Using grants to go green

Armed with $1,000 and a plan, a handful of community groups will work to make the city a little greener.

As part of the city’s “Mobilizing Citizens for Grassroots Climate Change” program, 20 community organizations each received $1,000 grants for their plans to encourage residents to reduce energy use. Recipients of the grants were announced during the July 9 meeting of the City Council’s Health, Energy and Environment Committee. They include neighborhood organizations, churches, recreation centers and non-profit organizations. A few projects on the diverse list include:

• The Kingfield neighborhood will use handheld electricity calculators to measure the electrical usage of residential appliances in one month. The data collected will be used to promote energy savings for all residents in the neighborhood newsletter.

• Bedlam Theatre, 1501 S. 6th St., will expand its “How did you get HERE?” program that gives $2 to every patron who arrives at the theatre via mass transit, biking or walking.

• Bike On, a Whittier-based organization that promotes bicycling in Minneapolis, will expand its “Women Bike On” program. The organization will hire two interns, fluent in Somali/Oromo/Amharic or Spanish, who will work to encourage immigrant women to bike and provide them with information about the Minneapolis Energy Challenge during eight weeks of classes on Saturday mornings.

• The Basilica of St. Mary will work to sign up 1,000 parishioners for the Minneapolis Energy Challenge by setting up tables after Mass and at the Basilica Block Party.

• Earthfusion, a non-profit organization that brings artists together to promote human rights and environmental sustainability, is putting together a festival that will “use music and art as a way to bring people together and expose them to positive actions they can take to reduce their impact on the globe.” The festival will be held Aug. 11 from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. in Loring Park.

• The Linden Hills Recreation Center will hold a “Good Energy” fair to inform residents about simply ways to reduce energy use. A compact florescent light bulb will be given to each person who signs up for the Minneapolis Energy Challenge.

Mayor R.T. Rybak said the plans are a good example of how the city can partner with its residents to create measurable change at the neighborhood level. He said there’s no doubt he wants to earmark money for the grants in the 2008 budget.

“I can already tell you that I want to put this in the budget again next year,” Rybak said.

Gayle Prest, the city’s manager of environmental programs, said the city can learn from the ideas brought forth by all of the 39 grant applicants.

“It’s a small amount of money, but what these organizations are doing is astonishing,” Prest said.