Green digest // Sustainability report

Minneapolis issues sustainability report

Fewer reports of lead poisoning in children and improved water quality in two city lakes were among the highlights in Minneapolis-Living Well, the city’s 2009 report on sustainability issued June 1.

The report tracks 25 “sustainability indicators” measuring Minneapolis’ progress toward a healthier, cleaner and more livable city. It was the fourth year the city issued the report, which can be read online at the city’s website (www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/sustainability/).

The 32-page report measures sustainability in several areas, including the health of Minneapolis residents, the quality of the city environment and the safety and vitality of Minneapolis neighborhoods. This year’s report tracks progress in these areas in 2008.

A presentation to the City Council’s Health, Energy and Environment Committee highlighted a 22-percent decrease in the number of children identified as having lead poisoning, to 116 children in 2008 from 149 in 2007. Since 2002, there was an increase in both the percentage of Minneapolis children tested for lead poisoning and the percentage of homes inspected for lead contamination.

One environmental sustainability indicator the report tracks is the water quality in the chain of lakes. The city measures clarity, phosphorous levels and the amount of algae to measure progress toward water quality targets.

Lake Calhoun hit its water quality target for the fourth year in a row, while Brownie Lake got a passing grade for the first time.

Not all sustainability indicators were moving in the right direction. Infant mortality rates and the number of new HIV cases both rose slightly.

The number of families experiencing homelessness also increased in 2008.

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Half a bag of trash

How much garbage would you expect a couple thousand people and dozens of vendors to leave behind after a daylong community celebration?  

How about half a bag? That’s the total amount of waste that couldn’t be composted or recycled May 16 at the annual Linden Hills neighborhood festival.

The Linden Hills Neighborhood Council (LHiNC) made a commitment to make its annual get-together as green as possible last year, when it made the leap from an overflowing dumpster of trash to just two bags. With a little extra effort, the group did even better this year.

“That’s about as close to zero waste as you can get,” said LHiNC vice chairwoman Keiko Veasey.

LHiNC worked with vendors prior to the festival to make sure as much as possible could be composted or recycled. Latex gloves, required by city code, were about the only thing that vendors had to toss into the garbage, Veasey said.

Volunteer “disposal monitors” helped vendors and festival attendees find the right bins for everything else. At the end of the event, 10 compost carts and two recycling bins were full.

“I have to say we have the absolute best volunteers to serve as disposal monitors and that’s how it happens,” Veasey said. “It wouldn’t happen without them.”

She said volunteers went through the one trash bag at the end of the event and separated several items for composting or recycling. Most of the garbage was brought from outside the event, she said.

The festival, usually hosted on a Sunday, was on a Saturday this year for the first time in recent memory, so it would take place on the same day as the neighborhood’s annual rummage sale.

Veasey said attendance was down slightly from previous years and finding volunteers was more difficult, probably because of participation in the rummage sale. LHiNC hasn’t decided when next year’s festival will be, but it will remain a green event.

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City recognized for climate grants

A Minneapolis-based environmental nonprofit honored the city May 29 for its first-in-the-nation micro grant program supporting efforts to combat climate change.

The Minnesota Environmental Initiative awarded Minneapolis its 2009 Environmental Initiative Award in the category of energy and climate change for the city’s Climate Change Grants program. Begun in 2007, the program awards small grants in amounts of up to $1,500 or $10,000 to local organizations that motivate their members to shrink their carbon footprints.

Past recipients of the micro grants include Linden Hills Power and Light, a neighborhood-based organization that focuses on organic waste, and the nonprofit Bike On organization, which taught Somali and Hispanic women to ride and take care of bicycles.

All Climate Change Grant recipients agree to promote the Minnesota Energy Challenge, a website that allows users to calculate their personal carbon footprint.

The city has awarded 65 Climate Change Grants since 2007, including 15 earlier this year. The city estimates that with the 2007 and 2008 grants, residents and businesses pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10.9 million pounds and reduce energy costs by $1.33 million annually.

The Minnesota Environmental Initiative has held its annual Environmental Initiative Awards program since 1994. The organization promotes cooperation between nonprofit groups, business and government to benefit the environment.

Learn more about the organization at its website (www.mn-ei.org).