Linden Hills: A neighborhood convinced

It was Tom Braun’s challenge: Once you’ve convinced someone of something, then what?

Three years ago, Braun’s friend, environmentalist Will Steger, held a meeting in the home of the curly haired, thoughtfully spoken owner of the Wild Rumpus bookstore. A sobering global warming discussion followed.

The world is changing. Ice caps are melting. Land and life will dramatically be affected.

Braun heard the familiar arguments. But, he asked, how could it be moved forward? So much stock was being put into convincing people that the issue was real that talk of ways to fix it was limited, lingering on such small efforts as switching to fluorescent light bulbs. What else could be done? he asked.

Once you’ve convinced people that global warming is real, then what?

The answer, as it turns out, is it takes a village to combat climate change.

Or a neighborhood with a village vibe. Like Linden Hills.

Braun’s question became a small community meeting. The meeting became a ride-to-work event. The event became a nonprofit. The nonprofit became a neighborhood label.

Since its 2006 creation, Linden Hills Power & Light has breathed new life into the area surrounded by lakes Calhoun and Harriet, retooling its image from a place that’s safe to raise a child to a place where environmental friendliness isn’t just a fad — it’s a part of life.

Linden Hills has become home to an annual Good Energy Fair, an EcoParents group and a slew of zero-waste events. It’s the site of Minneapolis’ pilot project for curbside compost pickup and the host of a green film festival. One of the city’s first homes with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification was built on Abbott Avenue.

Power & Light, meanwhile, continues to study the feasibility of bringing an anaerobic digester — an organic energy producer currently known only to rural areas in the United States — into the metro.

How did all of this happen so quickly, so easily?

It could be tracked to the days of the counter culture, when some Linden Hills residents were known to perform rogue tree treatments. But neighbors said it’s more likely the result of its small-town feel. Almost everyone knows everyone; blocks are highly involved with one another. The 43rd & Upton business hub, with its grocer, baker, florist and coffee maker, is more a village center than a collection of local shops.

When someone sees someone on a daily basis, when everyone knows everyone, they want to do good, residents such as Bryce Hamilton and Deb Pierce said.

That’s why Linea Palmisano, chairwoman of the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council, said being environmentally conscious isn’t an option anymore — it’s the norm. Not being green would be like speeding down 43rd Street.

“I wouldn’t want to be caught doing that in my village,”
Palmisano said.

Linden Hills’ green highlights

Curbside compost pickup pilot

Since September, Minneapolis has been using Linden Hills as a guinea pig for a curbside collection program for compost. Residents are separating their compostables — such as paper towels, coffee grounds, dryer lint and pizza boxes — from their trash and dumping them in 65-gallon bins, which get emptied at the same time as their regular trash pickup. About 40 percent of the neighborhood’s households are participating, and if the city finds the program cost-effective, it could be expanded to all neighborhoods.

Zero waste

The Linden Hills Neighborhood Council decided last summer to try and produce little to no waste at its annual neighborhood festival. That meant no foam cups, no straws, no balloons. The results were better than expected: Despite a couple thousand attendees, the festival generated just two bags of trash. The rest went into 12 tightly filled compost bins. Witnessing the surprising ease of the process, residents have tried to continue down the zero waste path. On National Night Out, many blocks gave it a try, and even recent political rallies produced little to no trash.

EcoParents

One of the neighborhood’s newer programs, EcoParents is the brainchild of Keiko Veasey, the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council’s vice chairwoman. Veasey is modeling it after the EcoMom Alliance, a nonprofit that focuses on mothers to create a sustainable future. The goal is for parents — and nonparents, if they want — to come together in a book-club-style forum to discuss ways to reduce waste and toxicity. The hope is that green parenting practices will eventually transfer over to kids.