Global Warming: What Is Duluth Doing About It?

Freelance writer

Duluth has been stepping up to the global warming plate since May of 2001 by passing a resolution to join the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign sponsored by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants by 20% by 2020. The process includes taking an inventory of greenhouse gas production in the city, developing a strategic plan and taking practical steps to reduce the emissions. The commitment to this goal provides benefits including saving money, improving community livability and being part of an international effort for a healthier environment.

How is Duluth planning on achieving this? Some of the tasks have been as seemingly insignificant as changing light bulbs. Changing inefficient bulbs to energy-saving LED lights in the many street lights throughout the city has resulted in a decrease by 85% in energy demand, lower maintenance needs and overall lower costs! City projects have also involved improving light fixtures outdoors in parks, indoors in public spaces, and the city council chambers.

Additional carbon reduction projects include the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth. They are building a simple garage primarily made of solar panels. An electric car will then charge off of the panels when it is stored in the garage. Also, a barn at the zoo has successfully mounted solar water heaters now producing warm water without additional heat energy sources. Another project at the Duluth Public Library involved creating an energy resource kiosk that has information on global warming, energy conservation, and has tracking data available on the energy being produced from the solar panels mounted on its roof.

The St. Louis County office is also taking initiatives to reduce carbon emissions within the St. Louis County area of Duluth. They have announced a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in county facilities by 20% before 2009. One relatively simple success has been to paint their public parking garage white. The lighter walls have created a brighter area and a reduced need for constantly running lights. Additionally, solar panels have been mounted on the top of the garage to produce energy for the county courthouse. They have also installed room sensors for lights, are using waterless urinals in the men’s bathroom in the government services building, and have future plans to install a green roof on the county garage.

Not only are government staff working on reducing carbon emissions in Duluth, but local businesses and communities are too. The Duluth Whole Foods Co-op recently built the first LEED certified building incorporating elements such as using sustainable building materials and a design to be energy efficient. A few other recent green building sites include St. Mary’s Hospital and a new Eco-Home in the Hawk Ridge Development.

Local communities here are taking action by offering events for residents to learn about saving energy, designing green buildings and living more sustainable. Every September, look for the Lake Superior Energy Fair and the Sustainable Farming Association Fair. February brings The Minnesota Power/Allete Energy Design Fair and the Living Green Conference. We all should continue learning about new technologies that become available and more efficient ways to reduce our impact on the planet. As a city, Duluth CAN do more. A new mayor will be coming into office in 2008 and will hopefully be a visionary leader for Duluth to work towards a more energy conscious pathway.

I produced a video made of four interviews with city staff, St. Louis County, Duluth Transit Authority and Minnesota Power on energy conservation in Duluth. The DVD is 39 minutes and is available at the Duluth Public Library.

Wendy Grethen is a freelance writer, former Environmental Science College professor, Duluth CCP task force member since 2005, and community educator.

Cities for Climate Protection

Hawk Ridge Eco Home

Lake Superior Energy Association

Energy Design Conference

Living Green Conference

The energy information kiosk at the Duluth Public Library

Energy Conservation in Duluth

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