Green Living

Going Green and Saving Green in Dakota County

In 2008, the Dakota County commissioners passed a resolution to "go green" and collaborate with cities to utilize energy-efficient facilities and practices. The countywide "greening initiative" is paying off.

According to a 20-page study the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club in Minneapolis, the combined efforts of the cities and Dakota County will save taxpayers at least $200,000 a year. The report chronicles how Dakota County cities have used energy rebates and federal stimulus dollars to reduce heat-trapping fuel emissions while saving on energy costs. Buildings produce about 40% of a municipal government's emissions.

Several cities and to two college campuses in Dakota County have made similar pledges. Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan, Rosemount and Sunfish Lake have gone so far as to join the Sierra Club's "Cool Cities" campaign. The presidents of Dakota County Technical College and Inver Hills Community College have both signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. They pledge to identify sources of carbon emissions on their campuses and work to reduce them.

Residents can get in on the action, too. Through Apple Valley's "Better Energy" program, resident homeowners can receive energy-efficiency loans of up to $8,000 per household to retrofit their homes. The Center for Energy Environment does home inspections to determine how to make a house more energy efficient. Additionally, it can direct homeowners to rebates for costly projects such as furnace replacements.

Don't feel left out if you don't live in Dakota County. The state began offering rebates of up to $200 on "Energy Star"...

Green Roof Installed on Saint Paul Fire Station

A green roof is being installed on the garage of St. Paul's newest fire station, located at W. 7th Street and Randolph Avenue. Installation of plants continues Friday and next week.

The city is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for the new building. St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said the green space also will help open the building to Saint Paul community members. The space eventually will be open for public tours and use, which will likely require an appointment through the fire department.  It could possibly even host weddings. The roof will have a gas connection and a sound system.

The 8,000-square-foot green roof is located two stories from ground level, and the soil depth ranges from 4 to 15 inches deep. The flora includes vines that will climb steel structures to look like trees, native perennials, grass, and succulents. There is also a small pond, and space for firefighters to plant a vegetable garden. When it is completed, it will host more than 9,000 plants.

The entire project cost about $500,000. Yearly maintenance will cost about $1,500 to $2,000.


Get a $6,500 Loan to Make Energy-Saving Improvements to St. Paul Homes

The city of St. Paul has received $550,000 to offer no-interest loans of up to $6,500 for homeowners who make energy-saving improvements to their properties.

The money comes out of federal stimulus funds. The program will include rebates for landlords if they replace outdated refrigerators in their rental units with new Energy Star refrigerators.

Anne Hunt, energy policy director for the city of St. Paul, says homeowners can use the no-interest loans for things like furnace replacement, insulation and air sealing.

"We are gearing towards people that are modest-income people that are above, say, the [federal] weatherization programs -- they are not eligible to get free weatherization -- for their homes so they need something that's attractive for them to make the investments in their homes," Hunt said. "But there is no income cap on it."

Individuals with homes in Saint Paul will be randomly selected. Applications must be postmarked by June 11.


RiverCentre Gets Green in Saint Paul

Two stories about the RiverCentre in St. Paul:

First, a $2 million, 1-megawatt solar energy system will be installed on the roof of the St. Paul RiverCentre. It will be the largest solar-energy installation in the state.

District Energy St. Paul, which provides heating and cooling for downtown's commercial and residential buildings, will provide funds for its construction of $1 million, in addition to a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The system will heat water for downtown and offset energy that District Energy St. Paul expends burning waste wood for its heating system. It should be running by the end of 2010.

Second, officials are working on cutting the amount of trash generated at Saint Paul's RiverCentre. Visitors to the RiverCentre complex produced more than 2.8 million pounds of garbage during last year's events. To combat the trash problem, an ambitious recycling program will soon be rolled out.

The "50-50 in 2" program promotes new recycling and composting measures aimed at getting total waste to half trash and half recycling in two years. Right now, the complex recycles about 15%t of its waste.

280 new recycling bins have been paired with trash cans, as well as receptacles that encourage the disposal of recyclables, compost, paper and trash products separately. The facility has also begun composting unused food.

The facility avoids paying a 70% tax on trash products by composting more materials. And the complex will make money on recycling such materials as cardboard, cooking oil and shrink-wrap.

The "50-50 in 2" programis also being rolled out at Xcel Energy Center and the Roy Wilkins Auditorium.


More Green Minds in Saint Paul

Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about some youths working to make a difference in the environment of Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood of Saint Paul.  I ran across an article today about yet another young person working to make the world a cleaner place to live, within St. Paul and beyond.  This time, he hails from the Macalester neighborhood of Saint Paul.

A student from Macalester College was honored in San Francisco this week with a Brower Youth Award.  The award recognizes six North American environmental leaders between the ages of 13 and 22.  21-year-old Timothy DenHerder-Thomas will receive a $3,000 award and participate in skills-building and mentoring workshops.

DenHerder-Thomas believes that becoming more earth-friendly as a society doesn’t need to be a story of hardship and personal sacrifices.  Instead, he has demonstrated that climate solutions are opportunities for economic profit and local community building.

He is responsible for spearheading the creation of the Clean Energy Revolving Fund at Macalester College in Saint Paul, which is a financial pool for campus initiatives that funds profitable sustainability projects that repay the fund and help it grow.  It is now nearing $100,000 and yielding over 30%...

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