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Sustainability Milestones by Year

Our milestone summary shows when the County adopted new programs or policies, or completed major projects, to carry out our commitment to sustainability. Since 2009, the County has made internal operations more sustainable, along with making changes that help county residents achieve their green goals. Each year we endeavor also to produce a Fiscal Year Update electronic and printable brochure.


JC Sustainabilitly Update FY 2019 FY2019

JC Sustain Update 2018 coverFY2018

JC Sustain Cover 2017 FY2017

FY2016 Please see calendar year info below; no separate update brochure available.

JC Sustain Update 2015 cover FY2015


2020Leaf Bullet PointCOVID Impacts on County Operations Energy and Related Fuel Use

At a Board of Supervisors work session (Aug. 19, 2020), Sustainability Coordinator Becky Soglin presented findings on how the initial COVID impact period has affected the employee commute, fleet fuel, mileage reimbursements and building energy use. The period covered was mid-March to early or late June, depending on each of the four parameters.

Presentation on Operations and Commute: Energy and Fuel during COVID (PowerPoint)

Detailed Report on Building Energy Use during the Initial COVID period


Leaf Bullet PointGreenhouse Gas Inventory for County Operations

JC IA 2017 Operations GHG Inventory COVER

A greenhouse gas emissions inventory of County operations for year 2017 found that total emissions were slightly below 2008 levels and substantially below 2010 levels, despite an overall increase in building square footage and energy use. Energy efficiencies plus onsite solar coupled with utility-based wind energy helped. However, the County still has work to do to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. The report will help the County find ways to reduce its carbon footprint.


Leaf Bullet PointSolarize Johnson County

Johnson County, along with Johnson County Conservation, Johnson County Public Health and six cities (Coralville, Iowa City, North Liberty, teamed up with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association to launch a solar group buy program for Johnson County and West Branch residents to learn more about solar energy and add affordable solar to their homes. The residential group buy provided an outright discount along with additional discounts based on the collective size of the arrays. Nearly 700 people attended Solar Power Hours, and the program succeeded in adding 1.12 megawatts of clean solar energy to 180 households. Learn more at

Leaf Bullet PointBioretention Cell Rejuvenated

The bioretention cell near the Administration Building saw refreshed soil and plantings in 2017. The projected was funded by the internal Sustainability and Energy Reinvestment Fund (see 2014 milestones for fund background). By spring 2018, 12 varieties of flowers and grasses were thriving. The cell slows and filters stormwater—an important function in urban areas where concrete makes many surfaces impervious to water.

Leaf Bullet PointVirtual Surplus Supply Store Becomes Real

The online supply store -- where County departments and offices shared gently used or unused items for reuse -- became permanent. Employees save hundreds of dollars annually by reusing items in addition to keeping waste out of the landfill and reducing demands on new materials.


SolSmart Gold 2017County Becomes First County in Iowa and the Midwest to Earn Gold SolSmart award

The County earned this award from the national SolSmart program for making it faster, easier and more affordable for residents in the unincorporated areas to add solar to homes or businesses.

Leaf Bullet PointBoard of Supervisors Passes Resolution of Commitment to Honor Paris Climate Agreement Goals

On June 8, 2017, one week after President Trump withdrew the United State of American from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, the supervisors passed a resolution to show the County's unwavering support to help fight the climate change and protect Earth from risks of devastating consequences ensure security, prosperity and health. The leaders also agreed to have the County sign on to a statement of commitment at We Are Still In. A twitter handle @counties4climate and #Counties4Climate were used to help spread the word to other counties.

Leaf Bullet PointGold Bicycle Friendly Business  2018County Downtown Campus Earns Gold Bicycle Friendly Business Award

In March 2017, the Downtown Campus--Administration Building, Health and Human Services Building, and the nearly completed Ambulance+Medical Examiner Facility earned gold-status designation from the League of American Bicyclists for such features as accessible bicycle racks, educational events, and Bike to Work Week / One Less Car efforts.

Leaf Bullet PointNew Heating-Ventilation--Air Conditioning System Garners $127,000 Rebate for County

Thanks to upgrades made by the Facilities Department, we were able to earn this large rebate and funnel it into the Sustainability and Energy Reinvestment Fund to support other sustainability and energy-saving projects.


Leaf Bullet PointMore Solar PV Added; More Than Triples Amount of County Buildings on Solar

In November 2016, two additional solar arrays went live. An 85 kW ground-mounted array began to provide about 24% of the electrical needs of the Johnson County Administration Building, while a 159 kW roof-top array on the Health and Human Services building started covering about 11% of the electrical need for that combined. The arrays are on a Power Purchase Agreement with Eagle Point Solar. In addition, that same month, two of the Secondary Roads sheds began participating in the Farmers' Electric Community (FEC) Solar Garden. The County purchased 20 modules that are part of the garden--FEC collects the power, puts it on their electrical grid and the County's monthly bills are credited for the retail value of the power.

Leaf Bullet PointSustainability Grants Program for Nonprofits Launched

Certain local non-profit organizations (eligible for County block grants) were able to begin participating in competitive grants program to complete energy efficiencies, resource reduction, or green vehicle projects. Five organizations received grants in this first round, and most of them added LED lights to their offices or facilities. As part of the program, groups completing energy efficiency projects had to have their building undergo an energy audit. A total of $30,000 in grants were awarded.

2015 (calendar year)

Leaf Bullet PointLocal Foods: Poultry Processing Expanded

In November 2015, the Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance amendment to allow for up to 999 birds to be raised, slaughtered and processed annually on agriculturally zoned parcels for sale to household consumers only. The change was made in response to a recommendation by the Johnson County Food Policy Council and research by County staff. Previously, poultry slaughtering/processing was possible only on agriculturally exempt farmland. A fact sheet provides details for both producers and consumers.

Leaf Bullet PointLocal Foods Planner Position Added; Department Name Changed

In fall 2015, the County added a full-time local foods planning position. In addition, the Planning and Zoning Department was renamed the Planning, Development and Sustainability Department to better reflect its services.

Leaf Bullet PointSustainability Working Group of Johnson County Created

The County had helped create, and is hosting, the Sustainability Working Group (SWG) of Johnson County to share ideas and potentially collaborate on sustainability efforts. Modeled on the Housing Task Force of Joint Entities group, SWG members (primarily staff but including some elected officials) hail from the county, cities, University of Iowa, Kirkwood Community College, and school districts. The group held its first meeting in September 2015 and meets quarterly.

Leaf Bullet PointStrategic Planning: Reduce Energy Use Goal (effort continued from 2014)

In 2015, the remaining objectives of the two-year goal were completed.

The County entered into Power Purchase Agreements--the first-ever for a county in Iowa--for the installation by Moxie Solar of two solar arrays at the Secondary Roads Campus. Combined the two arrays will provide 86 kW of energy, which will support about 23% of the annual electrical needs for the campus. See the arrays in action online!

Energy-efficiency projects resulted in savings or pre-approved rebates:

For participation in MidAmerican Energy's Commercial New Construction Program, the new Secondary Roads and Fleet Maintenance Facility garnered a $34,000 rebate check and will enjoy annual energy savings.

A LED upgrade project completed at the County Sheriff Office and Jail will earn a major rebate.

The County is pre-approved to receive an estimate $125,000 for upgrades to the HVAC system in the Administration Building

For the energy draw analysis, it was determined that strong and effective measures were in place for computer equipment, and departments were encouraged not to use mini-fridges and to be mindful of non-essential equipment.

2014 (calendar year)

Leaf Bullet PointStrategic Planning: Reduce Energy Use Goal

In 2014, the Board of Supervisors set a Reduce Energy Use goal as part of strategic planning. The goal included five objectives to be met within a two-year timeframe: (1) complete energy-efficiency and cost-saving upgrades; (2) set sustainable capital project standards, (3) create an internal fund for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects; (4) reduce the energy load of office and other equipment; (5) prepare a feasibility report on a renewable energy project and begin a project. In 2014, these objectives were met:

  1. Energy efficiency efforts in 2014 included the installation of high-efficiency boilers in the Courthouse ($8,112 rebate) and participation of the new facility at Secondary Roads in MidAmerican Energy's Commercial New Construction program.
  2. Sustainable Capital Project Standards and Sustainability Minimum Standards were adopted in July 2014. These measures help ensure that County facilities will be energy and resource-efficient. For projects of 2,000 or more square feet of condition space, the Board will consider pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, a program that recognizes and promotes green building strategies and practices. If LEED certification is not feasible, the Sustainability Minimum Standards help guide construction or renovation projects.
  3. The Sustainability and Energy Reinvestment Fund also was created in July 2014. The fund helps cover the incremental cost of completing energy-efficient or other resource-saving projects. Energy rebates from eligible funded projects are reinvested in the fund to support future projects.

  4. Staff began planning how to review the electric draw of computer equipment as well as other office and non-office equipment. The project was completed in 2015.
  5. The County issued its first-ever Request for Proposal for a solar photovoltaic (PV) project. By fall 2014, a vendor had been selected to install arrays at the Johnson County Secondary Roads and SEATS campus. The projects were completed in 2015.

Leaf Bullet PointCorresponding with local Climate Marchers

In response to local Climate Marchers, the County detailed how it is responding to climate change and additional ways sustainability can be addressed: letter to Climate Marchers (appendices) and presentation. The dialogue helped lead to the creation of a sustainability working group in 2015.

Leaf Bullet PointGreen Office Supplies Policy Adopted

With the adoption of this policy in 2014, County departments are expected to purchase certain basic office supplies, such as copier paper, with a minimum of 30% post-consumer recycled content. Departments are encouraged to purchase other materials with this same minimum content and to use two-sided, black-and-white printing instead of color as a default. Departments also should adopt paperless systems when feasible and generally reduce the use of materials to make operations more sustainable. The policy is used in conjunction with other policies such as the Buy Local Policy.

Leaf Bullet PointSustainability Expectations Added to Employee Handbook

The Board of Supervisors approved the addition of sustainability expectations to the County's employee handbook. The County's Green Team helped review the scope of the expectations. In addition, the Employee Guide to Internal Green Practices was updated.

The Sustainability Expectation: Johnson County strives to be a leader in sustainability. The County expects employees to follow cost-effective green practices and resource use for all County operations. Current expectations and optional opportunities are detailed in the "Employee Guide to Internal Green Practices" (Green Guide). The guide is provided during orientation and posted at the Green Team intranet page.

Leaf Bullet PointEarth Week 2014 and Other Partnerships

The County partnered with the City of Iowa City and the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy to host a drop-off site for expired and unused pharmaceuticals and sharps at the County Administration Building. Approximately30 area residents brought items for disposal, keeping the medications out of the landfill and area water bodies.

The County also coordinated with the City of Iowa City in spring 2014 to distribute discount coupons for rain barrels and compost bins. The coupons could be used at many area stores.


Leaf Bullet PointIowa Public Building (B3) Benchmarking Program

In fall 2013 the County began participating in a energy tracking program that is hosted by the Iowa Energy Center. The goal is to better understand our energy use and, where possible, achieve energy and cost-savings in our buildings.

Leaf Bullet PointOffice Surplus Supply

This internal exchange program helps employees easily share unused office supplies. The effort works in tandem with our Information Technology public program to reuse or sell older computer equipment (check Craigslist for periodic offerings).

Leaf Bullet PointComposting

At major internal events, we are using compostable supplies and composting. The official policy was adopted in early spring 2013. Keeping compostables out of the landfill saves land and money.


Leaf Bullet PointEmployee Bike Sharing Program

The Green Team purchased two bikes from the Iowa City Bike Library to launch an employee bike program. Staff can use the bikes for work-related errands and meetings, as well as to meet employee Wellness goals.

Leaf Bullet PointSingle-Stream Recycling

To improve both the quality and quantity of recycling, the County instituted single-stream recycling in most of its facilities in spring 2012. Clean paper, clean plastics, metal and aluminum containers, and newspaper are among the materials that can be put in the same bin.

Leaf Bullet Point Printer Cartridge and Battery Recycling

The County began offering its departments recycling options for ink jet cartridges, toner cartridges, and batteries if product vendors do not provide recycling options. Departments are encouraged to use rechargeable batteries.

Leaf Bullet Point Energy Efficiency

LED fixtures installed throughout the Administration Building provide cost-savings and improved lighting quality.

Leaf Bullet PointLicense Plate Recycling

The Treasurer launched a partnership to help ensure that old license plates do not go to the landfill. Instead, the plates are processed by labor unions in Linn County for scrap, with proceeds going to charity. In addition, through an arrangement with the Iowa City Community School District, teachers can re-purpose durable cardboard used to ship car registration forms.

Leaf Bullet PointEco-Driving

Johnson County SEATS drivers learn the essentials of how to save gas and reduce vehicle wear-and-tear through fuel-driving driving tips. SEATS provides nearly 125,000 client rides annually.

Leaf Bullet Point Green Building Certification Program

Adopted in fall 2012, the county's Green Building Certification Program recognizes local builders who go above and beyond code compliance in making new single-family homes "green." The program, which applies to homes in unincorporated areas of the county, encourages energy efficiency and sustainable construction practices.

Leaf Bullet Point Small Wind Innovation Zone

In spring 2012, the Iowa Utilities Board recognized the unincorporated area of Johnson County as a Small Wind Innovation Zone. Benefits to residents now include first consideration for available renewable energy tax credits and an expedited application process for interconnecting systems with the local electric utility grid. Johnson County was one of the first two counties in Iowa to receive the zone designation.

Leaf Bullet Point LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)

At Kent Park, the Conservation Department's new Headquarters and Conservation Maintenance facilities became LEED Gold certified.The LEED program is managed by the U.S. Green Building Council, and certifications are issued by the Green Building Certification Institute.


Leaf Bullet PointEnergy Efficiency
In fall 2011, Mid-American Energy conducted energy audits of seven Johnson County buildings. As part of that service, Mid-American installed free energy-saving features and light bulbs, leading to $3,800 in annual energy costs. The County also received energy reports for further action.

Leaf Bullet PointAlternative Energy
The Yoderville Biofuel Cooperative
began picking up used fryer oil from the Johnson County Jail’s kitchen every month (at no cost to the County) and processing it into biodiesel.

Leaf Bullet PointLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

The Health and Human Services building, located in central Iowa City and built in 2009, became LEED Silver certified. The LEED program is managed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Leaf Bullet PointSoil and Water Conservation
Johnson County adopted a
Stormwater Management Ordinance , which requires stormwater management plans for major subdivisions and site plans. The County also began to more actively manage runoff from its properties. For example, stormwater runoff was reduced from the employee parking lot at the Administration building through proper site design, the use of porous pavement, and a rain garden with native plantings.


Leaf Bullet PointRecycling and Waste Reduction
In 2010 Johnson County staff evaluated the waste generated through day-to-day county operations by conducting a series of waste audits. Staff developed a Waste Management and Recycling Plan to outline target areas for improvement. As a result of the waste audit, steps were taken to adopt single-stream recycling (launched in spring 2012), employee education was increased, and the Johnson County Jail eliminated use of Styrofoam from its foodservice program.

Leaf Bullet PointJohnson County Green Team
In early 2010, Johnson County established an internal “Green Team” with membership representation across most departments. This group of employees continues to meet regularly to "green" internal county operations.

Leaf Bullet PointSustainability Staff
Johnson County’s Assistant Planner began sustainability projects for the County, and the county started efforts to hire a part-time Sustainability Assistant, which occurred in 2011.


Leaf Bullet Point Planning for Sustainability
In 2009, the County Board of Supervisors adopted the Johnson County Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Sustainability Plan. The goal of this plan was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced both directly and indirectly from daily county operations. Sustainability action steps to reduce greenhouse gases were included in the Johnson County Strategic Plan. In addition, the Johnson County Land Use Plan creates a vision for growth and development in appropriate locations while preserving and protecting agricultural and environmentally sensitive land.