Greening Minnesota ~ June 2010

There have been some major green and earth-friendly developments in Minnesota and the Twin Cities recently, including new statewide regulations on phosphates in soaps and the start of a major green job growth initiative in the Twin Cities.

Starting Thursday, Minnesota and 15 other states will ban the sale of dishwasher detergents that contain high levels of phosphates, a source of pollution in lakes and streams. Stores will not be allowed to sell detergent with more than 0.5 percent phosphorous. The bans do not apply to commercial dishwashing products, and detergents for hand-washing dishes generally contain no phosphorus.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman are teaming up to support and attract environmentally-sound manufacturing to the Twin Cities with the Thinc.Green MSP initiative. With Thinc.GreenMSP, the mayors are looking to boost demand for locally-produced green products and services, as well as for the skilled workers involved in their production. The economic development initiative is part of a broader program called the Blue Green Alliance, a national partnership between labor unions and environmental organizations dedicated to growing the number of green jobs.

Dakota County passed a resolution in 2008 to "go green" and collaborate with cities to utilize energy-efficient facilities and practices. The countywide "greening initiative" is paying off, according to a 20-page study the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club in Minneapolis. The combined efforts of the cities and Dakota County will not only reduce emissions from public buildings by saving energy, it will help save taxpayers at least $200,000 a year.

A green roof has been installed on the garage of Saint Paul's newest fire station. Located at W. 7th Street and Randolph Avenue, the city is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for the new building. The 8,000-square-foot green roof will host more than 9,000 plants. The space eventually will be open for public tours and use. It could possibly even host weddings.

New technology is helping a pair of old locomotives save money and run cleaner in the Twin Cities. Project Green Fleet, a collaboration among businesses, government agencies and non-profit organizations to reduce emissions from Minnesota’s diesel vehicles, has retrofitted two Twin Cities & Western Railroad Company engines with efficient auxiliary power units. These units allow engineers to shut the trains' main engines down while they are parked. Usually, diesel trains must run continuously during the winter to keep the fuel and oil from freezing, which not only has high monetary costs but results in significant emissions.

Minneapolis has launched the largest bike sharing program in the nation. It's called Nice Ride Minnesota. The nonprofit organization has 60 kiosks and 1,000 rental bikes distributed in high-traffic locations. To use them, walk to one of the 24 hour-a-day Nice Ride stations and check out a bike. Then pedal to the Nice Ride station nearest your destination and drop it off. This program was a natural development for Minneapolis, which recently topped Bicycling magazine's list of the 50 most bike-friendly cities in America.

An empty city lot in the Frogtown neighborhood of Saint Paul has been converted into an urban garden. The transformation is part of a nationwide effort by Urban Farming to bring fresh foods to places where it may be hard to acquire. The organization has planted 50 gardens in 20 cities across the nation, with St. Paul being the final stop.

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