GreenStep, COVID-19, Community Resiliency, and Earth Day

Resiliency - the word has such visceral relevance now - is one aspect of community sustainability. In this dire time of the pandemic, we see in MN cities the results of positive community preparation that GreenStep has promoted for ten years:

  • Telework and telemedicine
  • Generous spaces for all residents to walk and bike
  • Food stores and businesses with durable, local supply lines
  • A variety of businesses and housing to accommodate those losing their jobs
  • Low-cost city government due to energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Looking back 50 years, to the first Earth Day, we remember deep roots and experiments that we can again build on in our recovery from this pandemic:

  • Self-reliance
  • Appropriate technology
  • Ecology - think more benign (viral) relationships between the natural and the human worlds
  • Food co-operatives 
  • Backyard gardening (going back another 50 years to that other pandemic of 1918-1920) 
  • Home cooking!

As we struggle to understand and work through this painful time, and to prepare for the recovery, several on-line resources stand out as worthy companions on our journey:

  • League of MN Cities: for guidance on city COVID-19 legal, health and governance issues  
  • Strong Towns: for guidance from a MN-based non-profit on financially resilient cities and incremental actions  
  • Institute for Local Self-Reliancefor guidance from a MN-based non-profit on small business resiliency and sustainable local economics   
  • Transition Twin Cities: for guidance on more sustainable ways of living   
  • Planetizen Newswire: sign-up for several short emails/week with 1-2-sentence summaries of urban design articles from across the country
  • GreenStep best practice actions: while taking actions now is difficult due to social distancing, the GreenStep web site resources continue to be updated and Kristin Mroz, GreenStep staffer, is available as a first point of contact to assist your city in preparing to take action to make your city more resilient and sustainable

Stay safe, plan boldly, and keep in touch!

-- The GreenStep staff and steering committee

Related to: Announcement, Resources
Post on: 04/07/2020

GreenStep 10-Year Anniversary

See short TV/print coverage of two GreenStep gatherings:

For those who could not make it to a January gathering, we'd love for you to record a short video statement on how the GreenStep program has helped you move forward and meet your goals: go to  Our goal is to edit statements into a short video to be shown at the June League of MN Cities conference in St. Paul.

And download and share the 1-page infographic 10 Years of GreenStep Impacts & Accomplishments.


Related to: Announcement, Education
Post on: 12/12/2019

Climate, Health & Equity Funding

Through a $3 million funding opportunity, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) seeks to bring the most impactful ideas from across the globe to U.S. cities to address the intertwined issues of health, equity and climate change. Proposals that explore changes in city planning, policies and programs that address: buildings and energy; land use and urban planning; transportation; waste; food systems and food security; and air quality are encouraged.

Applicants who represent organizations from a wide range of fields and disciplines are encouraged to apply. To learn more about the opportunity, visit the RWJF website. Proposals are due April 20, 2020.

Post on: 04/06/2020

Brownfields to Brightfields in Ramsey

A large rise in population brings an increased energy requirement, and the city of Ramsey recognizes the benefits associated with clean energy. While searching for assets that can be transformed to meet this need, the city has turned its attention to the 267-acress Anoka-Ramsey Landfill, owned by the MPCA, closed in 1993 and capped. The site has been left inactive for years and has now transformed into a beautiful lot of native flora and wildlife. Of all of the redevelopment ideas since 1997, the brightfield concept has been the most feasible one to date.

Brightfields can be installed on many different types of land, including brownfields. These systems can be installed to provide electricity to the local power grid or, in rare cases, directly to an end-user like a factory.

View the report.

Related to: Education, Energy
Post on: 04/06/2020

2020–2021 Resilient Communities Project Partnerships

Request for Proposals 

The University of Minnesota’s Resilient Communities Project (RCP) is now accepting proposals for partnerships for the academic year beginning fall 2021. RCP currently has two open requests for proposals:

Partners benefit from applied research and technical assistance on one or more locally identified projects that advance community resilience to economic, social, environmental, or technological changes, provided by students and faculty at the University of Minnesota from a variety of departments and disciplines. The selection process is competitive, and successful applicants must support the effort through dedicated staff time and a local financial contribution.

RCP staff are available to help with development of your proposal at any stage—from introducing the RCP program and model to your staff, elected officials, and other stakeholders to helping brainstorm ideas for projects. Contact to get started!

Standard RCP Partnership 

Intended for Minnesota local government agencies interested in collaborating on one to twenty (1–20) projects. Projects should demonstrably advance community resilience to economic, social, environmental, or technological changes, and may include projects related to the impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligibility: Cities, counties, tribal public entities, special districts (e.g. watershed, transit, park, school), and regional government agencies or collaboratives located anywhere in the state of Minnesota are eligible. 

Deadline: Proposals are accepted three times per year: June 1, October 1, and February 1. 


Learn more or download proposal guidelines for
complete application information

Comprehensive Plan Implementation Partnership 

This special call for proposals, issued in partnership with the Metropolitan Council, is intended for Twin Cities metro area communities seeking to collaborate on one to two (1–2) projects that build community resilience and implement elements of a locally adopted 2040 comprehensive plan. 

Eligibility: Townships, cities, and counties located in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan and within the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Council are eligible.

Deadline: Proposals must be received by June 1, 2020 at 11:59 PM. Communities selected for participation will be notified by the end of June 2020. 


Learn more or download proposal guidelines for
complete application information

Post on: 04/02/2020

Turns Out Investing in Disinvested Communities Isn’t Very Risky

How risky is an organization that specializes in making loans to affordable housing and other community development projects in low and moderate income neighborhoods? Many of those neighborhoods themselves were once declared risky simply because black people or immigrants lived there, and therefore lenders discriminated against making loans in those neighborhoods — the practice known today as redlining.

A credit analyst who has worked at all three national credit rating agencies has rated 11 certified community development financial institutions. All but one are nonprofits. They’ve gotten pretty high ratings, meaning they’re relatively low-risk investments on Wall Street, and investors are buying it. Of those 11, nine CDFIs have ventured out to the bond market so far, and they recently hit a billion dollars in bonds sold as a group.

While there are now over 1,000 CDFIs across the country, so far only the largest CDFIs can afford to get rated and issue bonds.

Read more at Next City, which covers the investments, technology and  policies shaping cities.

Related to: Education
Post on: 03/16/2020

MN Certified Tree Inspector Workshops

Registration Open for MN Certified Tree Inspector Workshops and Exams   

The MN Certified Tree Inspector program currently certifies over 800 Tree Inspectors around the state of Minnesota. This certification is a unique competency based program which indicates that certified individuals have proven proficiency on topics such as identifying and managing major pest and pathogen issues of shade trees, an understanding of best planting practices, and other arboricultural concepts.    

To become certified for the first time, applicants must pass the certification exam with a score of at least 70%. Certifications are maintained through the completion of six hours of continuing education credits each year. These CEUs can be obtained at multiple venues around the state, such as Shade Tree Short Course, MN Certified Tree Inspector Certification and Recertification Workshops, Rochester Arborist Workshop, Minnesota Society of Arboriculture Fall Conference, Northern Green, various pruning workshops, and a number of other topical trainings. 

We are currently accepting registrations for attendance to our New Certification Workshops coming this May. These workshops are designed to give attendees a thorough review of the material covered in the exam, which is administered at the end of the workshop.  

Additional information about the Tree Inspector program, study materials and registration links are all available on


2020 New Certification Workshops

Dates & Locations:
All workshops will run from 8:30 am - 3:00 pm. The exam will begin no later than 2:00pm. 

May 1 - Elk River - Sherburne Government Center
May 7 - Oakdale - Oakdale Discovery Center
May 14 - Savage - McColl Pond Environmental Learning Center

Related to: Training, Forestry
Post on: 03/13/2020

Housing Choice and Affordability: The Missing Middle

1. Regulate maximum building envelope/form & scale rather than number of units/density
2. Carefully regulate building width and depth
3. Be careful about allowed height
4. Do not allow townhouses or single-family detached homes in which the ground floor is mostly parking
5. Some single-family contexts are better than others for Missing Middle housing
6. Communication and framing tips

  • Avoid conversations about increasing density
  • Document and photograph local examples and make this information easily available
  • Personalize the conversation and tell stories

See the article at Public Square: The Journal of the Congress for the New Urbanism.


Related to: Education, Resources
Post on: 03/13/2020

MN GreenStep Schools: express city support by Earth Day

Picture this: One step at a time…, teams of schools, districts, students, parents, and a supporting community of volunteers, non-profits, businesses, and local and state government agencies all working together to help schools and their community take actions and build their capacity to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future: preparing children for a changing economy, protecting our environment and community health, and harvesting the benefits of a clean energy future—all with guidance, assistance, and recognition from MN GreenStep Schools.  

Minnesota GreenStep Schools program a free and voluntary statewide best practices framework, community of practice, and recognition program for public and private K-12 schools and districts to reduce environmental impact and costs, improve health and well-being of students and staff, and provide effective environmental and sustainability education. 

Read more/join the 50 x 50 participation drive!  

Related to: Announcement, Education
Post on: 03/12/2020

Mayor's Water Challenge for Water Conservation

In 2019 residents pledged to save 3 billion gallons of water. This is such great news for so many reasons not least of which is the reduced stress on local water infrastructure. This can save millions of dollars for cities who have been carrying nearly 98% of the cost associated with local water infrastructure maintenance and repair.

How to Participate

Participation in the Challenge takes place at where residents go to select from pre-populated pledges to conserve water and other natural resources on behalf of their city. To begin the pledge, residents select their city and there they see a quote and or video from their mayor or sustainability leader sharing the city's personal message on conservation. Here is what Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti put on the Los Angeles landing page; and here is an example of cities challenging neighboring cities which makes for a lot of fun as seen here in the 2019 Challenge between Gainesville Florida and Athens Georgia


The Wyland Foundation in partnership with the National League of Cities, the U.S. EPA, and presenting partner Toyota, provide this zero-cost platform for city leaders to communicate with their residents about the importance of conservation. An electronic toolkit is provided containing everything you will need to publicize the Challenge to you residents. Press releases, digital artwork, text for social media, banners for websites, and much more. National and local promotion including display ads, television promotions, live events, and more is also provided by the Wyland Foundation and its partners which also include The Toro Company, ECOS Earth Friendly Product, and Conserva irrigation.


Winning city residents are eligible to win thousands of dollars in prizes, including a grand prize of $3,000 for a resident to pay for utilities for a year; and a community grand prize of a 2020 Toyota Hybrid for one lucky non-profit nominated by city residents. 

Sign Up To Participate

The 2020 Challenge takes place April 1st-30th. For more information and to sign up please visit A written statement of support and videos can be submitted to anytime up until about a week before the Challenge begins. If additional information is desired, our team at the Wyland Foundation is available to do a 15- minute Webex presentation.

Related to: Education
Post on: 02/12/2020