It produces enough electricity to power over 6,500 houses every month. The production of millions of pounds of harmful gasses such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide have been avoided by its use instead of using other energy sources. And if a copper cube were constructed from the system’s wiring, it would weigh 14 tons. 

What is it? The Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center’s solar panel array. The Salt Lake County-owned facility has one of the largest solar panel installations in Utah, featuring over 6,000 solar modules on a portion of the roof. If the panels were laid end to end, they would reach a little farther than the distance between downtown Salt Lake City and Park City — nearly 42 miles. The system began operating in 2012 and provides 17 percent of the annual electrical needs for the 679,000-square-foot convention center. That translates into 2.3 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. 

Green inside and out

Solar power is just one of many sustainability efforts that have been implemented both inside and outside the facility that covers nearly four square blocks in downtown Salt Lake City. New landscaping uses 50 percent less water and drip irrigation systems reduce water loss from evaporation. Energy-efficient LED lighting continues to be installed throughout the facility, including parking garages. Waterless urinals in the restrooms save 40,000 gallons of water per urinal per year and new water stations have been installed in part of the building so event attendees may refill water bottles rather than purchase disposable bottled water. Event managers now use a web-based program and tablets to eliminate the need for printing multi-page set-up sheets for each event. 

There is a single-stream recycling program for aluminum, paper, cardboard and plastic. Last year nearly 140,000 pounds of waste were recycled. Mark Cornia, housekeeping manager at the facilty, keeps a watchful eye on how garbage and recyclable materials are separated and disposed of. The Salt Palace has dozens of receptacles throughout the facility where guests can separate recyclable items from garbage. Whenever possible, usable items left over from shows (such as foam core signs) are donated to areas schools or nonprofit organizations. The Employee Action Committee also finds homes for leftover items such as event bags, lanyards, carpet and display items. The 2006 expansion of the Salt Palace garnered the U.S. Green Building Council’s Silver LEED award. 

The heating and cooling systems within the building are controlled by a centralized system so facility engineers are aware of all temperature settings. Most offices have motion sensors for the lighting system so lights are on only when needed. Lighting levels in exhibit halls are at 50 percent during move-ins and move-outs and neither heating nor air conditioning is provided during those times. 

SMG, the company that manages the Salt Palace, the South Towne Expo Center and the Salt Lake County Equestrian Park for Salt Lake County, takes its sustainability practices very seriously. A Green Committee comprising employees from all three facilities has been suggesting policy guidelines for several years and continues to look for the newest technology in environmental care practices to incorporate into daily operations. The ongoing goals are reduce, reuse and recycle. 

Food finds a second home

The SMG initiatives complement the award-winning sustainability practices of the facility’s in-house caterer, Utah Food Services. The company works with the Utah Food Bank and local shelters so excess prepared and perishable items do not go to waste. Leftover meals are delivered in a safe and timely fashion to such organizations as The Road Home and Catholic Food Services, providing excellent fare to those less fortunate. 

UFS also buys organic, seasonal and locally grown food products whenever possible. The company contracts with Blue Spring Farm for weekly deliveries throughout the growing season. 

For food waste that cannot be recycled, the company works with Momentum Recycling to compost all fruit, vegetable and floral waste. This helps to divert over 24,000 pounds annually from the landfill. 

“We place this type of waste in special containers that are picked up at least once a week and taken to either the Salt Lake Valley or Transjordan landfills to be composted,” said Doug Curry, facilities manager at Utah Food Services. Some of the waste goes directly to local nonprofits that operate community gardens, such as Real Food Rising (currently operating under the umbrella of Utahns Against Hunger) or the Wasatch Community Gardens. They process the green waste into compost for use in their gardens, according to Jeff Whitbeck at Momentum Recycling. 

Reducing the 

ecological footprint

UFS works with Momentum Recycling to mount an aggressive recycling program for glass, mixed recyclables, fry oil, cardboard and paper, as well. These efforts, on average, have diverted 135,000 pounds from the local landfill every year. The staff of UFS is continually trained to help improve the diversion rate. These sustainable practices have been recognized by the Department of Environmental Quality and UFS has been certified as a Clean Utah company.

When UFS isn’t using china, flatware and glasses for a meal service, they use 100 percent biodegradable greenware, which includes hot/cold cups, plates, napkins and cutlery. The sales staff is encouraged to recommend the use of water coolers to clients rather than individual bottled water. The kitchen uses 100 percent biodegradable, non-caustic citrus-based cleaners, which exceeds the standards set forth by the Salt Lake County Health Department. Special dish-washing machines reduce water usage by 30 percent.

Utah Food Services not only is the exclusive caterer for the Salt Palace Convention Center and the South Towne Exposition Center, but it has a mobile catering operation based in North Salt Lake. Mindful of reducing its carbon footprint, the company recently converted nearly half its fleet of vehicles to propane, which yields 87 percent fewer smog-producing hydrocarbons than gasoline. 

The Salt Palace Convention Center and Utah Food Services, while very different businesses, share a common goal of being especially mindful of the impact they have on the environment. Plus, they see the benefits of sharing with others food and products that might otherwise go to waste. 

“It makes a huge difference in our local environment when two companies can work together so seamlessly to reduce the amount of waste and increase the amount of recycling,” said Dan Hayes, general manager of the local SMG properties. “We have an obligation to the citizens of Salt Lake County to minimize any negative impact we might have on our environment and keep this beautiful region as green as possible.”

Gaylis Linville is the director of communications and public relations for SMG/Salt Lake, based at the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center.

Read more: The Enterprise - Meeting Green 

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