December 2021 Sustainability Newsletter

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December 2021 Newsletter

Bring on the Go Green Cheer!


Avo holding the earth


 COP26: A Bridge We Must Cross

Last month the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, or COP26, was held in Glasgow, Scotland. The purpose of the conference was to reach a global consensus on how to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. The negotiations resulted in some successes, including decisions to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030, halt deforestation by 2030, and an agreement between the US and China to work together to accelerate climate action. However, there were also some failures, most notably the lack of compensation to low income countries for climate change-related damages they are already experiencing, from a crisis they played little role in causing. In addition, COP26 set the world on track for 1.8 degrees celsius of warming, short of the required 1.5 degrees limit. Although the talks fell short of what many people had hoped for, the UNFCCC executive secretary, Patricia Espinosa, described the conference as a “bridge” between the promises of the Paris Agreement and the concrete measures that must be taken to safeguard our planet.

Several New Mexican leaders were present at COP26, including Governor Lujan Grisham, State Purchasing Director Mark Hayden, and Beth Beloff, Executive Director of the Coalition of Sustainable Communities New Mexico, of which Santa Fe County is a member. Beloff returned home feeling optimistic because of the level of engagement from diverse voices at the conference. “The voices of youth, indigenous peoples, and the environmental justice organizations were loud and urgent, linking the protection of nature and culture as an imperative. The business community, including financial interests, were offering many promises which would be hard to reverse,” she told the Sustainability Office.

Beloff also noted that one particularly relevant theme from the conference was the role local governments can play as “policy laboratories.” “New Mexico was highlighted as a laboratory for policies for others to follow, as we joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance and have model methane reduction and carbon neutrality aspirations,” said Beloff. Indeed, New Mexico passed methane rules earlier this year that the state hopes can serve as a model for the EPA’s upcoming national methane regulations. Beloff concluded her account of COP26 by saying, “It will be hard for the promises made and agreements signed from all sectors of society to be ignored by those who will insist on accountability. Too much depends on that.”

It is relatively easy to make pledges—now comes the hard work of enacting policies and programs that lead to on-the-ground impact. Keep an eye out for important climate legislation that will be introduced in the 2022 New Mexico legislative session, including the Climate Security Act and Clean Fuel Standards. Accountability is also important on the local scale. The Santa Fe County Sustainability Office will soon be drafting a County-wide climate action plan, and will need input from community members. Stay tuned in the coming months to learn how to get involved.

As Patricia Espinosa stated in her concluding remarks at COP26, “Bridges are meant to be crossed.” While there is no silver bullet for addressing climate change, this highlights the importance of incremental progress in global action and multi-generational vision needed for the long journey ahead.

No Snow

Precious Water and Outdoor Recreation

La Niña is expected to continue to negatively impact the Southwest's gardens, trees, agriculture and outdoor recreation this coming year.  Snow pack is predicted to be much lower than usual as drier winter conditions limit skiing and other important outdoor recreational activities in the region.  As a result, status quo behaviors and choices typical for outdoor traditions, are under pressure to shift and change. Many areas that normally rely upon these types of income sources are being forced to think about other ways to encourage visitors to enjoy nature--without the white snow of carols and holiday prose, while facing the reality of lower water levels in reservoirs, rivers and streams.  Research on this topic reports that this trend is bound to increase requiring the outdoor industry to adapt without causing more harm to the very nature it seeks to promote. Some examples listed in the report for ski resorts include diversifying "activities like mountain biking, alpine coasters, high ropes courses, or other summer recreation options" to attract visitors to the area during otherwise off season times. Some recommendations for adaptation in water-based recreating areas recommend exploring "creative staffing and partnerships to accommodate changes in use due to drought. For example a rafting outfitter could form a partnership with an outdoor retail store that would allow both companies to benefit from a more diverse customer base." 

Although partnerships and creative, out-of-the-box strategies won't affect the drought itself, these adaptation maneuvers can serve to provide business owners and the State with the impetus needed for those who love nature, no matter the season, to continue to recreate outdoors in new ways, following the example of nature and the two constants she relies upon for thriving: change and diversification! 

Fabric wrapped gift

Tips for a more sustainable holiday

The holiday season is upon us! Below are a few of our favorite tips for celebrating with the planet in mind.

  • Shop local: Support your community, minimize the energy needed to transport goods, and avoid supply chain issues by shopping close to home.
  • Choose a green gift: There are lots of ways to green up gift giving!
    • Avoid purchasing new items and instead give a local experience, like a cooking class, museum visit, or movie night.
    • Visit a reuse center to pick up supplies for handmade, recycled holiday gifts.
    • Help your friends and family go green with a reusable water bottle, travel mug, tote bag, or food container!
  • Reuse gift boxes, bags, and baskets: Americans throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year. Cut down on wrapping paper and ribbon by packaging gifts in boxes, bags, fabric, and baskets that can be reused year after year. Repurposed maps and recycled paper bags can also make great alternatives to wrapping paper!
  • Opt for reusable plates and cutlery for holiday meals: Reduce waste by providing reusable cups, plates, and cutlery at your holiday meals. Use washable cloths, rather than paper towels, to clean up after cooking.
  • Recycle broken holiday lights: Old holiday lights can be recycled at the Buckman Road Recycling and Transfer Station for a fee or at Capital Scrap. Consider purchasing more energy efficient LED holiday lights if you need replacements.
  • Recycle your tree: Be on the lookout for recycling options for cut trees at the end of December.

No matter the ways, big or small, we can all make an effort to save more precious resources.  Thank you for all that you do in your own households to make this happen!

The Sustainability team wishes you and yours a wonderful holiday season!


Our December Picks

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

Santa Fe Botanical Garden

Community Day at the Garden

Sunday, Dec 12

10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

The Santa Fe Botanical Garden is offering free admission to New Mexico residents and students on December 12 and check out their  "Nature's Notebook" program for more ways to get involved!



Winter Session w/ Gov. Brian Vallo: Protecting Sacred Place & Space

Sunday, Dec 12

11:00 a.m.-12:00 pm.

Join the REZILIENCE Organization for the final P.L.A.C.E. Session of 2021.  Governor Brian Vallo of Acoma Pueblo will center on his observation and perspective about the collective approach, current and future, to protect sacred cultural landscapes through the continuance of Indigenous knowledge systems and cultural practice.

Winter Watershed

Virtual Winter Watershed Benefit

Tuesday, Dec 7 and

Thursday, Dec 9

Check out the Santa Fe Watershed Association's annual winter benefit and enjoy great films for the cause!

Canyon Farolito Walk

Canyon Road Farolito Walk

Friday, Dec 24

5:00-9:00 p.m.

Perhaps this year more than ever, this walk will be enjoyed by many young and old.  Join in a cherished tradition to walk in cheerful spirit and song with the community and celebrate the holiday season together!



Environmental Justice Series

Thursday, Dec 2

5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m.

Join in for this community conversation with leaders of Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA), a program of Earth Care led by diverse youth of northern New Mexico.

New Years Eve on the Plaza

New Year's Eve

New Mexico Style!

Friday, Dec 31-All Day

Join the Santa Fe community in the 6th Annual FREE New Year's Eve on the Santa Fe Plaza celebration and ring in a prosperous 2022 with bonfires, song, and raising of the Zia!

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,

Adeline Murthy,

Caitlin Weber,