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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. 

Waste & Recycling:   

Salt Lake City’s Waste & Recycling crews provided critical services, uninterrupted, during a pandemic, and in the aftermath of the earthquake and windstorm. In 2020, these essential staff quickly adopted strict COVID protocols to protect colleagues and residents. The crews maintained regular garbage, recycling, yard waste, and Call 2 Haul services, in addition to collecting thousands of downed trees.  

The Waste & Recycling crews also continue to play an important role in our communities. As many residents have remarked over the course of the year, the route drivers go above and beyond their duties by providing thoughtful and friendly service, by giving a sense of normalcy during a challenging time, and being a bright spot for even our youngest garbage truck enthusiasts.  

A young SLC resident gets a wave from SLC Waste & Recycling crew member on her route.

In 2020, the Waste & Recycling collection teams continued operations safely. Their efforts resulted in major accomplishments:  

  • Following the windstorm, the crews worked an additional 1,600 hours to clear debris. The windstorm added 1,300 tons of green waste collected in the curbside compost bins alone. In the month of September, the curbside compost collection nearly doubled compared to previous years. Ultimately, with the help of other city departments, over 5,400 tons of green waste were diverted for composting.  
  • Over the course of the year 4.7 million containers were emptied.  
  • The Call 2 Haul program helped collect 1,764 tons of materials which were properly diverted.  
  • Salt Lake City was also able to use the new Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) that has helped reduce mileage by over 16,000 miles, saving on fuel and reducing the overall emissions.  
Education team member assists with data collection after the windstorm.

Food and Equity:  

The pandemic increased the need for food assistance by 300%. With help from the new Resident Food Equity Advisors, SLCgreen worked to find gaps in the food security net, and connected pantries and service providers.  

In addition to emergency response, we continued our work to expand food access, especially access to healthy, culturally relevant food for low income families.  

  • The Food Policy Council met with Mayor Mendenhall to outline immediate food needs in the community. The Food Access working group addressed food insecurity in the homeless population, culturally relevant foods, and food for families with limited mobility to access emergency food support.  
  • SLCgreen and Salt Lake City’s Information Management Services Department started a project to build an interactive database that presents inequities to our food system that will help to identify areas of the city most affected by low food access and most impacted from disruptions to local food distribution systems.  
  • SLCgreen also worked with Parks to assist with two new projects. Together, we selected and implemented a new garden at Richmond Park.  And we began to develop a 15-acre parcel in the northwest quadrant of Salt Lake City into an urban farm for local food production and increase food access for residents most in need of healthy, fresh produce. 

Air Quality, Climate Change, and Energy:  

Improving air quality and addressing climate change are critical for addressing inequities in our community. Our department made notable achievements this year through renewable energy policy and project development, vehicle emission reductions, and continued efforts towards improving building energy efficiency: 

  • Rocky Mountain Power received final regulatory approval in 2020 for the Elektron Solar project, an 80 MW solar farm to be constructed in Tooele County, Utah, on behalf of SLC and five other large electric customers. The City expects to source almost 90% of its annual electric needs from the solar farm while seeing the electric bill for city operations increase by less than 2%. With this renewable energy procurement, the City will be on target to reach its target of net-100% renewable electricity for city operations by 2030. 
  • Staff co-convened three meetings of the “Utah 100 Communities,” an informal collaboration among the 23 Utah local governments who are eligible to participate in Utah’s Community Renewable Program as authorized by 2019 House Bill 411.  
  • Successfully leveraged funding from Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky customers to support the construction of a 360-panel, 115-kilowatt rooftop solar project at the Sorenson Community Campus. The solar installation started producing electricity in June. 
  • Implemented year two of the Energy Benchmarking & Transparency Ordinance, adding buildings 25,000 square feet and above for the 2020 reporting requirement.
  • Conducted annual Elevate Buildings public recognition campaign for energy efficient buildings in Salt Lake City, including a full page promotion in Utah Business Magazine featuring congratulations from Mayor Mendenhall recognizing the 300 buildings that reported their energy benchmarking data to Salt Lake City and the winner for Energy Project of the Year in 2020: Trolley Square Ventures. 
  • Scored in the top third of cities in the ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) City Clean Energy Scorecard, moving up three rankings since 2019. 
  • Created and passed a joint resolution with City Council establishing goals to transition the transportation sector to clean energy technologies, including electric vehicles, that will provide a range of benefits including air quality and enhanced public health. Through the resolution, the City has committed to electrifying its own fleet and working with partners to accelerate adoption of electrified transportation in our community. 

Looking Ahead:  

As we set our sights on the year ahead, SLCgreen will continue to have a strong focus on equity, renewable energy initiatives, and building electrification. In 2021, we hope to improve air quality, increase access to healthy food in our communities, and continue to expand renewable energy and electrification in Salt Lake City.

SLCgreen is grateful for our partners in City government, other government agencies, non-profits, neighborhood groups, business partners, and community councils who helped us move forward with our sustainability goals during a challenging year. We’re looking forward to working together in 2021!

Check out the full 2020 Year in Review here.

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