Greening Minnesota ~ April 2011

With the presence of Earth Day and the start of spring, April is a popular month for mobilization in the green movement. The future of the real estate industry has a lot to contribute towards reducing humanity's impact on the environment. Homes use a lot of energy and by reducing how much they use, we can be more gentle on the earth while lowering how much money we pay toward lighting, heating, cooling and more. Additionally, the way our communities are constructed and what services are offered within it can affect whether we even have the option to pursue other modes of transportation, like light rail, buses, even biking or walking. Read on to find out about how Minnesota communities are working towards creating a greener world.

The Community Partners Bike Library, a bicycle loan program in the Twin Cities, is back for its second year — with more bicycles, more volunteers, and another $110,000 in funding. The program provides free six-month bicycle rentals to low-income adults. Organizers see the program as a way to share a love of bicycling, along with its health and transportation benefits, to people left out of the mainstream bicycling community. This year, the program aims to reach 200 adults from April to September — 50 more than last year.

A plan to expand urban farming in Minneapolis has received final approval from the city council and Mayor R.T. Rybak. The Urban Agriculture Policy Plan opens the door for farmers to use public land for commercial farms and create a true local food economy in the heart of the Twin Cities. It also recommends incorporating urban agriculture into the city's long-range planning efforts. As part of the plan, the city will review its land inventory to look for places to grow food.

The Coon Rapids Sustainability Commission is hosting its second annual Green Expo at City Hall on April 30. Last year's event drew as many as 800 people. This year, there will be at least 50 exhibitors. The Expo will offer residents a chance to check out some of the north metro's green companies and learn best practices from government agencies and nonprofits. The Expo was modeled after the much larger Living Green Expo. Bonus fact: Coon Rapids residents are enthusiastic recyclers, with the city having a 75% participation rate.

The Living Green Expo is a two-day event filled with fun hands-on activities that help Minnesotans find ways to live a little greener. Now in its 10th year, the Living Green Expo will be May 7-8, 2011 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and will feature more than 300 exhibitors, hourly workshops, and experts. This year’s highlights include a local couple’s green wedding, a Kids Eco Carnival and an 8,000 square-foot interactive art display that brings to life the four elements of water, earth, fire, wind. To learn more about the Living Green Expo, visit

Several cities in the north metro whose stormwater runoff flows into the Shingle Creek watershed are holding cleanup parties. The events are inspired by Earth Day, which was Friday. Shingle Creek, which empties into the Mississippi River in north Minneapolis, is classified as impaired. The creek has high chloride levels during spring runoff. It is low in dissolved oxygen ands high in nutrients from fertilizer and grass clippings. For all of those reasons, the water no longer is able to support fish and other aquatic life. Picking up garbage may not help all of the core problems, but it's a way residents can get involved and become more aware of how their actions affect the water.

Metro Transit says more riders are boarding buses and trains than at this time last year. Some of the ridership gains are likely due to rising gas prices. Additionally, a U.S. News and World Report analysis listed the Twin Cities as having the fifth-best public transit system in the nation in terms of public investment, ridership and safety. The American Public Transportation Association estimates that for every dollar spent on public transit, $4 is generated in economic returns.

In honor of Earth Day, CenterPoint Energy is partnering with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant trees in neighborhoods throughout its six-state natural gas service territory, including Minnesota. CenterPoint Energy customers who enroll in Online Billing through the promotion by June 15, Arbor Day Foundation members will plant a tree in the customer's home state. With Online Billing, customers can help the environment by going paperless, reduce clutter,  save money on stamps and avoid the hassle of mailing in a payment. For more information about the promotion and to sign up for Online Billing visit To learn more about the Arbor Day Foundation, visit

Members of the community gathered at 40 different locations throughout the city to pick up trash for the annual Minneapolis Earth Day Clean Up. Volunteers were provided breakfast, trash bags and gloves at the parks and neighborhoods where they worked. For the past 15 years, the cleanup, which is the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s largest annual community-service event, has brought together volunteers to pick up thousands of pounds of trash around the city. In 2010, more than 3,000 volunteers picked up 15,000 pounds of trash throughout the city.

The Mall of America, a huge energy-consumer, announced a new project that will save energy and be friendlier to the environment. In honor of Earth Day, the mall plans to replace 5,400 metal halide and high pressure sodium lights in the parking ramps with new LED fixtures. Mall officials say this conversion project is the largest of its kind in the United States and will reduce energy consumption in the ramps by two-thirds. According to Mall of America, the energy saved by the conversion would be enough to run more than 11,000 homes for a year. LED lights also have a longer life expectancy than fluorescent bulbs and perform better in cold temperatures, making them more ideal for a Minnesota winter.

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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