January 2023 Sustainability Newsletter

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January 2023 Newsletter


Sustainability Newsletter

Reflecting on 2022

Santa Fe County Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan

Climate change was front and center in New Mexico last year as communities struggled with drought, unprecedented wildfire, and flooding. These events further underscored the need to continue working together to build sustainable and resilient communities. On a national level, the United States made significant investments in climate action in 2022 through the Inflation Reduction Act. The Act invests in clean energy, energy efficiency, and climate resiliency. It is estimated to put the U.S. on track to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030. At the state level, New Mexico passed legislation to provide funding to implement energy efficiency upgrades in low-income households and to extend tax credits for solar energy. Santa Fe County also moved forward an impressive number of important sustainability initiatives in 2022! Below are just a few local achievements from this past year:

  • Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan for County Operations: At the start of last year, the Board of County Commissioners approved the Santa Fe County Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan. This plan outlines emission reduction targets and strategies to help the County reach its goal of becoming net-zero by 2050. The plan outlines six phases for emission reduction. In Phase I, the County will aim to reduce emissions by 25% by 2025. The County is well on its way to achieving this goal; 86% of the Phase I target can be met by four projects that have already been initiated or are nearing completion. These projects are 1) completing upgrades to the County waste water treatment facility; 2) participating in the PNM Solar Direct program to purchase electricity from renewable sources; 3) implementing energy efficiency upgrades in 13 County facilities; and 4) installing 200 kW DC of solar energy on County facilities.
  • County-wide Greenhouse Gas Inventory: In June 2022, the Sustainability Office completed the Countywide Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory. This inventory documents emissions across all of Santa Fe County from residential buildings, commercial buildings, industrial energy use, transportation fuel use, solid waste management, water and wastewater management, fugitive emissions from natural gas distribution, and other land uses. This inventory will inform the climate mitigation and adaptation strategies in the County’s forthcoming community-wide climate action plan.
  • Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy & Water Conservation: Buildings and facilities are the largest contributor of emissions produced from County operations according to the County’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory. To meet its Race to Zero and net zero goals, the County is working to increase renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, and implement water conservation measures in its facilities. In 2022, the County initiated an energy efficiency and water conservation tracking service for over 120 buildings, and completed energy efficiency upgrades in 13 buildings. The County also installed two new solar arrays at the Eldorado Vista Grande Library and the State Health facility. This brings the total number of County owned solar installations to 21. An additional solar installation is planned for the Bennie Chavez Community Center in early 2023. 
  • Solar Direct: The County subscribed to this groundbreaking partnership and 50 MW PNM array, which went operational in the spring of 2022. Through the Solar Direct program, the County has 1.3 MW of usage, which is now serving to offset 50% of the electricity of PNM serviced County facilities.
  • Community Solar Ordinance: In July 2022, the Board of County Commissioners passed an ordinance to better allow for community solar projects in Santa Fe County. This ordinance followed the passage of the New Mexico Community Solar Act and the adoption of the Community Solar Rule. The Community Solar Act created a program through which electric utility customers may subscribe to a community solar facility to offset their energy consumption and reduce their energy costs. Facilities are required to reserve 30% of electricity produced for low-income customers and service providers. This program will provide a pathway for renters and households without their own solar panels to go green and save money on their electric bills by subscribing to a Community Solar project.
  • Backyard Composting Program: Food waste accounted for nearly a quarter (24.14%) of the municipal solid waste sent to landfills in the United States in 2018. Composting is an excellent way to keep food scraps out of the landfill and build healthy soils. In 2022, the Sustainability Office worked with Reunity Resources to help community members install 43 new backyard composting systems throughout the County!
  • Recycling: Recycling rates throughout the County are around 17%, not including green waste. The national rate is 32%, including composting and recycling. Staff continued to work to raise the County's recycling rate through education and outreach. In 2022, glass, tires, metal, cardboard, and plastic were all collected for recycling at County Convenience Centers. Click here to learn more about what is accepted for recycling at County drop off locations.
  • Tire Recycling Grant: Illegally dumped tires pose a threat to public health and the environment. The County’s Sustainability and Solid Waste teams were thrilled to receive a grant from the New Mexico Environment Department for $40,970 to support the County’s tire recycling program. These funds will be used to purchase three new bins for tire recycling and will support a free tire recycling day on April 15, 2023 at County convenience centers for solid waste permit-holders.
  • Single-use Plastics Working Group: Plastic shopping bags, polystyrene takeout containers, and other single-use plastics are often used for just minutes, but can have lasting effects on our environment. Last spring, the Santa Fe County Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution establishing a working group to make recommendations on strategies to discourage the use of single-use plastic and polystyrene products in the County. The working group had its first meeting in September and will continue meeting in the new year.
  • Adopt-a-Road and Community Clean Up Events: Participants in the County’s Adopt-a-Road program and community clean up events helped to keep our community beautiful by picking up more than 165 bags of litter along County roads in 2022. The County welcomed the Cloudstone community and No Name Cinema to the Adopt-a-Road program last year, bringing the total number of adopters to 18. Click here to learn more about adopting a road!
  • Stormwater Management: Runoff from rain and snow events can wash litter, pet waste, oils, and other pollutants into waterways. In 2022, staff in the Sustainability Office, Public Works, and Growth Management began working with consultant Bohannan Huston Inc. to update the County’s stormwater management program to help prevent stormwater pollution. Stay tuned for updates as this important work continues into 2023!
  • Water Security: Santa Fe County began working with community members in La Cienega and La Cieneguilla, and consultant Daniel B. Stephens & Associates, LLC. (DBS&A), on a pilot project to develop the County's domestic well monitoring program to ensure the sustainability of local water supplies. The project aims to review internal policies and procedures, local groundwater levels, and trends in water availability to identify usage limits, reporting gaps, and water demands. Depending on the project’s findings, water conservation goals, enforcement of existing requirements, new ordinances, and/or other programs may be recommended.
  • Earth Day: Over 100 community members, County Commissioners, and County staff came together to restore natural areas and expand public access to green space during the County’s 2022 Earth Day events. Participants planted over 250 plants at five sites in Santa Fe County.
  • Master Naturalist: The Santa Fe County Open Space Division partnered with the Santa Fe Botanical Garden and Audubon Southwest to host the 2022 Master Naturalist Program. This year, 25 students participated in several weeks of classroom and field instruction where they learned about New Mexico’s natural environment. The cohort will apply their knowledge to help with environmental stewardship projects in the new year.

As another busy year comes to a close, the Sustainability team would like to give a shout out to our community partners and volunteers for their contributions to these projects. We also would like to thank our colleagues within the Santa Fe County Public Works Department, Growth Management, Community Development, Community Services, and the County Manager’s Office for all of their important work and support on sustainability initiatives. We look forward to working together in 2023 to expand on these achievements and more!

Sustainability Projects to Watch for in 2023

Sustainability Community Event

The next year will bring new opportunities to advance sustainability initiatives! Here are just a few projects to watch for in 2023.

At the local level, Santa Fe County will continue working to implement its Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan. Projects in 2023 will include analyzing the energy efficiency, water conservation, and renewable energy potential for twenty more County facilities, expanding electric vehicle infrastructure, increasing the efficiency of the County's fleet vehicles, and adding two new solar arrays. 

The County will also be preparing a community-wide Climate Action Plan (CAP), which will outline strategies to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change in Santa Fe County. Staff are currently exploring opportunities to include nature-based climate solutions in the CAP. Nature-based solutions involve working with nature to address social and environmental challenges. Examples include installing rain gardens to help treat and infiltrate stormwater runoff and improving habitat for pollinators to support crop production.

Santa Fe County will also be further refining and updating its stormwater management program in 2023. The program will include strategies for public education and will address stormwater runoff from construction sites, new development, redevelopment, and County operations.

In addition, the County plans to support state legislation to advance environmental sustainability, community resiliency, and climate action during the 2023 legislative session, which kicks off on January 17th.

Stay tuned for opportunities to get involved with these and other projects!

Protect Our Wintery Watershed


Melting snow can carry pollutants, like de-icer, litter, and pet waste, into our waterways. Below are just a few ways you can help protect our watershed this winter!

  • Shovel snow onto vegetated areas, rather than pavement: Snowmelt is a precious source of water in our dry climate. Allow melting snow to soak into the ground by shoveling it onto vegetated areas, rather than piling it on pavement.
  • Use de-icers sparingly: Melting snow can carry de-icers, like rock salt, into waterways. Always follow package instructions when using de-icers and only use as much as you need to keep your walkways safe. Click here for tips on selecting and applying de-icers.
  • Pick up after your pet: Make sure to pick up after your pet, even in the winter months, to keep bacteria from pet waste out of our waterways.

Thanks for all you do to protect our watershed!

Our January Picks

(Click on the blue titles for more information)

Healthy Soils

Soil Stories

Tuesday, January 3

5:30 - 6:30 PM

Hear from artist, scholar, and community organizer Lyla June at this webinar hosted by the New Mexico Healthy Soils Working Group

New Mexico Legislative Session

New Mexico Legislative Session

Tuesday, January 17

Stay tuned for updates as the  2023 New Mexico Legislative Session kicks off.

Santa Fe Botanical Gardens

Horticulture Happenings – Red Worm Compost

Wednesday, January 4

12:00 - 1:00 PM

Learn how to compost and garden with worms at this event hosted by the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens.

Teacher Training

Online Teacher Training: Schoolyard Birding

Saturday, January 21

9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Join this online teacher training hosted by Audubon Southwest to learn how birding can help meet science standards and explore ways to get students involved!

Read to a Pup

Read to a Pup!

Saturday, January 7

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Bring the children in your family to the Santa Fe Southside Library to practice their reading skills by sharing a story with a local therapy dog!

Farmer's Market

Santa Fe Farmer’s Market


8:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Enjoy local food year-round on Saturdays at the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market!


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Sustainability Questions?

We are your local advisors on all things sustainability in Santa Fe County. Contact us with questions or to suggest topics for future newsletters!

Jacqueline Beam, jybeam@santafecountynm.gov

Nav Khalsa, nkhalsa@santafecountynm.gov

Caitlin Weber, cweber@santafecountynm.gov

Click to visit the Sustainability webpage