January 2021 Sustainability Newsletter

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January 2021 Newsletter

A Bright Beginning


Avo holding the earth
New Beginnings

Progress: So Much to Look Forward to!

Santa Fe County's Public Works Projects Division—the home of the Sustainability Office—has been very busy planning for the new year in ways that will benefit both the community and the operations of the County. In honor of the many ways that 2020 has shaped us all through lessons and loss, this issue is dedicated to facing forward to an ever more sustainable 2021 by reviewing successes and looking ahead for more to come. To kick it off the new year right, we hope that you will be able to enjoy the fruition of some of these exciting projects which will break ground or go into operation in 2021: 

  • New Cerrillos Senior Center and Fire Station: this combined building concept will be 50% powered by solar, a place of support and community gathering for seniors, and provide a new firefighting base for the immediate area.
  • Weatherization & Energy Efficiency Improvements at 14 Facilities: this will increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly, saving the County close to $117,000 in annual utility bills.
  • The Opening of a New Behavioral Health Center: will add a much needed array of services for the community in a completely remodeled and updated facility, retrofitted for more energy efficiency savings and better climate control.
  • A New Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Station at the Solana Center: granted through the Volkswagen Settlement, this expansion of EV infrastructure in an accessible public location will bring even more EV charging capacity to both County vehicles and EV drivers throughout the area.
  • Off-grid Solar Systems at 3 Convenience Centers: this project will provide a resilient source of power, allowing for more efficient operations, increased staff comfort, and access to technology at these remote, off-grid facilities which provide essential services to area residents.
  • The Public Safety Building Gets Solar: the facility that houses emergency services will be getting the County's largest solar installation—a 135 kW DC roof-mounted array that will offset about 35% of the building's current electricity use.

This list of projects is a start, but more action is needed, from everyone, to offset the rough ride that the past year brought. But just like the hope dawning in a new year, focusing upon achievements and progress brings the concreteness of action needed for a brighter future. The greatest teachers from nature inform us that hope often comes from the unexpected, in adaptation and in change. Finding the strength and resiliency through the changes that are thrust upon us is never easy.  --So, hats off to all of us for the hard work of learning and adapting in 2020, and may we all have less of the "hard" and more abundance in the lessons and experiences to come.


CONNECT Report and Shout Out

Sustainable communities aren't just about electric vehicles and solar panels—they must also nurture the physical and emotional well-being of its community members, allowing for a good quality of life. One way Santa Fe County helps meet the needs of residents is through the joint City-County CONNECT program, The efforts of Community Services and CONNECT staff and volunteers have not gone unnoticed this past year. Throughout the pandemic, essential programs provided much needed help to those in even greater need than usual due to the public health crisis. Staff has been working around the clock to assist residents in accessing basic resources, such food and healthcare. As of mid-December 2020, the CONNECT received 2,233 requests for assistance.  6,900 grocery boxes were delivered throughout the city and county, 1,100 of which were delivered to home-bound individuals. In the second week of December alone, Santa Fe County's Senior Services Division delivered 2,910 meals to seniors, and staff provided, on average, 7 trips per day to medical appointments for high-risk individuals. Our heartfelt thanks goes out to all of the dedicated staff and volunteers for being a lifeline in our community during this difficult year.

climate optimism

Year in Review: Climate Wins of 2020

Apart from the pandemic, our country was rocked this year by record wildfires, hurricanes, heat waves, deep political divides, and great social unrest. Yet amidst the darkness, many positive stories have arisen that continue to give us hope for better times to come.

Last summer, after a long, hard-fought battle, the contentious Dakota Access Pipeline was shut down when a judge found a federal permit to be in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. This is a big win for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other water protectors, and a big climate win for all of us.

Last month, our country's political climate became much more favorable to take meaningful action on climate, with more hope for bipartisanship. In early December, U.S. Senators Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), introduced the Trillion Trees and Natural Carbon Storage Act, with Braun calling the bill "a common sense proposal to help improve our land, water, soil, and air."

And just last week, the bipartisan coronavirus relief package was passed by Congress, which, if all goes as planned, will provide much needed federal support to those in need, including important provisions for the climate; one of the most important is the phasing out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a powerful greenhouse gas used widely in refrigerants. In addition, tax credits for clean energy were extended, including the popular vehicle charging and renewable energy tax credits for homeowners. Not to mention, funding was increased for cutting-edge, clean energy research, at the Department of Energy. According to Rhodium Group, "the spending package represents the most significant action on climate and energy in over a decade."

In other positive climate news, the renewable energy industry thrived in 2020 despite a historic global reduction in energy demand. The world's biggest investor is putting the climate at the forefront of their 2021 investment strategy, and the Federal Reserve became the United States' first federal agency to join the global Network for Greening the Financial System to address climate risks in financial systems.

Read about even more climate wins to get you motivated for the new year here and here!

past present future

What Can I Do? Embrace change!

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone whose life hasn't been dramatically altered by the pandemic this past year. Everything from our big life plans to our everyday routine had to be adapted to meet the difficult and ever-changing circumstances. But not all change is bad. Just like in natural systems, disturbances often lead to adaptation and resiliency. Indeed, there are many habits and values we acquired this past year that are positive. Whether you got closer to your friends and family (even virtually), learned to cook more homemade meals, started your own pandemic "victory" garden, became more politically active, or just finally had some time for self-reflection, there are many things that are worth carrying forward into the new year, including many Earth-friendly habits. Which new habits would you like to bring to 2021 and beyond? Why not make your New Year's resolution one of action? Embrace the potential for more sustainable practices found in the struggles of 2020, and help those who are faced with more challenges and changes than you this coming year. We wish you a Happy New Year and many, many thanks to the hard work and efforts by so many serving the community!

Our January Picks

(Click on orange title and text below for associated links and information.)

Oil Refinery

New Mexico Hearing on Methane Rules

Monday, Jan 4

A virtual meeting on regulations of emissions by oil and gas operations proposed by the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) and the Oil Conservation Division (OCD).

More information here

NM healthy soil

Soil Stories - Special NM Policy Edition

Tuesday, Jan 19, 5:30 pm

Join New Mexico Healthy Soil Working Group for a special edition of Soil Stories about New Mexico policy proposals for the upcoming 2021 legislative session that aim to scale up soil health and regenerative agriculture.

Register here.

Retake Our Democracy

Retake our Democracy

Get involved with Retake Our Democracy on bills related to climate and other human rights issues during the legislative session. Learn more here.


Regenerative Agriculture: 2021 Legislative Session Survey 

NM Healthy Soil Working Group is seeking input for a possible regenerative agriculture memorial in the 2021 legislative session. Help shape New Mexico agricultural policy by filling out this survey.


GWC Elephants

Global Wildlife Conservation Streaming 10 Binge-Worthy Eco-Films

The world’s best storytellers bring climate issues to life on film.

Watch here.


NCSE Drawdown 2021 Conference

January 5-9

Join the virtual conference hosted by the National Council for Science and the Environment and Project Drawdown dedicated to building a movement for science-based climate action.

Register here.

Virtual Roundhouse

Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce

Monday, Jan 11, 10-5 pm

The New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry and the New Mexico Hospitality Association are creating the first ever Virtual Roundhouse Event! 

Connect with elected officials from across the state. Discuss pressing issues, and participate in "Creating New Mexico’s Future – A Statewide Economic Strategic Action Plan".

Register here.

Sustainability Comments or Questions?

We are your local advisors on all things sustainability in Santa Fe County. Call us about anything from water conservation, cleaner transportation, solar and renewable energy, composting, recycling, etc. Or let us know what you would like to learn more about in our newsletter. 


Jacqueline Beam, 505.992.9832

Adeline Murthy, 505.992.9862