Green digest // Riding for the trees

BRYN MAWR — A Bryn Mawr man planned to ride 500 miles on his bicycle in July in support TREE Fund, a charitable trust based in Illinois that is a major source of funding for tree education and research.

Shaun Malady expected to join riders from around the world in the annual STIHL Tour des Trees, a weeklong cross-country bicycle ride. The STIHL Tour des Trees set off July 19 from New York City, wind its way through New England and wrap up July 25 in Providence, R.I.

Malady has worked as an arborist for about 10 years. He currently works at Rainbow Treecare Scientific Advancements, a Minnetonka company that researches and develops tree care products.

Malady said he’d never been to the Big Apple before and was eager to check out the trees in Central Park. He was counting on several months of training to get him through the long, hard miles to follow his brief stop in the city.

“I’ve put on probably 1,800 miles so far this year,” he said.

Each rider was required to raise at least $3,500 to participate in the tour. Last year, the event raised more than $250,000 for the TREE Fund, money that went to support the fund’s research grants and education scholarships.

The tour has raised more than $4 million since the first ride in 1992, TREE Fund reported.

Reached by phone a few days before the Tour des Trees, Malady said he was excited for the ride, but even more excited to meet his fellow riders.

“The biggest thing [for me] is meeting tree lovers from around the country,” he said.

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Beat the heat with less energy

With the season at the statistical peak for high temperatures, the city in July issued some tips for staying cool while consuming less energy.

Minneapolis reported electricity demand typically peaks on the hottest summer days, when air conditioners are cranked up to keep homes and workplaces cool. That, of course, translates into both greater energy use and higher electricity bills.

Improving air conditioner efficiency can go a long way toward reducing energy use. Two simple steps involve cleaning or replacing the air conditioner’s filter and making sure the unit’s coils are clear of dust, Xcel Energy reports on its website.

Air conditioning units also should be sized appropriately to the space they’re meant to cool. And keeping the AC unit cool — under trees or some other type of shading — can cut energy use, as well.

An even better way to reduce energy consumption is simply to use the air conditioner less.

Ceiling fans typically use less energy than air conditioners, and can reduce the need to turn on the AC in the first place, Xcel suggests. A programmable thermostat is a cheap upgrade to a home heating and cooling system, and can save homeowners money by turning the air conditioner off during the day, when no one is home.

Take it a step further and sign up for the Xcel Saver’s Switch program. Participants agree to cycle their air conditioner on and off every 15 or 20 minutes, and in exchange get a 15-percent discount on electricity bills from June through September.

For additional tips on lowering cooling costs, visit xceleergy.com/mplsconserves.

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HOURCAR expanding in Southwest

The HOURCAR car-sharing program arrived in Kingfield earlier this summer, and may soon expand to another Southwest neighborhood.

After months of attempting to secure a location, Bryn Mawr residents had a tentative agreement in July to place an HOURCAR hub in the Anwatin Middle School parking lot, near the intersection of Upton Avenue South and Laurel Avenue. At the Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Association’s July meeting, board members discussed ways to raise the $12,000–$15,000 needed to open a new, one-vehicle HOURCAR hub.

HOURCAR’s fuel-efficient vehicles are stationed at hubs spread across Minneapolis and St. Paul, including five in Southwest. New members pay an application fee, and then rent the cars on a per-trip basis.

To learn more about the HOURCAR program, membership rates and hub locations, visit www.hourcar.org.

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Thirsty trees

Has it rained yet?

When this edition of the Southwest Journal went to press, the metro area was still in the grips of a significant drought. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board was asking for homeowners’ help getting boulevard trees through the dry weather.

Park Board crews planted about 4,000 new boulevard trees earlier this year to replace those lost to storm damage and disease. Forestry crews watered the new trees through June, but then turned the task over to Minneapolis residents.

The new trees can drink about 20 gallons of water in one soaking, and require one or two during every week it doesn’t rain at least an inch. A slow-running garden hose can accomplish the task in about two hours.