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Salt Lake City Debuts Solar Project at Sorenson Community Campus with Support from Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky Participants

June 30, 2020

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Salt Lake City recently “flipped the switch” on its latest municipal solar installation on the roof of the Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center. The 360-panel array was funded in part by a grant from Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky customers and will generate about 34 percent of the amount of electricity the Sorenson Community Campus consumes annually. This amount of solar generation is equivalent to burning about 129,000 pounds of coal annually.

The 115-kilowatt system was installed as part of the Campus’ larger two-year renovation project.

Aerial photo of Sorenson Community Center featuring new solar panels.
Aerial photo of Sorenson campus with new solar installation.

Through its Blue Sky program, Rocky Mountain Power agreed to fund 41 percent of eligible project costs, up to a maximum of $140,000. The remainder of the solar installation is being funded by the Salt Lake City Sustainability Department.

“We are thrilled to unveil this impressive solar array at Salt Lake City’s flagship community center serving our Glendale and Poplar Grove residents,” Mayor Erin Mendenhall said. “We’re committed to bringing the benefits of clean energy to all areas of our city and we extend our deepest gratitude to Rocky Mountain Power and its Blue Sky participants for making this possible.” 

Blue Sky is an opt-in program that gives Rocky Mountain Power customers the opportunity to financially support renewable energy development. Since 2006, Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky customers have voluntarily supported wind and solar energy generation in the region. Blue Sky has provided more than $11 million in funding to community-based renewable energy projects.

The Sorenson Community Campus includes both the Sorenson Unity Center and the Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center. The Sorenson Unity Center, located at 1383 S 900 W, houses a fitness center, computer labs and technology center, classrooms, a theater space, art galleries, and more. It offers many community programs, including donated dental services, tax prep assistance, early Head Start, and afterschool and summer programs run by Salt Lake City’s Youth & Family Division.

The Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center offers many youth and adult programs and houses a swimming pool, boxing gym, drop-in childcare, and basketball gyms. 

“The installation of a solar array on the Sorenson Campus is a great complement to our educational offerings and community programming,” said Ken Perko, Associate Director of the Division of Youth and Family Services. “Patrons will be able to see the impact of solar production from a cost-savings and energy efficiency standpoint, allowing us to provide direct connections to our environmental education programs.” 

“Organizations like the Sorenson Center play a crucial role in our communities and we are grateful to our Blue Sky customers for making renewable projects like these possible,” said Bill Comeau, Rocky Mountain Power Vice President for Customer Solutions.

Photo of Sorenson Campus from above.
Sorenson campus solar installation.

The Sorenson solar installation is the latest clean energy project for Salt Lake City. The City has installed solar on over a dozen buildings, purchased 3 MW of Subscriber Solar from Rocky Mountain Power, and is working to source at least half of its municipal electric consumption from renewable sources. The City is also partnering with Rocky Mountain Power to achieve net-100 percent clean electricity for the whole Salt Lake City community by 2030. Twenty-two other Utah communities are also currently participating in this initiative. 

See real-time solar energy generation at the Sorenson Campus here!

For more information on:

Check out the Salt Lake Tribune story “Good news for Glendale as Salt Lake City’s Sorenson Center goes solar”.

See more of the Sorenson solar installation in the gallery below.

Air Quality & COVID-19

In the months following our collective action to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases, the air quality improved around the globe. According to University of Utah research, particulate matter pollution in Salt Lake City was reduced 59% as of May 6.

The collective social distancing practices resulted in reducing our community’s overall emissions – and cleaning up Utah’s notoriously bad air. But the lockdowns were an impermanent (and unfortunate) solution: as more cities reopen, emissions – and COVID-19 cases – are again on the rise.

Although Salt Lake City is maintaining an “orange” status for our COVID-19 response, there has been an uptick in cases across Utah. In a city in which public health is harmed by poor air quality, any virus that affects the respiratory system is cause for concern. However, with the knowledge that stay at home orders temporarily reduced our local air pollution, we can learn more about possible ways of improving air quality in the future.

Let’s take a closer look at the ways air quality and COVID-19 interact – and some ways you can help protect the air and each other.

Photo of inversion in Salt Lake valley.
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Lights Off for Daylight Hour 2020

The summer solstice is the day of the year when due to the earth’s position on its axis and rotation, the hemisphere is exposed to the most sun throughout the day. In the Northern Hemisphere, the longest day of the year falls around June 21, marking the arrival of summer.

Traditionally, the solstice has been celebrated by many cultures as the start of the harvest season, using the extra hours of daylight for summer festivities. This year, you can honor the solstice by saving energy through participating in Daylight Hour on Monday, June 22!

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Environmental Justice and Equity Resource Guide

Parents Jami and Mohamed discuss the importance of involving your community when talking about race and racism with your kids. See the video and full series of conversations at PBS Utah.

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Sustainability encompasses both environmental action and efforts to build just and equitable communities. Indeed, climate change and pollution disproportionately affect people of color around the world. Therefore, the work of environmental justice is directly tied to equity and social justice.

The connections between sustainability and equity have often gone unnoticed or even been rejected. Nevertheless, the links between systemic racism and environmental injustice are undeniable.

Better understanding these links can help us all work towards building a more equitable and sustainable society. We’ve been delving even deeper into this work and these connections in the last few weeks and wanted to share what we’re reading and learning. Here are some resources we’ve found helpful:

  • PBS Utah put together this short conversational series How to Talk to Kids about Race, featuring several people from our SLC community you might recognize.
  • Somini Segupta wrote an expansive guide entitled Read Up on the Links between Racism and the Environment for the New York Times. The reading guide includes everything from hard science to sci-fi, and provides a broad platform for understanding racial injustice in the context of climate.
  • You can also check out a new website co-founded by environmentalists Leah Thomas, Diandra Esparza and Sabs Katz, Intersectional Environmentalist. The site provides information from environmentalists in different communities including Latinx and U.S. Indigenous Communities– communities which have also continued to fight oppression and environmental racism. Intersectional Environmentalist provides extensive reading lists to understand all of the intersections of environmental work. Founder Leah Thomas’ writing was recently featured in Vogue, where she links her work in environmental policy to anti-racism.
Photograph shows mountains with inversion hovering over valley.
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SLCgreen’s Commitment to Racial Equity and Sustainability

Dear friends,

We send our love to all of you. The events of the last few weeks have been a difficult and trying time for our country, our community, and our city.

We want to take this moment to acknowledge the profound injustice of black lives lost to white supremacy and police brutality across the country. We stand with the movement to bring greater justice to our entire community. Black lives matter.

Those of us who work in Salt Lake City government have felt so many emotions as we collectively work towards a community that is stronger, more equitable, more inclusive, and more responsive to you—our residents. We are working to ensure we are hearing all voices. 

As the Sustainability Department, we’d also like to share our thoughts on the role we play in advancing equity within the City and our community.

We define “sustainability” as the balance between environmental, societal, economic, and equity needs. While “sustainability” is often thought of as only an “environmental” movement (and for much of its history it has been), we believe true sustainability prioritizes a healthy society in all of the ways that comes about.

Sustainability also means not jeopardizing our community’s future well-being over decisions we make in the present. And we’d also add: “over decisions that were made in the past.”

Many people are having conversations about what racism means in America in 2020. It’s impossible to discuss that without looking to our nation’s past.

Historical racism informed structures, policies, and attitudes that continue to affect our society to this day, including our environment and health.

In our work, the connection between environmental health and equity is pretty clear. When we talk about reducing air pollution, we’re not just talking about clearing our skies so we can see the mountains. We’re recognizing that communities of color are disproportionately affected by air pollution, even in Salt Lake City.

We’re looking at health indicators that are worse in minority communities that make them more susceptible to air pollution, while at the same time, many are exposed to air pollution at higher amounts because of where they live (near industry, near highways, and by working in professions that increases exposure). There are also barriers to information, to health care, and to so many other resources that make these factors worse. So our efforts to reduce “air pollution,” also must mean addressing these inequities in all of the ways we can.

It’s similar with climate change. Of course, we know that temperatures are increasing everywhere, but they are rising more in areas with more concrete and fewer trees. We’re also looking at those who don’t have adequate home cooling, or who work outside, or who have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to heat. We’re looking at the way that climate change and higher temperatures increases ozone pollution and wildfire smoke and the spread of new diseases. As we’ve seen with coronavirus, these health impacts hit our most vulnerable first. And our minority communities are often on the frontline, due to many structural factors and decades of systemic racism.

These are global issues, but the impact is local.

Food access is another important area of focus for our department. Eating healthy, fresh food is not something that should be reserved for the privileged. But those who struggle in getting enough to eat, and in eating healthy foods are often poor and are often people of color.  This is also a structural challenge we are confronting every day.

Please know that we are dedicated to advancing equity and racial justice at the forefront of all the sustainability work we do. This includes actively listening and involving the people in our work who are most impacted. At the same time, we recognize that sustainability has been dominated by white bodies and white privilege. We are at the center of government and it’s a reminder of how much further we have to go. We too are practicing and learning what anti-racism means.

We’re humbled to continue the conversation and are grateful for your feedback.

-The Salt Lake City Sustainability Team

Thank you Waste & Recycling Workers!

Next week (June 15- 20) is Waste & Recycling Workers week.

These sanitation staff play an essential role in any city. Waste management supports public health, and these services are critical to protecting the environment. Salt Lake City’s Waste & Recycling Division works diligently to provide these services – even during times of crisis – but their efforts are not always recognized. That’s why we’re inviting you to join us in thanking these employees by taking part in Waste & Recycling Workers Week!

Waste & Recycling Workers Week badge. Image features a black badge with gold frame and ribbon. The badge features a golden trash can with a recycling symbol in white above. The icons are surrounded by blue laurel leafs. The ribbon reads "Week of June 17" and below the badge reads "Waste & Recycling Workers Week" in blue and black lettering.
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Farmers Markets & COVID-19

After a hiatus, some Salt Lake City farmers markets are coming back this weekend. With COVID-19 protocols in place to keep everyone safe, the markets are ready to bring you fresh, local food.

Getting locally grown food can be a challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened all aspects of the food system, from the health of agricultural workers to food security and economic stability. Farmers are at risk of both losing their economic safety as well as getting physically ill.

Along with joining a CSA, farmers markets are one of the most direct ways to get locally grown produce and support the local economy. Luckily, the Wheeler Farm Market, Liberty Park Farmers Market, and the Downtown Farmers Market are set to open this weekend – with a few changes to help keep everyone safe!

Photograph of produce growing in rows at local farm in Utah.

COVID-19 Safety Protocols

Even in our grocery stores we are practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and trying our best to take precautions in response to COVID-19. The local farmers markets are no different.

The local farmers markets will have various protocols in place to protect vendors and market customers. The markets will provide directions for one-way travel paths within the market and will support social distancing measures and hand sanitizing. Additionally, the Downtown Farmers Market has moved its craft sellers online for the time being. The market’s safety measures include required masks and encouraging frequent hand sanitation by shoppers and vendors.

Graphic of blue face mask on teal background.
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Going Green At Home: Eating More Vegetarian

Calf munching a leaf, courtesy of Wikimedia.
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Meatpacking plants across the country have become coronavirus hotspots, infecting workers and forcing some closures. This has made its way to the refrigerated section where some stores are limiting meat purchases to prevent shortages.

Livelihoods and health are at risk in many places, including Utah.

We wish a swift recovery to all of those who are ill, and a return to work as soon as it’s safe.

As a consumer, this state of affairs may have made you curious about how to cook healthy, satisfying meatless meals. The good news is that cooking more vegetarian meals– whether occasionally or frequently– is usually healthier for your family, as well as easier on the planet.

What we eat matters and it turns out that animal products have the largest carbon footprint.

Meatless Mondays

Did you know that cutting meat – and other foods – one day per week started as a national resource conservation strategy during wartime? Indeed, how and what we consume plays a central role during many national and international crises – from growing more food at home in Victory Gardens, to sharing our food resources at local food pantries.

Cabbage photo
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It’s International Compost Week!

Composting is the most local form of recycling. Not only does it help us create a closed loop by turning food and yard waste into new soil, composting helps keep our yards happy and healthy.

Compost puts yard and table scraps to work. By adding important nutrients to the soil and improving water absorption, compost can improve the overall health of your garden. As a result, compost helps reduce the need for harmful pesticides and even helps fight climate change.

Compost is a wonderful tool to keep our yards healthy and reduce waste. This is why the Composting Council’s Research & Education Program has celebrated International Composting Awareness Week for 25 years! This week, from May 3 – May 9, join us in celebrating compost!

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Going Green at Home: Support Pollinators

Spring is here! While many of our normal spring activities are cancelled this year, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy springtime in Utah and do your part for the planet.

Maybe you’re a skilled gardener, or maybe you want a new hobby to brighten up your front yard. Whatever the case may be, one of the best ways to go green from home is to make a home for pollinators.

A photograph of a monarch butterfly sharing a milkweed plant with a bee.
Both monarchs and bees love nectar-rich plants like milkweed.

Make Your Yard a Monarch Waystation

The migratory monarch butterflies help pollinate natural spaces across the country. Sadly, habitat loss has lead to a rapid decline in monarch populations that mirrors declines in other pollinator species. In the Rocky Mountains, the monarch butterfly population has declined over 97%.

However, we can help monarchs by giving them their favorite plant: milkweed. Monarchs love milkweed. In fact, it is the only plant that monarch caterpillars eat. Without milkweed, monarchs cannot survive. You can help protect monarchs and other pollinators by creating a monarch friendly habitat or waystation in your yard.

In Utah, the Showy Milkweed and Swamp Milkweed are the most common milkweed species. Adult monarchs and other pollinators also benefit from having other native nectar-rich plants around. You can order milkweed seeds from Save Our Monarchs or your favorite seed seller. Find more information about Utah’s native plants here!

Another way to support monarch conservation is by becoming a Citizen Scientist. Help track milkweed and monarchs throughout the state and contribute to our scientific understanding of monarch populations and habitats. By protecting monarchs, we support biodiversity in our local environments.

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