Greening Minnesota ~ March 2011

Spring is in the air, the snow is melting, and hearty Minnesotans are beginning to stir from a long winter. With our local world getting ready to turn green, its only natural that more projects to Green Minnesota have been popping up. Here is a roundup.

According to the quarterly U.S. wind energy rankings published by the American Wind Energy Association, Minnesota is ranked fourth in the nation in installed wind capacity. Three new, large wind farms that came online late last year pushed Minnesota to No. 4, up from No. 7 the previous quarter. Minnesota ended 2010 with wind energy production capacity of 2,196 megawatts.

Coon Rapids' Homes for Generations program aims to take houses that are older but otherwise solid and "recycle" them by transforming them into homes built to last. In previous projects, builders used recycled and repurposed materials to save money. The fourth project will be even more eco-oriented, using things like recycled paint and solar panels.

Plymouth is hoping to add organics recycling, commercial and multi-family housing to its next citywide contract to encourage residents and businesses to recycle more trash. In contract bids, due March 24, Plymouth invited competing companies to propose a price for the three new targeted services and to describe how they would educate people to encourage more recycling. Firms that include these proposals in their bids can gain points toward winning the three-year contract.

Newport is about to join the legions of cities that have community gardens. The Newport City Council recently agreed to establish the city's first community garden, which will allow residents to grow their own plants and vegetables on a plot of city land that hasn't yet used. Other Twin Cities communities have similar programs. In Minneapolis, all 190 spots for the 2011 growing season at the Dowling Community Garden are already spoken for and there is a four-year waiting list to get in.

In the woods of Inver Grove Heights, there's a set to get a $1.2 million makeover. Its little-used neighbor, B.F. Nelson Park, will receive $800,000 worth of improvements. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has approved a contract that will spur those changes, many of them within the next few months. In addition to serving adjacent neighborhoods, Boom Island's East Bank location and amenities make it a popular draw for larger gatherings, including school outings, corporate events and races.

The new Hiawatha public works facility in Minneapolis is the state's first local government complex to win highest honors for green construction. The U.S. Green Building Council has awarded the building a platinum rating, highest possible, under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program. Geothermal energy aids heating and cooling, with hot and cold air recovered that otherwise would be lost. Almost the entire building is lit by natural light, which passes through insulated windows. Landscaping features keep rainwater on the site, where it is used to water vegetation rather than being diverted to storm sewers. More than 90% of demolition material from the razed buildings was recycled. The building even incorporates materials salvaged from elsewhere.

If you know about green initiatives and other environmentally-conscious programs and events occurring in the Twin Cities or Minnesota, please leave a comment and let us know for March's Greening Minnesota issue!

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