2021 Climate Action Award Winners

The City of Iowa City is proud to announce the winners of the second annual Climate Action Awards. This challenge was open to all Iowa City-based businesses. There are five award categories – Adaptation, Buildings, Transportation, Waste Management, and Sustainable Lifestyle – which are derived from the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan and around which many city-led initiatives are underway.

Congratulations to all of the winners and kudos to all entrants for sharing your progress to helping stem climate change. We are already looking forward to next year’s award season!

Taking Action: Adaptation
A sign for ACT in Iowa City is shown.

Winner: ACT – ACT was the first Iowa business certified as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP), a catalyst for many significant climate action projects to follow. ACT buildings cover just 12% of their property, while 30% is timber, 24% is agricultural, 10% is meadow and 3% is prairie. Outdoors, work has been ongoing to remove invasive species, plant trees, install bird nesting boxes, and minimize the use of chemicals for pest management. Employees are encouraged to walk the trails, ride their bikes to work, and charge their electric cars in one of 3 EV charging stations for free.

Inside, a building automation system has reduced energy consumption by almost 50% since 2016. All lavatory faucets and toilets are low flow and even the condensate water from cooling is used for irrigation, reducing reliance on city water. A waste reduction project substantially reduced landfill waste by diverting more than 2,500 tons of recyclable waste, in part by recycling old test booklets into drywall and old wastebaskets into tackle boxes.

Taking Action: Buildings
A photo shows the rooftop of Urban Fuel Express covered in solar panels.

Winner: Urban Fuel Express – One of the newest businesses in Iowa City, a gas station and convenience store, chose to take Climate Action from the ground up. Completed only weeks ago, Urban Fuel Express generates much of its own electricity with roof-mounted solar panels. Its many windows are low-e glass to help control heat loss and the building is heated and cooled with a high-efficiency HVAC system while all lighting is cool energy-saving LED.

They boast two DC fast-charging stations for electric vehicles and a comfy spot for customers to grab a snack and a drink while charging, where all drink cups, straws, and lids are all made from biodegradable materials. Their motivation was simple: set a climate action example, promote energy efficiency and the ease of driving and charging electric vehicles, with hopes that local car dealers add more EVs to the market.

Taking Action: Transportation
Materials from Bicycle Happiness is shown.

Winner: Bicycle Happiness – What started as a mobile, bicycle-based bike repair service has grown into a bike education and empowerment movement, hosting many events and clinics every year. Bicycle Happiness has been advocating and educating for bicycling as a sustainable way of life for more than 20 years. They provide lessons, clinics, bike repair, and bike customization. From the early days, Bicycle Happiness has focused on helping women, children, low income, minorities, LGBTQ, and people who are disabled or elderly to be more comfortable on bikes and to become more dependent on them and less dependent on cars.

Taking Action: Waste Management
Haunted Bookshop is shown.

Winner: Haunted Bookshop – The Haunted Bookshop is a paragon of reusing, regifting, and repurposing. The business is built on the resale of good used books, keeping them recirculating in the community. The children’s section features toys made by companies who focus on green production, often using post-consumer waste material in construction. When orders must be shipped, they are shipped in recycled materials, and the store purchases carbon offsets to counter the impact of transportation.

Maintaining a pre-Civil War era building can be a challenge, but the thick local limestone block from which the building is constructed provides natural insulation, a good complement to the energy-efficient HVAC owners installed. The lighting is now all LED making reading easy at a lower cost and without generating the extra heat of incandescent lighting. 

Recognizing the human contribution to climate change in the early 90s, owner, Nialle Sylvan set a goal when she purchased the store in 2004, of limiting store-generated weekly waste to one little grocery sack for the landfill and recycling the rest – sometimes filling a 75-gallon barrel.   

Taking Action: Sustainable Lifestyle
New Pioneer Food Co-op is shown.

Winner: New Pioneer – From the products on their shelves to long-established business practices, New Pioneer embraces Climate Action. In 1971, founders dreamed of a grocery where food was grown responsibly, and the business took care of its community and planet.  Still in practice today, one of the most sustainable ways to put food on tables is to do it with locally grown products. Local foods shorten the distance between the farm and table, so New Pioneer has established relationships with local farmers. Working with them requires less fuel for transport, which reduces the carbon footprint and allows for a longer shelf life, reducing wasted food.

Green business practices include having discontinued the use of plastic bags five years ago, which is estimated to have kept 1.2 million bags out of the landfill. Working with the local non-profit, Table to Table, nearly 80,000 pounds of food have been rescued, while that which can’t be rescued is composted.

New Pioneer draws people in with its sustainable practices and helps to educate people about ways they can reduce waste. For example, one new program allows customers to buy plant-based milk in glass bottles and return those bottles for refills in (sterilized) reusable glass bottles.