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Groundswell of Small MN Governments "Going Green"

A Minnesota program that guides local governments on best ways to "go green" estimates that 35 cities so far have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent. (MPCA)
A Minnesota program that guides local governments on best ways to "go green" estimates that 35 cities so far have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent. (MPCA)
January 27, 2020

NISSWA, Minn. -- Addressing environmental issues is a debate often seen at the state and federal level.

But in Minnesota, local governments are taking it on themselves through an expanding program.

The GreenStep Cities initiative is now in its 10th year. It guides cities that want to reduce their carbon footprints but might not have the resources.

Rick Patraw, section manager at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, says his agency, which oversees the program, can recommend nearly 30 ways these cities can make improvements.

"They can move in and try to do things with buildings and lighting to reduce their greenhouse gases," he points out.

Patraw says stormwater management is a common practice adopted by cities as they see more heavy rain events brought on by climate change. He says finding enough money can sometimes be a barrier for smaller communities trying to go green.

More than 130 municipalities, many of which have fewer than 5,000 residents, have signed up for the program,.

One of those communities is Nisswa, a city of nearly 2,000 people in northern Minnesota. Brittney Cotner, the city's planning and zoning administrator, says Nisswa signed up for GreenStep Cities a few years ago, and has taken a more active approach over the past year.

"There's some of these best practices that you look at and you think, 'Oh gosh, how is a city of 2,000 going to accomplish that?'" she states. "And there's some really creative ideas out there. So, just knowing where to look is really half the battle."

Cotner says the program assigns a single person to help guide the city through various steps, which she describes as very helpful. For Nisswa, the steps have included using more recycled paper and buying energy efficient appliances for city use.

As it looks to the future, the program hopes to get more county governments and school systems to join.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN