Green digest // See GreenStar home in progress

See GreenStar home in progress

Ever wonder what goes into a green house?

We’re not talking about a tomato-growing operation, here. No, a green house is a residence built to be durable and energy-efficient, with minimal impact on the environment.

The thing is, you can’t necessarily see all the construction techniques, technologies and materials that make a green home green. In many cases, a green home looks just like, well, a regular house.

Here’s your chance for a look behind the scenes: Southwest-based Mike Otto Construction is offering a public tour of its latest green home project, which is still under construction at 4466 Thomas Ave. S.

The public tour 5:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m. July 15 will be a chance to see a work-in-progress. Get a look at the house’s green components before they’re covered up with drywall and molding.

Mike Otto Construction reports this new home project is going up on the site of another home that was carefully de-constructed to maximize the number of materials that could be recycled or reused.

The new home incorporates a geothermal heating and cooling system, a technology that takes advantage of the constant temperature of the earth just a few feet underground. To further reduce energy bills, the house was designed with broad overhangs that shield windows from the summer sun.
The house has an open floor plan that carries light through the house. It’s relatively small and designed to take advantage of a tight lot.

The builders are aiming to earn certification from Minnesota GreenStar. The Roseville-based nonprofit sets green-building standards for remodeling and new home construction.

Last year, Otto’s team finished up work on the Lauri and Larry Kraft home near Cedar Lake, one of 20 metro-area projects that piloted the Minnesota GreenStar home-remodeling standards. The project earned a silver certificate.

Learn more about the Minnesota GreenStar standards and download a green building checklist on the organization’s website,


More biking honors for Minneapolis

Yet again, Minneapolis ended up near the top of a list of the most bike-friendly cities.

This time, it’s Travel and Leisure magazine bestowing the honors, ranking Minneapolis among the “The World’s Top Biking Cities” in its June 2009 issue. Our fair city finds itself in fine company; the magazine’s list also includes Paris, Amsterdam, Montreal, Munich and, of course, Portland, Ore.

(Might hometown pride have been a factor? The article was penned by Stephen Regenold, a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist who lives in Minneapolis.)

A 2007 study by the U.S. Census Bureau found Minneapolis had the second-highest proportion of bike commuters in the country, just behind Portland. That study compared workday bicycle-ridership to other forms of commuting in the nation’s 50 largest cities.

In 2008, the League of American Bicyclists awarded Minneapolis its Bicycle Friendly Community award. The league awarded Minneapolis its silver designation, highlighting the city’s extensive network of bike trails but noting even more could be done to encourage commuting by bicycle.


Rain barrels! Get your rain barrels here!

The Recycling Association of Minnesota is offering a special sale on rain barrels this month.

Rain barrels are designed to capture storm water runoff from your home’s roof and store it for later re-use, like watering the garden. In doing so, they reduce the amount of rainwater entering the storm sewer system.

Pre-order a 54-gallon rain barrel through July 27 and it will be available for pickup August 14–15 at the Minnetonka Public Works Facility, 11522 Minnetonka Blvd.

The barrels are being offered for $65, which the Recycling Association of Minnesota claims is about $50 off retail price. Judging from a quick search of online retailers that seems to be more or less accurate.

Order through the association’s website ( The association is a St. Paul-based nonprofit that promotes resource conservation throughout the state.


Mind the drain

It’s summer again, the time of year when it’s not unusual to see car owners out in the driveway, buffing their rides to a sparkling shine.

There’s nothing wrong with saving a buck by washing your car — or bicycle — at home. But the city issued a reminder in July that car owners should keep an eye on runaway suds.

Those suds are bound to find their way to a storm drain, and from there it’s a short trip through the storm sewers to a city lake or the Mississippi River. Soap carries phosphorous into area waterways, which in turn encourages algae growth.

It can even affect the taste and smell of city drinking water, the city reported.

Here are a couple of tips:

Instead of washing the car in the driveway, pull up onto the lawn or some other porous surface. There, water more easily can soak into the ground.

Also, look for non-phosphorus cleaners, which are better for the environment.