Four Points on the Interconnected Web of “Sustainable We”

indras netIn the last four days I’ve been inspired by four different but related Minneapolis conversations that reiterate why MPLS Green is the movement of a network that doesn’t even realize yet that it is a network.

MPLS Green is titled as much for Minneapolis green initiatives as it is for the informal tagline, Minneapolis: Progressive, Livable, Sustainable, Green.

The inspiration, innovation and ideas of the inter-related network that MPLS Green showcases — by connecting our  sometimes separated specializations — is the basis for the new Sustainable We forums, which begin in October and cover 8 different but related topics.

One example of how our interconnectedness is becoming more integrated — and therefore, I believe, will be progressively more impactful — are the home designers I’ve talked with who passionately talk about why landscape design (permeable pavers, raingardens), smarter use of resources, and pedestrian and bike-friendly development are as essential as energy efficiency moves.

Addressing climate change is an interdisciplinary effort. As Minneapolis residents, entrepreneurs and policymakers, we are learning how pollinators, waste, energy and smarter design fit together.

Conversation #1: Climate Change at FUS

On Sunday, at the First Unitarian Society (FUS) of Minneapolis, I heard Rev. Jim Foti’s talk about climate change. He talked about his recent trip to Crater Lake, which experienced 27 fewer feet of snow this year, and has only recently contained its largest recorded wildfire of almost 25 square miles. He talked about how European-American settlers decided “that Crater Lake would be better if it just had some fishing,” even though the purity of the water had not included fish for its 7,000 years. “To the surprise of no one in this room, this experiment did not go well.”

Rev. Foti went on to talk about Pope Francis, Native American culture, and the Humanist Manifesto co-signed in 1933 by former FUS minister John Dietrich reiterating that humans are not separate from nature, but a part of it.

His was a hopeful message, noting that park officials are now working carefully, in concert with biologists and other scientists, to restore Crater Lake’s original integrity. “It shows that humans are in fact teachable.” He went on to talk about Joanna Macy’s concept of ‘active hope’ — consciously taking steps regardless of how optimistic we feel.

“Active hope is especially important in work around climate change. This problem has been 200 years in the making, and any turnaround is going to be difficult. Composting and recycling and using fewer fossil fuels in our personal lives are important pieces. But we probably need a reordering of societal priorities around consumption, profit, and waste to see real global change.”

Coincidentally, two hours earlier I had a conversation about this very aspect of consumption and waste with one of the panelists for our November “Sustainable We” forum.

You can hear, or read, Rev. Foti’s talk here.

Conversation #2: Blending In Ecologically

2015 BLEND Award ceremony

2015 BLEND Award ceremony

The next night, I was at the BLEND Awards, which recognizes local designers and builders who make a conscious effort to renovate and build in a way that connects with neighboring community, rather than detaching from it.

Several design/builders over the years have been recognized by the affiliated ECOBlend awards for making sustainability a part of their plan. Blend award presenter and committee member Keiko Veasey recognized architect Marnie Peichel (builder J Lewis Building & Remodeling) for her eco-minded work on a multigenerational affordable housing unit in North Minneapolis, as well as David Lund for the conscious work he did renovating his Linden Hills home. Read about both projects here, as well as previous award winners.

See our “Green by Design” series for more on this topic.

Conversation #3: Energy Politics

The following night, I was at a Powerful Conversations discussion in Northeast Minneapolis, featuring comments by City Councilman Jacob Frey, solar developers from All Energy, representatives from Centerpoint and Xcel, cooperative energy model spokesperson Timothy DenHerder-Thomas, and other citizens actively engaged in the politics of energy.

I’ll write much more about this discussion soon, but it covered several important aspects of our Clean Energy Partnership between the City of Minneapolis, the utilities, and our community advisory board.

Some of the concerns raised that need to be addressed:

  • With the current business models of the utility companies, as energy usage goes down, heating bills go up disproportionately for low-income residents and renters who are unable to qualify for renewable energy options. Those who can afford renewable energy benefit from credits; those who can’t, pay more. The discrepancy between income levels grows wider.
  • As utility bill-payers, Minneapolis residents pay the expenses for infrastructure that maintains reliable energy sources. As we develop more efficient, newer technologies, the risk is born largely by investors. Is there room for community members to join company shareholders at the benefits table? The effort requires residents as well as investors. Can the two groups have balanced shares in its success?

These questions will be addressed at our February “Sustainable We” forum discussion.

If you want to participate in a future Powerful Conversation about energy, join the group and its affiliated Twin Cities, at the October 6 community discussion, 6:30-8:30pm, upstairs room at Lunds in Uptown Minneapolis, 1450 W Lake St, 55408

Conversation #4: Upgrading a Home

Hutchinson HomeThe next morning, I was at the home of George and Jenna Hutchinson, learning about the diverse and generally cost-effective steps they have taken to upgrade their home in a much more sustainable way than its original 1941 standards.

Between improved insulation and building envelope adjustments, ongoing raingarden and composting steps, rooftop solar arrays, electric vehicle, re-use of materials, LED lighting, and appliance changes, their lifestyle and home has become much more cost-effective, and much less contributory to global warming.

You can read their story here, as part of their participation October 3 in the Minnesota Renewable Energy Tour — a showcase of 17 sites around the state where big steps have been taken to do things in innovative ways.

“We can continue to simply live on the planet contributing to increasing temperatures and carbon loads — or we can do something to be part of the solution.”

Stay tuned for a story based on the individual data and costs of the Hutchinson home.

Coincidentally, I learned that the Hutchinsons belong to the First Unitarian Society of Conversation #1. George was mentioned indirectly to me by someone I met at Conversation #2. Their solar array and monitoring system was set up by All Energy, who I met the night before at Conversation #3.

The MPLS Green Network

In my view, the intersection of these four conversations in as many days had several interesting coincidences that reiterate why we are a MPLS Green network without even knowing it. I was a kind of human witness to the spider web of our interconnectedness — the network of conscious, sustainability minded people finding solutions in Minneapolis every day.

The Sunday morning talk about climate change that examines our consumption and human domination habits… applauding sustainable designers… detailed discussion of ways to improve energy… a resident demonstrating easy steps each of us can take to change behaviors…

Interlocked aspects of the same question that “Sustainable We” looks at in 8 citywide conversations:

How are we designing a sustainable environment together? Who are the passionate, educated, aware and thoughtful individuals we have in Minneapolis who are figuring out how to DO in a better way?

Will you join us?

Subscribe at upper right to become part of this conversation.

— Mikki Morrissette, founder, MPLS Green and new non-profit Collective Impact ME





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