Minnesota GreenStep Cities: Taking Action with Proven Best Practices

Philipp Muessig, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Dan Frank, Greater Pine River Area Healthy Green Communities Partnership

Cities all over the state are considering ways to protect the environment and reduce costs, and many of them are looking to a new program called Minnesota GreenStep Cities. GreenStep Cities is an action-oriented voluntary program offering a cost-effective, simple pathway to implementation of sustainable development best practices. The actions that make up each best practice are tailored specifically for Minnesota cities, focus on cost savings and energy use reduction and encourage innovation.

Energy is at the center of the GreenStep Cities program. Best practices include energy efficiency for public and private buildings, constructing green buildings and developing land and roads efficiently. GreenStep Cities helps city government and community members reduce the use of transportation fuels, too, with more efficient vehicles and by supporting active living and alternatives to single-occupancy car travel. GreenStep Cities can also spur job growth, help green businesses thrive, and assist with renewable energy projects.

GreenStep Cities launched in June 2010, and over 20 cities are already involved. One of the first was Pine River, Minnesota, three hours north of the Twin Cities and with a population of about 900. In 2009 Pine River citizens and organizations approached the Initiative Foundation and together they formed the Greater Pine River Area Healthy Green Communities Partnership (HGCP) to work in large part on GreenStep Cities best practices.

The goals of HGCP are to develop citizens’ capacity to create a shared green vision and plan, and to mobilize local, regional and other assets to implement that plan. In early 2010, HGCP recruited and trained a core local team, hosted a GreenStep Cities program representative, held a community visioning session and selected key goals aligned with GreenStep Cities best practices. HGCP is now in the process of working in small task forces to implement these plans for a resilient and sustainable Pine River.

HGCP has already achieved a number of accomplishments: convincing the Pine River City Council to pass a resolution to officially become a GreenStep City, securing a GreenCorps member to staff HGCP, co-hosting a series of neighborhood energy efficiency workshops for residents and businesses and starting a community garden, among others. HGCP is also excited to be completing the first phase of a feasibility study to add renewable hydroelectric energy production to an existing local dam.

In the coming year the collaborative group in Pine River will move forward with current initiatives, while also taking a close look at energy use in the city’s facilities. The greatest challenge will be to retain momentum and to continue to engage local citizens — but HGCP members know that their efforts are creating a leaner, greener Pine River.

Your city can be a part of the action! To learn more about the program and how GreenStep Cities can help you achieve your sustainability goals, visit MnGreenStep.org.

Read Up

Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature, by Douglas Farr, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2008.

How Green Is Your City? The SustainLane US City Rankings, by Warren Karlenzig et. al, New Society Publishers, 2007.

Act Locally

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
St. Paul, MN

Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs)
St. Paul, MN

GreenStep Cities

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