Green digest // Eco display aims to make visitors see green

An interactive exhibit unveiled Feb. 15 at the Minneapolis Convention Center aims to focus visitors’ attention on the city’s environmental initiatives.

The two-sided, floor-to-ceiling display includes a large map of Downtown and touch screens that inform visitors about projects like the Nice Ride Minnesota bike-sharing program and the NRG Energy Center Minneapolis, which provides energy-efficient heating and cooling to more than 100 downtown buildings.

In addition to boosting the city’s reputation, investing in environmentally beneficial projects make fiscal sense, said Mayor R.T. Rybak.

“Good stewardship of the environment is also good stewardship of city dollars,” Rybak said.

The exhibit’s public debut also served as an opportunity for Convention Center Executive Director Jeff Johnson to tout his conservation goals for that facility.

Johnson said the Convention Center would significantly reduce water and energy use and increase recycling by 2015. The facility already has cut energy use by about 24 percent since 2008, producing about $1 million in savings, he said.

The Convention Center conservation goals include reducing energy use by a further 10 percent, reducing water consumption by 50 percent and recycling 75 percent of all waste by 2015.

Achieving that last goal will require a significant shift at the Convention Center, which currently puts more waste in the garbage can than the recycling bin. To reach its goal for 2015, the facility will have to recycle about 1.4 million pounds of the 1.8 million pounds of waste it produces annually, Johnson said.

He said the facility would reach its energy reduction goal in part through upgrading light fixtures to more energy efficient models and making a habit of turning lights off when no one is around. Convention Center staff was also exploring options for capturing and reusing the rainwater that falls on the facility’s expansive roof, he added.


Minnesota Bike Summit is March 5

The second-annual Minnesota Bike Summit is expected to draw bicycling advocates from across the state to St. Paul to talk bike policy March 5.

Organized by the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, the event is an opportunity for bicyclists to meet with each other and their state legislators to discuss their priorities, including the alliance’s 2012 legislative agenda.

Front and center on that agenda is passing a “vulnerable road user law” that increases the penalties for drivers who cause harm or death to other road users while committing a careless or reckless driving offense. Right now, there is no middle ground between careless driving, a misdemeanor, and criminal vehicular homicide, a felony.

The alliance is also pushing for creating a state-funded version of the federal Safe Routes to School program, which provides grants for improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure near schools. The Minnesota Department of Transportation, which administers the federal program in Minnesota, currently receives many more grant requests than it can fund.

The event begins with a 9:30 a.m. check-in at Christ Lutheran Church, 105 University Ave. W., across the street from the capitol. Bicycling advocates will rally in the capitol rotunda at 1:45 p.m. and meet with legislators throughout the day.

Speakers for the event include former Utne Reader editor Jay Walljasper and Christine Fruechte, CEO of Colle+McVoy, the Downtown advertising firm that in 2010 was recognized with a Bicycle Friendly Business Award from the League of American Bicyclists.

Pre-registration for the event closed March 1, but same-day registration will be allowed. For more on the event, go to bikemn.org.


Plastic bags no longer an option for yard waste

Beginning this spring, Minneapolis will join the rest of the state in prohibiting conventional plastic garbage bags for yard waste collection.

That means homeowners will have to bag their leaves, twigs and grass clippings in either paper or compostable plastic bags for collection. Both options are widely available in area hardware stores.

The new rule goes into effect April 9.

Minneapolis Solid Waste and Recycling is planning on some city residents not getting the message, so there will be a four-week transition period after the new rule goes into effect. When waste collection crews find a plastic bag with yard waste, they’re supposed to open the bag and leave behind a tag explaining the new rules. After the transition period, plastic bags will be tagged with a note asking the resident to repackage their yard waste.

If the waste isn’t repackaged, the resident will get a follow-up letter in the mail. And if that doesn’t work, crews will pick up the bags and send the resident a bill.

Minneapolis is a little behind the times in making the switch. All other cities in Hennepin County have required compostable yard waste bags since 2010.

Reach Dylan Thomas at dthomas@mnpubs.com.