First in a series that looks at Minneapolis and our approach to sustainable design, climate change and energy efficiency
At the 2015 World Expo in Milan, garbage is deposited from street receptacles, compacted and separated underground, and whooshed at roughly 50 miles an hour directly to a waste storage facility for disposal and recycling. It is an idea that was implemented in Sweden and has since spread to a few other European cities, according to Live Green Blog.
Waste of plastics, paper and organics is still much higher than it needs to be, but, assuming there is participation by Minneapolis residents and businesses, there are good solutions that reduce our urban garbage.
What is more challenging, however, is how to reduce our waste of energy. Not simply the “you left the lights on” or “we had to crank heat this Minnesota winter” variety. But… two-thirds of the fossil-fuel energy we burn from a power plant gets wasted, simply because of the ineffective distribution system.
Minneapolis city planners know that one way to reduce this energy waste is to have more of us living closely together. Multifamily housing tends to be a more efficient way to heat and cool. And, strong efforts for public transit, bicycling and walking proximity to services pays off.
The Minneapolis Climate Action Plan details the local action needed to reach our goals:
- reduce energy use by 17% by significantly improving energy efficiency of commercial/residential/public buildings,
- construct 30 miles of bicycle transportation facilities, and
- recycle half our waste, and compost 15%.
Why the Focus on Energy and Transportation?
As a country, here is how we typically emit the four major greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide being the primary emission at about 82%. These are the gases that trap heat in our atmosphere and cause increasing problems for us. Energy use and transportation are primary sources.
This is how the Portland, Oregon, Climate Action Plan breaks down the issue, including how we as individuals contribute to the carbon emissions problem at an even more local level.
Minnesota has done well in state regulations thus far over the past decade, as this New York Times article pointed out. The challenge for the residents and businesses of Minneapolis, and its policy makers, is how to get more energy efficiency out of its buildings and residential homes.
Our increasing need to power city life means we not only need to figure out how to reduce energy use by individuals, but how to make our new and existing buildings more energy efficient.
Solutions for Energy Efficiency
The good news: there are solutions that are getting stronger and more accessible… if we are ready to implement them. Professionals following standards of LEED and Minnesota GreenStar (now part of Michigan-based GreenHome Institute) are helping us create more energy-efficient homes and commercial buildings.
In some places — Germany, Sweden, India, China — entire cities are being created around LEED standards. As Roger Platt, CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council, told a Portland, Oregon, audience recently, “Globally, particularly in India or China, when we talk about LEED certification, they laugh a little bit. They’re not thinking in units of ‘buildings.’ They’re looking for LEED for the giant cities they’re building.”
But… as awareness builds — and Minneapolis policymakers and a growing number of residents and business owners are aware — there are solutions. MPLSGreen.com is focused on communicating about those solutions, innovators and pioneers.
In a Scientific American article in 2010, “Urban Visions: The Future of Cities,” Joan Fitzgerald, the author of Emerald Cities, said: “In terms of what you can do at the local level for energy efficiency and renewable energy, it’s incredible. It’s just amazing.”
She added that as local communities focus efforts on energy, it engages residents more actively in many interconnected ways, from understanding the value of local food, to sorting garbage, to creating more sustainable design. “You build it through city pride,” she said. “It’s a visible thing people feel proud about. Then they’re more amenable to doing other things.”
That is what this new MPLS Green movement is about.
- Building awareness
- Expanding awareness
- Celebrating buy-in from residents and businesses
- Pointing out city weaknesses
- Making change happen, person to person, solution by solution.
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In This Series
- Do you know what your home energy costs are?
- Where are the Minneapolis LEED homes?
- The LEED commercial buildings in Minneapolis
- How Edison High School (NE MPLS) is making change happen
- The costs of energy and air quality in our schools
- Portland, Oregon: Catching up to our older and wiser sibling
- Q&A: Ron Fergle, Solart – the future of green for Minneapolis homes
- How does Minneapolis become zero waste?
- What is a carbon price and why should I support it?
- The cost impact of LEED and Minnesota Green Star
- What you can do to shore up an older home
- Typical Minneapolis household expenses for gasoline, oil, electricity
- Why plants and trees matter
- Progressive multifamily and affordable housing
- Creative use of garbage
MPLS Green Resources
- Where is Local Sustainable Design?
- Q&A: Sustainable landlord Timothy Springer
- Q&A: Green architect Alex Haecker
- Green Building Standards in Minneapolis
- Giving Gardens: How Our Urban Center Is Vital
- The Lake Street Energy Challenge
- What is a Living Building? — a Finance & Commerce Q&A with Richard Graves, executive director of the International Living Future Institute
- Minnesota’s alternative standards to LEED (B3)
- C3 Living Design Project
- University of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Building Research
- SB30 Sustainable Building 2030 Energy Standards