Green digest

ECCO wins waste reduction grant

ECCO — The East Calhoun Community Organization (ECCO) plans to launch a waste-reduction program in 2011 with a Hennepin County grant awarded in December.

Theirs was one of seven projects awarded grants worth up to $5,000 each from the county’s Community POWER Networks program. The ECCO grant is intended to fund East Calhoun Waste Watchers, a group of neighborhood residents dedicated to increasing rates of recycling in ECCO while at the same time reducing the amount of waste that ends up in the trash, the county reported.

The group’s goals include increasing participation in a neighborhood organics recycling program to 50 percent from 35 percent of households. They also aim to increase the total amount of waste that is recycled 25 percent by weight.

Part of the grant will fund a campaign to raise awareness of waste-reduction efforts through lawn signs, newsletters and home recycling consultations. The grant also will pay for an end-of-campaign zero-waste neighborhood celebration.

The county reported the Waste Watchers set a goal of reaching 1,160 East Calhoun residents with their waste-reduction message.

Earlier participants in Community POWER Networks projects helped to develop environmental education toolkits for use by neighborhood organizations like ECCO, as well as congregations and Early Childhood Family Education Programs. Grant participants use those toolkits in their projects, and also receive training and assistance from the county to carry out their work.

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Thermostat offer extended

Hennepin County extended its offer of a $5 Menards gift card for anyone who turns in their old, mercury-filled household thermostat to one of its drop-off facilities, located in Bloomington and Brooklyn Park.

The offer was set to expire Dec. 31, but the county announced in January it would continue into 2011. The program aims to both safely dispose of the mercury-containing thermostats and encourage homeowners to make the switch to modern, programmable thermostats, which can cut home energy costs.

There’s a limit of one Menards gift card per household and the offer remains good while supplies last. The program is a partnership with Covanta Energy Corporation, and the company requires participants to complete a contact-information form and drop it in the mail before it will mail out the gift card.

Remember: It’s illegal to dispose of toxic, mercury-containing household products like thermostats in the trash. Some batteries, fluorescent light bulbs and household appliances also may contain mercury.

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It’s Radon Action Month

Another offer reported in this column several months back is ongoing, as well: radon detection kits, only $9 each, for sale at City of Minneapolis Development Review’s downtown office.

The city reports January is Radon Action Month, so what better time to pick one up?

The Minnesota Department of Health recommends all homes get tested for radon, a colorless, odorless gas that is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, contributing to more than 21,000 deaths each year. The radioactive gas is naturally occurring in soil throughout the Upper Midwest, and often enters homes by seeping up through cracks in a house’s foundation.

Elevated radon levels pose a significant health risk in about one in every three Minnesota homes, the state health department reports. A radon mitigation contractor can install a system that will prevent radon from entering the home.

To pick up a kit, head to 250 S. 4th St., room 300, during business hours: 8 a.m.­–4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; or 9 a.m.­–
4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

For more information on radon, as well as options for mitigation and a list of recommended contractors, go to
health.state.mn.us/radon.

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The next step for Nice Ride

A proposed expansion of the Nice Ride Minnesota bike-sharing system would add 130 new bike kiosks to Minneapolis, St. Paul and even some first-ring suburbs, tripling the size of the system that debuted last summer.

Nice Ride rolled out in June 2010 with 700 bikes parked at 65 stations in Downtown, Southwest and near the University of Minnesota. A report on its proposed “Phase 2” expansion was posted on niceridemn.org at the end of December.

More than 100,000 trips were taken on Nice Ride bicycles before the program wrapped up its first season in November. The bikes and kiosks are off the streets now, but will return in the spring.

It cost about $3 million to launch the program, including contributions from the federal Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and the city. Phase 2 of Nice Ride would cost an estimated $5.8 million — money that has yet to be raised, the organization notes in its report.

The report was developed with recommendations gathered in six public workshops held in Minneapolis and St. Paul beginning in September. It includes records of comments from those meetings, as well as maps with proposed station locations.