Green digest

Biking and walking counts chart rise since ’07

An annual count conducted on Twin Cities streets recorded 33 percent more bicyclists and 17 percent more walkers last fall than in 2007, the first year data was collected, Bike Walk Twin Cities reported in March.

One Southwest survey point saw the fourth-greatest increase in bicyclists during four years of data collection at dozens of points on Twin Cities streets. Bicycle traffic on the Midtown Greenway west of Hennepin Avenue was up 79 percent since 2007.

In its report, Bike Walk Twin Cities credited the increase in bicyclists to growing awareness of cycling as a transportation option, a strong local cycling community and a busy calendar of bike-related events.

A program of the nonprofit Transit for Livable Communities, Bike Walk Twin Cities’ work is funded by the federal Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program. The Twin Cities was one of four communities to recieve $22 million in Federal Highway Administration funds to pay for local bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure enhancements.

Bike Walk Twin Cities also provided start-up funding to Nice Ride Minnesota, the local bike-sharing program, which the report cited as another factor putting more bicycles on area streets.

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Master recycling

Thirty Hennepin County residents will be offered the opportunity to join the county’s new Master Recycler/Composter program this spring.

The county aims to produce knowledgeable volunteers who will advocate for waste reduction in their communities. The training program runs for two months, after which the volunteers must perform 30 hours of community service activities, such as staffing event booths or designing and implementing waste-reduction plans for schools and businesses.

Those who successfully complete the training and community service will be certified Master Recycler/Composters.

Spring courses are 6 p.m.­–9 p.m. every Tuesday April 12–May 24 and will be held at the Hennepin County Environmental Services Building, 417 N. 5th St. Two optional field trips were scheduled for 11 a.m.–3 p.m. April 29 and 11 a.m.–3 p.m. May 13.

Environmental professionals from both the public and private sectors will teach the classes, the county reported. Course topics included: waste prevention; recycling processes; alternatives to hazardous household products; organics recycling and home composting; deconstruction and green building equipment; and public engagement.

More information, as well as an online application form, can be found at hennepin.us/volunteer. Click on “volunteer opportunities” and then scroll down to “Master Recyclers/Composters.”

The training program costs $30 and will be limited to 30 participants. If the course fills, additional applicants will be placed on a waiting list for future sessions.

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Going dark for Earth Hour

People and communities around the globe plan to turn off the lights for one hour at 8:30 p.m. March 26 to mark the fifth annual Earth Hour.

The City of Minneapolis joined in the program for three years beginning in 2008, shutting off all lights in municipal buildings that weren’t needed for critical life, safety and security functions, although there was no indication of whether it would officially join Earth Hour 2011 when this issue of the Southwest Journal went to press. The first Earth Hour was held in Sydney, Australia, in 2007, and by last year the event had grown to include participants in 128 countries.

Locally, the nonprofit Cool Planet planned an event marking both Earth Hour and the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, with Peace Corps veterans from across the metro area expected to gather in Edina’s Weber Field Park, 4115 Grimes Ave. S., just across France Avenue from Southwest. The event runs 7–8:30 p.m. March 26, and will include music, poetry and refreshments.

To learn more about Earth Hour, go to earthhour.org.

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Greening city vehicles

The City of Minneapolis adopted a new green fleet policy in March that aims to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions produced by city vehicles.

The policy sets new standards for reducing both fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions from city vehicles. If applied successfully, it could help the city meet environmental goals while at the same time reducing the short- and long-term costs of maintaining city vehicles, the city reported.

The new policy directs city officials to develop a baseline inventory against which future emissions reductions will be measured. The inventory will include the total number of city vehicles, annual miles driven, total greenhouse gas emissions, other tailpipe emissions, the quantities and types of fuels consumed and fuel costs.

The policy also direct the city’s Fleet Services Division to recommend possible fleet reductions. A new Green Fleet Team will oversee implementation of the policy.

The city reported cars and trucks are the largest contributors to local air pollution and are also significant sources of the greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

Green digest

Armatage Montessori wins watershed grant

ARMATAGE — A grant awarded to Armatage Montessori School in December will fund the ongoing construction of an outdoor learning environment, including the installation of several new rain gardens this spring.

Part of the $3,000 Cynthia Krieg Watershed Stewardship Grant administered by Minnehaha Creek Watershed District also will fund development of a water stewardship curriculum by the staff of Metro Blooms. The Minneapolis nonprofit promotes rain gardens as a way to protect local water resources.

Parent and Armatage Green Team member Julie Scherber said the school last year began its three-year effort to transform the Armatage campus with the planting of flower and vegetable gardens. A new rain garden was installed in the school’s central courtyard.

Scherber said the Krieg grant would help the school install a second courtyard rain garden this spring, as well as two rock-filled “dry beds” intended to funnel storm water into the rain gardens.

She said plans for this phase of the project also called for the planting of two to three new rain gardens on the perimeter of the school and the purchase of rain barrels to collect run off from the school’s roof. Rainwater collected in the barrels could be used to irrigate the vegetable and flower gardens Armatage students, staff and families planted last school year.

“Last year, the focus was on horticulture and basic gardening skills,” Scherber said.

This year, the educational component of the project will include a watershed stewardship curriculum developed by Metro Blooms staff. All students in the kindergarten-to-fifth-grade Montessori school will participate in the science unit, Scherber said.

The ongoing transformation of the Armatage campus could in its third year include construction of an “outdoor classroom” with benches and a trellis.

“We wrote another grant this year, and if that comes through it will be huge,” Scherber said.

Metro Blooms will host one of its popular two-part rain garden workshops at Armatage in April. Both sessions of the workshop run 6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m., with Part A scheduled for April 5 and Part B scheduled for April 12 at Armatage, 2501 W. 56th St.

Register for the workshops online at metroblooms.org.

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Hennepin County now recycling electronic media

When director David Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence” was issued on VHS in 2006 it was, according to multiple contemporary news reports, the last major Hollywood motion picture distributed in that format, then nearly three decades old.

VHS outlasted Betamax and fought off a challenge from Laserdisc, but the format withered when consumers switched their allegiance to higher-fidelity DVDs. The cycle continues, with DVDs now facing stiff competition from multiple new content delivery formats, including online streaming video and Blu-ray.

This is all just a roundabout way of pointing out many people have shelves full of videocassettes and other outdated or obsolete electronic media and no idea what to do with them. Are they even recyclable?

“It’s one of the more frequent questions we get from residents,” said Angie Timmons, a Hennepin County environmental educator.

The answer, now, is: Yes. In February, the county announced it would accept electronic media at its drop-off facilities in Bloomington and Brooklyn Park.

“Electronic media” includes not just VHS tapes, but also audiocassettes, computer discs, DVDs, CDs, ink jet and laser toner cartridges, videogame cartridges, memory cards, flash drives, disc jewel cases and vinyl records — although, given the resurgent interest in LPs, there’s a good chance you could get a few bucks for those used records.

Timmons made that point, adding: “We do still encourage people to reuse items that are still in good shape.”

She said the Bloomington drop-off facility had collected about 700 pounds of electronic media by mid-February. A county contractor, Materials Processing Corporation, shreds the old discs, cassettes and cartridges and sells the plastic.

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Saving energy in the food service business

The City of Minneapolis was inviting operators of local food service businesses to a free March 21 seminar on cutting energy costs.

The city reports food service businesses use about two-and-a-half times as much energy as the average business. The seminar will give business owners a chance to learn about energy-saving tips, as well as loan and rebate programs that could help them pay for upgrades to equipment powered by electricity or natural gas.

Among the scheduled speakers was Richard Young, a national expert on food service efficiency. Owners of local food service businesses will share their stories of reducing energy use to save money.

Representatives from Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy will be on hand to discuss rebate programs targeted to business owners. Minneapolis environmental health inspectors will be available for consultations, and other city staff will present information about low-interest loans for businesses.

Register for the seminar at foodserviceenergy.eventbrite.com.

For more information on rebate programs, visit centerpointenergy.com/foodservice or xcelenergy.com/rebates.