Green digest // Metro Blooms

Metro Blooms honors area gardens

KENNY — Metro Blooms held its annual Blooms Day awards ceremony honoring the best Twin Cities gardens May 16 at Kenny Community School, 5720 Emerson Ave. S.

The school also won the Best Public Building garden award for 2009. Kenny has an environmental focus, and students over the past several years planted several rain gardens on school grounds.

There were other Southwest-area award winners, including the Linden Hills Co-op, which won for Best Window Box Garden.

Metro Blooms is a Minneapolis nonprofit that promotes “environmentally sound gardening and landscaping practices to improve the health of our land and water resources.”

In addition to the annual awards ceremony, Metro Blooms hosts a two-part workshop on designing and building rain gardens regularly at locations throughout the metro area. Rain gardens are planted with native species that require less fertilizer and pesticides and also help absorb storm water runoff.

A June 4 workshop in the Kingfield neighborhood was full, the organization reported on its website. For information on future workshops, check the Metro Blooms website (www.metroblooms.org/).

Visitors to the Metro Blooms website also can nominate their favorite gardens and gardeners for the Blooms Day 2010 awards.

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Minnesota team wins clean water competition

A competition to bring clean water to the residents of an impoverished part of India was won by a team of University of Minnesota students.

The winners of the first Acara Challenge flew May 26 to Mumbai, India, where they planned to implement their clean water business plan for the city’s slums, made famous in the movie “Slumdog Millionaire.” The University of Minnesota students competed against teams from the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, the Illinois Institute of Technology and a group of high school students supported by Leonardo’s Basement, a Southwest-based art and science educational center.

The Acara Institute, a St. Paul-based nonprofit, aims to create a series of competitions that will seek to solve complex international problems through the development of sustainable business models. The Cargill Corporation funded this initial challenge.

The Minnesota college students, working in collaboration with students in India, developed a plan to increase the amount of clean water available to residents of Mumbai’s slums. Currently, access to water for many of the hundreds of thousands of residents is limited to 10 gallons per person, four hours per day, and it is not reliably sanitary, the Acara Institute reported.

The winning proposal was built around an existing public toilet system in the slums. The buildings are located in neighborhoods where plumbing often does not reach to individual residences.

Brian Bell, a member of the winning team, said: “We liked how this system had been successful and wanted to do the same thing with water.”

Bell, a recent graduate with a degree in civil engineering, said the team developed a business plan for distributing water at the public toilets, which have an existing customer base. The model cuts out water distribution middlemen, lowering the cost of drinking water to impoverished slum residents, he said.

He said local municipal authorities “were very responsive to basically inserting water services at these sanitation service locations that were already existing.”

Bell said the visit to Mumbai in May and June was a chance to further study the feasibility of their idea, with hopes of turning the water distribution model into a sustainable business.

“We have two weeks to really explore not only our business idea, but to learn more and experience the problems,” he said.

Acara Institute Executive Director Erin Binder said the University of Minnesota team came up with the most compelling solution to the challenge, which was left “intentionally vague” for the teams. That produced a variety of solutions to the water problem.

The team from Leonardo’s Basement, for example, impressed judges with a plan to collect human waste from the slums and convert it to fuel that would power ovens in the slum’s pottery district. The ovens also would produce heat for water sterilization.

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Recycle at your summer event

Hennepin County has 10 portable beverage container recycling units available to rent for summer events.

The ClearStream CycleMax are designed to encourage recycling and control litter at outdoor events. Each unit consists of a frame and clear plastic bag with recycling signage.

The recycling containers are available for rent by community groups, nonprofit organizations and others holding events. A refundable deposit is required at least two weeks in advance.

For more information contact the county Environmental Services Department at 348-3777.