Newsletter (January, 2018)

January 2018

Sections

January 23rd: Winona’s Energy Action Plan and You: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Options for Your Home

Don’t let your home’s heat (and your money) fly out the window! Attend a free educational session to learn about Winona’s Energy Action Plan, and how you can cost effectively reduce your energy bills. Presenters will describe multiple ways to save energy fitting even small budgets including options for utility rebates and incentives. Renewable energy options like solar and wind will also be discussed.

The event is free to attend, but those who are interested should register with the Friendship Center (507-454-5212 or lhoberg@ci.winona.mn.us) or John Howard (Jhoward@ci.winona.mn.us).

 

Invasive Plants – Our Biggest Challenges & What to Do About Them

After a successful Landscape Resiliency Seminar hosted by Winona County in October 2017, attendees requested the opportunity to explore four of seminar’s topics in greater depth.  The first of these in-depth seminars has been set for Tuesday, January 16th, at 6:30 pm at Minnesota State College – Southeast, 1250 Homer Road, Winona.  The topic for the January 16 seminar is Invasive Plants – Our Biggest Challenges and What to Do About Them.  Attendees will hear from two excellent presenters who are deeply involved in invasive plant management efforts in southeast Minnesota and across the state.

Angie Gupta, University of Minnesota Extension, will open the seminar with information on cutting edge technologies and effective strategies for identifying areas of infestation and how to successfully eradicate them.  Jaimie Edwards of the Minnesota DNR will follow Ms. Gupta, and will identify the top plant threats for the Winona area, and how homeowners can manage them on their land.

Winona County has some serious infestations of invasive plants, and we need to do something about it.  So if you’ve ever wondered how to be good stewards of your landscape, whether in a back yard or rural woodlands, this is the seminar for you!  Please join us, and register in advance by email to  ljensen@co.winona.mn.us or call 507-457-6574.

 

A More Sustainable Mode of Transportation

As one of the top-five most “bicycle friendly” states, Minnesota is graded on aspects such as our efforts to seek federal and state funding, adoption of complete streets policies, and a greater than 1% average of residents commuting by bike. Named a Bike Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists with around 14% of residents commuting by bike, Winona has done its part in helping Minnesota reach such a status. Flat topography in town, compact development, ease of reaching destinations, and recreational opportunities expanding from the Mississippi river to the bluffs have really given our city excellent bikeability. In fact we are featured in the inaugural issue of the Have Fun Biking National Guide on page 39 for the “Mississippi River Trail; a bike adventure of a lifetime in Minnesota” highlighting Winona for these points and our several attractions. The guide includes other best places to ride, access to the latest information on bicycling, and tips for maintenance, gear, and safety.

        With the goal of being a premiere biking destination for the region and aiming to capitalize on the features already mentioned above, Winona City has adopted its first-ever Complete Streets Policy and Pedestrian Bicycle Plan requiring the city to consider the plan’s goals when rebuilding streets. According to the plan developing a bicycle network will connect bicyclists to destinations, improve safety, increase ridership, and provide greater livability and social equity. In addition, one of the most important benefits this will bring to Winona is significant economic development. Biking trails impact local economies creating access to small businesses, restaurants, and hotels, they increase property values, create more jobs per dollar, and are a more sustainable mode of transportation.

           Being that the transportation industry is one of the leading causes of global warming – contributing to carbon emissions, noise pollution, traffic, and unsafe streets – creating opportunities that invite more people to bike helps lessen our impacts environmentally. This pollution-free mode of transportation can save over 3000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions a year per person just by biking to and from work. Bikes use less energy and natural resources to make compared to cars, keep more land free for green space (cars need wider roads, larger parking spots, parking ramps, etc), and save you money.

Have Fun Biking National Guide

2017 Complete Streets and Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan

10 Ways Riding a Bike Can Save the World

 

How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse with Seeds

By Alison Bettin

In 2017, I began creating the WSU Seed Bank and Library as a capstone to my biology degree, under the guidance of Dr. Robin Devinney.  I think many of you reading this know the economic, social, cultural, and environmental reasons why a project like this is vital.  Preservation of seeds is essential, but so is preservation of the knowledge and awareness of how food is grown, cultivated, and delivered to our tables – something many of us are generations removed from.  The knowledge has not been passed on, and this is something that must be revived for basic human survival.

Many of my conversations with WSU students and Winona community members started from the joking perspective of “what will you do when the zombie apocalypse comes – how are your cross-bow skills?”  People get the joke, but after a few minutes of thought they begin to recognize how very little control they have over their food. Then their interest in seed saving, and food growing, is piqued.

With support of funding and resources from the American Association of University Women, WSU’s Green Fee Fund, WSU Student Senate, Seed Saver’s Exchange, the Ohm Family, and a WSU Foundation Food Equity Campaign, this project has successfully engaged WSU community and beyond.  We have worked to partner with a variety of groups, most notably the City of Winona at the East End Rec Center, which will be the main check-out location for the Seed Library.  Overall, the project strives to educate, exchange, and preserve seeds for the Winona community while inspiring awareness and action on food equity, insecurity, and biodiversity.

Over the course of the coming months, we will continue to expand our work, including the opening of the Seed Library on Saturday, February 10 at the East End Rec Center after the Winter Carnival.  We will have hands-on fun for all ages, in addition to allowing individuals to get seeds for the 2018 growing season.

Other events for 2018 include a workshop for high school students through the Youth Energy Summit organization in Mankato, MN (January 15), presentations at the Winona Friendship Center in conjunction with the Frozen River Film Festival (February 9), the Winona Public Library (March 22), and on campus for the WSU Earth Talks series (March 26).  On the first day of Spring, March 20, we will host a spring expo and screening of the award-winning documentary, SEED: The Untold Story, in the Science Laboratory Center on the WSU campus.  Throughout March and April, we hope to be giving away seedlings, as well as hosting more workshops, and providing a hands-on experience at the East End Rec Center on Earth Day (April 21).

If you are interested in learning more, please check us out on Facebookor email me, Alison Bettin, at abettin12@winona.edu.

 

 

 

Winona Area Pollinators

Since 2014 Winona Area Pollinators has been a group focused on promoting a more pollinator-friendly city. Flower-hopping insects are crucial to the lifecycle of many crops and native plants but decreasing habitat, available food, and use of insecticides has led to dwindling numbers – however the Winona Area Pollinators aims to target each. They have worked with the city of Winona to draft legislation that will increase habitat for pollinator species and are currently at work advocating for the restoration of habitat for the Rusty Patched Bumblebee. Cutting back on mowing and spraying are a few of the pollinator-friendly policies being adopted, making Winona the first Minnesota city south of the metro to do so. Actions like these not only protect the environment but can save money too.

In addition to their work with the city, the group hosts an annual “Pollinator Party” in March, during which they disseminate helpful information about pollinators and pollinator gardens, sell buttons and yard signs, sing “bee songs” and recite poetry. They also sponsor an annual pollinator garden tour in the summer. Locations on last summer’s tour included Winona State Integrated Wellness Complex, Minnesota Marine Art Museum, and two residential gardens – Debbie Vonarx at 527 E. Fourth St and a well-established garden including two active bee hives at Fred and Laurie Krouse’s at 713 Main Street.

The Winona Area Pollinators typically meets twice a month and would welcome any new members. Check out their Facebook page for more information and get added to their mailing lists by contacting winona-area-pollinators@googlegroups.com.

The Benefits of GreenStep Cities and B3 Benchmarking: La Crescent’s Story

This blog post was written by Chris Meyer of the Southeast Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Team

It’s true: the majority of La Crescent is not in Winona County. But, the community has a story to tell about leadership and taking common-sense action. We’re hopeful communities across the state can learn from their experience and understand the financial value in B3 benchmarking.

It’s been just 2 short years since La Crescent, MN (population 5,200) became a GreenStep City in October 2015, but they have big achievements to share. In June of 2017 they advanced to a Step 2 city and City Administrator Bill Waller indicated that they are on track to achieving Step 3 in 2018. They were also one of three finalists in the top 3 “Best of B3 Benchmarking” competition for the state, being narrowly beaten out by the larger Prior Lake.

Waller talked about the opportunities and subsequent energy savings that building energy benchmarking has opened up to the city. After joining the voluntary statewide recognition GreenStep City program, La Crescent partnered with Winona State University to create an internship. It was with the help of the WSU Student Intern, Alison Bettin that La Crescent began to track and compare their building energy use to national benchmarks and against other public buildings in the state of Minnesota. This benchmarking was done through a program called “B3 Benchmarking” which is provided, free of cost, to managers of all public buildings across the state. Now, City Council members review energy use bar charts at their meetings, and says Waller “because the La Crescent City Council has seen the city’s energy use decreasing, they know why benchmarking is worth the effort.”

Bill Waller, City Administrator accepting the GreenStep City signs from Kristin Mroz, the Local Government Coordinator for the EQB

La Crescent discovered that upgrades to their community center/fire hall, funded by a revenue-neutral loan program available through MiEnergy, had already brought the building’s energy use to 40 percent of the average for similar buildings. In 2017 they won the Made-in-Minnesota incentive lottery and have installed a solar electric array on the roof of the fire station, representing nearly 40 kW of solar PV, which at this location will generate about 50,000 kW/hrs of electricity annually. Remarkably, this installation will meet just over half of the building’s annual electricity demand. The financing mechanism and incentives make this an immediate money-saving effort for the city.

The great work for La Crescent has not stopped there. The lighting at their ice arena was updated to LEDs and, with extensive rebates, will pay for itself in under 3 years and go on to save energy for decades. The arena’s humidification system was upgraded to use newer variable-speed motors with immediate and dramatic energy use reductions. The benchmarking tools show that in the winter of 2016-2017, electricity and natural gas usage at the ice arena fell 60 percent. Waller describes how grant funding paid for the majority of the upgrades. Plans to do more efficiency improvements are underway, as La Crescent is now working on a project to switch from a gas-powered electric ice maintenance machine to an electric version, improving air quality by eliminating exhaust fumes and saving energy from reduced demand for ventilation. The majority of this upgrade is being financed through grants.

Use of benchmarking data has proven so successful that La Crescent’s city staff now uses it to identify new projects. With help from Xcel Energy, the La Crescent Parks Department has identified potential upgrades for the six highest energy-using buildings in their system.

If you would like to learn more about how public building B3 Benchmarking could save your school or municipality money, check out resources on the Clean Energy Resource Team’s website or contact the SE CERT Regional Coordinator, Chris Meyer at chris@cleanenergyresourceteams.org. Use of the benchmarking software is free for public buildings and a variety of resources are available to help communities get started.

Newsletter (December, 2017)

December 2017

Sections

Iowa State University Study  – Behavioral Spillover

Energy Action Team Moves Forward – Lining Up Resources for Winona Residents & Businesses

This past November the Winona City Council adopted an Energy Action Plan for the community which was crafted by representatives of business, local institutions, city and county government, citizens, and Xcel Energy through their Partners in Energy offering. In just a few short weeks the Energy Action Team has surged into motion on the plan’s community wide goals of a 10% energy reduction by 2025 and  carbon neutrality by 2050.

The Action Team’s first outreach efforts have resulted in around 250 individuals taking a survey to help guide implementation of the residential energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies outlined in the plan. You can still take the survey at this link (https://tinyurl.com/Winona-Energy-Survey). The team is now looking for outreach opportunities to advance information and engage with the community. If you belong to a group that would like to learn how to save money by reducing energy use, then the Action Team would like to talk to you. Action Team members will be speaking at the Winona Friendship Center on Tuesday January 23rd at 1 pm about residential efficiency and renewables. Register with the Friendship Center for this session by calling 507-454-5212.

Over 200 area homes across Winona County have already received energy efficiency services this year through Home Energy Squad® and SEMCAC.  Any Xcel Energy customer interested in saving energy and money can sign up now for a spring Home Energy Squad visit.  For a cost of just $100 (free visits available to income-qualified households), Home Energy Squad offers services and upgrades valued at over $600, including installation of energy efficient materials such as LED bulbs, programmable thermostats, high-efficiency showerheads and faucet aerators, and door and attic hatch weather stripping.  Home Energy Squad will also complete an attic and wall insulation inspection, blower door and thermal image testing, and combustion safety test. After the visit, homeowners receive a report with additional recommendations, as well as resources to assist with follow-up.  If additional insulation is recommended, Home Energy Squad can even generate a quote on-site and provide referrals to insulation contractors.  To sign up for a visit, call 866-222-4595 or visit HomeEnergySquad.net

Minnesota State College Southeast, in partnership with the Action Team, was recently awarded a Clean Energy Resource Teams Seed Grant to train several local contractors in certified home energy efficiency insulation and air sealing. In addition, Minnesota State College Southeast will be adding Air Leakage Control certification to their building construction program. The Action Team wants to make sure these services are available locally and keep jobs in our community, as currently homeowners who wish to benefit from available Xcel Energy insulation rebates must look outside the area for contractors. Our first local certified contractors will be available this summer (2018).

The Action Team’s work with business energy users is also revving up. It is critical to engage with Winona’s industrial, institutional, and commercial entities as they consume over two-thirds of the electricity and natural gas in the community to power our local economy. The city will be forming a Mayor’s Green-Ribbon Commission over the next few months “to bring businesses together, recognize accomplishments, and implement best practices related to energy efficiency,” said John Howard, the City’s Natural Resources Sustainability Coordinator. The Action Team is also looking forward to a “business blitz” in the spring where volunteers will go door-to-door to share energy efficiency and rebate information with Winona businesses.

If you want to participate or learn more about any of our events or the Energy Action Plan please contact John Howard at the City of Winona, jhoward@ci.winona.mn.us or call 507-457-8273.

 

Winter Sustainability Seminar Series

On January 16th, 2018 Winona County will kick off the first in a series of four seminars to be held this winter. These in-depth workshops will begin with the topic of terrestrial invasive species, how to ID them, and how to manage them on your property. The remaining three seminars will cover prairie and pollinator yards, landscape approaches to slopes and trees, and rain gardens. Each of the topics were identified as points of further interest for the many attendees of the fall seminar “Creating Resiliency through Improved Landscape Practices”. The goal of these seminars is to inform both city and rural residents of landscaping practices geared toward keeping water on the land in order to reduce the severity of small flooding events. The seminars will take place on Tuesday nights (see dates below) from 6:30 to 7:30pm, with a Q&A from 7:30-8pm for those interested in staying. Locations will be posted when finalized. Anyone interested in attending a seminar should please email Lauren at ljensen@co.winona.mn.us to register, attendance is free.

January 16th: Invasives

Species identification, practices for management and eradication

Location: MN State College –  Southeast, Room 205

Speakers: Jaime Edwards – MnDNR

Angie Gupta – UMN Extension Educator

February 20th: Prairie & Pollinator Yards

Creating attractive, native, and natural landscapes

March 13th: Rain Gardens

Location, design, and maintenance

April 3rd: Landscaping approaches for slopes & trees

Plants suited for slopes, non-invasive and non-native tree species

 

Smart Winter Practices

MN winters bring snow and ice that cover our roads, parking lots, and sidewalks. Safety concerns have prompted maintenance efforts including the use of deicers like salt. The over-application of salt during the winter months has led to chloride pollution in many Minnesota lakes and rivers – salty waters don’t work for fish or people!

The best way to reduce salt use is clearing as much snow as possible first. When we clear snow down to dry pavement we decrease the chances of it compacting and needing salt to melt it down. When you do need salt it’s important to know how much to apply and when. Salt is only effective at melting snow and ice when the pavement temperature is 15 degrees or above. No more than four pounds of salt is needed to cover 1000 square feet. One pound of salt is a full coffee mug and will cover the area of 2-4 parked cars.

Often times we hear about air quality alerts in the summer when days are hot and lawn mowing is a frequent task, but did you know running your gas snow blower for just one hour pollutes the air with one pound of carbon monoxide? Consider using an electric snow blower, prices are often similar or less than gas powered blowers and there are even cordless options available. Not only will you save money on gas, but you’ll help reduce noise emission as well!

We’re pouring millions of tons of salt on roads each winter. Here’s why that’s a problem 

Improved Winter Maintenance: Good Choices for Clean Water – Mississippi WMO

 

Winona County Energy Conservation Program Powered by Collaboration

Snow covers Winona, MN

Ah, winter in Minnesota. Fresh snowfall, ice fishing, polar plunges, cozy sweaters, hot chocolate and… outsized energy bills? While we expect temperature drops as winter approaches, many households struggle with increased heating and light bills as the season begins. That’s changing in Winona County, thanks to a collaboration between Xcel Energy, Semcac, the City of Winona, Winona County, CERTs, Next Step Partners/Sustain Winona, and the Jefferson Center. In 2017 alone, 197 low-income households served by Xcel Energy in Winona County have received Home Energy Squad visits, which include energy audits, upgrades to LED lightbulbs, water and energy-saving showerheads, programmable thermostats, weather stripping for doors, and more – at no cost to the households.

The collaboration began as part of the ‘Winona Engaged’ grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), where funds were dedicated to increasing energy efficiency among low- and fixed-income households. While figuring out how to set up the audits most cost effectively, the program quickly gained a life of its own. Where Xcel Energy did not have enough staff available to meet the increased demand for home energy audits in rural Minnesota, Semcac did. The catch? Semcac didn’t have the resources to do it for free. Pam Newell, a Product Portfolio Manager for Xcel Energy, knew that the opportunity for the utility to serve their rural customers was too good to pass up and worked with Melissa Feine, of Semcac, to eliminate barriers that prevented the two organizations from working together more efficiently. And so, it was decided: Semcac would do the audits and Xcel Energy would provide financial support for each audit performed from funds designated for energy conservation efforts. Once the working relationship between Semcac and Xcel Energy was ironed out, Winona County and City staff identified the income-qualifying households and helped arrange the appointments.

Newell sees the MPCA grant as the starting point for the remarkable energy conservation work, stating “in figuring out how to meet the grant’s goals, we came to understand the current system very well, developed structural changes, and built connections among the groups doing similar work that vastly improved the outcomes for all.”

Recently, the Winona Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) worked with Xcel Energy and the City to bring energy savings to the agency’s affordable housing. The Home Energy Squad installed energy conserving measures, like LED light bulbs. A visit by the Home Energy Squad is valued at between $200 – $600, based on the condition of the home and the type of visit. The Home Energy Squad was able to visit 170 households associated with Winona’s HRA this year, resulting in an investment in energy efficiency for Winona’s low-income housing stock, valued at between $30,000-$102,000, at no cost to the residents.

From the perspective of Nick Larson, the City of Winona’s Community Development Specialist, “the collaboration between Xcel Energy, the HRA, and the City of Winona has been very exciting and rewarding, since the delivery of energy saving programs to Winona’s highest-need households benefits both the residents and the community as a whole.” According to Larson, continued collaboration is on the horizon: “to further the reach of Xcel Energy’s energy savings programs, the City will be incorporating their programs into our own home rehabilitation programming, providing a greater positive impact and allowing households to save more of their earned income.”

This particular collaboration between the City of Winona and Xcel Energy aligned with other energy work: the City recently approved an energy action plan developed with Xcel Energy’s Partners in Energy (PiE) offering. The PiE plan outlines two overarching energy goals for the City of Winona: to reduce energy use 10% by 2025 and achieve a 100% reduction in non-transportation energy-related greenhouse emissions (become carbon-neutral) by 2050. With collaborations like these, the community is well on its way to a more sustainable, resilient, and affordable future for all residents. And, in the coming months, residents of Winona County will have more time to enjoy those little things—like sledding and a hotdish right out of the oven—rather than worrying about how to pay for wasted energy.

Newsletter (November, 2017)

Source: Blog – Sustain Winona

November 2017

Sections

 

Winona County Announces Rain Garden Cost-Share Grant

There are roughly 5,101 impaired streams, lakes, beaches, and wetlands in Minnesota. This number makes up 40% of our surface waters. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency our biggest threat to water quality is stormwater runoff. Water from rain and snowfall events runs over our lawns and streets collecting various forms of pollutants along the way before hitting our stormwater inlets, such as ditches or storm drains, and emptying into our nearby lakes, rivers, and streams. Implementing natural landscapes, like rain gardens, help water soak into the ground first to assist in filtering out pollutants.

Winona County has joined the City of Winona in offering cost-sharing grants for residents to install rain gardens. An overview of the program as well as the grant application are available on Winona County’s website. Help make a difference in keeping our waters clean by applying today!

Winona County Grant Application

City of Winona Grant Application

Additional Links Discussing the Benefits of Rain Gardens

Minnesota rain gardens go big to fight pollution, reuse water – MPR News

Burnsville rain gardens, retrofitting for water quality – MN PCA Stormwater Manual

Why you should care about water quality -MPCA

 

Upcoming Winter Seminar Series Spawned from October “Resilient Landscaping” Seminar

On October 3rd, Winona County sponsored a seminar on ways residents can improve landscaping practices. Popular topics included invasive species management, tips and resources for establishing a wilder or prairie yard, green infrastructure with rain gardens and trees, and various design concepts for landscaping. Speakers included Jacob Overgaard, Winona County’s UMN Extension Educator, Daryl Buck from the Winona County Soil and Water District, Winona City’s City Forester Chris Kramer, Bonnie Mahoney of Winona Nursery and Master Gardener Brenda Pohlman.

Participation in the seminar was high, with more than 50 in attendance.  Based on a post-event survey, many attendees are eager to learn more. Due to this positive response, Winona County will be offering a series of winter seminars in which the four most popular topics will be discussed more in depth. The series will kick-off in January, look for more information in our December newsletter and on Sustain Winona’s Facebook page.

Winter Seminar Series Topics

Design Concepts for Landscaping

Prairies & Pollinators

Rain Gardens

Invasive Species Management

Fall Seminar “Resilient Landscaping” PowerPoint Presentation: Creating Resiliency through Improved Landscape Practices

 

New Energy Action Plan for Winona City

Over the past seven months, Winona’s Energy Action Team, working with Xcel Energy’s Partners in Energy, developed an Energy Action Plan aimed at reducing energy use and increasing renewable energy generation throughout Winona and the County. In order to create an Energy Action Plan, a team of experts from the community was convened to participate in the planning process. The Energy Action Plan, which will ultimately lead to an estimated 34 percent reduction in the city’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, was approved by the City Council last week.

A complete version of Winona’s Energy Action Plan can be found at the City’s website in the Public Announcement section. Residents across Winona County are encouraged to help guide residential outreach efforts by taking the survey available HERE. If you are interested in learning more about the plan or in volunteering to help Winona reach its goals, contact John Howard at JHoward@ci.winona.mn.us or at (507) 457-8273.

Additional Opportunity to get Involved with Saving Energy: Attend the Public Building Energy Benchmarking workshop on December 1st, 2017

Additional Stories

 

Sustain Winona’s “Next Step Partners” Project

Winona County citizens, local nonprofits, and government staff came together in 2016 as the Next Step Partners to help promote sustainability and climate resilience across the county. The genesis of this collaborative effort was a Rural Climate Dialogue undertaken earlier in the year in Winona County, organized by the Jefferson Center.  Sustain Winona partners, Winona State University, and the City and County of Winona, along with many community partners, created a project to engage our county residents on energy, and offer low to no-cost upgrades on efficiency. With grants from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTS), project collaborators developed a program for energy audits in lower or fixed income households, a service county residents previously had minimal access to. Thirteen audits were conducted for Xcel Energy customers at discounted rates by Southeast Minnesota Community Action Agency (SEMCAC) using efficiency installation rebates. Another 80 audits were completed by Xcel’s Home Energy Squad. Next Step Partners hopes to achieve 50 additional home energy audits by June 2018 thanks to this unique partnership between Xcel, SEMCAC, and Sustain Winona Partners.

CERTs Blog: Winona County partnership delivers energy audits to low-income residents, inspires friendly competition

Visit Xcel Home Energy Squad to determine your eligibility, request a visit, and see available services.

 

Healthy Lake Winona Lakeshore Management

This past summer, members of Healthy Lake Winona, City of Winona staff, and volunteers from Winona County worked on restoring native vegetation along a section of the north shore of Lake Winona from Franklin St. west to the playground area. Native vegetation has better habitat and food value to local animals, including pollinator species.

The group started by clearing invasives, like buckthorn, and killing turf grass to make way for site-appropriate native plants. One innovative approach the group took was to utilize cut branches from woody invasives as material for a wave barrier that they later installed to protect shallow water plantings. In August, the group received a boost from the Youth Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa (pictured), as well as students from WSU and St. Mary’s Universities. The project was able to get farther much faster thanks to all their hard work.

Healthy Lake Winona members and the Youth Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa take a break before staking the wave barriers they built into position in the lake. The bundles are affectionately known as “burritos”. Photo courtesy of Paul Schollmeier and Chris Meyer.

The project will be a multi-year effort with volunteers needed for continual weeding of invasive species, monitoring to ensure the native species become established, and removing and replacing those that didn’t thrive. One lesson learned is that the shallow water plants need to be protected from curious waterfowl and muskrats by wire mesh. The team hopes to replicate the project, with better projected shallow water plants, to other areas of the lake.

 

Winona State University Hires First Campus Sustainability Director

Nathan Engstrom has joined Winona State University filling the new position of Campus Sustainability Director. Engstrom brings with him ten years of experience coordinating sustainability in higher education, previously under the title of Regional Sustainability Coordinator at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin.

In his new position, Engstrom will be responsible for progress towards institutional sustainability goals. He will work to identify priorities for the campus and promote campus-wide sustainable practices and development. According to Engstrom, a big focus within his first year will be defining the functions of sustainability for Winona State University and determining how those fit into a work plan. There are many existing efforts in place that Engstrom will be looking to emphasize and expand, with some new pursuits added into the mix including renewable energy options and electric vehicle charging stations on campus.

Sustainability initiatives will require collaboration through many departments on both the Winona and Rochester campuses. Its clear Engstrom is passionate about working to promote a more sustainable campus to in order to build thriving communities.

Source Articles on WSU’s New Sustainability Director

WSU News: Engstrom joins WSU as Sustainability Director

Rochester Post Bulletin: New Winona State sustainability director talks new role, goals

A New Collaboration to Promote Sustainability in Winona County

A group of Winona County citizens, local nonprofits, and government officials are working together to promote sustainability and climate resilience across the county, thanks to a new grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

The collaboration, called Next Step Partners, stems from Sustain Winona – which includes representatives from the City of Winona, Winona County, and local schools and colleges – and a community engagement and organizing process initiated last spring that brought together a representative microcosm of Winona County residents to assess key challenges and opportunities relating to the local impacts of extreme weather and a changing climate. The community recommendations from that process, the Winona County Climate Dialogue, targeted healthy watersheds, clean energy, and community awareness of sustainability and climate resilience.

This year-long effort will 1) create pilot projects and contests in the community to raise awareness of sustainability and climate resilience issues by involving community members directly and 2) develop processes and policy so local government and other organizations can incorporate sustainability and climate resilience into their work now and into the future.

The partnership currently includes representatives from Winona County, the City of Winona, Winona State University, Sustain Winona, the Will Dilg Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, the University of Minnesota Extension, the Southeast Clean Energy Resource Team, Healthy Lake Winona, the Winona Nursery, the Bluff Country Co-op, the Jefferson Center, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. The group is looking for interested members of the community to help out with the effort.

The group hopes to spread awareness of sustainability issues through contests, educational events and discussions, and direct community involvement in key projects.

The group is seeking community involvement on the following projects:

  1. Raise community awareness of sustainability and climate resilience issues, like stormwater management, energy conservation, and water conservation.
  2. Manage stormwater runoff to reduce pollution of Lake Winona, the Mississippi River, and other water bodies in Winona County by installing and maintaining rain gardens and pursuing other stormwater management practices.
  3. Promote water conservation to save money and reduce energy use.
  4. Promote energy efficiency and energy conservation to save money and reduce overall energy use.
  5. Research policies and practices that can help public and private organizations in Winona County save money, reduce energy and water use, and be more resilient to extreme weather and changes in the climate.