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Posts from the ‘Energy Efficiency’ Category

How to Improve your Indoor Air Quality

Earlier this month, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the Sustainability Department held an Indoor Air Quality Summit, bringing together city officials, academic researchers, building managers, and interested organizations to discuss the current status of indoor air quality, as well as possible initiatives and solutions that could be taken to help create a healthier environment both inside and out.

Speakers included Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall; Daniel Mendoza, Research Assistant Professor at the University of Utah; and Nicholas Rice, the Corporate Industrial Hygiene Manager at Intermountain Health, with SLCgreen’s own Peter Nelson hosting. 

While outdoor air pollution is a recurring topic in Salt Lake City discussions, indoor air pollution has become more significant as the correlation between outdoor and indoor air quality are researched. In her opening remarks, Mayor Mendenhall explains, “We know that buildings and homes are a critical space for indoor and outdoor air quality because our buildings produce a significant portion of the air we breathe outside.” 

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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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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 All Outlet: How to Electrify Your Home

by SLCgreen Clean Energy Intern Monica O’Malley

As we celebrate the 5th Annual Utah Climate Week, it is a great time to take stock of the ways we can act on climate at home. In our last post, we talked about the importance of energy efficiency. The cheapest and most “renewable” energy is the energy we don’t waste.

After you’ve made energy efficiency improvements to your home, it’s time to look at the type of fuel you’re using to power it!

Perhaps you have solar on your roof or a subscription to Blue Sky. Or maybe you’re supporting Salt Lake City’s efforts to move all of our community to net-100% renewable electricity!

As our electricity sources get cleaner, moving towards partially or fully electrifying your home is one of the many ways you can use to reduce your carbon footprint, as well as reduce local air pollution. When we advocate for building electrification, we mean switching to using all-electric appliances and heating/cooling systems in your home.

Building electrification can be accomplished at any stage — whether you are updating an old or broken appliance, renovating your space, building a new home, or just looking for ways to live more sustainably.

Benefitting the Environment

It may come as a surprise, but choosing energy efficient electric appliances and scaling-back the use of natural gas, heating oil and other fossil fuels will significantly reduce your household’s greenhouse gas emissions.

You might be thinking: But if my electric grid is powered primarily by fossil fuels, how will switching out my gas appliances for electric lower my carbon footprint? The short answer is energy efficiency and a grid transitioning to renewable sources.

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Home Energy Efficiency Tips for Utah Climate Week

It’s Utah Climate Week, which means that there are opportunities statewide to get involved with climate action in Utah.

But taking steps to help the environment can also start at home. Improving at-home energy efficiency will help you shrink your carbon footprint and save money.

Switching to high efficiency LED lights is a quick and easy way to save energy!

Why Energy Efficiency Matters

According to the EPA, around 40% of energy use in the United States is for generating electricity. Salt Lake City is working to move towards net-100% renewable electricity for the entire community by 2030. This means that more renewable energy will be fed into the grid, helping power everything from your lights to your phone chargers. But in the meantime, taking steps to improve your energy efficiency will go a long way to save energy!

SLCgreen’s Household Energy Actions Checklist outlines the ways you can save energy and money by taking small actions.

  • For example, switching to a low flow showerhead may seem simple, but it can help you save $18 annually and cut 250 pounds of CO2, not to mention the water savings.
  • Using a power strip to avoid energy vampires like phone chargers can help you save $96 per year and cuts 1,200 pounds of CO2!
  • And washing your laundry in cold water can save 1,270 pounds of CO2 annually and $92!

Reducing your energy use cuts down on emissions that contribute to global warming as well as local air pollution. As a result, energy conservation and efficiency can help build a healthier and more resilient community.

Resources & Incentives

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Help SLC Stay Cool this Summer

by SLCgreen outreach coordinator Stephan Sveshnikov

With much of the West seeing record temperatures this summer and 98% of Utah in an extreme drought, it’s a good time to remind ourselves of what we can do to keep our city a little bit cooler and ourselves safe.

While you’ve heard a lot of discussion about saving water during this drought, today we also want to talk about reducing the urban heat island effect— which helps save water, reduce ambient temperatures, and support a healthier ecosystem.

What is an Urban Heat Island?

Cities are always hotter than the average surrounding temperature because of what’s called the “Urban Heat Island” effect. Because the concrete, black asphalt, and black roof shingle material absorbs extra heat and releases it, city temperatures can rise by as much as 18 degrees Fahrenheit compared to the surrounding area on a cloudless day! This, in turn, raises the energy consumption of the city, because our air conditioners have to work harder to keep us cool. 

How can I reduce my home energy consumption during the summer?

What can you do to reduce the Urban Heat Island effect at your home or business?

First start with your own building. Saving energy means you’ll be more comfortable, save money, and reduce the ambient heat going into the neighborhood.

  • Cover your windows! When it’s hot, about 76 percent of sunlight on windows enters in the form of heat, according to the Department of Energy. Keeping blinds closed on the sunny side of the house or installing solar screens will keep your house from heating up as much.
  • Set the AC ten degrees higher if you’ll be gone from home all day, and set it at 78 degrees F or warmer if you are home. Cool off with cold drinks, a trip to the mountains, or turn on a fan to circulate air in the room you’ll be in.
  • Avoid using your stove and oven during the hottest parts of the day. 
  • Energy efficient evaporative coolers (also called “swamp” coolers) are perfectly-suited to Utah’s arid desert climate and can cut cooling costs by 75% compared to a central AC! 
  • Plant shade trees around your home. The more shade around your house, the less it will absorb direct heat from the sun, and the less your AC or swamp cooler has to work. 
  • Insulate! Make sure you have the appropriate level of insulation in your home. Insulation helps keep your house warm in the winter, but it also helps keep it cool in the summer, because the fewer leaks you have, the less that cold air you’ve worked so hard for can escape.

Learn more about energy efficiency year-round from Empower SLC. 

Photo of house with many shade trees and water-wise plants.
Planting water-wise plants and trees that provide shade can help your house stay cool even when it’s hot outside. Learn more about water-wise gardening on SLC’s Public Utilities page.

What else can we do?

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SLC Budget Prioritizes Maintaining High Standard of Service, Providing Equitable and Sustainable Opportunities

Salt Lake City Mayor Mendenhall’s new 2021-2022 city budget emphasizes financial stability for Salt Lake City, as well as “opportunities for an abundant, transformational, equitable future for all the city’s communities.”

The $350 million budget allocates funds to numerous initiatives and programs that will help Salt Lake City implement recommendations from the Commission on Racial Equity in Policing as well as expanding support for affordable housing. Salt Lake City will continue to prioritize building a sustainable and resilient city for all residents.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, residents have had unprecedented access to local government, connecting with departments more than ever. As SLCgreen moves into the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, we aim to build from this access, inviting more of our community into the decision making process, and working with the community towards greater sustainability and resiliency for all.

The newly approved budget allows Salt Lake City to continue to invest in critical public services, renewable energy projects, air quality, food access, climate equity, and more, which are described below.

Waste and Recycling Rate Increase

The adopted budget contains a rate increase on garbage containers. As you may recall, the Sustainability Department undertook a large public engagement process in late 2019/early 2020 to evaluate residents’ satisfaction with our waste & recycling services, and to seek feedback on how they’d like to see future rate increases occur.

While we do not take lightly the fact that rate increases impact everyone– and some more than others– we want you to know that we have worked hard for years cutting costs and streamlining our operations to forestall the need for a rate increase. However, it has been nearly seven years since we last raised rates. In that time, the cost of doing business has increased– impacting everything from purchasing and maintaining our refuse vehicles, to disposing of garbage at the landfill, to keeping up with the cost of living. For a couple of years, there were also fees associated with processing the City’s recyclables. (So far in 2021, we have begun to make money again on recycling which is great news. We are committed to maintaining a robust program through the ups and downs of the recycling commodity market).

You can visit this page to learn more about the rate increases, the survey, and what to expect. As always, if you have questions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at slcgreen@slcgov.com

Projects on Energy, Food, Air Quality & More

In our policy division, we are moving forward with some impactful and important projects. Here’s a closer look at some of what’s in store for the Sustainability Department’s Energy & Environment Division:

  • Advancing Salt Lake City’s Community Renewable Energy Goals

The Community Renewable Energy Program (C-REP), empowered by the Community Renewable Energy Act, H.B. 411, will help Salt Lake City reach its goal of community-wide net-100% renewable electricity. In 2022, Salt Lake City will work with other participating communities to bring Salt Lake City closer to its goal of 100% renewable electricity for the whole community. Learn more on the Utah100 Communities’ website.

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e2 Business Highlight: Tracy Aviary

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.

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Tracy Aviary, one of the nation’s only free-standing aviaries, will be marking its 83rd anniversary this year. Over the past decades, the iconic landmark in the heart of Liberty Park has become a leader in environmental education and conservation.  

Tracy Aviary goes above and beyond their work with bird conservation, emphasizing local ecosystem conservation efforts through community science programs, as well as participating in critical global species conservation work. Moreover, Tracy Aviary has been taking steps towards reducing their own environmental impact.

Photo of front of Tracy Aviary Visitors center with lights shining behind copper metal façade.

A longtime member of the e2 Business Program, Tracy Aviary has marked several sustainability milestones such as the addition of 18kW of on-site solar energy, as well as a 67% recycling diversion rate. One recent achievement is in realizing their 2018 goal of reducing energy consumption by more than 10% in 2019 and 2020.

“Reducing our energy consumption and focusing on sustainable energy is one of the ways we can make the biggest impact when combating climate change. Slowing climate change not only helps native birds, who are highly sensitive to changes in their environment, but all the plants and animals we share our ecosystems with.

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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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