Sustainable We #3: Can Minneapolis Meet Its Climate Action Goals?

“We are well served by having the educated, aware, thoughtful and passionate individuals we have in Minneapolis who want to collectively do in a better way. How are we designing a sustainable environment together?”

Topic #3: “Can Minneapolis Meet Its Climate Action Goals?”

Our city-wide series of “Sustainable We” conversations continued December 14 with a panel discussion at Fulton Brewery. This one was social, including cocktails and snacks, featuring spirited group conversation with sustainably minded building designers, home builders, and anyone interested in city planning issues.

Thanks to Carbon Net Zero for partnership enabling us to cost-effectively get the space. And thanks to our forum sponsor TruNorth Solar for helping to subsidize the social networking hour.


THE FOCUS: Several local designers currently have little faith that Minneapolis will reach its 2030 Climate Action Plan goals. What is sustainable — energy-wise, health-wise, structure-wise — in our city and housing stock? What excites these designers: new technologies and materials that might help us make a deeper impact? What are the myths, misperceptions and policies that stand in our way to reducing emissions from our buildings?

Participants Included:

“I think the City should offer incentives to create more energy-efficient structures, not inadvertently disincentivize them. They should be encouraging people to do better. Streamlining the review process for energy-efficient projects. Offering fee discounts.”

Q: What is a sustainability myth you’d like to help dispel?

That green building is expensive. Very often when you take what already exists — instead of paying to tear it down — and apply other benefits to recreating what is there, you discover great potential. In the residential sector, for example, often people believe they need more square footage, when re-visioning the flow of a space will work more effectively. In one recent case, a client considered a $450K add-on, and simply needed a much more sustainably minded $90K remodel.

Currently, Anschel says, inspectors have about 5 minutes per job site, which is not nearly enough. And he thinks resources should be spent on training more inspectors, reviewers, zoning officials. Similar to St. Paul, Minneapolis now has a measurable system – but he doesn’t think it’s as good as it once was.

As a child of ‘hippy’ parents, Sean lived off-grid in the mountains of Taos, NM. The fall was spent compiling the wood pile that heated their house for the winter. As they waited for spring, and the wood dwindled, use of each log became a conscious choice. Did they really it? He believes centralized fossil-fuel generated energy sources have divorced us from our energy consumption, but smart houses, distributed energy, and homes that generate their own power provide the opportunity to return to a tangible and personal connection with our energy use.

From Girl Scout days, Rosie has grown up with the basic ethic that “we should always leave a place better than we find it.” With early architectural design instruction in smart use of sunlight, daylighting and climate control, she has focused her work with the dual-purpose of sustainable design and affordable housing. “I’m a social justice-oriented person. Designing with the environment and future in mind is just a natural fit.”

Community discussion is a large part of all “Sustainable We” forums. Rep. Frank Hornstein was on hand for some of the conversation. Other participants included Minneapolis City Councilman Kevin Reich… Tim Roman, co-founder of sustainability measurer EcoTone… Steve Thomas of Better Futures deconstruction efforts… architect Marnie Peichel, who specializes in sustainable affordable housing… Megan Hoye of Center for Energy and Environment… several members of TruNorth Solar… Rich Harrison of MetroBlooms… energy efficient home designer George Hutchinson… Solart architect Ron Fergle.

Co-moderated by Mikki Morrissette, founder of the non-profit Collective Impact ME, and sustainably minded young adult Megan Oelfke.

About the “Sustainable We” series

There is not always one right answer, and we don’t all have to be persuaded toward one point of view. These conversations are designed not as debate, but for informed conversation and perspectives on complex issues. All of the moderated discussions, co-hosted by a young adult, are created for curious, engaged and/or confused residents who want to separate myths from realities, enable safe discussion of concerns, and make decisions as individuals who live in a collective, interconnected community.

Subscribe to to learn details as panelists, special guests, dates and locations develop.

There is a nominal fee for each conversation, to defray the cost of space, recording equipment and the growth of future forums to a diverse audience.

The 9-Part Series

  • Parks, Pollinators and Pesticides (Growing Things): Are there necessary pesticides? Less toxic solutions? How does the Park Board’s use of pesticides work within the City’s new protection measures for pollinators? Who is regulating our air, water and soil from toxins — and do we trust them? First Unitarian Society (behind Walker Art Center), October 20, 2015. Click to learn results of that conversation.
  • The Life Cycle (Waste): The resources used to keep our products stocked — and the resulting waste. Recycling and composting are not the only answer. What are we doing with repurposed plastics, deconstruction materials, e-waste? What are we recycling wrong? Can we change our buying habits? Lake Harriet Spiritual Center (Linden Hills, 44th and Upton), November 16. Click to learn results of that conversation.
  • Navigating Renewable Energy Options (Energy): What should we know about the developers who want us to subscribe to community solar gardens? What new technologies are coming — or are here — in renewable energies? Gandhi Mahal (Southeast), January 19. Click for details.
  • Building a Sustainable Community (Design): How has Longfellow built a sustainable community that connects with each other? Why is Prospect Park trying to do the same? Can we build dense, multifamily units, while keeping locals happy with the resulting changes?
  • Toxic Shock (Growing Things): What toxins are we unwittingly spreading into our communities, and how? Can we develop affordable multigenerational spaces for larger families, not simply for young professionals?
  • Our Food Habits (Waste): Why should we buy locally grown food? What does organic food have to do with climate change? How do permeable pavers and rain gardens make a difference? Solutions for food waste.
  • Creativity With Garbage (Design): What creative things can be done with with our garbage? Why should we reduce our garbage?
  • Being a Sustainable We: What do young residents wish adults in the city would get off their butts and do differently? Culminating event of highlights, calls to action, connection building — and Recognitions for sustainable leaders in our community! Surly Brewery, June 27

All forums are held in different areas of the city, and are co-hosted by a young adult.

Use the contact form via menu bar to suggest speakers, questions to raise, event spaces, or inquire about sponsorship opportunities.

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