Written and submitted by Michelle Isaacson, Southern YES! Coordinator
Minnesota weather is one of the more unpredictable phenomena in this world. On Thursday, January 25, the Forest Lake YES! team hosted their individualized Winter Workshop, rescheduled from the major snow storm earlier in the week. Fifteen students joined in for snacks and education as Dan Undem, Assistant to the City Administrator of Forest Lake, presented on the city’s progress of their GreenStep Cities program.
Dan began by explaining a bit about the GreenStep Cities program and that there are five areas of best management practices including, buildings and lighting, land use, transportation, environmental management, and resilient economic and community development. Each category has sub levels of best practices totaling possible 29 actions. Cities will work on projects within each practice to guide them to a more sustainable way of functioning.
Beginning in 2014, Forest Lake has been slowly working through sustainable projects. Some of these tasks include building their City Center using sustainable practices including installing LED fixtures, sensors for lighting, and dimmer switches, and installing a high efficiency HVAC system that has the capacity to heat and cool at the same time. The city has also switched their streetlights and park lights to LED bulbs. It has been projected to save the city $137,569 in energy costs over the life of the bulbs and decrease how many bulbs need replacement, resulting in further savings through a decrease in labor costs.
With multiple lakes associated with the city, there are numerous opportunities for protecting such a precious resource. Some projects that would assist in this conservation and clean up of water include pervious pavement, rain garden, and green roof installation and water collection for on-site irrigation. The city aims to slow the water as it travels to Clear Lake, giving it a chance to be naturally filtered before entering the lake. Assistants to this process include installing rock weirs and tree basins to act as filtration devices.
Lastly, Dan talked about the efforts to increase recycling throughout the city. There is an annual education campaign to ensure citizens know what options are available and that they are properly recycling. They also have an interactive guide to enhance their education efforts. The city has made an effort to place recycle bins next to each garbage can in the parks, making recycling an accessible option.
After Dan’s presentation, many students scurried to their obligations however, a handful of students stayed back and we investigated the GreenStep Cities’ website. Listed are the best practices and actions to achieve them. We discussed finding projects that the students could complete and being persistent when presenting their project initiatives to the city. Overall the students left with project ideas and future partners to make a difference in the city they call home.