It's summer in Minnesota! The sun is shining, the rivers are flowing and
the winds of sustainable change are blowing throughout Minnesota. Read
about how local communities are working towards creating a more
Edina's new public
works building, which formally opened this spring, was built with
sustainability in mind. It has geothermal heating and cooling and used
recycled materials and its landscape was designed to minimize the
development's impact on the environment. A rain garden holds and
infiltrates water from sloping parking lots. Native grasses and plants
are growing in "no-mow" areas between the sidewalk and the parking lot.
Once they're mature, those native plantings should need little care.
Unfortunately, not everyone knows how these native areas work or how
much money they can save when it comes to caring for public lands and
some people are complaining about their appearance as they become
is ahead of the pack in at least one way compared to the rest of the
country and other bike friendly cities like Portland. Here, depending on
the data, between 31 and 45 percent of bicyclists are women, compared
to a national average of 26.4 percent. The only thing the biking pundits
find more puzzling is that people here also bike in the winter.
became the 10th city to sign on to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's
urban bird treaty, which brings with it a $70,000 grant to restore
avian habitat. Mayor R.T. Rybak's office and the Minneapolis Park and
Recreation Board raised an additional $98,019 by teaming with the city
of St. Paul and Audubon Minnesota. The money will be used to enhance the
bird habitat along North Mississippi Regional Park and B.F. Nelson Park
near Nicollet Island and to create a birding trail in the Lilydale
Regional Park along the Mississippi River. The Twin Cities supports more
than 300 species of birds. Birds face a number of hazards in cities,
including invasive plants that damage their habitat, and constant
predation from roaming cats.
in Minnesota have taken a beating this year and some foresters think
more of the same lies ahead. Road salt, straight-line winds and
tornadoes have felled an estimated 5,000 trees in Minneapolis this
spring and summer. Hundreds more were toppled in Sauk Centre. In
Belview, 70% of the small city's trees were destroyed July 1 by a
low-level tornado that took out hundreds more across Redwood and
Renville counties. Another 1,000 went down near Cambridge during storms
that same night. But as communities clean up the mess and confront the
shocking and long-term loss of summer shade, their trees remain
vulnerable to many more threats than just wind. Soil still saturated by
snowmelt and heavy rains, too much road salt last winter, rising water
tables in some areas, a late-starting and possibly short growing season,
and cool, wet conditions favorable for fungi have added to the
challenge faced by the state's urban forest.
warning on a related note: Imprelis, a new, supposedly environmentally
friendly herbicide from Dupont that showed effectiveness against weeds
such as creeping charlie, has been wrecking havoc on Twin Cities trees.
Evergreens throughout the area are now showing twisting and distorted
branches, needle browning and drooping that may be linked to the
weedkiller. Imprelis was not available to homeowners through garden
stores, but was used by lawn-care companies that heard Dupont's pitch
that the herbicide was effective on tough weeds but "easy on the
Maplewood residents have been raising chickens in their back yards for
years, but starting in August they can do it without breaking the law.
The City Council passed an ordinance that legalizes the practice. The
east metro suburb is another added to the growing list of Twin Cities
communities that allow urban agriculture. The ordinance will require
anybody raising chickens to pay $75 to the city for a license and $50 to
renew each year. Residents will be able to have as many as 10 hens -
but no roosters - in a back- or side-yard coop that is at least 5 feet
from any property line. Chickens must wear a leg band with the owner's
name and phone number. Residents must get unanimous approval from owners
of adjacent properties, among other restrictions.
student group at Macalester College won permission to put a coop on the
St. Paul campus. The coop has educational benefits, in addition to
having a message about urban sustainability. It was built by an Amish
carpenter with reused barn wood. It sits between the eco-house and the
athletic fields. Students sign up for shifts on the chicken care
schedule. They're free to take the eggs, some blue and some brown,
depending on the breed. The Macalester students do plan to partner with
K-12 and college classes so young people can learn about the chickens.
not quite Greening Minnesota, but it has an effect on the eastern
border of the state. A new group in western Wisconsin wants to start
seeing more rain gardens. The gardens have been slow to catch on in St.
Croix County even though they're common across the St. Croix River in
Washington County. In Stillwater, for example, there are about 40 rain
gardens on city rights-of-way and 10 more may be planted this summer. In
Hudson, just one sits on city property, installed this month by
volunteers. Some artists, gardeners, nonprofits, businesses and members
of local government hope to change that through the Artful Rain Garden
Project, an effort to educate St. Croix County residents about the
benefits and beauty of rain gardens - depressions typically filled with
native plants and intended to clean and reduce water runoff.
Mary Spear is in love with her new house. The 2,400-square-foot house
she shares with her husband and son in St. Peter was designed by
Minneapolis architect Sarah Nettleton as a "lantern on the prairie," the
house has a curved, reclaimed-fir ceiling that sits low, but is lighted
by more than a dozen small sconces. At night, the house lights up like a
beacon on its bluff-top perch overlooking the Minnesota River. The
house is essentially one oversized room. The shape was inspired in part
by Jack Spear's upbringing in rural Vermont, where his family
hand-shanked their own log cabin. The house also has whole-house
in-floor radiant heating and solar-thermal heating. What the house
doesn't have is air conditioning, saving them money on venthilation installation and energy usage. The Spear's rely on a system of
"natural ventilation," where all they have to do is simply close or open
windows and doors in tune with the sun and breezes.
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 July's Greening Minnesota issue!