Following the lead of other neighborhood groups near the University of Minnesota, the Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association fashioned a new environment committee dedicated to finding green solutions to neighborhood problems.
Marcus Mills, co-chair of the new committee, said the idea came to him because he wanted a place to consider community solar projects. The MHNA’s land use committee took up the issue, but its members didn’t have the expertise to properly work on the projects, he said.
The committee, which began meeting in February, formed out of three neighborhood task forces for the Sixth Avenue Greenway, shade trees preservation and community gardens.
Mills said many of the association’s environmental ideas were already managed by one member of the association, so it made sense to create a specific committee for those issues.
The committee also helps manage area parks and works with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the MHNA land use committee.
MHNA isn’t the first nature-minded University neighborhood group. Southeast Como Improvement Association created its own committee in the ’90s, around the time Minneapolis started awarding grants for green projects.
Calder Hibbard, SECIA environment committee chair, said his group looks to improve air quality, add green spaces and encourage community residents to live greener.
“Our neighborhood is kind of unique because there is industry to the north, industry to the south, 35W to one side and 280 to the other,” he said.
Hibbard said engaging students in environmental projects, like community gardens, is one of the best ways to get them involved in the neighborhood.
SECIA and MHNA have worked together in the past, he said, pointing to the attempt to slow the spread of emerald ash borers in area trees.
Mills said in Marcy Holmes, the many old buildings that house newer businesses can lead to wasted energy.
MHNA won’t provide funding for the businesses to increase their energy efficiency but will help them find and apply for grants and assistance programs.
“We are a small neighborhood association, but we can do some of the matchmaking,” Mills said.
He said the committee also wants to push businesses to be greener by undergoing energy audits to find places where heat escapes, like under doorways and through building cracks.
Mills also said adding more solar energy options is another committee goal, and larger buildings and properties would likely be the primary targets.
Mike Mulrooney, owner of Blarney Pub and Grill said he is interested in making his business more nature-friendly and has already performed energy audits and switched to more energy-efficient lights.
However, those changes carry costs, which he said could be enough to keep some businesses from adopting greener practices.
“It’s definitely something that will happen, but it’s still in its infancy stage,” he said.
The MHNA committee is drafting a letter to promote green energy at neighborhood businesses and institutions but decided to hold off on sending it to look for help from the Great Plains Institute.