The Minnesota GreenStep Cities Program

History and development

Minnesota GreenStep Cities CoverDuring fall 2007, 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 was raised of creating a sustainable cities program, free to cities, that would challenge, assist and recognize cities that were "green stars." This idea was taken up by the 2008 Legislature, which directed the MPCA, the Division of Energy Resources at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, and CERTs to recommend actions cities could take on a voluntary basis (see the report to the Minnesota Legislature).

Representatives from dozens of cities, non-profit organizations, the University of MN, businesses and state government agencies provided the outline for what has been developed as the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program, which began in June 2010. As a non-regulatory program, GreenStep learns from Minnesota cities and assistance providers, and continually refines the best practice actions and the resources for taking action. The program also benefits from contact with over fifteen other GreenStep-like programs across the nation, and helped create the national Sustainable States Network in 2015.

In May 2012 the GreenStep Cities program received awards in the categories of Sustainable Communities and 2012 Partnership of the Year from the Minnesota organization Environmental Initiative. The awards honor partnerships, inspire other organizations to create similar projects, and encourage collaborative approaches to environmental problem solving. Over 340 attendees at the awards dinner voted among the 15 finalists nominated for the 2012 Partnership of the Year.

GSC Award

In 2016 the Humphrey Institute School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota presented GreenStep with a State Government Innovation Award: one of ten awards to recognize state government entities engaged in innovation and service redesign.


The GreenStep Cities Steering Committee adopted this Racial Equity and Inclusion Statement in 2020: 

The GreenStep Cities program supports Minnesota communities in building resilient and inclusive communities that meet the needs of Black, Indigenous, people of color and other populations historically harmed by environmental injustice and the disparities that result from exclusionary practices.


Humphry Award.jpg

The GreenStep Cities program celebrated their 10-year anniversary in 2020. Learn more about the programs accomplishments and city reflections: 

10 year celebration in Detroit Lakes

Partner organizations

Of the organizations that created the 2009 report to the Legislature, this working group below meets monthly as the GreenStep Cities steering committee, contributing time and funding to implement the GreenStep Cities program.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency 
Rick Patraw, Section Manager, Sustainability
and Environmental Assistance

GreatPlains Logo Great Plains Institute
Lola Schoenrich, Vice-President, Communities 
CERTs Clean Energy Resource Teams
Lissa Pawlisch, Statewide Coordinator
Urban Land Institute Minnesota Logo Urban Land Institute Minnesota
Peter Lindstrom
League of Minnesota Cities logo

League of Minnesota Cities
Don Reeder, Public Relations Manager 

Izaak Walton League - Minnesota Division Logo Izaak Walton League - Minnesota Division
Jill Crafton 
Minnesota Commerce Department logo

Minnesota Dept. of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources
Kari Moeller, Energy Market Transformation Team Supervisor

Rethos Logo Rethos: Places Reimagined
Erin Hanafin Berg, Director of Outreach and Policy
    Minnesota Environmental Quality Board logo

Minnesota Environmental Quality Board
EQB Representative



Program funders

In addition to staff time and funding contributed by the state agencies above to work on the GreenStep program, the partner organizations contribute valuable time and expertise. 


Partner programs 

MN GreenStep Tribal Nations The Minnesota GreenStep Tribal Nations program, launched in 2014 as a pilot program to the GreenStep Cities program, is a free and voluntary statewide best practices framework, community of practice, and recognition program for tribal nations and communities located in Minnesota to reduce environmental impact and costs, and improve health and well-being of tribal members and staff.
Minnesota GreenStep Schools The Minnesota GreenStep Schools program, launched in 2020, is 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.