 2021. 

SLCgreen chatted with URA co-presidents David Johnston and Sarah Bateman to find out more about what URA has been up to in 2020. David and Sarah also filled us in on how you can get involved in building a zero waste future in the New Year!

The 3 R’s and Beyond

David, who is also the Permits Coordinator for SLCgreen’s Waste and Recycling Division, told us that URA started with a mission that went beyond recycling. “Although we’ve always been there to help Utahns around the state recycle in the right ways, many of what we now consider core programs are all about the other Rs” – including reduce, reuse, repair, and rot.  

Sarah, who is the founder of the City of Orem’s Natural Resources Stewardship Committee and a full-time mom, joined URA because of her passion for encouraging zero waste in Utah County. Prior to joining URA, she “felt somewhat alone in advocating a low-waste lifestyle.” However, URA connected Sarah to other zero waste organizers who were just as passionate about waste reduction and conservation. Sarah says that she is “honored to work alongside this well-educated and skilled team of volunteers, dedicated to reducing waste in Utah.”

The organization relies on volunteer support to operate their diverse projects, which connect businesses, individuals, and local governments that are committed to zero waste efforts.

CHaRMs and Fix-It Clinics

In the past few years, URA has helped Salt Lake City residents divert unusual waste (including toothpaste tubes, old electronics, shredded paper, and other things that aren’t accepted in the City’s curbside recycling program) in the CHaRM events.

The acronym stands for Collection of Hard to Recycle Materials, and the events help divert a considerable amount of waste each year. David notes that “in 2019 alone, with the help of more than 40 additional volunteers, URA was able to divert almost 5,000 lbs. from the landfill, accepting material for recycling from more than 1,100 attendees.”

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