The Place


Zero Hunger/Waste Hero: Why Salt Lake City is recognized nationally as a leader in sustainability

Posted at 2:42 PM, Feb 24, 2020

It's no secret Salt Lake City has a green streak: It boasts 38 electric vehicle plugins for the public and a massive bike path network (along with a partnership with SLC Green Bikes).

But did you know all the city buildings run off of solar power, and that numerous community gardens and food rescue programs are cutting hunger and food waste? It's all done on purpose - a huge breadth of footprint- and hunger-reducing practices - and it's getting noticed on a national level.

"We're considered to have one of the best sustainability departments in the nation," said Vicki Bennett, with Salt Lake City.

Vicki was implementing ideas for sustainability even before there was an official department for it, but she said eco-friendly practices have been important to Salt Lake City residents for a long time.

"This is the fourth mayor I've worked for, and every one of them have made sustainability on the top of their list because if you don't have a healthy place for your people to live, you don't have anything," she said.

So even though Vicki's career started in a chemistry lab, it bubbled over into public service in 2001, first with consulting, then as the director of the Salt Lake City Sustainability Department, where she remains today.

"City governments are the closest to the people," Vicki said, recalling the satisfaction of helping residents solve everyday problems.

"People have different needs," she said. "Some people need to figure out how to get healthy food on the table every night. Some people need to know where to plug their electric vehicle in. Every one of those [needs] are important."

In addition to increasing access to healthy food and green energy, the city also prides itself on waste collection. Their program incorporates a big recycling and composting program, that helps them divert at least 38-percent of waste from the landfill, Vicki said.

Though the city does a lot to help residents become more green, and end food waste, Vicki says every individual has to do their part.

"But they need help learning what that is," she said, stressing the importance of the high amount of community education and outreach her department does.

Because of the SLC Sustainability Department's work to end hunger in the community and increase green energy, Aubriana Martindale with Smith's Corporate Affairs presented Vicki with an award.

"You've really led the sustainability efforts for the city to protect our beautiful city, so we would like to honor you and the Salt Lake City sustainability department as the Zero Hunger Hero for the month of February in partnership with Fox13," Aubriana said.

You can see the whole, impressive list of the department's accomplishments here.