Greening Minnesota - March

Because there are so many great environmentally friendly things going on in Minnesota these days, I’m going to start another monthly blog piece like the blog round-ups that I’ve been doing.  Today’s is inspired by Earth Hour, so here is the first edition of the Greening Minnesota blog post.

Because this is a real estate blog, let’s start with the green home building and remodeling matters.  The Star Tribune has been a virtual gold-mine of information on this stuff.  They recently did two stories highlighting some green homes in the area.

First, some families living in Twin Cities area homes are setting examples for how green remodeling can benefit the outside environment - and inside environments as well. Two families in St. Louis Park wanted to make changes to their homes that would also avoid exposing their children to the toxins and chemicals associated with conventional house building, like glues, paints, and construction materials.  To one family, it was important that the new addition to be made out of recycled or renewable materials while the other desired an energy efficient expansion. A third resident in Minnetonka has a home converted a 1948 rambler to a "green" home showcase with four kinds of alternative energy and the best available insulation, windows and indoor air system.

Next, thanks to Hennepin County’s Building Better Neighborhoods programs, a boarded-up, foreclosed eyesore at 4307 Wentworth Avenue South in Minneapolis has been torn down to its foundation, then rehabilitated into a practically new, three-bedroom, two-bath, energy-efficient house, with a two-car garage.  The 10-year-old program has been involved in the rehabilitation of numerous tax-forfeited properties, but this is the group’s first environmentally-friendly project. This green home includes a geothermal heating and cooling system, low-petroleum asphalt shingles, energy-efficient appliances, formaldehyde-free lumber, low-toxin paints and recycled products. It will also be on the Minneapolis-St. Paul Home tour next month, but I’ll talk more about that in April.

In the Hawthorne neighborhood's Eco Village, there are plans in the works to a build a Green Star- and LEED-certified passive home that will use the sun and smart, air-tight design to heat the home. The structure will be so efficient it won't even need a furnace to heat it, even in Minnesota’s climate. Yes, you read that right, no furnace! That means no furnace filters, maintenance or repairs, and most importantly, no major heating costs. Passive houses use about 1/20th the energy of a conventional home and are gaining steam in European countries and are really just starting to enter the U.S. market. If you’re considering building a new home, this may be an option to ponder, as building a passive home only costs about 5% to 7% more to build in Europe, and the target price of the one being built in North Minneapolis is $175,000.

Now, let’s say you’ve gone to the trouble of remodeling or building green.  If something terrible were to happen, how could you guarantee that the environmentally-friendly real estate you’ve invested in stays green?  The right insurance. Traditional insurance policies don't specifically provide coverage for green features, so if there's a fire or the house sustains water damage, the homeowner may have to pay out of pocket to rebuild the home to the same environmental standards to which it was built before the fire. There is now an insurance company in offering coverage to residents in Minnesota that want to make sure their property stays green, even in the wake of a tragedy.

In the ultimate green move, recycled wind turbines are expected to begin appearing this June in Anoka, Buffalo, North St. Paul and the eight other Minnesota cities that are part of the Minnesota Municipal Power Agency.  The 115-foot-tall turbines are refurbished and were previously used at a Palm Springs, Calif., wind farm. Known as the Hometown WindPower program, the aim of this venture is to meet a state law requiring most electrical utilities to provide 25 percent of their total electricity sales from renewable sources, such as wind or water power, by 2025.

And finally, if you didn’t know it by now, tonight at 8:30 p.m. in each timezone, people around the world will be celebrating Earth Hour by shutting off their lights and appliances. Want a prime example of how green living is taking a foothold in the Twin Cities and beyond? The Minneapolis City Council and Mayor R.T. Rybak approved a resolution for Minneapolis become one of the first cities in North America to join Earth Hour. On Saturday the City will turn off all uses of electricity in municipal buildings that are not required for life, safety or operations, including the decorative lighting on the underside of the Stone Arch Bridge. Will you be celebrating Earth Hour tonight? That is all for now. Look for a Greening Minnesota April edition early in the month, as Earth Day is on April 18.


#1 By Ben at 12/23/2013 0:43 AM

According to Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth", USA and Australia are the 2 environmentally unfriendly countries not supporting Kyoto protocol.

It is always heart-warming to hear of stories here and there about the change of attitude among the Americans.

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