Plymouth

Greening Minnesota ~ September 2011

Fall is in the air! The leaves are turning gold and red, but there are still some great green initiatives and events happening in Minnesota. There are plenty of people ad local communities working towards a cleaner environment for all Minnesota residents. Read on to find out more.

The annual report on organic farm performance from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and University of Minnesota said 2010 was a good year for organic farms. "Profits improved but were not outstanding." Balance sheets, however, were on average very sound as they headed into 2011. The report said that after a difficult 2009, the median organic producer earned a net farm income of $62,463 in 2010. That was a sixfold increase over 2009 and was consistent with returns earned in 2007 and 2008, which were considered very profitable for the organic sector.

As a Hopkins High School junior, Dustin Kloempken had the bright idea of getting solar panels installed to make his school more eco-friendly. It took six years, but the now-24-year-old's persistence has finally paid off. Six solar panels were installed at the school in September. Hopkins High School now is among just a few Minnesota schools with solar panels. One of those schools, Chisago Lakes Middle School in the north-metro, installed 44 solar panels two years ago thanks to several grants and donations covering the $73,000 cost. The 10 kilowatts of power save the school $1,600 a year in energy costs.

Grandview Tire and Auto's two-year-old building on W. 70th Street in Edina is a model of energy efficiency, with its insulated garage doors, white roof to cut heating and cooling costs and boilers burning waste oil to help heat the building. Manager Rick Murphy says the building would be even more efficient if it had solar panels. He'd like to add them and gradually pay them off over a few years as part of the property taxes for the business. Twenty-seven states, including Minnesota, now allow "property assessed...

Greening Minnesota ~ August 2011

There are some great green initiatives and events happening in Minnesota, contributing towards a cleaner environment for residents. Read about how local communities are working towards creating a more environmentally-friendly world. There are more entries than usual this month!

Prodded by a homeowner whose prairie plantings were mowed against his will, the city of Minneapolis has come up with a plan to let lawns go natural. Some suburbs have already taken the step of allowing natural plantings in place of grass, accepting their environmental benefits over the objections of some neighbors who think they look unkempt. The proposal defines the new type of landscaping as an intentional planting of native or non-native grasses, wildflowers, ferns, shrubs, trees or forbs. They're allowed to exceed the city's normal nuisance ordinance threshold of 8 inches in height, or grass that has gone or is about to go to seed. They can't include noxious weeds and have to be maintained to avoid "unintended vegetation." Unkempt turf lawns are specifically prohibited.

Organizers of the Visa Gymnastics Championships, held earlier this month in St. Paul, teamed up with Xcel Energy Center officials to exclusively power Xcel, RiverCentre and Roy Wilkins Auditorium with wind energy for four days and go paperless at what President Steve Penny called USA Gymnastics' greenest event ever.The sustainability plan also included composting in Xcel Center lobbies. Instead of paper-based programs and bio packets, the revamped USA Gymnastics mobile site fed live scoring to smartphones, tablets and LED screens. Xcel Center has already emerged as one of the country's greenest arenas. Its "50-50 in 2" program, aimed at cutting trash and increasing recycling, has reduced trash by 1.2 million pounds and raised recycling rates from 15% to more than 50% by increasing the number of recycling and composting bins.

Prodded by Hennepin County to boost its lagging recycling rate,...

Greening Minnesota ~ March 2011

Spring is in the air, the snow is melting, and hearty Minnesotans are beginning to stir from a long winter. With our local world getting ready to turn green, its only natural that more projects to Green Minnesota have been popping up. Here is a roundup.

According to the quarterly U.S. wind energy rankings published by the American Wind Energy Association, Minnesota is ranked fourth in the nation in installed wind capacity. Three new, large wind farms that came online late last year pushed Minnesota to No. 4, up from No. 7 the previous quarter. Minnesota ended 2010 with wind energy production capacity of 2,196 megawatts.

Coon Rapids' Homes for Generations program aims to take houses that are older but otherwise solid and "recycle" them by transforming them into homes built to last. In previous projects, builders used recycled and repurposed materials to save money. The fourth project will be even more eco-oriented, using things like recycled paint and solar panels.

Plymouth is hoping to add organics recycling, commercial and multi-family housing to its next citywide contract to encourage residents and businesses to recycle more trash. In contract bids, due March 24, Plymouth invited competing companies to propose a price for the three new targeted services and to describe how they would educate people to encourage more recycling. Firms that include these proposals in their bids can gain points toward winning the three-year contract.

Newport is about to join the legions of cities that have community gardens. The Newport City Council recently agreed to establish the city's first community garden, which will allow residents to grow their own plants and vegetables on a plot of city land that hasn't yet used. Other Twin Cities communities have similar programs. In Minneapolis, all 190 spots for the 2011 growing season at the Dowling Community Garden are already spoken for and there is a four-year waiting list to get in.

In the woods of Inver...

Greening Minnesota ~ August/September

Though we missed Greening Minnesota last month, we certainly didn't forget about it! Once again, a round-up of earth-friendly news from our green and blue state.

Driving a Humvee or Escalade? Those giants are hard to park, but their available spaces have just been reduced. Signs that read "ECO VEHICLE PARKING Violators Towed at Vehicle Owners Expense," have appeared near the door of 8200 Building at Normandale Lake Office Park in Bloomington, which is home to the new Parma 8200 restaurant. Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op in St. Paul also has designated three prime spots for fuel-efficient cars.

A farmers market has opened in north Minneapolis! The Mini Farmer's Market is a small-scale weekly event on Tuesday afternoons from 2:30 to 5 p.m. on the east end of a large parking lot on Plymouth Avenue. The market will continue weekly through November, weather permitting. Unsold food at the end of the day will be donated to a local food shelf.

Saint Paul was recently awarded with a $50,000 grant to help train builders in energy-efficient and sustainable development. Nationally recognized architects from the University of Minnesota will spearhead the training to show builders how to follow the city's plans to go green. The aim is to help builders and their buildings meet standards set out in the St. Paul Sustainable Building Policy. Mayor Chris Coleman called the policy a "national model for green development."

In a time-span of less than 100 days, more than 50,000 people used the Nice Ride Minnesota. The program is now moving forward into its Phase II, exploring options to expand into North Minneapolis, St. Paul and first-ring suburbs. The program is drawing praise, not just locally, but nationally. Once again, other cities are looking to the Twin Cities to help launch their own similar bike share programs or learn how to expand existing services.

This week, September 20 through 24, is Farm to School week. This observance is designed...

Money Magazine: Eden Prairie is #1 Place to Live

Money magazine recently announced its annual list of the 100 Best Places to Live. Topping this year's list, as in years previous, is yet another Minnesota city. This time, it is Eden Prairie, Minn., the family-friendly town with a population of 64,000 located southwest of the Twin Cities.

Eden Prairie is ranked at the top not only because it is a great place for families, it has a resilient economy. At 5.1%, its unemployment rate is nearly 1 percentage point below the rate for Hennepin County and more than 4 points below the national average. It's not hard to understand why that is, with 50,000 jobs located right in town. Major companies in Eden Prairie include the headquarters of Supervalu, ADC Telecommunications, MTS Systems Corporation, and the Minnesota Vikings, whose practice facility and front office are here.

Eden Prairie MN isn't all work with no play, though. Eden Prairie residents enjoy swimming in the summer and skating in the winter at 17 lakes. The City has more than 1,000 acres of active use parkland. Bikers, hikers and walkers enjoy Eden Prairie's nearly 200 miles of sidewalks and trails.

Four other Minnesota cities also cracked the top 20 list of America's best small cities.  Plymouth ranked #11th, Woodbury ranked 13th, Eagan came in at #15, and Apple Valley rounds off the list at #20. Eden Prairie has been ranked somewhere in the top 100 “Best Places to Live” in America since 2006.

Minnesota cities consistently rank high in these lists. Last year, Money Magazine listed Chanhassen as the #2 Best Place to Live. In 2008, Plymouth was listed as the #1 Best Place to Live.

View the rest of the Top 100 Places to Lives.

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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...

Strange But True: You Could Own the School... Literally!

The Robbinsdale School District has to determine what to do with 7 expendable buildings. Members of the district's Divestiture Plan Advisory" Committee will meet with the public on Thursday to solicit ideas on how to put them to better use or sell them. The buildings include an elementary school in Plymouth that was shut down to save money.
Committee chairwoman and Robbinsdale school board member Sherry Tyrrell said possibilities include selling the buildings, putting them to some kind of new use for the district, or even razing them and holding on to the property until the commercial real estate market improves. Leasing them is unlikely because the district would still have to maintain the buildings.
In addition to the Pilgrim Lane elementary school in Plymouth, other buildings on the list include New Hope Elementary School, the old Highview Alternative School, the Winnetka Learning Center, and Hosterman Middle School, all of which are in New Hope.  The Cavanaugh Early Childhood Center in Crystal and the Olson Elementary School in Golden Valley are the final two buildings.

All the buildings on the list need to be remodeled, but those costs are too expensive for the Robbinsdale district to justify.

The public meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Plymouth Middle School, 10011 36th Ave N. in Plymouth, MN....

Community Highlights ~ Plymouth MN

The seventh largest city in the state of Minnesota, the dynamic city of Plymouth continues to thrive and grow. Plymouth MN was voted as #1 on CNN Money Magazine's Annual Poll of "America's Best Places to Live 2008" for communities with populations between 50,000 to 300,000 residents. Plymouth’s robust blend of residential, business and commercial-industrial districts supports nearly 70,000 residents and more than 51,000 jobs. And it’s family friendly, to boot!

Located west of Minneapolis and St. Paul, it's close proximity to Interstates 394 and 494, not to mention Higways 55 and 169, makes accessing most of the Twin Cities fairly easy. Education, work and recreational activities the big cities offer are within reasonable traveling distance.

In addition to several private schools and colleges, Plymouth boasts a broad education system that encompasses five different school districts: Wayzata District 284, Robbinsdale District 281, Osseo District 279, West Metro Education Project District 6069, and Hopkins District 270.

When residents young and old are ready to let loose, the City of Plymouth offers a high quality, diverse park system that includes 80 miles of interconnected trails and over 1,000 acres of park land, recreation facilities, ball fields, ice rinks, picnic areas, a skate park, and natural open spaces.

Potential home buyers who want to live near Minneapolis and Saint Paul, but not in them, would be remiss to pass up at least a look at a home in the vibrant and energetic community of Plymouth. Now, while prices are still relatively low, may be the ideal time to make a move. Plymouth MN real estate is a promising asset that will likely grow in value as the city evolves and expands.

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Greening Minnesota ~ October

Including North St. Paul and Anoka, 12 Minnesota cities have begun installing wind turbines. Buffalo, Le Sueur and Faribault have had wind turbines installed already. Anoka, Arlington, Brownton, Chaska, East Grand Forks, Olivia, Shakopee and Winthrop are up next. If everything goes as planned, all of the Minnesota Municipal Power Association wind turbines will be up and running by mid-November.

The St. Paul Convention & Visitors Authority has rolled out the "50-50 in 2" program. It is meant to cut trash output at the RiverCentre and Xcel Energy Center in half and push the recycling rate up to 50% in two years.

Three Minnesota schools took top marks on a national report card that measures colleges' sustainability efforts. The University of Minnesota, Carleton College in Northfield and Macalester College in St. Paul were three of 26 schools to score an A- on this fall's College Sustainability Report Card.

To meet federal clean water standards, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is considering ways to keep runoff and pollutants out of three west-metro lakes. Eagle Lake, a 291-acre lake popular for fishing and swimming, phosphorus would have to be reduced by 40% to meet Clean Water standards for swimming. The phosphorus levels in 81-acre Cedar Island Lake would have to be reduced by 67%. The 58-acre Pike Lake would need a 49 percent cut in phosphorus. The three lakes in Maple Grove and Plymouth are so polluted, it may take 20 years to get them off the state's impaired waters list.

In a similar move, Eden Prairie will repair two catch ponds at the base of the Minnesota River bluff to reduce storm water runoff and pollution from going into the river. The Lower Minnesota River Watershed District has also commissioned an engineering study on how storm water, groundwater and river water are interacting to erode the north bank of the river below the bluff, where Riverview Drive is located.

Land dedicated to scientific research...

Greening Minnesota - August

The residents, businesses, and government of Minnesota have been doing so much to make the state a greener place to live. Greening Minnesota is a monthly installment that explores some of these actions and developments.

First, a story about an eco-friendly home rennovation. Can a green remodeling project look good and not break the bank? A St. Louis Park bungalow got an affordable, earth-friendly makeover that respected the 1940 home's vintage charm while at the same time reducing its energy costs. The renovation included a two-story addition to expand the kitchen and add a family room and mudroom as well as create space for upstairs bedrooms. St. Louis Park design/build company Sicora followed the new Minnesota Greenstar certification program to meet green building standards, but the bottom line was also a factor. This affordable remodel doesn't include all the bells and whistles. Though there aren't spendy bamboo floors or a geothermal heating system, it does have hardwood floors repurposed from the original home, remnant granite countertops, and two Energy Star-rated furnaces that heat and cool in zones.

The U.S. Green Building Council has announced the introduction of its new LEED for Homes Affiliate Program, which allows regional green home building programs to promote the growing green residential market by partnering with USGBC. The objective of the new program is to increase the availability of the green homes stock through collaborations with local green home building programs across the country and  further promoting sustainable design and energy-and-resource efficiency in all dwellings. Third-party green home building certification system Minnesota GreenStar was one of the first two green home building programs to sign on with LEED for Homes Affiliates.

Let's not forget that Minnesota is about to get $52.7 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to weatherize 16,800 homes this year. A home that is properly weatherized uses less energy because...