Minneapolis initiates eco-friendly strategies

The GreenPrint report provides positive feedback toward city’s sustainability effort.

McKenna Ewen

A comprehensive report recently released by the city shows that Minneapolis is headed in a greener direction.

In 2003, Mayor R.T. Rybak introduced a sustainability initiative focused on 10 key environmental factors, but could not evaluate the city’s progress until now.

The report highlights renewable energy, transportation alternatives and water runoff retention.

“It helps identify specific indicators, set benchmarks and targets, so we can really measure out our progress,” said Minneapolis spokesman Jeremy Hanson.

Environmental Services Manager Gayle Prest oversaw the report, which she feels is closely related to quality of life.

“When we talk about environmental issues, it also has a lot to do with what makes the city a great place to live,” Prest said.

Though the city has taken the lead, individuals are also responsible for greener neighborhoods, she said.

“There’s so much that all of us can do, whether it’s a school, business, household or the city,” she said.

Renewable energy

Xcel Energy Resource Planning Analyst Rick Peterson said wind energy is currently the most prominent renewable energy source.

According to Xcel Energy, 6,300 Minneapolis customers participated in the Windsource program, the nation’s largest voluntary wind program, which allows homeowners to purchase some or all of their energy from wind turbines.

In 2006, Xcel reported that renewable energy made up 12 percent of all energy produced, up 5 percent from the previous year. The percentage of coal and natural gas/oil, however, increased slightly at the expense of nuclear power.

Peterson said the Metro Emission Reduction Project, a voluntary program that would decrease emissions at three Minneapolis power plants, should reduce emissions from coal to natural gas. The project will be completed in 2009.

Sewer overflow

In 2000, almost 60 million gallons of storm water and untreated sewage ran off into the Mississippi River. By 2006, that number had dropped to fewer than half a million gallons.

The city is making 2,000 55-gallon rain barrels available at a discounted price to reduce water runoff into the Mississippi river.

The University did its part to help by adding several rain guards on the St. Paul campus to collect water, University Energy Director Jerome Malmquist said.

Transportation

According to the report, light-rail ridership increased 19 percent and bus ridership increased 4 percent. Metro Transit reported its highest annual ridership since 1984. That’s fewer people in their cars, which helps reduce carbon emissions in the city.

“This shows that people are willing to use mass transit and that it’s working,” Second Ward Councilman Cam Gordon said.

He said he’d like to see another comprehensive transportation count to measure pedestrian and cyclist traffic downtown, as was last done in 2003.