Green report

Green scenes in Linden Hills

Al Gore would be proud.

The star of “An Inconvenient Truth” may be the foremost celebrity in the world of environment-based independent filmmaking, but those who participated in Linden Hills Power & Light’s (LHP&L) first-ever Green Carpet Film Festival on Oct. 23 are certainly taking strides to follow in his small carbon footprints.

The film festival’s 25 topical submissions focused on ways to live a more eco-friendly life. The neighborhood, which has already undertaken an organics compost pilot project and is eyeing the purchase of an anaerobic digester, can now add a film credit to its growing list of green activities. Submissions were between 30 seconds and two minutes.

Three filmmakers received honorable mentions (and $150 each); three were deemed “runners up” ($300) and Laddie Messig’s silent film “Clown Goes Green” took home the $500 cash prize and a Golden Garby — LHP&L’s equivalent of an Oscar.

In the Chaplin-esque film, Messig resolved to keep a red clown nose on until he meets his goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions under the Minnesota Energy Challenge.

The Green Film Fest was funded in part by a Minneapolis Climate Change Initiative Grant, and may return in 2009, according to neighborhood coordinator Felicity Britton.

Winning entries can be seen at

What will become of the millions of political yard signs?

So 120 million people voted Nov. 4. But what will become of the millions of political signs?

Well, it depends on how creative you want to get. Here are a few ideas, inspired by

• Save it for the grandkids. After all, it’s a piece of political history.

• Recycle it. The signs, whether they’re plastic, metal, wood, or corrugated plastic (also known as coroplast) can be dropped off at collection sites. Calls to Hennepin County’s Environmental Services division, however, did not net an answer of where or if they can be dropped off. Resource Recovery Program center in St. Paul said they’d accept the signs and dispose of them as long as they are wood or cardboard, an employee said. However, the minimum charge is about $23.

• Make them into bike parts. Kent Peterson, formerly of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, managed to form parts of a bike frame out of coroplast signs.

His photo blog at will teach you how to make your own fenders, panniers (bike basket) or handlebar bags. The site encourages collectors of the president-elect’s political memorabilia to trade or reuse campaign materials instead of throwing them away. No commerce is accepted on the site. Everything’s free.

Street-sweeping continues

City crews began street-sweeping Oct. 21, and the job should be complete before Thanksgiving on Nov. 27. But according to a recent city news release, the city sees the twice-annual street-sweeping through an environmental lens.

“Residents should not push leaves, grass clippings, or other debris into city streets — it’s bad for our lakes and waterways, can cause safety hazards, and is against the law,” the release said.

Aside from possibly clogging stormwater drains, the debris that does go down a storm drain flows “directly into our lakes and river, and decomposing plant material in the water encourages the growth of harmful aquatic plants and algae,” the release said.

The city vowed to do their best to plant temporary no parking signs at least a day in advance of sweeping. However, if vehicles remain on a block, there’s a good chance they could be towed and ticketed.

The exact timing of the street sweeping will be set based on weather and other conditions this fall, however crews should complete all sweeping during the week of Nov. 17.

Go to to find what date your street is scheduled to be swept.

Green Institute turns 15

It’s home to the Will Steger Foundation and Peace Coffee and serves as an epicenter for green ideas and projects in the city.

Located in the Phillips neighborhood, the Green Institute celebrated its 15th anniversary Nov. 13, with an expected gathering of about 100 people.

Founded in 1993, the Institute has played a great role in “the incubation of green initiatives” in Minneapolis and elsewhere, said program associate Agatha Vaaler.

It’s members helped build the environmentally progressive Phillips Eco Enterprise Center (PEEC), which houses the Green Institute and some 15 green tenants, including the Steger Foundation. The construction of PEEC helped to influence Leader in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building standards, now used across the world.

The Institute’s community energy program director is working with Linden Hills on the anaerobic digester project. For more information, go to

Green report

County commits to dramatic reduction in emissions by 2050

A slue of the county’s greenest representatives gathered at the Cool County Fair Oct. 15 at the Government Center to share the latest in eco-friendly fads with locals and local government workers.

Under the Cool County Initiative, Hennepin County has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from county operations by 80 percent by 2050.

Hennepin was the 12th county in the nation to adopt the Cool County Initiative, which asks employees to eliminate the causes of global climate change by doing the little things. One of the more interesting programs is vermicomposting, in which worms — specifically red wigglers — break down organic waste into fertilizer, is currently being used at the county’s Adult Correction Facility in Plymouth.

“It’s just kind of a fun project for our [inmates] to do,” said the project’s coordinator Jacque Reay.

For the last 17 months, Reay said inmates have managed to collect and breakdown upwards of 100 pounds of excess food a week. That translates to about 10 gallons black liquid — basically the worms’ feces — that makes a great fertilizer for the facility’s flourishing gardens.

The reduction in garbage means smaller waste hauling bills for the county, and a smelly, but stimulating chore for those who participate.

The red wigglers eat a wide variety of organics, including fruits, vegetables and eggshells. They love coffee grounds, Reay said.

Those wishing to start their own vermicultural system, or worm farm, need only a bin (a plastic water cooler jug works well), the proper food (no citrus, twigs or meats), and tolerant roommates.

New ways to get around

The county also plans to reduce its carbon footprint by relying more often on public transportation.

By 2020, Metro Transit, which oversees almost all public transportation in the cities, would like to double bus ridership and use quieter, cleaner buses.

The Twin Cities as a whole, if plans stay as they are, will become a commuter and light-rail magnet, with numerous rail corridors bringing in and shipping out workers and shoppers alike.

The Cool County Fair also included information about HOURCAR, hybrid rental cars available for $8 an hour, on average. After paying a one-time HOURCAR membership fee of $50, and a varying monthly fee and mileage fees, those who are looking to lease a car (or can’t afford one) may end up saving a good amount of dough by reserving one of HOURCAR’s 16 Toyota Priuses, an HOURCAR spokesman said. There are four (popular) locations to pick up a car in Uptown, and HOURCAR just rolled out a solar-powered hub in Selby-Dale neighborhood of St. Paul.

Drivers must have a fairly clean driving record, with no major recent moving violations, to become an HOURCAR member. For more information, go to

Cycling for smoothies

Employees from The Hub Bike Coop traded their bike wrenches for blenders Oct. 15. Those willing to work up a slight sweat could hop on a stationary bike that powered a makeshift blender which mixed smoothies. The faster one biked, the better the smoothie. The “gimic” was simply an effort to get more people to stop by and learn about safe riding and programming available for bikers.

One brochure described tips for winter biking, which urged bikers to wear a reflective band around the right pant leg, avoid too many layers of socks and wear a thin, water/windproof jacket and wool gloves.

Wind, solar energy tips

While wind turbines are almost solely confined to rural areas of the state, wind energy is being looked at as a possibility in cities. However, in Minneapolis, zoning restrictions prohibit nearly every wind turbine. As a response, the vertical access wind turbine, which can be placed atop one’s roof, is an increasingly popular option, experts said.

However, solar energy is already used in the city and is an emerging resource. Recently, members of the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society led a solar homes tour, showcasing 52 of Minnesota’s most progressive and energy-efficient homes. The group’s website,, listed a solar-powered home in Linden Hills as a stop on the tour.

The Vifquain residence at 4145 Chowen Ave. S., with 24 solar panels built into its roof, was one of more than 50 sites statewide, and one of eight in Minneapolis, on the tour. In the end, 22 vendors, many from the county, manned tables in an effort to get the word out about going green. For more information on the vendors at the fair, go to

Brian Voerding contributed to this report.