Minneapolis Climate Action Plan: Why It’s Important

First in a series that looks at Minneapolis and our approach to sustainable design, climate change and energy efficiency

Pneumatic-Collection-22At 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.

converting coal to electricity jpg

image courtesy of Ron Fergle, Solart

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:

  1. reduce energy use by 17% by significantly improving energy efficiency of commercial/residential/public buildings,
  2. construct 30 miles of bicycle transportation facilities, and
  3. 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.

graph2

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.

PortlandCarbonProducts

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.

MPLS Emissions

from Minneapolis climate action plan

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.

Top 10 U.S. cities for LEED-certified projects: Chicago, New York City, D.C., San Francisco, Houston, Seattle, Atlanta, Portland, Los Angeles, San Diego. Cities to emulate for comprehensive sustainable goals: Vancouver, British Columbia; Oslo, Norway; Curitiba, Brazil; Copenhagen, Denmark

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.

Please subscribe at top left to be part of what we are creating. Help us in our Stage One efforts: Building Awareness.

In a future story in this series, we’ll look at how Portland, Oregon, has reduced carbon emissions by 14 percent since 1990, while 75,000 more jobs were added to the economy and the population grew by 31 percent. The Minneapolis Climate Action Plan currently has a goal to reduce 2006 levels of city-wide carbon emissions by 15% this year, and by 30% in 2025.


In This Series


MPLS Green Resources

Related Resources

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  1 comment for “Minneapolis Climate Action Plan: Why It’s Important

  1. Isabel scott
    March 31, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    We must address the impact of methane on climate. A public initiative to educate and to encourage people to reduce meat and dairy consumption. Why is this factor ignored? Methane gas releases from fracking?
    I love it that Minneapolis is at the forefront in this battle. Let’s keep it up and fight harder for the children’s sake.

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