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Check out the SLC Sustainability 2021 Year in Review!

Happy New Year!

How is it already mid-January already?! We’ve been busy here the last two weeks on projects for the new year which we’re excited to share with you.

Before that, we’re taking some time to reflect on 2021 and all of the work we accomplished with your support. It’s also an important time to take stock; learn from the experiences we had in 2021; and continue to improve our programs, services, and operations.

Every January, we release a Year in Review with our high-level accomplishments as well as priorities for the year ahead. Below are a few highlights. Make sure to check out the full document for more!

Read the full 2021 Year in Review here.

Saying Goodbye to Team Members and Welcoming New Ones

In 2021, SLCgreen certainly felt the impacts of the “Great Resignation.” We said goodbye to Food & Equity Manager Supreet Gill and welcomed Brian Emerson. In the spring, we parted with the founding director of our Sustainability program, Vicki Bennett, who led our team for 20 years and is also recognized around the country as a leader on these issues.

With Vicki’s retirement, Debbie Lyons stepped up to be Sustainability Director and Sophia Nicholas moved from Communications Manager to the Deputy Director role. We also toasted Shannon Williams, Special Projects Assistant, who moved on to an exciting new role in a new state; while welcoming Bimini Horstmann who hails from Boston (with a stop over at Davidson College) and has a passion for rock climbing and environmental science. And, for the first time, we have a dedicated air quality manager position, filled by Catherine Wyffels who joined our team in the summer. She has brought a wealth of insight and expertise to our department. (See blog).

It didn’t stop there! We gave Gregg Evans, our Financial Manager, to the Public Lands Department (luckily he didn’t go far) but were thrilled to welcome Angie Nielsen to our team in the critical accounting role for our department. Finally, December closed out with Max Barnewitz– the “voice” behind the SLCgreenblog and so many of our outreach functions– moving on to an exciting position with Art Access.

We are proud of how our staff, both seasoned and new, integrated into a cohesive and energetic team tackling a variety of projects this past year.

At the beginning of 2021, the deep connections between equity, resiliency, and climate action were clearer than ever due to 2020’s challenges. It set an important focus for our work last year:

Air Quality, Energy Efficiency, & Electrification

Even with more people than ever working from home in 2021, wildfire and inversion seasons still occur. We developed many new programs and engaged with the public to address these issues from an equitable as well as a scientific lens. Additionally, SLCgreen continued strong efforts to move city departments towards electrification and improve energy efficiency. Some notable achievements in the air quality, energy efficiency, and electrification realms include:

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Introducing Salt Lake City’s Air Quality Action Day Program for Employees

We had an amazing December with lots of storms and snow that filled our mountains and gave kids around the neighborhood plenty of opportunities to build snowmen.

But this week the dreaded high pressure took hold and we’re looking at several days, if not a couple of weeks, of inversions. This means that whatever we emit into the air stays there. And pollution doubles every day. Yuck!

This is the time for us all to prioritize ways to reduce our contribution to the haze.

It’s also a fitting time for Salt Lake City to launch a new air quality program.

As you’ll recall, Salt Lake City works hard to create programs, projects, and policies to improve air quality:

We passed one of the first anti-idling ordinances in the state; continue to prioritize electric vehicles for our fleet, as well as offer free charging at City-owned EV stations for the community; implemented a building benchmarking ordinance to measure and reduce emissions from our city’s largest commercial buildings; and just last month the RDA passed an aggressive new sustainability policy to significantly reduce air pollution from new building construction that receives RDA funding. (Learn more about Salt Lake City’s air quality efforts here).

We also aim to reduce emissions by implementing air-conscious internal policies with our 3,000-strong workforce.

And one of the ways we can do this is to encourage best practices within our workforce on days when the air quality is forecasted to be unhealthy.

This is the intention behind the Air Quality Action Day program which launched in December 2021 (and was debuted during our inversion this week).

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Have a Happy and Sustainable Holiday!

During the holiday rush, sustainability may not be the first thing on your mind. Fortunately, there are a number of measures you can take to ensure your festivities are more eco-friendly and sustainable.

No matter how you celebrate, we at SLCgreen hope you find this information helpful and wish you the best of times and a very happy New Year!

Christmas Trees

One great option for your home Christmas tree is a live native potted tree. When you’re done with it, plant it after the holidays or let it live on as a house plant. As an added bonus, a live tree will absorb carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen for cleaner air.

Check with your local nursery or garden center for advice on the best type of tree, depending if you are planning to replant or keep it inside.  If you can, hold off and plant it in late March or early April. This will increase the tree’s chance of surviving long term.

If you go for a cut tree, use your SLC curbside compost bin to dispose of it after the holidays. Make sure to cut it up so it fits in the bin and remove any tinsel or non-organic decorations (Just be sure to dispose of it before the wintertime suspension of compost bin collection, beginning the week of January 24, 2022).

If you can’t cut up your tree for the compost bin, no problem. Leave it curbside and we’ll be by during the month of January to collect it.

No matter what you do, do not burn your tree. Burning during the winter is a significant source of pollution. (Burning during No Burn Days is also against State regulation and violates Salt Lake County Health Department rules).

Energy Efficiency

When stringing up lights this season, think “less is more.” For the lights you do put up, go for LED lights, which are 80-95% more efficient than traditional bulbs and will last longer. (This is a good reminder to switch out any other traditional light bulbs you may have in your home for LEDs too!)

Y_Christmas_Tree_2
LED lights look great on me!

Make sure you have your lights on a timer so they only are on when you want them to be. Some LED Christmas lights are even solar powered!

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Salt Lake City RDA Passes Aggressive Air Pollution Reduction Policy for new RDA-funded Buildings!

Exciting news! Yesterday the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City (RDA) passed a new sustainability policy that is one of the most significant in the country when it comes to reducing air pollution and climate emissions!

As of December 14th, 
new buildings funded by the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City (RDA) will be more energy efficient, all-electric, and climate friendly in accordance with its Sustainable Development Policy adopted by the RDA Board of Directors.

The RDA works to update Salt Lake City’s infrastructure in order to foster vibrant communities and neighborhoods as well as stimulate economic growth. 

With the new Sustainability Policy, RDA-funded buildings will need to meet three new requirements:

1. Projects must achieve a federal ENERGY STAR score of 90 or higher. ENERGY STAR scores range from 1-100. A score of 90 indicates that the building scores higher than 90% of its peers based on criteria related to Property Type, Property Use Details, and Energy Data. These metrics are evaluated on a case-by-case basis depending on the building type. 

2. Buildings must operate without on-site fossil fuel combustion. This means that no propane or natural gas can be utilized in building operations. Fossil fuels such as these produce large amounts of carbon dioxide and other harmful products that worsen air quality and trap heat in the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change. Rather than fossil fuels, buildings will operate using electricity for heat, and sourcing that from more sustainable alternatives such as solar electricity. 

3.  Projects need to participate in Salt Lake City’s energy benchmarking program, Elevate Buildings. SLCgreen’s Elevate Buildings program aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality by requiring commercial buildings above 25,000 sq ft to benchmark and report energy usage. 

The policy also outlines additional net zero guidelines for projects utilizing specific RDA financing programs.

Read the press release that went out today to learn more!

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 15, 2021

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Redevelopment Agency Moves Needle on Mayor Mendenhall’s Air Quality Goals with New Sustainable Development Policy

Update will spur RDA-funded projects to incorporate sustainable building practices and technologies that reduce building-related climate emissions and local air pollution

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e2 Business Program Member Arch Nexus Debuts Headquarters with “Living Building” Designation

Salt Lake City’s e2 Business Program is a free consulting and marketing program for Salt Lake City businesses run out of the Sustainability Department. The program is dedicated to helping Salt Lake’s business community run in a more environmentally and economically sustainable manner. We take pride in recognizing the achievements of our members! If you are interested in joining the program or browsing current members, please visit our e2 Business webpage.

Arch Nexus’ new Living Building in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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This year, e2 Business Program member Arch Nexus officially moved into their newly renovated office space on Parley’s Way in Salt Lake City. The renovation is particularly exciting as it is an officially registered Living Building Challenge project with the International Living Future Institute—the first project of its kind in Utah.

Arch Nexus’ Salt Lake City headquarters was already one of the greenest buildings in the Intermountain West, with LEED EBOM v3 Platinum Certification achieved in 2014 and renewed in 2019. As the fifth occupant of the nearly eighty-year-old building, Arch Nexus preferred to remodel and reuse rather than build something brand new for their offices.

“The greenest building is the one that has already been built,” says Arch Nexus. However, they felt there was more to be done. “Despite our sustainability success, we found the building was still a net-consumer of energy and didn’t collect rainwater nor did it reuse any of the greywater produced by occupants”. When the pandemic hit and the building became empty, Arch Nexus realized there was an opportunity to remodel—and so the Living Building Challenge came into focus.

Bright natural light is an important part of Arch Nexus’ Living Building.
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Going Green for the Holidays!

We can hardly believe it, but the holidays are here! This is a great time of year to support Salt Lake City’s efforts to build a more sustainable and resilient community.

Climate action is on all our minds following COP26, which brought world leaders together to create a pathway towards climate action. While the work internationally must be done, everyone has a part to play and small, locally driven climate action can add up to make change. So as you gear up for the holidays, we have some helpful reminders for ways you can be more sustainable!

A holiday greeting graphic shows the Salt Lake City and county building at center with the words Happy Holidays written over the top. Colorful fall leaves and shapes adorn the sides and the SLCgreen logo is at bottom.
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Keeping the Air Clean this Winter

November marks the beginning of inversion season in the Salt Lake Valley. This is the time of year when pollutants including PM 2.5 get trapped in the valley, obscuring the mountains and posing dangerous health risks to our communities.

Protecting our airshed and reducing pollution wouldn’t be possible without the collective actions of everyone coming in and out of Salt Lake City. While transportation contributes a significant portion of the local air pollution, other factors including building efficiency and home energy use can also contribute to pollution. Studies have shown that air pollution disproportionately affects communities of color, partially as a result of source location and historical redlining of neighborhoods. Air quality continues to be a major equity concern for Salt Lake City, where proximity to major highways, industrial areas, and fewer trees make some parts of Salt Lake City more polluted than others. By addressing air pollution’s many sources, Salt Lake City can help improve air quality.

Keep reading to find out more about what you can do to help everyone breathe a little easier!

Photo of Salt Lake City from northern foothills on bad air day. Smog fills the valley and obscures the Oquirrh Mountains in the west.

How Can You Help Clean Up the Air?

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Salt Lake City Signs the Glasgow Food & Climate Declaration

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, will be held in Glasgow Scotland October 31 to November 12. The international conference aims to evaluate past goals and set new targets to address the climate crisis. The COP26 goals include reducing global emissions by investing in renewable energy and addressing global climate inequities to support communities and natural habitats that are already endangered by climate change.

COP26 engages with climate change on an international scale, looking for ways to solidify and act on goals set at previous conferences. However, local governments including city government also can play an active role in implementing policies and programs to fight climate change and build resilient communities.

As part of our work to #ActOnClimate, Salt Lake City became a signatory to the Glasgow Food & Climate Declaration: “A commitment by subnational governments to tackle the climate emergency through integrated food policies and a call on national governments to act.”

Salt Lake City’s growing food programs, which include the Food Policy Council and the Resident Food Equity Advisors, are already advancing policy to help build a more equitable and accessible food system. The Glasgow Food & Climate Declaration ties in another important aspect of their work– the connection between food systems and climate resilience.

Green infographic describes the relationship between food and climate. The green background has a picture of the planet Earth at center with graphics depicting Environmental Degradation, Socio-Economic Inequalities, Health Inequalities, and the Climate Crisis.
The Glasgow Food & Climate Declaration connects climate action to local food policy.

Food & Climate

While it may seem surprising, food systems are an important part of understanding and addressing climate change. Indeed, plant-based and meat based foods, packaging, transportation, and land use all contribute varying degrees of emissions that contribute to global warming. It has been estimated that food waste alone produces enough green house gases that if food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter! In total, Global Food Systems account for 1/3 of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In Utah, only 2% of vegetables and 3% of fruit consumed is in grown in-state. Moreover, in Utah, 25% of our household emissions are caused by our food choices. We can help shrink our individual impact by reducing our meat consumption, avoiding food waste, and eating locally-grown food when possible.  SLCgreen’s Dining with Discretion page outlines many useful resources to help you eat healthy and sustainably!

What is Salt Lake City Doing?

Salt Lake City’s climate action goals and policy includes the local food system alongside other key initiatives to mitigate climate change. The Salt Lake City Food Policy Council is already working to address inequities tied to environmental racism and the food system. This year, the Food Policy Council joined the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future’s Food Policy Council initiative to create more equitable food policies. In addition to this work, the first cohort of Salt Lake City’s Resident Food Equity Advisors provided a detail report to the City to help set priorities that will guide future decisions related to local food. In an effort to understand our local food system more fully, the Salt Lake City Food Policy Council is also taking steps to update our Community Food Assessment, including climate as an assessment factor.

By signing the Glasgow Food & Climate Declaration, Salt Lake City signals our support for more sustainable food policies that will help drive climate action. Moreover, coupled with the efforts already being made to create a more accessible local food system, Salt Lake City’s participation in the declaration shows our commitment to holistic and community focused strategies to act on climate and better understand our food system.  

Salt Lake City’s Largest Renewable Energy Project Has Broken Ground

by SLCgreen Clean Energy Intern Monica O’Malley

Salt Lake City Corporation has been using renewable energy to support government operations since 2005, when the Public Utilities Department started turning methane into energy at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Since then, the City has steadily added to its renewable energy profile. By installing solar panels on over a dozen city facilities, becoming the largest subscriber to Rocky Mountain Power’s Subscribe Solar program, and establishing the Salt Lake City Solar Farm, Salt Lake City is able to source roughly 14% of its municipal electricity from renewable energy sources.  Although 14% is certainly an accomplishment, it does not fulfill the City’s ambitious goals of achieving 50% renewable electricity for municipal operations by 2020 and 100% by 2030.  After taking small steps towards these goals for so many years, Salt Lake City is finally ready to run. 

On October 18th in Tooele County, the City and partner communities including Park City, commemorated its largest renewable energy procurement ever with the official groundbreaking of the 80 Megawatt solar farm known as the Elektron Solar Project. The project will support the energy needs of 6 major customers, including three local governments (Salt Lake City, Park City, and Summit County), Utah Valley University, and two ski resorts (Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain).

Representatives from Salt Lake City and other organizations stand in a large muddy field with shovels at the Elektron Solar Project groundbreaking event. They are all in colorful windbreakers and white Elektron Solar hardhats.
Salt Lake City helps break ground for the Elektron Solar Project.

Elektron Solar Project Will Take Salt Lake City to 50% Municipal Renewable Electricity Goal

With this extraordinary project, Salt Lake City will reach and likely exceed its 50% renewable energy goal for municipal electricity.  When the solar farm is up and running in 2023, it will power between 50 and 90% of the City’s municipal electricity consumption. Because electricity generation is responsible for over 50% of Salt Lake City’s municipal GHG emissions, the Electron Project will greatly reduce city emissions, helping to achieve the City’s emission reduction goals and improve air quality. 

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Salt Lake City’s Food Policy Council is Building a More Equitable & Sustainable Food System

by SLCgreen Outreach Coordinator Stephan Sveshnikov

There are over three hundred food policy councils in the U.S., representing towns, cities, tribes, counties, and entire states. Salt Lake City’s Food Policy Council (FPC) is one of three in Utah, with another council in Ogden and one at the state level. Food Policy Councils unite community organizations to help guide policy related to our food systems. They inform local government on everything from food access and urban agriculture to food waste and climate concerns.

Salt Lake City’s Food Policy Council (formerly the Food Policy Task Force) was created in 2009. The group identifies policy and program opportunities and makes recommendation for how to create a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient community food system. Their first project was a sustainable code revision, which made it easier to keep chickens, bees, and grow food in Salt Lake. The FPC has supported the Sustainability Department on a variety of other initiatives over the last decade, including the SLC FruitShare program, the curbside composting program, the Square Kitchen Culinary Incubator, the Local Food Microgrant Fund, and much more. Fourteen members representing various sectors of the food system make up the FPC, from small farmers, to anti-hunger organizations, advocates for immigrant and refugee communities, and representatives of the public health sector.

This year, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future launched an initiative to help food policy councils around the country confront systemic racism and inequities in their local food systems. Fifteen councils from fifteen different states were selected to participate, including the Salt Lake City FPC! The initiative will help Salt Lake City as our FPC takes its next steps to build a more equitable food system.

Food, Equity, and Sustainability

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