University Of Minnesota

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....

Twin Cities Real Estate Statistics for June 2011

Pending home sales initiated in June within the Twin Cities area were among the highest in nearly five years. Buyers may be taking advantage of low prices and near-record low mortgage interest rates before they start to climb.

The Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors reports that though there are some good signs occurring in the local Twin Cities residential real estate market, there's still a ways to go. Though pending sales rose in June, closed sales fell 11.4% compared with a year ago. The median sale prices fell 9.3% from a year ago to $165,000. That is still better than March's low of $140,000.

It's unclear whether the latest uptick in buying activity is a blip or a sign of a sustained recovery, given an economy still struggling to gain traction and the extent of the foreclosure crisis still unknown. Stable employment, strong rent prices and relatively low foreclosure rates suggest that the market has seen the worst, said Herb Tousley, director of the Shenehon Center...

The streets of the Twin Cities are lined with green gold

Those who live in or visit the Twin Cities probably have seen how many trees we have along our streets, avenues and boulevards. 

Recently, a first-of-its-kind study was completed that used high-resolution satellite technology to analyze the tree canopy of the Twin Cities. The study was carried out by a team of University of Minnesota researchers. High-resolution satellite technology was used to examine Minneapolis from above on a clear and cloudless day, recording and analyzing how much tree cover there, down to each individual property.

They study estimated Minneapolis' overall tree coverage to be 31.5%, higher than previous estimates using less precise methods. In St. Paul, the canopy cover rate was 32.5%.

Minneapolis' estimated 979,000 trees offer many benefits, including:

  • Cleaning the air
  • Sucking up water that would otherwise flood stormwater pipes
  • Increase the attractiveness of homes
  • Drive up property...

Where do you want to spend your old age?

Many people want to live at home when they grow older. The "Smart House, Livable Community, Your Future" exhibition explores the housing trend of "aging in place" through the development of products and adaptive technologies that allow people to stay in their homes.

The first wave of 70 million baby boomers living in the United States will reach age 65 this year. With this generation predicted to live longer, planners are examining ways to create homes and communities that are more senior-friendly. The new exhibit at the University of Minnesota's Goldstein Museum of Design is an interactive display of what a Smart House of the future might look like.

The exhibition will look like a small, attractive home inhabited by fictional, 65-ish homeowners, Jim and Sarah. Visitors will be encouraged to try out everything they see, starting with a welcoming flat-threshold doorway. Jim and Sarah have renovated their 1960s home so that they can continue to enjoy their active,...

This Old Home Picks Minneapolis' Prospect Park as Most Timeless

This Old House magazine recently published its fourth annual list of North America's most timeless neighborhoods from each of the 50 states. Minneapolis' Prospect Park was chosen to represent Minnesota.

 

 

House hunters and residents alike delight in Prospect Park's mazelike streets, which are lined with trees planted nearly a century ago and homeowners' pristine gardens. "In Minnesota, we're serious about our gardens, and in Prospect Park you can ratchet that up quite a bit," says Joe Ring, longtime resident and historic preservation committee chair for the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association. Sandwiched between the University of Minnesota campus and the border of twin (and rival) city St. Paul, this neighborhood has loads of character—and characters. "People here have an exceedingly...

Greening Minnesota ~ February 2011

With all eyes looking towards spring, there have been some environmental developments happening around the Twin Cities and Minnesota, particularly in regards to parks and natural areas. Here are some of the community-related green news and stories that broke in February.

All over the Twin Cities metro, registration for local community garden plots has begun or starts quite soon. Community gardens are popular right now, due to tough economic times and a desire for chemical-free, home-grown produce. People applying for community plots include homeowners, apartment dwellers, senior citizens, immigrants, people who are trying to save money on food and gardeners looking for green-thumb fun. The size and cost of renting a plot varies from city to city. In most locations, plots range from 10 by 15 feet to 20 by 20 feet and cost between $15 and $35 for the summer.

Workers have finished installing new pollution control equipment on the 58 older buses in Robbinsdale district's 114-bus fleet. The $87,000 project...

Greening Minnesota ~ January 2011

There have been some interesting environmental development happening around the Twin Cities and Minnesota. Here are some of the community-related green news and stories that broke in January.

An in-depth survey of 3,000 households in Ramsey and Anoka counties is providing environmental researchers at the University of Minnesota insight into what it would take to get people to make more of an effort to reduce their impact on the earth. They asked about thermostat settings, number of children, cars, bedrooms, miles driven to work, lawn size and fertilizer use, even whether there were vegetarians in the house. As it turns out, most people really do care about their impact on the environment. But what really drives them to change is knowing how they rank on their own personal pollution scores, how they compare to their neighbors, and where they can improve. In the end, the researchers hope to find out how best to influence social norms and change behavior toward a more eco-friendly culture.

More U.S. consumers...

Life In Richfield May Be Your Ticket To A Shorter Commute

Looking for the best community in the Twin cities for a relatively quick trip to work? Look no further than Richfield. Residents of this city, located at the heart of the Twin Cities' transit and highway system, get to work an average of two minutes faster than average state residents.

According to U.S. Census date released in December, Richfield MN residents had an average commute of 20.2 minutes, while Bloomington, St. Paul and Minneapolis trailed at 21 to 22 minutes. Commutes were much longer in outer-ring suburbs and bedroom communities such as Marine on St. Croix at 34.6 minutes, Chisago City at 35.1 minutes, Bethel at 37.7 minutes and Waverly at 39 minutes. Statewide, the average Minnesotan's commute...

Super-Sized Homes Are Out, Super-Small Homes Are In

The American home got supersized during the housing boom. In the era of the McMansion, a ginormous house was a symbol of status, but to current home buyers they are the epitome risk and high overhead. Today's home buyer wants something a little smaller.

After decades of expanding, the average size of new single-family American homes completed in 2009 dropped to a nationwide average of 2,438. That's about 100 square feet smaller than 2007, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

"There's so much more concern about very big homes," said Robert Lang, director of Brookings Mountain West, University of Nevada-Las Vegas. "People used to buy as much house as they could afford. Now they're saying, 'Even if I could buy that, do I really want to?'"

The recession and the availability of money is obviously part of why homes have shrunk. Smaller houses cost less to heat and cool, with the added benefit of being easier on the environment....

U of M Solar House Has No Buyers

MPR recently reported that University of Minnesota students have spent months trying to sell their prize-winning solar-powered house. They're having trouble finding a buyer for the 550 square-foot house.

As part of its "Sustainable Shelter" exhibit, the house is on display across the street from the Bell Museum in Minneapolis. The house is shaped like a typical Minnesota family home, but the roof is covered in solar panels.

The house placed fifth internationally in the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon last year. Although building costs reached $1 million, including a $100,000 Department of Energy grant and many donations, the house's market value has been set at $550,000 based on the cost of materials and labor.

Project coordinators put the home up for auction at a $200,000 minimum bid in the spring -- slightly higher than...