Best Practice

GreenStep City Best Practices: Resilient Economic and Community Development
Business Synergies and EcoDistricts {BP No. 28}

Network/cluster businesses and design neighborhoods and developments to achieve better energy, social, economic and environmental outcomes in service of a more circular and equitable economy.  

Best Practice Actions

a. Shared parking/access, electric vehicle charging for 3% of parking and/or synchronized with solar generation.
b. Green product development, manufacturing or sales OR a green job training program..
c. Buildings located within walking distance of transit and/or residential zoning.
d. Renovated buildings, buildings designed for reuse, shared recreation/childcare facilities.
e. Green buildings built to Minnesota's SB2030 energy standard OR renewable energy generated on-site.
f. Combined heat and power (CHP) generation capacity, shared geothermal heating/cooling, microgrid OR energy storage.
g. Low-impact site development.

Optional Best Practice for Step 3 Recognition

Category A and B and C cities: implement this best practice by completing any one action.


Fostering communication and networking among businesses, and clustering businesses, can optimize resource use and reduce economic and environmental business costs. Beginning with the observation that in nature, every waste is used by some other organism within an ecosystem, restorative development, eco-industrial development and ecodistricts aim to develop a circular economy that integrate and optimize energy, waste, water, food and transport systems such that they interface more benignly with the local natural ecosystem. A Minnesota-developed 21st Century Development tool and a national EcoDistricts Protocol help cities create mixed-use equitable, resilient, climate-neutral, sustainable neighborhoods. For a city's commercial/industrial sector, eco-industrial principles encompass a range of approaches a city can promote, ideally working with a local business association, and include:

  • Waste and pollution prevention and materials reuse in business operations.
  • Byproduct and waste energy exchanges among co-located businesses.
  • Higher performance buildings served by more sustainable infrastructure.
  • Producing products with a smaller environmental impact over their lifecycle.
  • Ongoing community job training efforts to assure green businesses of talented local workers.

Greenstep Advisor

Melissa Wenzel light skin, short dark brown hair, brown eyes, large smile. Wearing a blue shirt with bicycle images printed and a purple sweater.

Melissa Wenzel, Built Environment Sustainability Administrator, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 651/757-2251,

Connection to State Policy

While not State of MN policy, of note is a major University of Minnesota research network launched in 2015 to develop integrated urban infrastructure solutions for environmentally sustainable, healthy and livable cities. The Network's mission is to advance environmental sustainability, health, and livability in diverse cities across the world through infrastructure innovations in energy, water, transportation, green infrastructure, and food systems, linked with social, behavioral, and policy change.


Major Benefit A biomass combined heat and power system in the Silver Bay, MN Eco-Industrial Park is estimated to increase fuel efficiency above that in utility-sized coal-fired electric power plants from about 37% to about 75%. In using wood, net CO2 emissions are zero, displacing approximately 150,000 tons per year of CO2. A 2500-kilowatt pellet plant power and district heating system, firing about 10 tons per hour of biomass, is estimated to create 15 permanent pellet plant jobs and 6 logging jobs. Estimated savings from the district heating is $200,000 when compared to using natural gas.

Set within the Eco-Industrial Park is a Biofuel and Food Greenhouse Facility - Victus Farms -- that produces organic food and renewable fuel. The main inputs are fish feed, electricity, heat, and water, which are derived from locally-produced algae and biomass, and readily-available wind and rain. The main outputs are fish (about 12,000 pounds of tilapia per year), organic produce (starting with lettuce, basil, cilantro, parsley, sprouts, and mushrooms), and algae (oil extracted for biodiesel and remains fed back to fish). Learn more in this PowerPoint.