Report: Minneapolis’ sustainability efforts still moving forward

On most fronts, Minneapolis’ quest for continued and improved sustainability is on the right track. That’s the news found in the fourth Greenprint, the annual report on the city’s green efforts.

Staff members gave an hour-long, largely positive presentation April 14 that highlighted much of what went right in 2008. A couple of examples:

— For the second year in a row, there were no combined sewer overflows during rainstorms. That hadn’t occurred even once before 2007.– The city passed an idling ordinance to battle greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. Signs are going up soon in some city locations to remind drivers to not leave their vehicles idling for longer than three minutes.

— Minneapolis this year could overtake Portland, Ore., as the most-bicycled city in the country, according to a hunch from city bicycle coordinator Don Pflaum. He based it on past trends, including the one that put Minneapolis as No. 2 nationally in 2008 and the one that showed it as having the largest ridership increase in the U.S. from 2006 to 2007. Minneapolis already has the highest number of bike parking per capita in the country.

This also was the first year that the Greenprint contained a section devoted entirely to tracking green-collar jobs. Although the jobs’ exact definition is still in the works, the city now is developing lists and databases of sustainability-related occupations and partnering with such bodies as the Chamber of Commerce to help grow green-job career ladders.

With all of the good-news vibes staff provided during the presentation, the report did come with a few caveats.

For example, while the city hasn’t had a combined sewer overflow in two years, that could maybe be because of less-than-usual rainfall amounts in 2007 and 2008, said Lois Eberhardt of the Public Works Department.

The tree canopy proved problematic, too. There has been a net loss of about 9,000 public trees over five years. The city’s goal is to have zero net loss.

And in battling so-called unhealthy air days, Minneapolis is far from its 2015 goal of 35 days or less. In 2008, there were 166 unhealthy air days.

“Thirty-five may not be a target we reach until we have all electric vehicles,” said Daniel Huff of Environmental Services.

The entire 2009 report can be found at www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/sustainability.