Greening Minnesota ~ January 2010

There are a lot of environmentally friendly projects getting underway in the Twin Cities and throughout Minnesota. And we're even saving all the rail news for a separate, future post!

Amid rising concern over the effects that road salt has on Minnesota's lakes, streams and groundwater, public works officials around the state are trying out new methods to spread salt on pavement, moistening rock salt so it sticks better, and working to establish a less-is-more culture, while also keeping motorists safe. The impacts are salt run rampant statewide after decades of dropping a pound of salt onto every 10 feet of highway without much thought. In addition to the environmental impact, money has also become a key motivator. The new techniques use less salt, costing cities and counties less.

The new Target Field ballpark for the Minnesota Twins will have a sustainable water system that will capture, conserve and reuse rain water. Minneapolis-based Pentair Inc. is building and donating the sophisticated system. The water will be used to irrigate the field and clean the bleachers.  Officials say it'll be a new standard for water use in sports facilities.

Hennepin County Medical Center's newest recycling program composts food scraps and soiled paper napkins, cartons and plates from its kitchens and cafeterias. It promises to annually transform 100 tons of organic waste collected from the hospital into a soil additive that can be used in landscaping and road construction. It will also reduce how many tons of waste HCMC throws away each year and reduce its water bill by $1 million because not as much will be sent down the garbage disposal.

The new Saint Paul fire station that's nearing completion at W. 7th Street and Randolph Avenue was designed to include energy-efficient features throughout, including automatic faucets and toilets, lighting and temperature controls, and a green roof that will be open to West End community use. Saint Paul has yet to file the paperwork for the current project, but that it's hoped the fire station will qualify for silver status - a notch below gold.

The Burnsville Ice Center could soon rank among the most energy-efficient rinks in North America. The Burnsville City Council has approved a nearly $5 million renovation project that includes a geothermal energy system that is expected to reduce energy use by 43%. The city could save an estimated $77,000 a year. The geothermal system will be used to cool the arena's ice sheet as well as to heat and cool the building.

GarbageMan, a new residential garbage hauler specializing in small "green" trucks, is gaining customers in the competitive suburban market by using small, quiet trucks that weigh in at 18,000 pounds - less than 1/3 of the traditional 60,000-pound garbage truck. The company, based in Hopkins, has about 7,000 customers in Maple Grove, Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, Crystal, Plymouth, New Hope, Minnetonka, Edina and Roseville. They have a goal to sign up 20,000 more customers this year.

Genesis Poly Recycling, based in the city of Mankato, collects and recycles’ plastic agricultural waste, transforming trashed silage bags, crop covers and hay bale wraps into neat, clean, plastic pellets for resale. The process, first of its kind in the Midwest, promises to keep millions of tons of plastics from being burned or dumped. Because this start-up company also provided locals with new jobs, it's a win-win for the community and the environment.

The bike-sharing program that first appeared in the Twin cities at the time of the Republican National Convention in 2008 will now start in June. Plans call for the Minneapolis program to start with up to 80 kiosks, dispensing up to 1,000 bikes. Kiosks will be concentrated mostly in downtown, Uptown and at the University of Minnesota. The city will join some 130 bike-sharing programs globally.

Cottage Grove City Council has granted approval to install a residential wind turbine on a 5-acre lot on the city's western edge. The privately owned turbine, which will produce about 24,000 kilowatts a year or double what the home at that property needs for electricity, will be 100 feet tall, with three 13-foot blades. The resident who will own the turbine will sell the leftover electricity back to Xcel Energy Co.

Woodbury has added to its growing inventory of open green spaces with the purchase of Afton Road Baptist Church. The $285,000 purchase will add 2 prime acres, with the bonus of a potential 3,500-square-foot community building. The funds were set aside by voters in 2005.

Stay tuned for a future post about light rail and high speed rail projects in the works for the Twin Cities and the rest of Minnesota. 

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