Green digest // Deliver meals for cheaper wheels

Green digest // Deliver meals for cheaper wheels

New HOURCAR members get a discount in September if they also volunteer to deliver a meal to a metro area resident in need.

The Twin Cities car-sharing program partnered with Metro Meals on Wheels to offer a $25 discount off the $50 HOURCAR application fee through Sept. 30. The offer is for the first 15 applicants who also agree to deliver at least one meal for Metro Meals on Wheels, HOURCAR Program Manager Christopher Bineham said.

“You can do just one meal and get the discount, but the hope is you do this on an ongoing basis,” Bineham explained.

HOURCAR also will waive mileage fees during Metro Meals on Wheels deliveries.

Bineham said the partnership was a “nice fit” for both organizations, since both are trying to reach an urban professional audience. HOURCAR locations are clustered around the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul, areas where Metro Meals on Wheels has a high need for volunteers.

Katey Davern McCabe, Metro Meals on Wheels marketing and communications director, said the organization needed to replenish its volunteer base, as well.

“We’re finding that our volunteer base for Meals on Wheels is aging just as our population is aging,” Davern McCabe said.

She said Meals on Wheels tries to make things easy on volunteers, who can deliver weekly, monthly or even on an on-call basis.

“It’s one of the most flexible volunteer opportunities in the Twin Cities,” Davern McCabe said.

Bineham said the trial partnership with Metro Meals on Wheels would continue through November, when both organizations would look at continuing to work together.

Sign up for HOURCAR at hourcar.org and enter the code “MOWVolunteer09” to receive the $25 application discount.

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Bike share preview

Minneapolis’ bike share program doesn’t get started until May, but some visitors to the Minnesota State Fair got a preview of what it could look like.

An exhibit in the Eco Experience building included a kiosk developed by BIXI of Montreal, one of several vendors in the running to supply Minneapolis’ bike share system. At least one visitor who asked nicely (this one) got a chance to test out the kiosk.

The swipe of a payment card unlocked one of the sturdy, aluminum-framed commuter bicycles from the bike dock. Bikes are returned to their docks with a gentle push that activates a locking mechanism.

(Sadly, bike riding was off-limits in the Eco Experience building, so it was a limited test.)

The exhibit was operated by Nice Ride Minnesota, a nonprofit set up to run the city’s bike sharing program.

The system will have about 1,000 bicycles available at 80 kiosks spread throughout the city — including Uptown and Eat Street in Southwest — making it the largest bike share program in the country. That’s still small potatoes compared to Montreal, where expansion plans call for 5,000 bicycles at 400 kiosks, according to the latest news on the BIXI website (bixi.com).

Minneapolis bike sharing got a boost in September when Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota announced it would be a major sponsor of the program, donating $1 million over the next five years. Nice Ride Minnesota previously was awarded $1.75 million by Bike Walk Twin Cities, an initiative that receives federal funding to promote non-motorized transit locally.

The Nice Ride Minnesota business plan anticipates nearly $3.4 million in start-up costs for the bike share program and operating costs close to $1.6 million a year. That document and more information on bike sharing can be found on the organization’s website (niceridemn.com).

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Greening homes

Residents of two Southwest neighborhoods have an opportunity to get low-cost professional advice on improving the energy efficiency of their homes.

Fulton and Kingfield are among several Minneapolis neighborhoods participating in a two-year pilot of the new Community Energy Services program. The effort to teach homeowners about the little changes that can have big impact on energy bills is run by Minneapolis-based nonprofit Center for Energy and Environment (CEE).

CEE Community Organizer Ashley Robertson said the center’s home energy professionals would consult with participating households. A short home visit would include a blower door test to locate air leaks and advice on simple steps that cut energy use, like installing compact fluorescent light bulbs and low-flow showerheads.

After making some energy improvements, participating homeowners will get monthly reports for the next year detailing energy savings and comparing their energy use with neighbors, Robertson said.

The program also offers help to homeowners looking to take on larger energy-saving home improvement projects, like adding insulation. CEE can create a customized financing package with advice on loans and information on federal programs and utility rebates, Robertson said.

The cost to enroll is $20. The Kingfield Neighborhood Association has offered to reimburse Kingfield residents who participate in the program during 2009, Robertson said.

The first step is to visit the CEE website (mncee.org) and complete the required forms. Participants then RSVP for one of four fall workshops.