This summer was full of many changes for SLCgreen. With Debbie Lyons stepping into the role of Director of Sustainability, and the expansion of our programming, SLCgreen had a few important openings to fill. We’re excited to welcome 2 new members of the SLCgreen team, and to celebrate longtime SLCgreen Communications Manager Sophia Nicholas in her new role as Deputy Director!
The New Faces at SLCgreen
In early July, Bimini Horstmann joined the Sustainability Department as our Special Projects Assistant. Bimini recently finished degrees in Environmental Studies and Biology from Davidson College in North Carolina. An avid rock climber, Bimini was excited to make the move back to Salt Lake City and work with SLCgreen’s team on projects including environmental compliance, climate change, air quality, energy, transportation, waste reduction, and food policy initiatives. The Special Projects Assistant plays a key role in supporting the policy and administrative work of our office, helping ensure that SLCgreen achieves our ambitious energy and climate goals.
This year, SLCgreen is also welcoming Catherine Wyffels to the newly created role of Environmental and Air Quality Program Manager. This position will focus on environmental management, reviewing environmental site assessments, and managing SLCgreen’s air quality programs and initiatives. Catherine is joining SLCgreen after 7 years as an environmental engineer with the Utah Division of Air Quality. We are so excited to have Catherine in this role, which will directly impact our community by ensuring that our building and community spaces are healthy and that our air quality continues to improve.
by SLCgreen outreach coordinator Stephan Sveshnikov
As part of SLCgreen’s goal to reach zero waste by 2040, Salt Lake City signed on to a new initiative, the U.S. Plastics Pact. The Plastics Pact affirms SLCgreen’s commitment to a circular economy for plastics, which envisions that all the plastics used by our community will be reusable, recyclable, or compostable, so that they stay in the economy and out of the environment.
What is the U.S. Plastics Pact?
The U.S. Plastics Pact brings together government entities, businesses, nonprofits, research institutions, and other stakeholders in a common vision of a circular economy for plastics (check out the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Initiativefor more information!). Having a diverse group of organizations sign the pact ensures that the problem of plastics can be tackled at every level where issues arise, collectively.
This vision aims to ensure that plastics never become waste by eliminating the plastics we don’t need, innovating to ensure that the plastics we do need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable, and circulating all the plastic items we use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.
By joining the U.S. Plastics Pact, activators agree to deliver the following four targets:
Target 1: Define a list of packaging that is to be designated as problematic or unnecessary by 2021 and take measures to eliminate them by 2025
Target 2: 100% of plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025
Target 3: Undertake ambitious actions to effectively recycle or compost 50% of plastic packaging by 2025
Target 4: By 2025, the average recycled content or responsibly sourced bio-based content in plastic packaging will be 30%
Signing the pact is part of Salt Lake City’s Zero Waste Resolution, in which the city adopted “Zero Waste as a guiding principle for all city operations and for outreach and actions within the community” and set the ambitious goal of eliminating waste by 2040. The Climate Positive 2040 plan, which followed the resolution, provided a roadmap to reaching zero waste. The City’s goal is to reach 50% diversion rate in the next several years, with a 70% diversion goal by 2025.
What are we doing to get there?
Salt Lake already has a number of innovative programs in addition to our curbside recycling program to ensure we meet our ambitious goals.
Our Waste & Recycling Division is actively researching ways to recycle the few plastics we currently can’t process
If going zero waste is one of your long-term goals, Utah Recycling Alliance offers resources including pop-up CHaRM events, and fix-it clinics. And although Plastic Free July has already passed this year, you can apply the same plastic free tips to implement the circular economy on a smaller scale in your own household.
Check out the full guide to what you can recycle in Salt Lake City’s curbside program here (don’t forget, you can recycle plastic bags and films and many grocery stores) and remember, reducing and reusing are the first two steps to zero waste, before you even start recycling! As the last step on that chain, containers you put into your SLC bins are recycled in North America and turned into new plastic products, keeping them in use.
This summer, SLCgreen’s Debbie Lyons stepped into the role of Sustainability Department Director after the retirement of our long-time director Vicki Bennett. We are thrilled that Debbie will oversee the City’s goals to achieve 100% community renewable energy, reduce emissions connected to climate change, conserve resources, reduce air pollution, and improve community access to fresh, healthy food. Join us in celebrating Debbie’s new role with a look back at how her career has shaped Salt Lake City’s innovative programs and initiatives for over 25 years!
Prioritizing Safety and Sustainability
After earning a degree in Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety from BYU, Debbie started her work with Salt Lake City in 1995 as an intern with the Public Services Department. During her time as an intern, Debbie was instrumental in developing elements of Salt Lake City’s Waste & Recycling program that continue to have significant impacts, including the first City-wide curbside recycling and compost programs, the expansion of glass recycling around the state, and the City & County Building’s first office paper recycling program.
Salt Lake City Announces Enhancements to Call 2 Haul Bulk Waste Collection Program
SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City today announced several key enhancements to its bulk waste program Call 2 Haul.
Effective immediately, the new enhancements include:
The addition of a second pick up annually for green waste only. Residents will be able to schedule two collections per year—one for bulky items such as old furniture and appliances, and one for yard waste up to 24 inches in diameter.
In addition to large branches, brush and bushes will now be accepted. These should be cut to five feet in length or less. Residents may also continue to request extra brown compost containers for temporary placement at no extra charge.
Neighborhood group scheduling. Up to 20 households can now schedule a neighborhood cleanup event for either bulky items or green waste.
“We’re excited to provide greater convenience and enhanced service to our residents with these changes to Call 2 Haul,” Mayor Mendenhall said. “We heard from our residents who wanted an option to organize collection events with their neighbors. We also heard that they wanted easier ways to dispose of green waste. These changes will help meet those needs, while maintaining our commitment to waste diversion and protecting neighborhoods from dumping.”
Newly Created Community Renewable Energy Agency Achieves Milestones
July 22, 2021
SALT LAKE CITY — Two significant milestones were achieved this month as Utah seeks to transition its electricity mix to cleaner sources and move some cities toward net-100% renewable energy.
Fourteen local governments have now joined the Community Renewable Energy Agency, a brand-new cooperative agency formed under state law in 2019 to achieve net-100% renewable electricity on behalf of participating communities.
“We’re transforming the future to 100% clean electricity with the Community Renewable Energy Program,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “And we’re working in partnership not only with Rocky Mountain Power, but with a group of dedicated local governments to make it happen. I’m thrilled with the achievement of the creation of the agency and look forward to working with our partners to develop significant new renewable energy resources for our state.”
Also this month, the agency’s board held its first regular meeting. The board plans to hire expert consultants, establish working committees, and meet monthly to support the development of a new Community Renewable Energy Program with Utah’s largest electric utility, Rocky Mountain Power.
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.
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).
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.
Salt Lake City Thanks Frontline Waste & Recycling Staff in Celebration of Waste & Recycling Workers Week
SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City is thanking its frontline waste & recycling staff this week in honor of Waste & Recycling Workers Week which occurs annually the week of June 17.
Salt Lake City employs 55 men and women who are responsible for collecting the refuse from 42,000 homes and businesses every week. Their essential work is critical to residents’ health and safety, making Salt Lake City a cleaner, more resilient community every day. Every year, Salt Lake City crews empty between 4.7 to 4.8 million curbside bins. This year, Waste & Recycling collected an average of 3,630 tons of trash per month, 1,454 tons of compost per month, and 775 tons of recycling per month.
“Our City maintains its world-class beauty and high standard of cleanliness in large part due to the tireless daily efforts of the people who work in our Waste and Recycling Division,” said Mayor Mendenhall. “They are on the front line but work behind-the-scenes. We often don’t think twice when the trash, recycling, and yard waste seamlessly disappear from our curbs. So this week I encourage all residents to join me in thanking these public servants for their critical work. A simple wave as the truck rolls by really makes their days.”
Residents who wish to send a message may also call and leave a voicemail on the customer service line at 801-535-6999 or by sharing a message with @slcgreen on social media.
In addition to the operational staff, Salt Lake City’s Waste and Recycling Division includes an Education Team that works directly with residents, helping make sure recyclables and compostable materials end up in the right bins. In 2020, the Education Team checked 551,592 waste carts throughout the City, helping reduce contamination and empowering residents to know how to recycle correctly.
The Waste & Recycling customer service team also provides daily assistance to community members, which was even more critical throughout 2020 due to the “inland hurricane” and resulting debris cleanup, as well as general increased waste disposal needs as more Salt Lakers stayed home.
“Our crews have worked courageously and tirelessly throughout the entire pandemic and natural disasters to keep each other safe and deliver uninterrupted service to our residents,” said Chris Bell, Waste and Recycling Division Director. “I couldn’t be more proud of their resolve and ability to maintain our high service standards.”
On top of curbside collection, Salt Lake City Waste & Recycling provides resident support and education, the bulky waste collection program Call 2 Haul, special event waste and recycling permitting, and overseeing of the business recycling ordinance and construction and demolition recycling ordinance.
This year, the Call 2 Haul program collected an average of 168 tons of trash and 14 tons of recycling per month. In addition to their normal collection program, Call 2 Haul also assisted with Salt Lake City’s lawn mower exchange, picking up hundreds of gas-powered lawn mowers from residents who switched to electric mowers.
Vicki Bennett’s remarkable 20-year career with Salt Lake City Corporation reflects the changes in local and national work to protect the environment and act on climate. As director, Vicki has overseen SLCgreen’s work to reduce carbon emissions, improve city-wide waste diversion, support air quality initiatives, ensure that the City is prioritizing community sustainability, and direct equitable policies related to food security and energy. Under Vicki’s direction, Salt Lake City has become an internationally-recognized leader in sustainability.
After 20 years, SLCgreen’s beloved director is retiring. Vicki leaves an outstanding legacy, and she will be deeply missed by her friends and colleagues in the City. Her retirement gives us an opportunity to take a look at Vicki’s many accomplishments, and how our community has been shaped by her dedicated service.
Vicki became the Environmental Manager for Salt Lake City Corporation in 2001, a role meant to help regulate chemical use and reduce environmental pollution in the city. However, environmental work was quickly shifting towards addressing climate change. Vicki’s role expanded into sustainability, a field that connects equity and economic stability with environmental protection.
Thanks to Vicki, SLCgreen grew into one of the first sustainability departments in the country. As a Environmental Manager, Vicki served on Governor Huntsman’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Council on Climate Change in 2007. During Mayor Ralph Becker’s administration, Vicki was placed in charge of a new Sustainability Division. SLCgreen eventually became its own department under Mayor Jackie Biskupski.
The realities of climate change became more and more apparent over that time. As a result, Vicki’s work shifted from climate mitigation to long-term adaptation and resilience. In the changing landscape of climate action, Vicki has continued to shape a vision of sustainability that supports the most vulnerable in our communities and activates our residents to participate in climate work on all levels.
Vicki’s steady leadership and stalwart commitment to advocacy has positioned Salt Lake City as an international leader in climate action. Vicki’s legacy is one of collaboration and dedication to connecting with others in order to make positive changes.
When world governments called on countries to commit to emissions reductions in the Kyoto Protocol, Salt Lake City was one of the first cities to join. Examining energy efficiency and tracking carbon emissions was the first step in addressing Salt Lake City’s sustainability goals.
Vicki’s ability to connect with people locally and around the world has helped Salt Lake City focus on critical sustainability initiatives. In Utah, she is a founding member of the award-winningUtah Climate Action Network, a group dedicated to collaborating on climate action in Utah. Vicki also helped launch the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, an organization dedicated to “connecting local government practitioners to accelerate urban sustainability.”
Salt Lake City and 22 other Utah communities are making exciting progress towards a transition to net-100% clean electricity by 2030. This means that our electric grid will be shifting to clean energy, helping us reduce our community carbon emissions and build community resiliency. On top of that, Salt Lake City is also working towards achieving 90% clean electricity for municipal operations.
In 2019, Salt Lake City passed a joint resolution to shift to net-100% clean electricity for the entire community. To achieve this ambitious goal, Salt Lake City is working with the Community Renewable Energy Program, a program made possible by the Community Renewable Energy Act (House Bill 411). This Act allows local governments to procure net-100% renewable electricity on behalf of residents and businesses.
Working with the state’s largest investor-owned utility, Rocky Mountain Power, 23 Utah Communities became eligible to participate in this innovative program . Powering the community with net-100% renewable electricity is an essential step towards a robust clean energy future for Salt Lake City. Now, the 23 Utah 100 Communities are building a Governance Agreement to guide the communities in our steps forward.
Ask Us Anything!
Mayor Mendenhall and SLCgreen are eager to answer your questions about this ground breaking program. On Wednesday, May 26, we’ll be answering your questions about the Utah 100 coalition, Salt Lake City’s 100% clean electricity goals, and our exciting progress in shifting municipal operations to 90% clean electricity.