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.
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:
- In October, DE Shaw Renewable Investments (DESRI) held a groundbreaking event for the Elektron Solar Project (SLTrib), an 80 Megawatt solar farm to be constructed in Tooele County, Utah, on behalf of Salt Lake City and five other large electric customers. This project will help SLC Corp source nearly 100% of our municipal electricity needs with solar energy. Read more on our blog.
- Salt Lake City continued making progress on implementing net-100% clean electricity for the whole SLC community through the Community Renewable Energy Program.
- The new Community Renewable Energy Agency held its first meeting in July. As of December, 15 of 23 eligible communities have joined the effort.
- Partnered with the State Department of Environmental Quality on a lawnmower exchange program. Salt Lake City’s funding resulted in the exchange of 509 gasoline-powered lawnmowers with all-electric models. This will remove 4.02 tons of pollution from the local airshed each year. In total, 582 Salt Lake City residents participated in the program. We plan to run another program in the spring of 2022.
- Established the Air Quality Action Day Program to encourage city employees to telecommute or modify their commutes on Mandatory Air Quality Action Days.
- Supported by UCAIR grant funding, worked in partnership with the SLC Redevelopment Agency (RDA) and Utah Clean Energy to develop the RDA’s new Sustainable Development Policy, which was adopted by the RDA board in December 2021.
- Coordinated with Sustainable Real Estate Solutions (SRS), the Mayor’s Office, and the City Attorney’s Office to enable the closing of a Commercial Property-Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) loan for an airport hotel new construction project. The $2,755,555 loan by PACE Equity LLC will finance energy efficiency features for the project, including enhanced building envelope measures, energy efficient HVAC and lighting systems, and onsite solar.
Food & Equity
Food access, environmental justice, and creating sustainable communities are all very closely intertwined. SLCgreen took on new challenges in the food and equity realms during 2021. Some notable achievements include:
- Completed the 2020-2021 Resident Food Equity Advisors (RFEA) pilot program. Eleven Advisors met four times in 2021 to finish the pilot program and finalize their list of recommendations for how the City can advance food equity.
- Started implementing the first three of seven RFEA recommendations.
- Invested in the Food Policy Council and Working Groups: Facilitated monthly Food Policy Council (FPC) meetings and helped lead the FPC through planning and recruitment activities. This past year, the FPC formed five topic-specific working groups focused on Food Production and Urban Agriculture, Food Economy (Processing, Distribution, Retail), Food Justice and Equitable Access, Food Waste and Recovery, and Food Sustainability and Climate Change.
- SLCgreen staff and FPC leadership also began an 18-month national Community of Practice (COP) on Racial Equity and Economic Justice for food policy councils organized by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future’s Food Policy Networks. The COP will focus on how to advance economic justice and racial equity in the food system.
- Worked with the SLC Food Policy Council to evaluate the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration. Following the FPC’s recommendation, the City became one of only five other cities in the United States to sign the Declaration, demonstrating Salt Lake City leadership and deepening our commitment to reducing the climate impact of the food system.
- Supported the launch of a Culturally Relevant Emergency Food Box Program: SLCgreen staff provided technical assistance and support for a Community Development Block Grant–funded culturally appropriate emergency food distribution program, in partnership with the United Way of Salt Lake, the International Rescue Committee, and Comunidades Unidas. The program was launched in 2021 and has provided access to healthy, culturally relevant food for low-income refugee and immigrant families with limited household resources to absorb the economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Collaborated with the Public Lands Department to assist with the City’s Green City Growers Community Garden Program. Supported the development of the Richmond Park Community Garden which opened in July 2021. Supported planning efforts for two new garden projects, the Harrison Community Garden (699 E Harrison Ave) that is scheduled to open in 2022, and the Rose Park Neighborhood Center Community Garden which is on track to open in 2023.
Waste & Recycling
In 2021, the Waste & Recycling Division collected approximately 73,000 tons of total material, and 37% of the residential waste stream was diverted from the landfill through recycling and composting. Some notable achievements from 2021 include:
- The Call 2 Haul bulk item collection program continues to be well-utilized. In FY21 just under 10,000 requests were fulfilled resulting in a total of 2,096 tons of material collected. This includes 176 tons of material recycled (mattresses, electronics, appliances, tires, and metal).
- Emptied 4.3 million containers and collected over 69,000 tons of material from the curbside trash, recycling and compost containers with only 1,682 missed pickups, resulting in a 99.97% performance rating – one reason why the Waste and Recycling Division has ranked #3 in the top services offered by the City.
- Glass recycling through City contractor Momentum Recycling diverted 1,655 tons (through both curbside pickup and drop-off dumpsters).
- 170 tons of windstorm debris were collected and disposed of.
- Successfully implemented first rate increase in seven years as part of a multi-year strategy to balance a high-value rate structure for residents with fiscal responsibility.
Our hard work on these 2021 projects has placed SLCgreen in an ideal position to execute new goals in 2022, such as completing the Elektron Solar Project, continuing the Resident Food Equity Advisory program, delivering the Master Recycler Program, and more.
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 unique year.
We’re looking forward to working together in 2022!