Green Digest: Southwest homeowners, businesses honored for gardens

A view of Denise Stromberg's garden, which was honored by Metro Blooms as the best pollinator garden in Minneapolis. Photo courtesy Metro Blooms

The nonprofit Metro Blooms has honored several homeowners and one business in Southwest Minneapolis as part of their 2016 Top Minneapolis Garden Awards.

Mark T. Smith and neighbors of Bryn Mawr were honored as the best garden block. Jane Grangaard of Bryn Mawr was honored for the best hillside garden. Denise Stromberg of Lynnhurst was honored for the best pollinator garden, and Parkway Dental Center of Tangletown was honored for the best business garden.

You can nominate your favorite garden for a 2017 award online at Nominations are due July 8.


Report details potential for energy savings in large buildings

Large commercial and public buildings in Minneapolis could save million of dollars in energy costs by reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions 15 percent, according to a report published in February.

The report analyzed the 2015 energy and water usage of 417 commercial and public buildings in Minneapolis. It found the city would see a reduction of 120,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide and save more than $27 million in energy costs annually if those properties participated in the Minneapolis Building Energy Challenge.

The challenge encourages large commercial building owners and managers to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 15 percent by 2020. Fifteen buildings are currently participating and one has already achieved that goal, according to Katie Jones Schmitt, benchmarking policy and outreach specialist with the Center for Energy and Environment and the city.

Jones Schmitt said last month that the city was hoping to double the number of participants in the challenge this year.

The report found Minneapolis’ large commercial building stock generally performs better than the national average. Those buildings had a median Energy Star energy-efficiency score of 71, well above the national median of 50, according to the report. Nearly half of the benchmarked buildings had a score above 75, which is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s threshold for earning Energy Star certification.

The report also found the city had reduced energy use in public buildings nearly four percent since 2012. It said offices, medical buildings, hotels and worship facilities have the greatest aggregate potential for total energy and greenhouse-gas emissions savings. Those categories represented nearly 37 percent of benchmarked square footage and 34 percent of total energy consumed.

Minneapolis has several programs to help private buildings reduce their energy usage, including the Green Business Cost Share program. The program provides grants of up to $20,000 to help fund energy-efficiency practices at Minneapolis benchmarked businesses. Owners must be able to provide 80 percent in matching funds for projects.

The Minneapolis City Council passed an ordinance in 2013 that requires public buildings larger than 25,000 square feet and private commercial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet to report energy and water usage data to the city annually. The requirements were phased in over four years, and 94 percent of benchmarked private buildings provided 2015 data to the city.

“Benchmarking is the first step for buildings in controlling operating costs, maintaining market competitiveness, and improving energy efficiency,” the report said, noting that greater energy efficiency leads to lowered energy costs, increased property values, enhanced building comfort and reduced air pollution.

The 417 benchmarked properties represented about 70 percent of the city’s commercial-building space and about 15 percent of the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the report.

The report was the work of several Minneapolis departments and agencies, including the Center for Energy and the Environment, Hennepin County, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and Minneapolis Public Schools. Visit to learn more about the report.

Southwest hosting electronics drive

The Southwest High School student council is hosting an electronics drive over the next month to raise money for the school.

The student council is collecting older phones and tablets and will exchange them for cash with a company that collects the devices. The money will come back to the school to benefit the programs there, student council leaders said.

The student council will be hosting the drive through April 14. People should drop off electronics in a box at the school’s front door.