Green report

Residents take differing approaches to composting

Neighbors participating in the Linden Hills Compost pilot are experiencing the 1970s all over again.

Recycling was a new phenomenon then and many thought it was just a passing fad. Today, there is voluntary citywide recycling and, for the first time in Minneapolis, a voluntary compost pilot program in the Linden Hills neighborhood.

All organics, such as leftover food scraps, coffee grounds, and even pet hair can be piled in a bag, transported to compost bin and sent to a processing facility to break down naturally and safely. However, plastics, pet droppings and yard clippings are not allowed — at least not yet.

A recent meeting revealed that many of the roughly 1,000 residents taking part in the pilot program since its Sept. 15 launch have their own style and approach to composting.

Some set up compost piles in their backyards, while others use plastic storage containers in their back hallway.

A few residents questioned whether they could use plastic bags to reduce the stickiness of compost bins. The answer is no.

Therefore, organizers suggested using the somewhat pricey biodegradable garbage bags, or even — perhaps, sadly — this Southwest Journal as a liner for your organics bin.

The program’s director, Susan Young, said organics carts containing too many liquids, loose organics or nonorganics — such as wood scraps — will be tagged and left on the curb.

Organizers also recommended other helpful options: Convert your kitchen trashcan into a compost compactor or consider a pull-out “trash drawer” for trash featuring multiple compartments with organics, recyclable paper and nonrecyclables in three separate spaces.

Young said the jury is still out, however, on whether the progressive compost program will get past the pilot stage, noting that it will be evaluated after its first year.

Hennepin County Organics and Recycling Specialist John Jaimez said that, most of the time, 75 percent of residents must participate in a compost program to make it a viable option. Very early estimates Oct. 2 showed about 25 percent of Linden Hills residents participating.

The pilot program is funded by Hennepin County ($80,000) and Minneapolis ($500,000).

For a more comprehensive list of compostable materials, go to www.lhpowerandlight.org.

From the curb to the bank?

RecycleBank, a program that rewards those who recycle in the form of coupons, is taking off in western Hennepin County, but Allied Waste, which maintains exclusive rights to the program, said it doesn’t have a specific date of when it would be pitched as a possibility in Minneapolis.

“I don’t know right now,” said Allied Waste’s District Municipal Services Manager Rich Hirstein. “[Minneapolis] has a recycling contract and different contract all together. But we would certainly love to talk to them.”

The program, which has seen success in a growing number cities, likely wouldn’t be able to be adopted in Minneapolis unless a number of city contracts expired or were amended, Hirstein said.

Susan Young, Minneapolis’s solid waste and recycling director, said that she will take a close look at RecycleBank after the Linden Hills Compost Pilot program ends, but that, by and large, the program is only a viable option in the suburbs where micro-chipped recycling bins would be easier to collect and keep track of from week-to-week.

While Hirstein didn’t have a specific timetable as to when he would pitch RecycleBank plans to the city, he said: “We fully intend to soon.”

Young said that adopting RecycleBank in Minneapolis would mean hiring an estimated three full-time employees at a cost of $120,000, getting local business on board and the end of the recycling credit.

Both Hirstein and Young are awaiting results of the newly launched RecycleBank programs in specific neighborhoods in Eden Prairie (October) and Maple Grove (February) to produce quantifiable results.

Several Southwest legislators awarded for green voting record

Five Southwest legislators had clean, green voting records in 2008, according to a conservation organization.

As a result, state Reps. Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL-60A), Paul Thissen (DFL-63A) and Karen Clark (DFL-61A), and state Sens. Scott Dibble (DFL-60) and Dan Larson (DFL-63), received the so-called “100% Minnesotan” award Sept. 22 for their “perfect record on key conservation, energy and clean water votes” during the 2008 Minnesota legislative session.

The Conservation Minnesota Voter Center, which presented the award, bills itself as a nonpartisan informational organization that enables citizens to check Minnesota legislative voting records on green issues.

The five Southwest lawmakers awarded were part of a contingent of 40 state representatives and state 17 senators who performed perfectly, according to www.mnvotercenter.org.

The website scored legislators’ votes on a proposed constitutional amendment to increase state investment in clean water, parks and habitat; environmentally friendly transportation funding; clean cars; nontoxic toys; global warming-emissions cuts; recycling; and others.

Green report

Old home, green living on display during Parade

LOWRY HILL — A Queen Anne Victorian house, one of the oldest in the neighborhood, will be featured as a “dream-remodeled home” during the Oct. 10–12 Parade of Homes.

Originally built in 1885, it recently underwent a whole-house remodeling, according to a news release. Despite the makeover, its historic status was maintained — with a twist.

The homeowners were determined to incorporate advanced energy-efficient systems, and the result is a home that surpasses many national green standards.

Some of the most significant eco-friendly contributions might go unnoticed at first glance. Builders used medium-density fiberboard, and wood scraps were reused to save trees. No and low-volatile organic compound finishes were used as a healthier and safer alternative to typical finishes, according to the release. No-added-formaldehyde cabinetry was used to maintain high indoor air quality.

The U.S. Green Building Council is expected to soon give the home Leadership of Energy Environmental Design certification, meaning the house is fully operational while having only a minimal environmental impact.

For more information about the Parade of Homes, go to www.paradeofhomes.org.

Good Energy Fair on Oct. 11

LINDEN HILLS — A hodgepodge of green issues will take center stage Oct. 11 during this year’s installment of the Good Energy Fair. It promises to explain “phantom energy” and eco-shopping and to address lingering questions about bicycles and the neighborhood’s compost pilot program. It’s also supposed to be a fun distraction for families.

Organizer Deb Pierce, of Coffee Table Productions, said there were about 200 participants last year, a number she hopes will be duplicated this year.

There should be enough to do. A full slate of workshops includes presentations by Jeanne Lakso of the Linden Hills Co-op and Madalyn Cici of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Nature and art activities will be held for children, and there will be a “Cool Planet” play shop.

Following in the footsteps of other recent Linden Hills-based activities, Pierce said the plan is to produce zero waste during the fair. The city will provide compost dumping, she said. The event also should be carbon neutral — Pierce said three tons of carbon offset will be purchased through NativeEnergy’s Windbuilders program.

The fair will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Linden Hills Park, 43rd Street & Xerxes Avenue. For more information, go to www.coffeetableproductions.com.

Whittier Green air on Oct. 18

WHITTER — Planning on heading to the Good Energy Fair but want to further quench the thirst for all things green? Just wait a week.

The Whittier Alliance-sponsored Whittier Green Fair is set for 1-4 p.m. Oct. 18 at First Christian Church, 2201 1st Ave. S.

The event will feature four workshops that will cover topics such as green roofs, solar power and community gardens. Exhibitors are expected to include Transit for Livable Communities, MetroTransit, the city’s Solid Waste and Recycling department and Hennepin County Master Gardeners.

For more information, go to www.whittieralliance.org.

Minneapolis: Even more sustainable than in ’05

Success!

Minneapolis has found itself in yet another top 10 list, this time being named one of the United States’ most sustainable cities. It’s No. 7, one spot above Philadelphia and one spot below Boston.

This is actually a step up for Minneapolis, which was No. 10 in the same list just three years ago. Rankings are put together by SustainLane.com, an online guide to sustainable living. Qualifications include the availability of local food — which Minneapolis actually was ranked No. 1 for — the quality of tap water, green-building practices and mass transit use.

Portland, Ore., the city Minneapolis leaders often look toward, is this year’s No. 1 in the list.

Watershed Heroes honored

A city, a City Councilmember and a floral company were among the recipients of this year’s Watershed Heroes awards. The annual honors are given out by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to citizens and organizations that have made substantial contributions to water quality and have encouraged others to follow their lead, according to a news release.

Award-winners included:

• City Councilmember Sandy Colvin Roy (12th Ward), for her work with the National League of Cities her personal efforts toward raising awareness of storm water management issues.

• David Oltmans and Friends of Diamond Lake, who received the Citizen Engagement Award for their attempts at getting fellow citizens involved in protecting and improving Minneapolis waters.

• Bachman’s Floral, Home and Garden, which received a nod for its displays and demonstrations highlighting attractive and innovative storm water management techniques for homeowners.

• The city of Minnetonka, for its land conservation program and focus on environmental restoration and protection.

For a complete list of recipients and for more information, go to www.minnehahacreek.org.