Go Green

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Ten basic no-cost or low-cost ways to stay cool, save energy, reduce emissions 

As we enter the hot days of summer with temperatures over 90 degrees, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources reminds consumers of some simple no-cost or low-cost energy-saving tips to help keep cool, conserve energy, and reduce utility bills. “There are some basic steps we can all take to reduce our energy use over the hot summer months,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “These measures are kind to both our pocketbooks and the environment. Reducing energy use decreases carbon emissions from burning coal and petroleum products, and this has a positive impact on our air and water quality.”

Check out the following 10 tips to keep cool, save money, and help prevent unnecessary power outages by easing high demand on electric power this summer:

• Close curtains and blinds and pull shades during the hottest times of the day to keep the hot sun out. • Set your thermostat to allow your house to be warmer than normal when you are away. Continue Reading →

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Sisters energized to help their neighbors, keep communities safe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Courtney Mehus

Contributing Writer

Combined, Nicko Spehn and her sister Alicia Ellis have more than 57 years experience as employees of CenterPoint Energy, who respectively hold the positions of dispatching manager and supervisor of appliance services. These two sisters, working together, have helped shape multiple initiatives for CenterPoint Energy both in the office and in the community. One of the most important programs that Spehn’s leadership has influenced is the Stay Safe, Stay Warm program. For the past five years she has been involved in organizing efforts which provide free heating system tune-ups to qualifying customers. The Stay Safe, Stay Warm program has been around in one form or another for over 20 years. Continue Reading →

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Some chemicals in everyday products may contribute to obesity

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

Contributing Writers

 

Obesity is a huge problem in the U.S. and other industrialized countries. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity rates have doubled for American adults and tripled for kids and teenagers aged six through 19 since 1980. Today, 31 percent of American adults and 15 percent of youngsters are classified as overweight. The rise in obesity and related health problems like diabetes is usually attributed to an abundance of high-calorie food coupled with the trend toward a more sedentary lifestyle, but there is more to the story. A growing number of researchers believe that certain chemicals collectively known as “obesogens” may be a contributing factor to the growing obesity epidemic. Continue Reading →

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Organic agriculture: Is it sustainable?

By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss

Contributing Writers

Dr. Henry I. Miller’s May 15, 2014 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal has indeed made waves in the organic farming community. Miller, former director of the Office of Biotechnology at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, argues that conventional farming — which uses synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers and often genetically modified (GM) seed stock to maximize yields — is actually better for the environment, producing more food and using less water compared to organic farming. “Organic farming might work well for certain local environments on a small scale, but its farms produce far less food per unit of land and water than conventional ones,” says Miller. “The low yields of organic agriculture — typically 20 percent to 50 percent less than conventional agriculture — impose various stresses on farmland and especially on water consumption.”

Miller adds that organic methods can cause significant leaking of nitrates from composted manure — the fertilizer of choice for most organic farms — into groundwater, polluting drinking water. He also cites research showing that large-scale composting generates significant amounts of greenhouse gases and “may also deposit pathogenic bacteria on or in food crops, which has led to more frequent occurrences of food poisoning in the U.S. and elsewhere.”

“If the scale of organic production were significantly increased, says Miller, the lower yields would increase the pressure for the conversion of more land to farming and more water for irrigation, both of which are serious environmental issues.” He adds that conventional farming’s embrace of GM crops — a no-no to organic farmers — is yet another way we can boost yields and feed more people with less land. Continue Reading →

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Free Drop-in Discoveries and Meet the Gardener programs

Tamarack Nature Center will again offer two free, family-friendly program series this summer focused on nature and gardening topics. The Drop-in Discoveries series will run Saturdays from 10 am — noon and cover a variety of nature topics. Meet the Gardener programs will be offered Mondays from 10:15 – 11 am and will highlight a different gardening topic weekly. Drop-In Discoveries programs will be led by volunteer Discovery Hosts and feature up-close visits with live animals, including Tamarack’s resident owls, snakes and salamanders. Participants will also get hands-on experience with touchable artifacts, like skulls and skins, and sample edible treats from the Discovery Hollow garden. Continue Reading →

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Author writes about energy sources of the future

Nuclear power: seems scary, but safe
 
 

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

The environment can be saved through innovation, says award-winning futurist and author Ramez Naam. The Egyptian-born Naam who regularly lectures on energy, environment and innovation as an adjunct faculty member at Singularity University, wrote The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet that looks at climate change and how to invest in scientific and technological innovation to overcome challenges. During his hour-long conversation with Minnesota Public Radio’s (MPR) Jonathan Foley, the author-professor proposed at MPR’s Top Coast Festival May 31 at Minnesota’s Coffman Union that the federal government offer “huge economic incentives” to large corporations to do more environment-friendly innovations. “We are not creating any economic incentives for any [U.S.] company to actually capture any potential carbon dioxide that escapes,” he explained. “Cutting carbon emissions in half is not enough. Continue Reading →

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Please don’t pollute: drains to Mississippi River

The Mississippi River flows quietly through our hometown and most of us would never intentionally pollute it. But all it takes is one big rain, and the stuff on the streets — pop bottles, dirt, oil — spills down the storm drains and right into the river. Renisha Gray, youth manager for Emerge, says that protecting storm drains from litter is important. A nonprofit dedicated to creating workforce and housing programs, Emerge partnered with Hennepin County for a recent beautification project — employing youth street crews to stencil messages on storm drains throughout North Minneapolis. The stencil message — “Please Don’t Pollute: Drains to Mississippi River” — is a reminder that storm water run-off doesn’t go to a waste water facility to be filtered and cleaned. Continue Reading →

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Communities of color bear the brunt of environmental hazards

By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in June will announce a new “carbon rule.” The “common-sense” rule involves updating toxic air pollution standards, including new monitoring requirements for petroleum refineries of benzene, which can cause respiratory problems and other health concerns, and requiring updating of emissions from storage tanks, how gases are destroyed. EPA officials say if implemented the proposal could reduce toxic air emissions by 5,600 tons per year. Karen Monahan, a local environmental justice advocate, says the public comment period opens June 2. She helped organize the May 15 environmental forum at Kwanzaa Community Church, and told the packed room that everyone must let both the EPA and Washington lawmakers know that this rule is very important and should be fully supported. “We want to make sure it is a just carbon rule,” she explained, “because we know that communities of color bear a disapportionate burden when it comes to climate pollution. Continue Reading →

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Cookie Cart creates pathway for future entrepreneurs

Renovation will make business more environmentally friendly

By Brandi Phillips

Contributing Writer

 

 

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, the world, the economy, the people and the way of living was vastly different from the way that things are now. Some people and organizations have decided to make the change with the times and improve their relationship to the land. People and organizations are continuously becoming greener and more environmentally friendly. Native North Minneapolis business Cookie Cart is going in on the “Green” movement. When I sat down to interview the Executive Director of Cookie Cart, Matt Halley, about the organization’s history, present, and future. Continue Reading →

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Cookie Cart receives grant from Hennepin County to improve recycling program

Cookie Cart, a Minneapolis bakery and nonprofit organization, received a $10,000 recycling grant in January, along with 10 other Hennepin County businesses and organizations. Now they’ll be able to make environmental sustainability a strong aspect of their business and up the ante on their recycling programs.

In addition to selling delicious cookies, Cookie Cart helps youth ages 15-18 gain first-time work experience while learning important life skills. All cookie profits are invested back into Cookie Cart’s youth employment program. Cookie Cart is currently expanding and relocating their bakery, and they will use Hennepin County’s business recycling grant to improve their recycling system and implement an organics recycling system. Organics composting is great for the environment — recycling food scraps, food-soiled paper products and other compostable items. A recycling hauler picks up the collected organics from a business and brings them to a commercial composting facility. Continue Reading →

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