Although energy and the environment remain hand-wringing issues for Santa Feans, 2008 was a pretty good year for local tree huggers, Prius drivers and canvas grocery-bag carriers.

And it was a good year that got even better when Barack Obama won the presidency in November.

The local food movement certainly became a front and center issue for many folks, whether it was expressed by fretting over salmonella on imported tomatoes or discussing why buying local is more important than buying organic.

The good news: Santa Fe School of Cooking began a series of classes called “Farm Fresh and Local,” the city formed an Advisory Council on Food Policy and SFR published its first food issue, all about the local food movement.

That was all before the highlight of the year, when the Santa Fe Farmers Market finally moved into its new home in time for the Railyard’s grand opening. In January, members of the New Mexico Food Gap Task Force plan to ask the state Legislature for $3.3 million to help schools buy fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers, according to Pam Roy, co-chairwoman of the task force.

This also was the year when people started asking hard questions about the environmental drawbacks of bottled water, as well as the pros and cons of all the other ways to get blue gold. In fact, in June, a year after Mayor David Coss stopped serving bottled water at official functions, he and the rest of the US Conference of Mayors took a bold step and vowed to stop spending their cities’ money on bottled water.

And while construction has slowed this year, due to the economy, builders are looking to build green and even held a Green Building Summit this year.

The city’s new energy specialist put 20 percent more light fixtures into the Oliver La Farge Library and saved 25 percent on the building’s electric bill—the new kind of fluorescent bulbs save loads of energy.

When SFR busted a local Kinko's for throwing away recyclables, it highlighted an ongoing question in Santa Fe: Why don't we recycle as much as we should? In an attempt to help remedy that issue, the City Council in October signed a resolution putting Santa Fe on track to recycle 33 percent of its waste. To reach that goal, the resolution asks the city manager to establish effective recycling programs at all city facilities, introduce recycling facilities at all major public events and promote a green-waste and food-scrap recycling program.

"In 2008 the city actually took some pretty big steps towards walking its talk about doing things in a greener way," Laura Banish, city public information officer, says. "First and foremost, we hired an energy specialist, Nick Schiavo, who is working on an energy audit of all city buildings." The results of that audit will be available early next year, Schiavo says, and the city will start implementing the report's reforms soon afterward. Those recommendations can be as simple as changing light bulbs.

When the city changed out all of the light fixtures and bulbs in the Oliver La Farge Library downtown, it actually added 20 percent more fixtures to what had been dim rooms and still saved 25 percent on the building's electricity bill. Although the old fixtures were fluorescent, the new bulbs are incredibly more efficient.

In the middle of December, the City Council signed off on a program that had been in the works all year. By early January, Schiavo says, Santa Fe homeowners will be able to apply for low-interest loans to pay for energy-efficient and renewable-energy upgrades to their homes. The City of Santa Fe has promised $250,000 and Homewise, a local nonprofit, has committed to matching those funds with $300,000. The loans can be used to add insulation, upgrade to more efficient windows or even install photo-voltaic (solar power) systems.

The little things go a long way, Schiavo says. If he had one wish (actually, he has many) it would be that people who bought compact fluorescent light bulbs would not wait for their old incandescent light bulbs to burn out. "Just throw them out!" Schiavo says. "Let them go."