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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:

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

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

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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How to Celebrate Earth Day from Home

Next week– April 22, 2020 marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day! Although our communities are facing the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still many ways to celebrate Earth Day and take actions to protect the planet throughout Earth Week and beyond.

To help everyone get involved with Earth Day this year, we put together a new Earth Day page on slcgreen.com dedicated to local and global events.

This year, many of the traditional Earth Day events have moved online in the form of panels, webinars, and virtual workshops around the world. While some plans have been put on hold, moving Earth Day online allows more people to get involved and helps everyone stay safe. The format may have changed this year, but taking action to protect the planet is more important than ever.

On our Earth Day page, you’ll find ways to engage on one of the biggest days of environmental action. Moreover, you’ll learn ways to make every day Earth Day.

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Salt Lake City Fire Station 14 Wins Prestigious National Award

Salt Lake City’s Fire Station 14, courtesy of architects Blalock & Partners,

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The Engineering News Record (ENR) chose Salt Lake City’s Fire Station 14 as their “Best of the Best Project” in the national Government/Public Building category. This is the seventh award for Utah’s first Net Zero energy fire station which was built in 2018.

The latest award, which is detailed in the March 23 issue of ENR, is the culmination of a year-long process during which construction experts from ten different regions selected finalists. Those 200 finalists then moved to the national competition and were vetted by a different panel of judges.

Fire Station 14 is believed to be not only Utah’s, but the nation’s, first Net Zero energy fire station. That means it produces as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis.

It’s also expected to become certified as LEED Gold, showing it meets a range of holistic sustainability benchmarks, including material management, waste diversion, water conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and more.

The project was recognized last year as the Best Government/Public Building for the Mountain States Region. As a result, it was automatically entered into ENR’s national “Best of the Best” Competition. Representatives from Zwick, the general contractor, anticipate accepting the award as a representation of the collaboration between the architects, Blalock & Partners, Salt Lake City (Engineering/Fire Dept.), and themselves.

Fire Station 14, near California Ave. and 3800 West, and Fire Station 3, in Sugar House, are both Net Zero and were opened within months of each other in 2018.

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Welcome Chris Bell!

Photograph of new Waste & Recycling Division Director, Chris Bell.
Chris Bell joined Salt Lake City as the Waste & Recycling Division Director in January 2020.

SLCgreen is excited to introduce Chris Bell, Salt Lake City Waste & Recycling’s new Director.

The Sustainability Department is comprised of two divisions – the Energy & Environment (E&E) Division, which is the policy division that houses our energy, local food, business engagement, internal policy, and communications roles. And then there is the Waste & Recycling Division which is the operational side of our department. This division is responsible for the daily collection of garbage, trash, and recycling, and other special programs.

So we’re happy to welcome Chris to the Department where he’ll lead the Waste & Recycling Division.

Chris’ career in recycling started almost 20 years ago. He is passionate about using his skills to have a positive impact on the environment and is guided by his philosophy to create a strong legacy of conservation. Chris believes that building a sustainable future is our collective responsibility – and has the added benefit of being good business.

Chris’ work in recycling has taken him from Utah to Colorado to Texas and back. Beginning in paper recycling and moving on though operational and commercial management, Chris is highly qualified in recycling and waste management. He is driven to maintain a strong safety record as well as improve operations to deliver outstanding service to the community.

We are thrilled to have Chris on board to help guide our City towards zero waste and a strong recycling and composting system.

The Waste & Recycling Director oversees 60 staff working to collect garbage, recycling, and yard waste from over 42,000 residents in Salt Lake City.

Join us in giving Chris a warm welcome to the SLCgreen team!

Electric Vehicle Usage Increasing in Salt Lake City

Transportation accounts for nearly 50% of the pollutants that accumulate during inversions. Reducing emissions from cars is a great way to protect our air. Electrified transportation is a step towards cleaner air, healthier communities, and a stronger economy.

Graphic depicts air pollution statistics on orange clouds. Text reads: 
"Percent pollution reduced by an EV along the Wasatch Front. 57% PM10, 81% PM2.5, 98% SOx, 90% NOx, 99% CO, 99% VOC."
Electric Vehicles can significantly reduce air pollution.

EVs in Salt Lake City

Luckily, more and more Utahns are investing in electric vehicles (EV). Based on the number of unique charging sessions at Salt Lake City Corporation’s 36 Level 2 public EV stations (not including those at the Airport), there has been an exciting uptick in EV use in Salt Lake City.

In 2019, there were 21,371 unique charging sessions (meaning a car charged for longer than 5 minutes) at Salt Lake City public stations, compared to 12,870 in 2018.

Salt Lake City is following the national trend of growing EV use. According to the Edison Electric Institute, there are close to 1.5 million EVs being driven in the U.S. as of December 2019. Utah has seen its share grow to approximately 2% of total vehicles now comprised of electric, plug-in electric, or hybrid vehicles, and we want to continue pushing that number higher.

With EVs becoming more popular, Salt Lake City is working to strengthen the City’s EV infrastructure. In 2018, SLCgreen and Utah Clean Energy created the Electric Transportation Roadmap. Since then, Salt Lake City has installed 36 Level 2 charging stations at sites around the city, plus over a dozen at the Airport. These stations are free to use for 2 to 4 hours depending on the station.

Support Fellow EV Drivers: Don’t Hog the Charging Stations

Salt Lake City is pleased to see that charging sessions have increased significantly since the stations were initially installed. Up until now, Salt Lake City has not had to enforce the charging time limit. However, because more people are using the stations, drivers need to be mindful of their fellow EV users and respect the time limit.

In 2017, 1,500 sessions exceeded the time limit. That number has grown to 4,600 in 2019. While these only represent a small portion of the total charging sessions (80% of sessions were within the limit), it is still an inconvenience for other drivers who may need to fuel up.

Graphic shows graph of how many sessions exceed posted time limit.

Due to the growing demand for charging stations, the time limits will be actively enforced beginning March 9. Please be courteous to your fellow EV drivers and be mindful of the time limit. Drivers who exceed the posted time limit may be ticketed $75.

Vehicle charging usage may be monitored via the ChargePoint cloud system to determine if a vehicle has overstayed the posted parking time limit.

The public may also report potential EV stall overstays to the Compliance main line at 801-535-6628.

Clean Machines

Although electric cars still rely on electricity which is not (yet) wholly derived from renewable resources, they are still cleaner than gas-powered cars. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the average gasoline-only car produces 381 grams of CO2e per mile, while the plug-in hybrid produces only 191 grams and a battery EV produces only 123.

Graphic compares average CO2 emissions of gas-powered, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric vehicles. Stats are described in above paragraph.
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Waste Management is Keeping Plastic Recycling Domestic

In 2018, China’s National Sword policy forced the United States to stop sending recyclable materials to China. The limitations have led to changes to the recycling process in the U.S., and changes in the market for recycled materials, which has affected the overall financial cost of recycling.

While some materials had been sent to other countries, plastic pollution, as well as improper recycling practices, have caused some recyclers to rethink their approach.

In October of last year, Waste Management, Salt Lake City’s recycling processor, made the announcement that they will not export residential plastic waste. Rather than rely on sending materials to countries outside of China for processing, Waste Management is keeping plastic recycling domestic. Several other companies have adopted similar policies. That means that the plastics you recycle at home will be processed in North America.

By focusing on building domestic markets, Waste Management’s policy will help ensure plastics are properly recycled and that they don’t end up polluting the environment through inadequate processing, containment, or disposal overseas.

Photograph of Waste Management collection truck in front of MRF. The truck is green with text that reads "Think Green, Think Clean."

Recycling Matters:

Plastics make up 11% of Salt Lake City’s waste stream (by weight). Luckily, Salt Lake City recycles a lot. In June of 2019, we recycled 585 tons of cans, bottles, paper, and cardboard! The city recycles or composts 42% of the waste collected from residents. Recycling is crucial to protecting the environment. Indeed, recycling on this scale helps save trees, water, and energy. Moreover, proper recycling helps prevent greenhouse gas emissions.

Waste Management’s shift to keeping plastic recycling domestic will help make recycling even better. Waste Management acknowledges the specific threat plastic pollution poses to our waterways, explaining that out of all countries, the U.S. is the twentieth highest contributor of marine debris.

Recycling residential plastic domestically helps to reduce the likelihood of this kind of pollution.

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Join the Clear the Air Challenge 2020

Are you ready for a new challenge? How about one that will help you save money, burn calories, and improve our air quality? Salt Lake City employees are already on board and want to invite you to join the 2020 Clear the Air Challenge. During the month of February, keep our air clear of pollutants by limiting your driving!

You can aim to reduce your “driving-alone” trips every day in February, or pick a goal that’s manageable for you. It all helps!

If you don’t have a team and want to challenge yourself, please join the Clear the Air Challenge SLCgreen Team!

What is the Clear the Air Challenge?

Since 2009, Utahns have been participating in the month-long Clear the Air Challenge. During February, when air quality in Utah is historically bad, participants track their trips with the goal of avoiding single-occupancy vehicle travel and reducing air pollution. Participants carpool, bike, walk, telecommute, trip chain, take public transit, drive electric vehicles, and ride electric bikes or scooters– all to help clear the air!

In 2019, participants in the Clear the Air Challenge eliminated 84,421 single-occupancy vehicle trips. This saved 1,244,624 miles of traveling and $0.4 Million! Together, all these efforts reduced 359.8 tons of CO2!

This year, the Clear the Air Challenge needs everyone’s help to reach the goal of eliminating 100,000 single-occupant trips.  

Clear the Air to Protect Our Health

Winters in Utah can be beautiful, but when inversion starts, polluted air gets caught in our valleys. PM 2.5 and other pollutants threaten our health the well-being of our communities.

On bad air days, our activity is limited. Moreover, children, older adults, and people with heart diseases or respiratory problems are at a higher risk for suffering from poorer health due to bad air. Poor air quality is associated with a range of negative impacts including pregnancy losspremature deathchild asthma, and increased cases of pneumonia.

In Salt Lake City, nearly 50% of air pollution comes from cars, trucks, and other vehicles. That’s why the Clear the Air Challenge is more important than ever.

We love it when the air is clear!

What We’re Doing

Salt Lake City Corporation employees are already signing up to do their part to Clear the Air this year (see our previous Challenge roundup).

Each participating department has its own team. Salt Lake City employees live all over the Wasatch Front. Many of us take public transit to work every day. Others carpool or bike. For the month of February, we’re doing all we can to cut back on our single occupancy car rides!

Salt Lake City departments compete with each other for the coveted Clear the Air Challenge “Mayor’s Cup” and “SLCgreen Team Spirit” award.
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Thanks to the recent public transit expansions, the robust network of bike paths for the sunny days, as well as the Clear the Air Challenge app’s handy carpool guide, the Clear the Air Challenge will make February an exciting and competitive month!

Join SLCgreen’s Clear the Air Challenge Team

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