In the Know: Identifying tips and practices for a more sustainable future

Minnesota GreenStep Cities celebrates 10 years advancing sustainability

St. Paul, MN – In January, cities and partners around Minnesota celebrated 10 years of the GreenStep Cities program, which guides and supports cities in becoming more sustainable. 134 cities – or 15 percent of Minnesota cities, representing almost half of the state’s population – are now participating in the program.

The program originated in 2007 when Minnesota's Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) held regional listening sessions around the state to discuss community-based energy opportunities and the state's Next Generation Energy Act of 2007. The idea of creating a program, free to cities, that would challenge, assist and recognize their efforts toward sustainability was taken up by the 2008 Legislature, which directed the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the Division of Energy Resources at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, and CERTs to recommend actions cities could take on a voluntary basis. Representatives from dozens of cities, non-profit organizations, the University of Minnesota, businesses and state government agencies provided the outline for the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program, which began in June 2010.

Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary program that helps cities by providing a framework for sustainability improvements — best practices, model ordinances, tools to make planning and tracking activities easy. A menu of program best practice actions, based upon evidence from Minnesota cities, focus on cost savings, energy use reduction, and innovation.

Cities are saving money, and lots of it: $8,370,000 on energy costs per year. GreenStep cities are also working to increase their resilience to climate change: 

  • 35 cities have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent
  • 25 cities now have climate goals
  • 58 percent have changed to LED street lights

Cities have also: 

  • Completed 4,210 actions within the GreenStep 29 best practices
  • Installed more than 130 electric-vehicle charging stations
  • Certified more than 229 green buildings
  • Created more than 587 renewable energy sites
  • Upgraded infrastructure to withstand severe weather events

For additional information:
Philipp Muessig
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Kristin Mroz
Environmental Quality Board
Abby Finis
Great Plains Institute

For resources and tools related to sustainability, visit the Center for Sustainability (C4S) and C4S Toolkit.