Category Archives: Environment

Environmental Congress Citizen Forums Need You

A few weeks ago most of us went to the polls and elected someone else to represent us in the state and federal government as members of the Minnesota Legislature, the US Senate and House of Representatives.  We hope that they will convey what matters to us to these governing bodies.  Sometimes we have opportunities to speak to these elected officials and the agency staff who carry out the work of government and voice our opinions.  Over the next few weeks the Environmental Congress of the State of Minnesota is giving us a chance to do just that.  So just what is this Environmental Congress?  As it turns out, Minnesota law instructs the state Environmental Quality Board (EQB) to hold and Environmental Congress to:

  • Assess Minnesota’s progress toward improving and sustaining clean air, clean water, and clean energy in our communities
  • Engage Minnesotans in constructive public dialogue about our state’s environmental and economic health
  • Identify environmental challenges and opportunities to improve and sustain the health of Minnesota’s natural resources and quality of life
  • Define a vision, and recommend specific policy changes to learn from our past, build on our strengths, and leave a legacy for future generations of Minnesotans

The EQB will be presenting an environmental and energy “Report Card” at Citizen Forums around the state over the next few weeks to talk about the report card which measures Minnesota’s performance in clean air, clean water, and clean energy.  These Citizen Forums are our chance to engage in conversations and give feedback on the report card findings and share our thoughts on these important environmental issues.  The EQB will use this feedback as they host the Environmental Congress in March 2013.  For information about dates, locations and more information on the Environmental Congress go to

Some Cannon River Watershed Partnership staff and members are planning to attend the sessions on November 27 in Rochester and Bloomington.  Want to join us?  Call me at (507)786-3913 or send me an email at  Make your voice heard! 

Locations and Times:

Wood Lake Meeting Center – Oak Room, 210 Wood Lake Drive, Rochester – 9:30 AM – Noon

Normandale Community College – Kopp Student Union, 9700 France Avenue South, Bloomington – 6:30PM – 9:00 PM

Refreshments will be served. Free Parking at both locations.

Reminder: CRWP’s 4th annual watershed-wide cleanup on Sept. 15th; 63,000 pounds of trash and counting

Join the Cannon River Watershed Partnership (CRWP) at locations in Cannon Falls, Dundas, Faribault, Northfield, Medford,  Morristown, Owatonna, Waterville and Welch to clean up the shores and water.  The last three years we have pulled 63,000 pounds of trash from our rivers and lakes with YOUR help and sponsorship from dial a bin type of services.

NfldDumpster2We need you to continue our work for healthier water and healthier communities. Walking and canoe access sites will be available. Groups from across the watershed are participating in this annual cleanup.  Make a difference in your community and have fun!

Details about the dumpsters available for the clean-up found at: Eagle Dumpster Philadelphia County.


Dam birds may have to find another perch to fish if Suzie Nakasian has her way

Ames Mill dam on the Cannon River, downtown Northfield Great Blue Heron on the Ames Mill dam Great Blue Heron on the Ames Mill dam 
On Saturday afternoon as the Riverwalk Market Fair was closing up, John Thomas  (AKA Mr. JST Technology) alerted me to a Great Blue Heron that was perched on the top of the Ames Mill dam. After a few minutes, a Mallard joined it. It’s moments like that that make most Northfielders love that dam and the visually pleasing pool of Cannon River water behind it.  But it could be much more.

There’s a resurgence of interest in planning for the Cannon River as it flows through downtown Northfield, especially if the dam is removed. See the discussion attached to my 2007 blog post: Tear down the Ames Mill dam.  And the Sept 2011 PRAB minutes included this:

Council Member Suzie Nakasian reported. The City of Reno Nevada was chosen as an example of how to maximize the river corridor in a city. The planning was done around the river, recreation, economic development, and flood mitigation. A slide show presentation showed the reconstruction of the river to an Olympic class kayak run. She presented this to the PRAB to inspire creativity and thinking of the Cannon River as a park. To create a corridor along the river as parkland.

I was at that PRAB meeting and saw Suzie’s slideshow. It’s pretty cool what they’ve done along the Truckee River in Reno. See the Reno Riverwalk District, the Truckee River Whitewater Park, the Reno River Festival and the Downtown Makeover page on Reno.

Imagine something like this (smaller, of course) in downtown Northfield:

DSC00728 DSC00729 renokayakparkro6 2478640677_907d140dd5 by RenoTahoe 529539_10151062507755575_2079489686_n


63,000 pounds of trash and counting: CRWP’s 4th annual watershed-wide cleanup on Sept. 15th

Join the Cannon River Watershed Partnership (CRWP) at locations in Cannon Falls, Dundas, Faribault, Northfield, Medford,  Morristown, Owatonna, Waterville and Welch to clean up the shores and water.  The last three years we have pulled 63,000 pounds of trash from our rivers and lakes with YOUR help. 

NfldDumpster2We need you to continue our work for healthier water and healthier communities. Walking and canoe access sites will be available. Groups from across the watershed are participating in this annual cleanup.  Make a difference in your community and have fun! 

Details on our clean-up page or by contacting Leslie Kennedy at 507-786-3915 or


George Kinney wants you at Saturday’s solar energy workshop

City of Northfield Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) member George Kinney Solar Energy Workshop Flyer 2012 
Longtime City of Northfield Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) member George Kinney stopped by my corner office at GBM last week to alert me to a solar energy workshop coming up on Saturday. See the flyer (PDF) and the press release below (links added):

Solar Workshop: Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Solar Energy But Were Afraid, Or Didn’t Know Who To, Ask

A workshop on residential and commercial solar energy opportunities will be held at the Just Food Community Room (Just Food Co-op, 516 Water Street South, Northfield) from 1:00 to 4:00 pm Saturday, May 19th. The workshop, sponsored by RENew Northfield and the Southeast Clean Energy Resource Teams (SE CERT), will cover currently available active solar technologies, the economics of solar installations, and the experiences of local homeowners and business owners with recent solar projects.

Presenters include representatives of three solar energy vendors, who will discuss solar air heating, solar water heating, and solar electric systems for homes and businesses. The head of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industry Association will present an overview of solar energy opportunities in the state, and a Minnesota Division of Energy Resources representative will discuss current solar rebates and financial incentives. A panel of local homeowners and small business owners will talk about their experiences in selecting and working with solar contractors, and the performance of their systems.

The solar vendors will have informational displays, and will be available for one-on-one discussion after the formal presentations.  Attendees will also be invited to view a nearby solar installation after the workshop.

The workshop is free. Pre-registration is encouraged, but not required. For more information, contact SE CERT at 952-406-1215.

Atina Diffley to speak at Just Food Co-op on Thursday; no bullshit expected

Turn Here Sweet CornIn case you hadn’t noticed, Northfield’s blogosphere is humming ( here, Monkey See Monkey Read here, Just Food Co-op here) with the news that Atina Diffley of Organic Farming Works will be in town this week to speak about her new book, Turn Here Sweet Corn.

Why do I say "no bullshit" in my blog post title?

She was featured on the front page of the Strib’s Variety section last week:

and the last paragraph of the main article:

Atina Diffley - Strib photo by Marisa WojcikThe book deserves a wide audience, Dooley said. "I pray it doesn’t get pegged to a category. This is literature. It’s every woman’s story, about land use and food but also about resilience and being yourself." And even though Diffley finally caved to using cosmetics, she’s still very much herself, Dooley said. "There couldn’t be anyone more genuine. There isn’t a lick of bullshit in her."

I guess cuss words are aok in a family newspaper if someone is quoted using them.

Atina has at least one connection to Northfield that I know of. Her kids went to Prairie Creek Community School.

You can buy her book from Jerry Bilek at Monkey See Monkey Read bookstore in downtown Northfield.

Follow Atina on Twitter and read her blog here.

Helen and Antonia want you to know: Northfield’s Earth Day Celebration is Saturday, April 28

 Northfield Earth Day 2012 Helen and Antonia with the Northfield Earth Day 2012 poster Transition Northfield Earth Day

Officially, Earth Day 2012 was yesterday, April 22. But in Northfield, it’s being celebrated this coming Saturday, April 28, noon to 5 on Union Street between Third and Fourth Streets (outside First United Church).

Last week, Transition Northfield volunteer Mary Jo Cristofaro managed to convince two Northfield High School students, Helen and Antonia, to get up really early and meet me at my GBM corner office for a photo with the 2012 Northfield Earth Day Celebration poster (PDF).

For details, see Mary Jo’s blog post, Earth Day Celebration to Include Several Free Workshops and Transition Northfield’s Earth Day page.

See my Northfield Earth Day photo album slideshows from 2011 and 2010.

Food composting; what’s the best way to do it?

Northfield food compost site Northfield food compost site Northfield food compost site Northfield food compost site
As I noted in a blog post last month, the City of Northfield compost site is now accepting food scraps and non-recyclable paper. I took the above photos last wee. The site’s webpage says:

Collect food and non-recyclable paper from your kitchen and place them into biodegradable bags and bring them out to the Compost Site during regular hours.

All food products can be recycled including fruit, vegetables, bread, cereal, dairy, meat (including bones), coffee grounds, filters and tea bags. Non-recyclable paper includes paper towels, plates, napkins, and pizza boxes.

Items NOT acceptable are plastic bags, styrofoam, glass, metal, diapers and pet waste.

 natural waxed paper bags food compost bucket food compost basket biodegradable plastic bags
combi-open-air-newWe purchased a box of natural waxed paper bags at Just Food Coop and put them in small bucket on our kitchen counter. (The bucket has a lid.) When bucket gets full, we place the paper bags in a biodegradable plastic bag inside a wastebasket in our garage. When that gets full, we’ll take that to the compost site.

I’m not sure if this is the best way to do it. The food sure gets stinky quickly.

Should we buy something like the BioBags Max Air buckets instead, even though we don’t do backyard composting?

The negative impact of disposable coffee cups

disposable coffee cups display at St. Olaf disposable coffee cups white board at St. Olaf Thermos 360° Drink Lid Tumbler 
When I was up at St. Olaf’s Buntrock Commons earlier this week, I noticed a very cool display on the impact of student use of disposable coffee cups.  The top of the white board proclaimed:

There is no such thing as a sustainable disposable cup

The bulk of the notes on the white board focused on the financial waste, not the environmental impact. For more on the latter, see The Basic Problem with Coffee Cups on the Sustainability is Sexy website. The summary:

crushed-cupDisposable paper cups affect the environment negatively.  Besides creating a steady supply of waste, disposable cups also demand a large consumption of natural resources and emit high levels of climate-changing green house gases.  Because so many disposable paper cups are used throughout the world, the actual environmental affect can be staggering. 

Fortunately, there are alternatives.  Reusable coffee cups reduce the impact disposable cups have on our environment.  Waste, natural resources, and damage done by green house gases are all decreased by reusable cups after only 24 uses.  As an added bonus, reusable cups help cut supply costs for coffee houses.  That discount is often passed on to consumers – saving everyone money.

After much experimentation, I’ve used the Thermos 360° Drink Lid Tumbler as my main coffee cup for years, though truth be told, my motivation was initially to avoid spilling coffee on my laptop.