Green digest

Volunteers needed to monitor wetlands

The Wetland Health Evaluation Program is looking for a few good citizen scientists to join its Minneapolis team — no actual scientific experience required.

Volunteers with the Wetland Health Evaluation Program (WHEP) work in teams with an experienced leader to monitor the health of metro-area wetlands. They wade into swamps, marshes and even man-made ponds to count and identify plants and invertebrates, whose density and diversity are critical indicators of environmental health.

Registration for the Hennepin County WHEP teams opened in March.

Mary Karius, a Hennepin County environmentalist who coordinates the program in and around Minneapolis, said no scientific credentials or training were necessary to join the program, although volunteers were encouraged to attend one or more of the training sessions held in May and June.

Volunteers head into the field during evenings and on weekends in June and July to take measurements at five wetlands — four in their community, and one in another part of the county. They typically dedicate about 20–40 hours over the course of a summer.

“You decide how much you want to put into it,” Karius said.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board use the data collected to monitor the impact of urban development on area wetlands, which provide both wildlife habitat and help to clean the waters flowing into lakes, streams and rivers. The program was founded in 1997, and also operates in Dakota County.

Last summer, Hennepin County fielded seven WHEP teams, including the Minneapolis Muckstars, each sponsored by a municipality.

For more information on WHEP, or to register as a volunteer, go to Those interested in volunteering also may contact Karius directly at 596-9129 or [email protected]


Spraying savings on Lake Street

Lake Street Council partnered with Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) in March to offer Lake Street restaurant owners a free solution to reduce dishwashing costs.

They offered 50 free high-efficiency pre-rinse spray valves (worth about $85 each) to replace less-efficient sprayers that use more water and energy to pre-rinse silverware, plates and dishes. Even after a number of restaurants, including Lucia’s and Fuji-Ya, took advantage of the offer, a few of the free sprayers remained available in April, said Michelle Vigen, CERTs campaign and metrics coordinator.

Similar in concept and design to the low-flow showerhead a homeowner might install in a bathroom, the high-efficiency pre-rinse spray valves maintain high water pressure while limiting the amount of water used, saving restaurant owners hundreds of dollars annually, Vigen said.

“Restaurant owners can be assured they are not going to see a drop in performance from this,” she said.

The total savings each restaurant achieves depends on a number of factors, including the water temperature and pressure in the area and how frequently the sprayer is used. Early reports indicate Lake Street restaurant owners will cut utility costs by $300–$400 per year, Vigen said.

The high-efficiency sprayers are already required in some states and parts of Canada, she added.

Vigen said CERTs would like to expand the program to other parts of the state, but had no specific plans, yet.

For more information on the program, go to


Two programs make event recycling easier

Green your spring or summer get-together with the help of one of the city or county programs that make recycling containers available for area events.

Hennepin County will add organics recycling units to its recycling container loan program in May. Event organizers — including nonprofit organizations, neighborhood groups and individuals — can borrow up to 40 recycling units for metal, glass and plastic containers and 20 organics recycling units for collecting paper and food waste.

The county loan program requires a refundable deposit starting at $100 for one to five portable recycling units, each of which includes a frame, labeled cover and up to five clear plastic or compost-ready bags. The county does not, however, provide collection and transportation of the materials collected; event organizers have to come up with their own disposal plan.

That’s one of the key differences between the county and city programs.

Minneapolis Solid Waste and Recycling will collect and dispose of trash, compost and recycling for event organizers who rent city containers. And that’s the other key difference: The city offers to rent the containers, not loan them, for a non-refundable $20 per container.

The city requires container rental applications to be submitted at least 10 days in advance of delivery. For more information on renting containers from the city, go to and look for the “Rental of Containers” tab in the left-hand column (third from the bottom) or call 673-5411.

More information on the county’s recycling container loan program can be found online at

Green digest

Growing fruit and helping the hungry

WINDOM — If you grow apple, pear or plum trees on your property, or would like to, now may be a good time to learn more about the Fruits of the City program.

Run by The Minnesota Project, a St. Paul-based nonprofit, the program has two components: increasing the number of fruit trees grown on public and private property in the metro area through its educational efforts, including an upcoming class at Bachman’s Lyndale Avenue store; and harvesting excess fruit from trees across the metro area, which it then donates to local food shelves.

That second project component — harvesting and donating fruit — is set for a major expansion this summer, said Heidi Coe, Fruits of the City program coordinator.

Coe set a goal of donating 36,000 pounds of fruit, or about 6,500 “family servings,” to area food shelves this summer. Considering Fruits of the City donated about 39,000 pounds of fruit in 2009 and 2010 combined, Coe has set the bar pretty high.

What’s driving the expansion?

“The need [for food shelf donations], and just the fact that it can be done,” Coe said. “There are a lot of fruit trees in the Minneapolis area.”

She’ll need a lot of help to reach that goal. Having recruited about 170 volunteers over the past two years, Coe aims to boost that number to 200 this summer.

Volunteer positions include neighborhood coordinators, who keep track of ripening backyard fruit trees in their areas and schedule visits from gleaners during harvest season, which typically runs August through October. Gleaners work in teams to collect ripe fruit and deliver it to area food shelves.

“It’s just a good community-building service, a positive for all those involved,” Coe said.

It’s a win-win for the tree owners, who get to keep all the fruit they want and know the extra is going to a good cause. Gleaners even pick up fallen fruit from yards for compost.

Fruits of the City also arranges for gleaners to visit area orchards. After collecting fruit from four orchards in 2009 and 2010, Coe this year planned to hit six orchards with her volunteers.

A healthy program requires a strong base of participating tree owners, which is where Fruits of the City’s educational efforts come in.

“We want to increase people’s knowledge [of] the fact that they can grow here,” Coe said.

The program is sponsoring seminar on growing fruit trees 6 p.m.–7:30 p.m. April 12 at Bachman’s Heritage Room, 6010 Lyndale Ave. S. The event is free, but a $20 donation is encouraged.

Scheduled to teach the class was landscape gardener Jeffrey Johnson of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska. A woody plants specialist, Johnson maintains the arboretum’s tree and shrub collections.

The class will cover a variety of topics, including site selection, soil preparation and the maintenance of fruit trees.

Go to The Minnesota Project website ( to register for the class. Access the Fruits of the City page by clicking on the “Local Food” tab.

To register as a volunteer gleaner or neighborhood coordinator, or to get your backyard fruit tree on Fruits of the City’s list, email [email protected]


Rain barrel offer returns

The Recycling Association of Minnesota is once again offering its spring sale on rain barrels and compost bins.

To pre-order a bin or barrel, go to and select one of seven dates and locations to retrieve the purchase. The closest pick-up location to Southwest is St. Paul’s Rock Tenn Paper Mill, 2250 Wabash Ave., where bins and barrels will be available 9 a.m.–3 p.m. the weekend of April 30–May 1.

Rain barrels come in two styles, the 54-gallon Rain Catcher and the 55-gallon Systern, both $69. The Earth Machine compost bin has a capacity of 10 cubic feet and runs $55.

Pictures of all three, as well as information on other pick-up location dates and times, are on the Recycling Association of Minnesota’s website.


If you missed the chance to recycle holiday lights

Speaking of the Recycling Association of Minnesota: It’s not too late to send them your old, burnt-out strands of holiday lights.

The St. Paul-based nonprofit partners with Ace Hardware stores to collect and recycle light strands during the holiday season. Ace locations stopped taking the lights Jan. 13, but the association still offers several options for recycling.

You can mail the lights to the association at RAM, P.O. Box 14497, St. Paul, MN 55114, or download from a list of locations around the state that accept lights year ’round.

The association aimed to collect 200,000 pounds of lights over the holiday season. According to its website, the total was closer to 150,000 pounds.