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Sustainability and Clean Air Focus is Making a Difference

Mike Peterson

By Mayor Mike Peterson  

In early October, I was asked by the Citizen’s Climate Lobby to join the Mayors of Millcreek City and Sandy City to discuss Cottonwood Heights’ efforts regarding air quality and climate change. We were joined at this “Mayor’s Town Hall” event by student climate activists and experts in environmental law and atmospheric science. 

As a Mayor and a parks and recreation practitioner by trade, the subject of sustainability is close to my heart. I’m proud of the efforts to make a difference by our City Council and community members. During this event, I was able to share with the audience and panel members several areas of progress in Cottonwood Heights. I am pleased to be able share these accomplishments here, as well.  

In June 2018, the City Council passed Ordinance 299, which created a new chapter in our city code to address vehicle engine idling. Avoiding idling, whether while waiting in the school pickup line or in the drive-thru for our favorite beverage, has a tremendous impact on the air we breathe. Reducing emissions is especially critical during our winter months, when we are prone to atmospheric inversions. Ordinance 299 prohibits drivers from idling their vehicles for more than one minute. This approach, intended to be educational rather than punitive, relies on three warnings followed by a Class C Infraction Citation (roughly the same level as a speeding ticket). I am pleased to mention that this monumental effort was championed by many young students in Cottonwood Heights, and we are grateful for their efforts.  

In September 2018, following collaboration with Wasatch Front Waste & Recycling District, Cottonwood Heights City announced the location of a glass recycling depository bin. This free bin is conveniently located adjacent to the Cottonwood Heights Public Works Yard, on 3000 East and 6600 South. It serves as an alternative to fee-based curbside glass recycling, and provides an opportunity for a more sustainable treatment of glass products, as opposed to traditional landfill use.  

Also during 2018, Cottonwood Heights created a Parks, Trails and Open Space Committee. This 15-member committee is comprised of residents from each of the City Council districts and features subject matter experts, as well as residents with a vested interest in the field. The committee meets monthly to coordinate meaningful service projects, formalize recommendations to the City Council and research grant opportunities for parks, trails and open space efforts. Cottonwood Heights is beloved by many for its access to natural areas, and this group helps ensure that this benefit is enjoyed by our community for years to come. 

In January 2019, Cottonwood Heights joined a short list of municipalities to pass a sustainable energy resolution. This resolution, 2019-03, sets a goal to transition to 100 percent renewable energy for city operations by 2022, and for the city at large by 2030, without compromising affordability, reliability or environmental stewardship. This resolution fits into a larger sustainability effort, the Community Renewable Energy Act. The Community Renewable Energy Act enables communities to partner with Rocky Mountain Power to facilitate transition to renewable energy. It is a component of House Bill 411, which was passed during the 2019 legislative session. A sustainable energy resolution is the first step for participation in this program, and as the program continues to take shape, Cottonwood Heights will consider further involvement with it. 

Returning to our passionate young students, I would like to applaud the efforts of our own Butler Elementary School, and in particular, three young students who worked to eschew foam lunch trays for a more sustainable composite material. They gathered signatures from 85 percent of the school’s student body to show support for this unique initiative. It is amazing to see what the youth of our community can accomplish through their determination. They are great examples to all of us! 

Most recently, Cottonwood Heights has made efforts to reduce light pollution through an updated outdoor lighting ordinance that incorporates dark-sky criteria within city development standards. This is an important sustainability step, as light pollution has been proven to have negative impacts on ecosystems. By addressing the type of fixtures used, their placement and the level of brightness, we can work to reduce this environmental threat. 

It is with gratitude to our City Council, our staff and our community members that I share these sustainability achievements with you. Through these efforts, and many others, we hope to ensure Cottonwood Heights continues to be a place where people love to work, play and live for generations to come.