Green digest // Fixers wanted

Back in September, this column reported on Hennepin County’s first-ever Fix-It Clinic, an event that brought together volunteers skilled in all kinds of repair work and a couple of dozen local folks with broken — but salvageable — stuff.

So, how did it go? 

“Really well,” said Nancy Lo, a zero-waste expert who works for Hennepin County.

“We had 27 people come and they had 33 items,” Lo said. “… We were able to fix 85 percent of them.”

She said most of the items that weren’t repaired at the library event could have been fixed later. Volunteers sent the owners home with instructions to complete the fix, or identified a spare part that needed to be purchased.

The handy men and women made useful again a surprising variety of items, ranging from kitchen appliances — including a coffee pot, mixer and microwave — to an antique radio. Other items repaired during the event included a paper shredder, stereo system, air mattress and tea strainer.

They didn’t see much clothing, although they did have volunteers with sewing skills ready to help, Lo said.

Fix-It Clinics are now being held around the county. An October clinic in Edina wasn’t quite as well attended, but Lo hoped to see more people at clinics in Minnetonka in November and Brooklyn Center in February.

The Fix-It Clinic isn’t scheduled to return to Southwest any time soon, but there is a clinic scheduled to take place 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Dec. 8 at Northeast Minneapolis maker space known as The Mill, 2300 Kennedy St. N.E., Suite 130.

Lo said the success of future clinics really depends on recruiting volunteers with the skills to help, including expertise in soldering, electronics, computer repair, sewing and wood-working — or just general handiness.

“Volunteers make or break us,” she said.

To help out, contact Lo at [email protected] or 348-9195. For more information on future Fix-It Clinics, go to

Xcel hosts open house on Greenway substation

The Midtown Greenway Coalition considered it a victory in January when the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission ruled Xcel Energy must bury two new high-voltage transmission lines under a nearby street instead of hanging them above the bike and pedestrian corridor.

But that doesn’t mean the coalition isn’t keeping a close eye on the project, and it is urging trail users to share their opinions on plans for two electrical substations related to the project. One substation would be located near the trail’s intersection with Hiawatha Avenue, and the coalition argues an “art wall” meant to screen the station won’t do much to block trail-users’ views.

There are diagrams and explanations of the coalition’s alternative proposal on its website, Xcel hosts an open house on the plans 5 p.m.–7 p.m. Oct. 30 at Plaza Verde, 1516 E. Lake St., but comments can also be submitted directly to Bill Storm of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission at [email protected]

Less trash, more recycling

Hennepin County is challenging residents to recycle half or more of all household waste.

The Great Hennepin County Recycle Half Challenge, as it’s known, aims to boost the countywide recycling rate. The county reports only about 38 percent of the roughly one million tons of waste produced annually by county homes, businesses and other organizations is recycled or composted, which means the other 62 percent ends up on the trash heap (or, in Minneapolis, in the incinerator).

The website accompanying the initiative,, really just takes a lot of information on recycling, reuse and composting already available on the county’s website and conveniently puts it in one place. It also encourages county residents to accept the challenge and sign a pledge to recycle half or more of all household waste.

The website also includes an interactive “Do you know what to throw?” quiz to test your knowledge of what belongs in the recycling bin and what must be thrown in the trash.

The county has set a goal of recycling 50 percent of all waste by 2015.

Green grants available

Hennepin County is seeking proposals for the next round of grants through its Green Partners Environmental Education Program.

Nonprofits, school and park districts, community and youth groups and congregations are all eligible to apply for the grants, which are intended to fund projects that boost recycling rates, reduce waste or energy use or improve water quality. “Root Group” grants of up to $8,000 are intended to help launch new environmental education projects that are based on proven ideas, while “Branch Group” grants of up to $16,000 are awarded to innovative project ideas intended to reach at least 2,000 county residents.

The deadline to apply for either type of grant is noon Nov. 16. For more information, or application materials, go to the county website,, and search for “Green Partners Environmental Education Program.”

The county offers smaller “Seed Group” grants year-round that cover the cost of transportation to a fieldtrip destination for a group of at least 25 people.