Green report

Government report: Climate change doesn’t bode well

Remember last month, when Minneapolis was reported to be the seventh best outdoors city in the United States by Forbes magazine? If a new government report on global warming proves true, all that could change dramatically in only a few decades. As in, expect more health problems, more heavy snow and more extreme temperatures by 2050.

That’s the message Minneapolitans can take away from a U.S. government assessment on global warming, released May 29. Commissioned by the Department of Agriculture, the 193-page report was produced by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program.

It doesn’t provide many global warming arguments not heard before, but there are some ideas embedded within that could be particularly noteworthy for the Twin Cities.

For example, the report notes that total annual precipitation increased by about 6 percent from 1901 to 2005. The northern Midwest, along with the South, experienced the greatest increase.

The contiguous United States as a whole also has had “statistically significant” increases in heavy precipitation. For northern states, a continued increase in winter precipitation is all but expected, according to the report.

Furthermore, increasing temperatures could disproportionately burden Midwestern cities such as Minneapolis. That’s because they are “generally not as well-adapted as Southern cities,” and their residents are likely to suffer more from heat-related illnesses. Add to that a projected 4.5 percent increase in ozone-related deaths by 2050, and the report paints a very dire picture.

As is well documented, there are those who don’t agree with global warming studies’ assessments that humans have contributed to climate change. The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, for example, says it has more than 31,000 signatures from U.S. scientists on a petition that says there is no convincing scientific evidence humans are causing the Earth’s atmosphere to heat up.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently reported that one of those signatures came from WCCO-TV meteorologist Mike Fairbourne. He told the paper that “squishy science” is being used to create blame.

Hennepin County paper: 100 percent used

As part of its green purchasing program, Hennepin County has started exclusively using 100 percent recycled copier and printer paper.

According to a county newsletter, it had been using 30 percent recycled paper. The 70 percent gap was a big one, considering the county uses about 1.6 million sheets of paper a month.

The newsletter said the switch is helping the county save 1,600 trees, 500,000 gallons of water and power for 12 homes.

Go to www.co.hennepin.mn.us to learn more.

More green to buy

Twin Cities Green, the eco-friendly household, bag and trinket store at 2405 Hennepin Ave. S., has expanded its inventory with the closing of its sister store, South Minneapolis’ Re Gift.

For more on the inventory expansion, check out the biz buzz.

Green report

Linden Hills Festival goes ‘zero waste’

What’s a neighborhood festival without balloons? Linden Hills residents just found out.

This year’s annual festival, held May 18, was almost entirely “zero waste” — meaning there mostly was no use of noncompostable and nonrecyclable items such as some plastics, Styrofoam and rubber.

That meant no foam cups. No plastic lids. No straws.

Overall, it also meant no problems.

Keiko Veasey, vice chairwoman of the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council (LHiNC), was in charge of keeping the celebration running smoothly despite the lack of some festival staples. She had to make sure all participants hosting booths or events within the festival would abide by the zero-waste rule.

“It does take some extra thought and creative problem-solving,” Veasey said in an e-mail to the Southwest Journal.

She said she sought out advice from nonprofits Eureka Recycling and Linden Hills Power and Light. Overall, that made the project not too challenging, she said. Food was the toughest aspect, considering so much consumption involves the use of wasteful materials. On top of foam cups, plastic lids and straws, foil bags of chips and condiment packets had to be done away with, Veasey said. (One aspect did prove to be too tough for the zero waste effort: Preparing food without latex gloves was just a bit too unhygienic.)

The decision to go zero waste was pretty much a no-brainer for a neighborhood deeply invested in environmental issues. And because about 2,000 people were expected to attend the festival — LHiNC chairwoman Linea Palmisano afterward said the actual turnout appeared to be much higher — the neighborhood council thought it would be smart to seek out ways to minimize its environmental footprint.

From the look of things, it worked.

About 12 compost bins were filled by the end of the day, Veasey said, along with large amounts of recyclables. Waste from the thousands of attendees was limited to just two trash bags.

“I think we usually fit waste in a dumpster and a half,” Palmisano said. “That was the teachable moment right there.”

There was one side effect nobody had anticipated: “I ended up with all sorts of wrappers in my pockets, and I didn’t know where to put it,” Palmisano said.

But that’s a small price to pay, she said, for educating a community.

“I hope people realize it isn’t as hard as it seems,” she said. “If 13 board members who are nonprofessionals [when it comes to zero-waste efforts] can do this, anybody can.”

Immediate fate of compost pilot program in governor’s hands

It’s been more than six months since the City Council gave the go-ahead for a pilot program that will initiate curbside collection of compost in Linden Hills.

At the time, excitement in the neighborhood was beginning to boil. Since then, it’s bubbled over.

But residents mostly have been in the dark about when they can expect to have their compost picked up.

“There are people telling me, ‘I’m storing compost in my freezer waiting for this project,’ ” said Tom Braun, of nonprofit Linden Hills Power and Light. The community-based group, dedicated to waste reduction and energy conservation, was a big reason Linden Hills was chosen as the first neighborhood in Minneapolis to collect organic waste.

The holdup, Braun said, can be blamed on a state law that doesn’t allow Source Separated Organics (SSO) — which can include pizza boxes, paper towels and other biodegradable substances — and yard waste to be combined in the same container.

That means separate bags, separate pickups and a more costly process, said Susan Young, director of the city’s Solid Waste and Recycling division and who is spearheading the pilot project.

Young said she is trying to be as cost-effective as possible with the project. Furthermore, making it more difficult for residents to identify what type of compost would go in which bag would hurt the participation rate, she said.

The most lasting way to work around the issue, Young said, was to change the law. That process has taken some time and is the reason the project has not yet launched.

The bill containing the alteration passed the state Legislature near the end of the session and was presented to Gov. Tim Pawlenty on May 19. When this edition of the Southwest Journal went to press, Pawlenty had yet to sign it into law.

As soon as the law’s fate is finalized, Young said she’d send out flyers to the neighbors who signed up for the project to provide further details.

She said that, barring a veto, pickups could begin within the month.

“I’m very hopeful,” Young said.