Archive | REBUILD REPAIR RECYCLE

If you can sew, you can help

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Michelle Hoaglund, owner of St. Paul’s Treadle Yard Goods, handed out the first of 50 free fabric kits last weekend. Her store made the kits available for people to sew facemasks for health care workers. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

One critical need that has emerged over the past several days is the need for more personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gowns, in hospitals and other health care settings. In recent days, doctors and nurses have warned that they are running out of equipment to stay safe as they diagnose and treat patients.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and Allina Health, along with several community partners, have launched a statewide volunteer effort, calling for people to sew and donate facemasks for doctors, nurses, and other medical staff.
Michelle Hoaglund is the owner of Treadle Yard Goods, a well-established, much loved fabric store on Hamline and Grand avenues in St. Paul. Partnering with the non-profit Sew Good Goods, Hoaglund and her dedicated staff were able to put together 50 free kits with enough cotton fabric and elastic to make 28 CDC approved face masks.
Distribution of the kits began at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 22. By 1:05 p.m., according to Hoaglund, all of the kits were gone. The line of people, which had started to form at noon, stretched all the way to the end of the block and around the corner. People maintained a safe distance between one another, and many came to the store to buy their own material once the free kits had been given away.
“It was,” Hoaglund said, “beyond what any of us could have imagined.” She estimated there were between 80-100 people waiting in line and mused, “People who sew are just not the kind to sit around on the couch in a time of crisis.”
Treadle Yard Goods will likely continue to make more kits available and, at least at the time of printing, the store remains open for shopping. Check www.treadleyardgoods.com for updates.
If you would like to use fabrics you currently have in your own stock pile, note the following guidelines: be sure to use fabric that is 100% cotton: tightly woven for the front, flannel or other soft 100% cotton for the back. If you have any doubts about the content of your fabric, don’t use it. Prewash all fabric on hot and dry on high heat to ensure pre-shrinkage. Area hospitals or other providers will sanitize the masks.
Instructions involve the use of elastic. If that is not available, you can make fabric ties (self-made ties or twill tape), one in each of the four corners. Each tie should have a finished length of 18 inches. To make your own ties, cut fabric strips 1 ¼” wide, fold in half and press, then sew both outer edges in to the middle with a single seam. Knot the ends to keep from fraying.
It is advisable to use contrasting fabrics, so there is an obvious front and back side.
In this extraordinarily difficult time for small business owners, Hoaglund said, “I made my peace with all of the uncertainty a few days ago. I thought, we can’t control any of what is happening right now – but it’s how you love your neighbor that counts.”
Instructions and drop-off points for the CDC-approved design, approved by Allina Health, are available at sewgoodgoods.org.
This link contains additional useful information: https://blog.bluecrossmn.com/covid19masks/
Many organizations in addition to hospitals have a need for masks including homeless shelters and funeral homes.

 

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Adopt-a-Drain: simple way to make a big difference and protect state waterways

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Sweep up, rake up, pick up!

(L>R) City Council Member Andrew Johnson with drain adopters Mandy LaBreche and Jillian Kaster are joined by Minneapolis Public Works Engineer Bryan Dodds at the 10,000th drain adopted by Mandy.

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Everyone knows that trash is no good for lakes, rivers, and streams. But do you know that natural debris such as leaves, grass clippings, and pet waste also pollute the waterways? When these natural pollutants are swept into the storm water system, they end up in the nearest body of water. Eventually the organic matter will break down, release phosphorous, and stimulate the growth of algae.
The Minneapolis Adopt-a-Drain Program was created in 2016 to help address this problem. Minneapolis joined a metro-wide program when it was launched last year.
The concept is simple, and it’s working. Residents learn about Adopt-a-Drain and volunteer on the program website (www.adopt-a-drain.org). Adopt-a-Drain asks residents to adopt a storm drain in their neighborhood, and keep it clear of leaves, trash, and other debris to reduce water pollution. Volunteers commit to keeping a storm drain unimpeded. Storm drains flow directly into local lakes, rivers, and wetlands, acting as a conduit for trash and organic pollutants.

Minneapolis leads cities
Program Manager Lane Christianson said, “2019 was a year of exceptional growth for the Adopt-a-Drain Program. We’re thrilled to report that Minneapolis is leading all cities in total participants and adopted storm drains. We had 1,561 storm drains adopted with 825 new participants last year. Most participants take care of multiple drains; some do entire intersections. We ask volunteers to sweep/rake/shovel leaves, trash and other debris off the drain surface year round.”
Volunteers can report as often as they like – but are asked to report their observations at least twice yearly, in the spring and fall via an online account. For those who don’t have access to the online system, a reporting postcard is mailed out annually.
Christianson recommends the following tools for making the job easier: broom, rake, gloves, snow shovel or dustpan, pail, and compostable yard waste bag.

(L>R) Mandy LaBreche and Jillian Kaster; drain adopters with the 10; 000th adopted drain.

He said, “Only the surface of the storm drain grate and the area around it should be cleaned. Do not remove the grate or otherwise attempt to clean inside the storm drain. If your drain is plugged, contact the city of Minneapolis at 311.”
As part of the job, waste is separated and placed in the appropriate trash, recycling, or compost carts at the volunteer’s home. Note that sediment or dirt collected in the spring is not compostable, as it likely contains chemical residue from deicers used over the winter and motor oil. Bag it, and put it in the trash.
Once these pollutants get into the storm water system and start to decay, organic matter releases nutrients (phosphorous is the biggest culprit) that feed algae and invasive plants.
When lakes get covered with algae, sunlight can’t reach the bottom and desirable plants start to die off. In the long term, the ecosystem changes so fewer aquatic animals, fish, and native plants can survive.

Make a big difference
Christianson said, “It doesn’t take a lot of time to clean a storm drain, and it makes a big difference collectively. Volunteers like Mandy LaBreche, who recently adopted the 10,000th drain through our program, are eager to do something that makes a positive difference in improving local water quality.”
Minneapolis participants receive a yard sign that helps spread the word about this volunteer program. For more information or to adopt-a-drain of your own, go to www.adopt-a-drain.org.

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Area C not deemed emergency

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Area C (background), as photographed from the opposite bank of the Mississippi River, is just south of the Ford Bridge. The Ford Motor Company dumped unknown quantities of industrial waste, including solvents and paint sludge, on the floodplain of the Mississippi River below the bluff near its St. Paul assembly plant between 1945-1966. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

But community members concerned

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Over 150 people turned out to hear the latest findings about Area C from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in a packed meeting room at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church on Feb. 20, 2020.
The topic of discussion, called Area C, is a dump site where the Ford Motor Company dumped unknown quantities of industrial waste, including solvents and paint sludge, on the floodplain of the Mississippi River below the bluff near its St. Paul assembly plant between 1945-1966.
MPCA hydrogeologist Amy Hadiaris has been monitoring ground and surface water in Area C since 2007. She presented the most recent data and summarized the position of MPCA by saying, “Clean-up is needed, but we do not see this as an emergency situation.”
Community members expressed a deep level of concern about the dump site during the meeting, submitting a half-inch-thick stack of index cards with questions for MPCA staff to address.
Friends of the Mississippi River Executive Director Whitney Clark asked the last question of the evening. He asked, “Is it right for the Ford Corporation to leave their waste for future generations to clean up?”
Someone then called for a show of hands for how many people would have Ford remove it all if they could – and nearly everyone in the room raised theirs, including MPCA staff.
In this investigative stage, nine groundwater monitoring wells will be added to the existing 10. Friends of the Mississippi River and the Capitol Region Watershed District requested and support this increase in monitoring activities.
Hadiaris explained, “MPCA has a set process for evaluating the safety of ground water. We are testing for 65 volatile organic compounds, and 80 semi-volatile organic compounds. One of the big concerns is lead, which was added to all paints of that era.”
At the request of MPCA, the Minnesota Department of Health reviewed site data to assess health risks related to Area C. It was determined that only minimal threat exists if trespassers contact contaminants in soil or other physical hazards. There are no other ways for people to come in contact with contaminants, unless they trespass on the site.
To further discourage trespassing, MDH recommends repairing broken fence segments and adding signage between the Hidden Falls Regional Park walking trail and the southern boundary of Area C.

Waiting for two+ floods
Hadiaris said, “This is a contemplative process. We will wait for at least two flood events before making a clean-up decision and presenting it to the Ford Corporation.”
There will be another community information meeting once MPCA completes its feasibility study. To be placed on the email update list for Area C, contact Sophie Downey at sdowney@fmr.org.

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Rethinking waste in 2020

Posted on 08 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Learn to be more pro-active about the waste you produce

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Wonder where your waste ends up?
A standing room crowd gathered at the Matthews Park Rec Center on Feb. 3, 2020 to hear about the changing world of waste creation and waste management from Kellie Kish, Recycling Coordinator for the city of Minneapolis; Kate Marnach, co-founder of the zero waste store Tare Market; and Nancy Ford, owner of the Repair Lair.
According to Kish, the contents of the black carts (58% of garbage collected) goes to the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center in downtown Minneapolis, and is incinerated. That’s your trash.

Don’t bag your recyclables
The blue carts are emptied, and the mixed recyclables are brought to Eureka Recycling in northeast Minneapolis where they are sorted and processed for sale to new markets. Recyclables account for about 20% of the waste collected.
While recycling is not mandatory in Minneapolis, 97% of residents choose to have a recycling cart. The contamination rate for recyclables last year was 8.5%.
The biggest contaminants were plastic bags, product wraps (like what goes around a six pack of pop), and plastic film. Kish admonished the crowd, “If you remember nothing else from this presentation, remember not to bag your recyclables and to keep plastic bags out of your recycling cart!”

Organics recycling matters
The newest alley addition, the green carts, contain food scraps and other compostable products like paper towels, tissues, pet waste, and 100% compostable cutlery and dishes. Along with yard waste, the contents of these bins are taken to a transfer station in southeast Minneapolis, reloaded onto semi-trucks, and driven to a compost site in Rosemont.
Even though organics recycling is a new program in Minneapolis, the opt-in was extremely high this year for residents. With almost 52,000 Minneapolis households participating, the green carts account for about 18% of the total waste collected.
Kish said, “In a country where 40% of the food produced goes to waste, organics recycling matters.” One of her goals for 2020 is to hit the 50% mark for all Minneapolis households participating.
Note that all compostables must be placed in a paper bag, a compostable bag, or wrapped in newspaper before being put in the organics recycling bins.
If any readers are compost enthusiasts, Kish is looking for volunteers to help with the spring compost audit – a process by which compost is evaluated for contamination. Last year, the contamination rate was less than 1%. She recommends a fairly strong stomach, as there can be surprises.
Kish is also organizing a field trip to the compost site in Rosemont by bus in early summer, so people can see how the process works first-hand. To get on the waiting list for either opportunity, email kellie.kish@minneapolismn.gov.

Set attainable goals
Tare Market co-owner Kate Marnach explained how she got to the point of opening a package-free, re-fill store last year. She said, “My parents raised me to understand the value of recycling, but somehow the other ‘Rs’ went right by me. In our business, we see the solution as an inverted triangle that starts at the top with Refuse, and goes through Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, and finally, Rot (compost) at the bottom.”
Marnach debunked the myth of zero waste being successful only if you can fit a year’s worth of trash in a mason jar. She said, “It’s more important to set goals that are attainable. Start with simple things like keeping re-usable shopping bags in your car, purse, or backpack.
“When shopping, choose items sold in glass or paper instead of plastic.
“Learn how to store food properly to minimize food waste. Don’t put potatoes and onions in the same drawer – the potatoes will sprout. When your celery gets limp, cut off the ends and stick it in a cup of water. Swaddle your greens in a damp cloth in the refrigerator, and skip the plastic bag. Why does everything we eat and drink have to come in contact with plastic?
“Simplify your life with fewer clothes, and fewer toys for kids and grown-ups. Consider giving experience gifts instead of material gifts.”

Buy less stuff
Repair Lair owner Nancy Ford said, “My main message is, buy less stuff. You’ll never hear that as a major ad campaign though, because it means nobody is making any money. By the way, the bigger and more conspicuous an ad campaign is – the smaller the likelihood that you’ll ever need the product being advertised.”
Ford founded Repair Lair five years ago. It’s one of two stores in the U.S. that offers consignment and repair of outdoor equipment and clothing under the same roof. She advocates buying second hand, and says that customers should expect to pay about 30% of what an item would cost new.
Ford is also a founding member of ReUSE Minnesota, a member based non-profit focused on bringing visibility to the reuse, rental and repair sector.
The three presenters offered three different vantage points on rethinking waste but, at some point, all circled round to the same thought. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day observance, now, more than ever, less is more.
Rethinking Waste 2020 was jointly sponsored by the Longfellow Community Council and the Seward Neighborhood Group. Tare Market is located at 2717 East 38th Street. Repair Lair is located at 3304 East Lake Street.

Attend Green Fair April 18
Mark your calendars for the South Minneapolis Green Fair on Saturday, April 18 from 12-4 p.m. at Roosevelt High School. The Messenger is a media sponsor of the event. Learn more ways to be proactive about the waste you produce, and have fun doing it.

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RRR: Better Futures Minnesota helps men rebuild their lives with dignity, while supporting green enterprise

Posted on 11 February 2020 by Tesha Christensen

CEO and President Dr. Thomas Adams said, “Better Futures Minnesota is helping men repair and rebuild their lives. When you buy our reused materials or use our business services, you support the men we serve, the community, and Minnesota’s environment.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The Reuse Warehouse is keeping more than 650 tons of construction material out of landfills and incinerators annually, through their deconstruction services and sale of salvaged building materials. While providing this environmental benefit, they are also helping their employees repair and rebuild their lives from the ground up. Proceeds from sales at the Reuse Warehouse go to support Better Futures Minnesota, in which all of their employees are enrolled.
Better Futures Minnesota (BFM) President and CEO Dr. Thomas Adams explained, “Reuse Warehouse employees are African American men between the ages of 18-65. All of them have multiple felonies on their records, and would find it almost impossible to get jobs elsewhere. In terms of education, they have not received enough to be self-sufficient. All of this combines to create a dependency on jail, treatment facilities, homeless shelters, and government assistance.”
The men who come to BFM likely have a long history of unemployment, homelessness, and a disconnection from healthy support systems. Rebuilding lives can be a long, complicated process.
Adams said, “From experience, we know it takes a coordinated team working together to help our men start walking the path to a better life. BFM is not a job re-entry program. We are a response to a public health crisis.”

Integrated model works best
Better Futures Minnesota, which was founded in 2007, stands on these four fundamental principles:
Housing Stability: participants live at Great River Landing, a permanent, supportive housing model in the North Loop for 6-8 months. The men live in a dorm-style setting, and are able to establish rental history. They can eventually move into efficiency apartments at Great River Landing, or move on to other permanent living options in the community.
Health and Wellness: mental and physical health needs are addressed through partnerships with trauma-informed, culturally-specific care providers. Many of the men have previously undiagnosed and untreated health problems such as prostate cancer and diabetes.
Workforce Development: participants receive training in one of BFM’s six business lines. These are Deconstruction Services, Warehouse Sales, Appliance Recycling, Janitorial Services, Lawn/Snow Care, and Crew-Based Labor. Men receive up to 12 professional certifications before matriculating, giving them, in all likelihood, their first chance at being self-supporting.
Life Coaching and Compassionate Care: this is at the heart of BFM’s integrated care model that helps men start to rebuild their lives. Case management services are also available.
Adams explained, “The integrated care model we’re founded on is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that we’re able to see whole person transformation, and we frequently do.”
“The curse is that most of the world doesn’t operate this way. The Minnesota State Departments of Corrections, Human Services, Employment and Economic Development tell us we should be focusing on one thing for the sake of funding, but we know that focusing on one thing brings abysmal results.”

How is it that BFM landed in the green sector?
Adams said, “Our goal is to enter industries that are forgiving toward our men’s backgrounds. Jobs in deconstruction (which means taking structures apart, not just knocking them down) and recycling are forgiving, they pay a living wage, and they are right smack in the middle of the green sector.”
He continued, “Half of our business is on the green side. We go to environmental stewardship conferences all around the country, and we’re always the only organization of color. Climate change and renewable energy are not at the top of the list for most people of color – but job creation and health care are. We came to the environmental movement through these channels.”
Community members can support the work of Better Futures Minnesota by buying used building materials from their Reuse Warehouse, or hiring a service team from one of their six business lines. BFM currently has property maintenance contracts with more than 300 residential and commercial properties around the Twin Cities.
The Reuse Warehouse is located near the “Minnehaha Mile,” a shopping corridor dedicated to recycled, reused, and reclaimed products. Their address is 2620 Minnehaha Ave. Donations of building materials and household goods are also welcome.
Visit www.betterfuturesminnesota.com to learn more.

success story
John is a 49 year old man who’s been in and out of jail for the past 15 years due to poor decisions, alcohol abuse, and homelessness.  He missed 12 of his daughter’s 17 birthdays while he was behind bars.  John chose to enroll in Better Futures Minnesota because, in his words, “the name said it all.”  In the last 14 months, John has remained sober, received all of the certifications BFM has to offer, obtained permanent housing, and had his daughter stay with him every other weekend.  Last winter, he took a trip to the Florida beach for the first time in his life. John has a new lease on life and has recently started his own cleaning company, thanks in part to the certifications and skills he obtained from BFM.
~ Courtesy of BFM

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Consider an ad in the RRR section

Posted on 10 January 2020 by Tesha Christensen

 

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Re-using household fabrics for a new purpose

Posted on 29 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Neighborhood Bag Project

Artists Laura Brown (left) and Lauren Callis Erickson (right), co-founded the Neighborhood Bag Project to promote community art-making and fabric recycling. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Laura Brown and Lauren Callis Erickson shared a stand at the Midtown Farmer’s Market on several Saturday mornings last summer. They had a couple of sewing machines set up, and were surrounded by piles of fabric.
Callis Erickson said, “We taught market-goers to sew simple drawstring bags. The bags were made from salvaged, thrifted, or previously used fabric squares, ribbon, and cord. We sewed a lot of bags with children. Most of the bags weren’t perfect, but they held produce anyhow.”
Everybody has to bring a shopping bag to a farmer’s market, so why not make your own?
Brown remembered that shoppers would often stop at their stand and say things like, “I have so much fabric at home; I just don’t know what to do with it.”
Brown explained, “We believe there is value in leading by example. It’s easy to make something beautiful and useful from what you already have. Change it, use it, or pass it along. That’s where the Neighborhood Bag Project is coming from.”
The two Minneapolis-based artists travelled between five different farmer’s markets last summer sewing drawstring bags.
Callis Erickson said, “We started the Neighborhood Bag Project to get outside our usual circles of connection. Many of the people we met at the Midtown Farmer’s Market were already on-board with repurposing. One woman shopped with a bag she had made from an old tent. Another used a mylar balloon – apparently mylar is pretty durable.”
Repurposing fabrics is an area of recycling that is getting a lot of attention lately, as people become aware that fabrics need to be dealt with responsibly, too. The fashion industry is believed to contribute 10% of the greenhouse gasses warming the earth.
If you can give fabrics a second, third or fourth life by repurposing, why not do it?

“Fiber has always been a community practice, whether based on the necessity of needing to make something or the simple need for fellowship. It’s largely been assigned to women, though not entirely. If you can remove yourself from thinking that what you make has to be perfect, then being creative is
a great experience.”
~ Lauren Callis Erickson

Callis Erickson is both an art therapist and an entrepreneur. She said, “I’m pleased to offer opportunities through the Curiosity Studio in the Northrup King Building in Northeast Minneapolis for adults to explore art as it relates to their whole selves. We offer regular courses and workshops for creative exploration using non-traditional materials.”
Her other venture, called an Upcycled Closet, is in the same location. Callis Erickson provides secondhand items sourced to be functional, sustainable, and expressive. She said, “I’m a staunch believer in buying used, mending it, or making it yourself. I wrote my Master’s thesis on working with used and recycled materials in the art practice. I feel that, as a culture, we have really learned to distance ourselves from our trash – and that has had very negative consequences.”
Brown agreed, saying, “The more removed people are from their trash, the more they feel they can ignore it.” Her areas of specialty are letterpress and silk screen printing, both of which she teaches at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Brown’s studio, called CHEER!, is located in the Casket Arts Building in Northeast Minneapolis.
Also an avid sewer and quilter, Brown said, “I’ve been to so many estate sales where I’ve seen tons of fabric left behind by just one person. Even though I have a bad habit of collecting sewing machines, I don’t ever want to be that person with rooms full of unused fabric.”

Try it yourself
On Jan. 22, Callis Erickson will teach a Bag Making Class from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Seward Coop Franklin Store. All sewing skill levels welcome. On Jan. 25, she will teach a Visible Mending Class from 1-3 p.m. at Winsome Goods. This beginner course is for anyone interested in repairing their own clothes. Learn to use simple, visible stitches to rebuild clothes and make them last longer. Each participant will receive their own mending kit.
Brown concluded, saying, “We believe that the process of creating will bring anyone joy. People seem to have a huge appetite right now for getting out of the house, turning off their phones, and doing something creative. Remember that everything is an experiment, and nothing needs to be perfect.” Her upcoming classes at CHEER! are Learn to Use Your Sewing Machine on Jan. 18, and Block Printing on Fabric on Feb. 1, with other dates coming soon.
For further information, contact Laura Brown at www.laurabrownart.com and Lauren Callis Erickson at www.anupcycledcloset.com and www.curiositystudio.com.

 

 

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Longfellow climate activist walks the walk every day

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Standing in front of her electric Chevy Bolt, Jean Buckley said, “I use my buying power to make an environmental statement. I believe in making educated, responsible choices.”(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Longtime Longfellow resident Jean Buckley believes each of us can make a difference in the current climate crisis.
She said, “I’ve always been a strong environmentalist. I believe every human being has a responsibility to protect earth’s finite natural resources. Some people choose to be what are called ‘first adopters,’ which means taking on higher costs when technologies or products are new. First adopters are willing to bear those initial costs, with relative certainty that the costs will come down when the technologies or products become more main stream.”
Buckley was a first adopter of residential solar energy, among many other things. Ten years ago, she had solar panels installed on her garage roof. That first set of solar panels produced enough energy to power her house until she bought an electric car last year. She is now adding more solar panels to the roof of her home to produce the extra energy she needs.
Over the next 10 years she will receive rebates from Xcel Energy as part of their Solar Rewards Program, and she won’t ever have to pay for electricity or gasoline again. Visit www.xcelenergy.com to learn more about their Solar Rewards Program.
When the Volkswagen Jetta TDI came on the market, it was the greenest car available. Buckley bought one early on, and was able to sell it back to VW after their emissions scandal broke. With the money from the resale, she purchased an electric Chevy Bolt. This car qualified for a $7,500 federal tax credit. She frequently travels to Duluth to visit her grandchildren. Money from the VW settlement is helping build infrastructure for electric vehicles; this includes more charging stations along highly traveled corridors like 35W.
Buckley has made most of her home improvement decisions from the standpoint of what’s best for the environment. She said, “Many of these choices have higher costs up-front, but I believe they are cost-effective over time. The metal roof I chose for my house cost about 20% more than asphalt shingles. It will last at least 100 years though; I’ll never need to replace it. I’ve lived in my house for 25 years and as someone who hopes to age in place, the metal roof made sense both environmentally and economically.”
On Earth Day 2019, Buckley retired from her job with Ramsey County as an Environmental Health Educator. Prior to that job, she worked for the city of Bloomington. Her areas of expertise included renewable energy, building efficiency, water quality, and recycling. She said, “I had a long career as an educator. I’m still finding ways to encourage people to make positive changes for the environment.”
Buckley is involved in her neighborhood as a Block Club Coordinator. Block Clubs are a function of the city of Minneapolis (visit www.minneapolimn.gov to learn more.) The focus of Block Clubs is often on crime prevention, but can include other things depending on neighborhood interests. On Buckley’s block, she has organized a list of neighbors willing to share tools and skills, or barter for professional services.
She said, “We think our network is even better than Next Door, because it’s neighbor to neighbor on our own block.”
Since retiring last spring, Buckley has literally put on a new hat. She proudly wears a cap that identifies her as a River Educator with the Mississippi Park Connections Program: the nonprofit partner of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (the 72-mile section of the Mississippi River that flows through the Twin Cities). The program gives kids the opportunity to get out on the river, and have a national park experience right here in the Twin Cities.
In addition, she volunteers with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and 350.org on various climate issues such as pension divestment from fossil fuels, and investment in clean energy.
When asked what drives her seemingly endless supply of energy for environmental causes, the matter-of-fact Jean Buckley gave a surprisingly sentimental answer. She said, “It’s the Starfish Story.” So here, in closing, is the Starfish Story (author unknown.)
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy throwing something into the ocean. He asked, “What are you doing?” and the boy answered, “I’m throwing starfish into the sea. The tide is going out and if I don’t put them back, they’ll die.” The man said, “Don’t you see that there are miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!” The boy picked up another starfish and gently put it back in the water. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “Well, I made a difference for that one.”

From Jean Buckley
Did you know that every 4th grader in the U.S. can obtain a free pass for themselves and their families to visit more than 2,000 federal lands and waterways for a whole year? The hope is that this “Every
Kid in a Park” will help to
build the next generation of passionate and informed
environmental stewards.
Visit www.everykidinapark.gov to learn more.

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Xcel Energy installing new energy-saving electric meters

Posted on 01 December 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Xcel Energy is installing 17,500 new electric meters across South Minneapolis and Eden Prairie in the next few months.
The new meters will measure customers’ electricity use in 15 minute increments, so they can see how much energy they use at different times of the day – and make better-informed energy decisions.
Next April, about 10,000 of those households will switch to a new pricing system. During the two-year pilot program, electric rates will vary depending on time of day. Electricity will cost more during peak hours (3–8 p.m.), and less overnight. The pilot program is designed so that customers may see some savings by shifting to off-peak energy consumption.
Xcel community relations director John Marshall said, “Our customers want more than just reliable energy. They also want products and services that will help them save money and energy.”
He added, “Our customers want more transparency from us, and this is one way to deliver that. At the end of the day, it comes down to knowing how and when energy is being used.”
There are a lot of ways to use energy more wisely. Consider doing laundry on weekends rather than during peak weekday hours. Think about running an air conditioner at night, and using blinds or curtains to keep the heat down during the day. Buy a smart thermostat and set back the temperature of your home at night. Charge your electric car overnight, instead of plugging it in the moment you get home.
Marshall said, “Customers switching to off-peak hours helps us better manage our energy grid, and reduces the use of fossil fuels. If we avoid spikes in electricity demand, we can avoid building new, expensive carbon emitting generating plants.”
The pilot study is a chance for customers to choose when to use their electricity. The long term goal of Xcel Energy is to work toward being carbon free by 2050.

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Long buried toxic dump at Hidden Falls Park getting attention

Posted on 08 November 2019 by Tesha Christensen

When the river rises, it rinses through the industrial waste which leaches into surrounding river and ground water

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Hidden Falls Regional Park is located along the Mississippi River bluffs just below Lock and Dam #1. Trails run through shady, wooded bottomlands; long stretches of sandy shoreline offer a reprieve from busy city life.
But a short hike north from the picnic shelters brings visitors to a tumble down cyclone fence that defines the northern park border. Called Area C, this is where the Ford Motor Company dumped unknown quantities of industrial waste onto the Mississippi River flood plain from 1945 to 1966 near its now closed St. Paul plant.
The location of Area C has been public information for years. The dumpsite looks benign, more neglected than threatening. It is covered with concrete, soil, and scrub vegetation. However, its contents are lesser known and almost impossible to quantify.
Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) executive director Whitney Clark said, “Areas A and B were known dumps on Ford Redevelopment Site on top of the bluff (the former Ford Motor Company.) Their contents were moved to Area C in the 1960s, back when environmental standards were non-existent. The components of Area C fit into two categories. The largest category, which forms the top layer, is non-toxic construction debris. Underneath all of that lies an unknown quantity of toxic industrial waste contained in metal drums.
“We believe that the quantity of toxic waste (including industrial solvents and paint sludge) is enormous.”
Because public pressure is so important, FMR staff and volunteers informed Hidden Falls Park visitors about the potential threat of Area C on Sept. 28, Oct. 5, and Oct. 12. Staff and volunteers gathered on site at the park in morning and afternoon sessions, and engaged visitors interested in learning more. Visitors were able to sign up for FMR updates and future meeting notifications. People using the park are likely to be among its strongest advocates and, once the snow flies, are much harder to reach.
At the request of FMR and the Capitol Region Watershed District, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will hold a public information meeting in February 2020 to explain current site monitoring, requests for additional study, and long-term clean-up options. Contact site leader Colleen O’Connor Toberman at ctoberman@fmr.org to be notified of public meeting details, and to receive FMR updates on Area C developments.
Toxic waste is leaking from Area C into the river and groundwater. It’s unknown whether concentration levels are safe for human health or the environment. FMR and their partners are pushing for additional testing through the MPCA to ensure proper risk evaluation.
Clark said, “Modern dumps are lined with clay soils and other geo-technical materials that prevent leakage. Area C is nothing like that. It’s just a whole bunch of metal barrels sitting on the Mississippi flood plain, covered by a huge volume of construction debris. When the river rises, it inundates Area C – literally rinsing through the industrial waste, and leaching into surrounding river water and ground water. Metal barrels corrode, and some of them have been there since 1945.”
FMR has partnered with the Capitol Region Watershed District and MPCA to put added pressure on the Ford Corporation.
Clark said, “They have agreed to do a full spectrum feasibility study; this means that they could decide to do absolutely nothing when it’s over, or they could decide to haul all the debris away. We don’t believe that the investigation done to date has been adequate to inform their feasibility study. They need more extensive data.”
He continued, “That’s what we’re telling our constituents. We are pushing for the best-informed feasibility study, so that this situation can be dealt with ethically – not just legally. The Ford Corporation is in the process of selling the redevelopment site to Ryan Companies, but the river parcel (which contains Area C) will continue to be the Ford Corporation’s responsibility.”
Toberman concluded, “There’s a big gap between public information, and what people actually know about. All of the data that’s out there has been published by Ford Corporation and its consultants, in partnership with the MPCA. This is an area that park visitors and neighbors are very interested in, and we look forward to having a great turnout for the public information meeting early next year.”

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