St. Anthony hosts tri-city sustainability fair

Students from the University of Minnesota, local officials, green businesses and residents flocked to Silverwood Park in St. Anthony on Thursday, Nov. 20, for the second annual tri-city sustainability fair highlighting the state of energy use, water consumption and recycling efforts in Falcon Heights, Lauderdale and St. Anthony.

This is the third year the university has partnered with the three cities to help brainstorm and organize projects.

Last year was the first year to invite residents and businesses to find solutions that fit them at a sustainability fair, an event its organizers hope will become a continuing tradition.

Knowing ‘how much’ the first step

U of M students, mostly juniors and seniors, from the SUST 4004: Sustainable Communities capstone class for the sustainability minor presented information they gathered in projects they’ve worked on in the three cities.

For example, one project focused on water usage, showing that all three cities average below the metro-area average in water usage. The average American goes through about 75 gallons of water a day, the students added.

When local residents were asked to estimate how many gallons they use each day, most guessed much lower.

Another group found that energy spent from utilities was the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the three cities. In St. Anthony, 78 percent of greenhouse gas emissions came from energy, compared to 75 percent in Falcon Heights and 68 percent in Lauderdale. The students gathered their information from Xcel Energy, the utility provider for all three cities.

The students noted that many residents and business owners don’t know that Xcel Energy offers a clean energy program called Windsource to its customers, allowing them to purchase “blocks” of clean energy kilowatt hours for $1 a month or less.

Yet another project looked at recycling and waste collection in each of the cities, going as far as to evaluate the viability of a composting truck that would come door-to-door, much like a garbage truck, but for organic materials.

The students praised St. Anthony and Falcon Heights for their single-sort recycling programs. Lauderdale will be switching to the same system next year.

For more information about the Xcel Energy Windsource program, visit responsiblebynature.com/windsource or call 1-800-895-4999.

City officials speak up

Several city officials spoke at the event, including St. Anthony city manager Mark Casey who called the three cities a “trifecta” looking for ways to work together on new initiatives. “Sustainability seemed like a natural fit,” Casey explained.

Falcon Heights mayor Peter Lindstrom said his family has made sustainability a priority in their household. Lindstrom said he bikes nearly everywhere, and has installed solar panels on his home, much like those atop City Hall that account for about two-thirds of the building’s power.

“You energize me, and your enthusiasm inspires me,” he said to the students. “You know the numbers, you know the challenges.”

St. Anthony Mayor Jerry Faust highlighted the city’s recent switch to LED bulbs in parking lamps and other city amenities — even in the municipal liquor store.

“Each of us [needs to] nibble away at another edge of it,” he said of growing environmental concerns.

Beth Mercer-Taylor, Falcon Heights city council member and the U of M’s environmental education coordinator, said she has hope for the future because of the hard work the students are doing.

“Decarbonizing the world can be daunting. It can feel like we’re all very small,” she said. “I believe this is the next generation of leaders in sustainability.”

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.

 

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