Sustainability is becoming the norm for Minnesota cities


by Minnesota GreenStep Cities Program
Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Over 100 cities advancing energy, water, economic, and environmental practices

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April 26, 2016, Statewide, MN – When it comes to sustainability, it’s more likely these days that cities are working on advancing energy, water, economic, and environmental practices than not.

This sense that ‘everyone’s doing it’ with sustainability is in part due to a statewide program called Minnesota GreenStep Cities, a voluntary challenge, assistance, and recognition program designed specifically for Minnesota that now has ever 100 participating cities.

“Over 40% of Minnesota residents now live in a city that participates in the GreenStep Cities program,” noted Don Reeder with the League of Minnesota Cities. “An overwhelming number of cities are actively working on actions that fall into the five best practice categories of Building and Lighting, Land Use, Transportation, Environmental Management, and Economic and Community Development.”

“It’s been amazing to see the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program grow since it started in 2010,” shared Philipp Muessig, Minnesota GreenStep Cities Program Coordinator at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. “The program best practices and peer network have made it possible for a diverse range of cities—rural small towns like Royalton, Pine River, Milan, and Cologne; regional centers like Bemidji, Marshall, Grand Rapids, and St. Cloud; suburban cities like Woodbury, Burnsville, Apple Valley, and Victoria; and even the big cities of Saint Paul, Duluth, Rochester, and Mankato—to advance their own sustainability and quality of life goals.”

Cities join the program for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s getting direct technical assistance, learning from peer cities, or getting recognition for their efforts. No matter the motivation, cities view the program as a way to gain support for sustainability, track their efforts, and continuously improve.

“The GreenStep Cities program provides clear goals for citywide sustainability in various areas,” shared Colleen Sinclair with the City of Coon Rapids. “The program allows Coon Rapids to track what we are already doing well and discover how we can improve.”

Thomas Hoff with the City of Marshall echoed Sinclair’s sentiments. “Having clearly established benchmarks and the opportunity to see how other cities have approached the same issues is extremely helpful,” he said.

“Any city in the state could benefit from participation in GreenStep Cities,” said Jennifer McLoughlin with the City of Woodbury. “The program offers a buffet of potential best practices, and encourages participants to choose ones that make the most sense for their cities.”

Going beyond cities. In many cases, the GreenStep Cities program allows city staff to extend their reach farther into their communities and find support they would not have otherwise had.

“GreenStep Cities helps Mankato forward our sustainability goals, helps us set benchmarks to achieve, and helps us get the word out to the community about our sustainability initiatives,” shared Molly Westman with the City of Mankato.

Matt Glaesman with the City of St. Cloud is equally appreciative of the program. “GreenStep Cities allows for two-way communication,” he said. “We were able to dedicate what limited staff time was available and made a good dent in telling our story!”

“Residents have been very supportive of our energy efficiency efforts,” noted Andrea Lauer, City of Royalton Mayor, “and students from Royalton High School have also been very active in promoting recycling and renewable energy programs.”

How can you learn more? You can learn more about these cities and their progress on sustainability programs, and also find each city’s GreenStep Cities Coordinator contact by visiting

Can new cities join? New cities are always welcome to join the program, and a great way to learn more is to talk to people at peer cities working on sustainability efforts through GreenStep Cities.

About GreenStep Cities: Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary challenge, assistance, and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals. This free continuous improvement program is based upon 29 best practices that are tailored to Minnesota cities, focus on cost savings and energy use reduction, and encourage civic innovation.

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