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2015 Early Adopters lead the charge

In my last column, I rather shamelessly promoted Sustainable Twin Ports' Early Adopter Showcase event on Aug. 20 at the Great Lakes Aquarium. The three organizations that participated in our sustainability planning program this year presented the...

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Jamie Adams and Jennifer Borkholder of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa converse with Jim Green of Duluth Energy Systems in front of FDL's Early Adopter exhibit. (Photo submitted)

In my last column, I rather shamelessly promoted Sustainable Twin Ports' Early Adopter Showcase event on Aug. 20 at the Great Lakes Aquarium. The three organizations that participated in our sustainability planning program this year presented their plans to the public.

For those of you who found such use of this space to be in poor taste, I have some bad news: It worked!

We had a number of attendees tell us that they came because they had read the column. One person even had a clipped-out copy and followed it along with the program. My sincerest thanks to everyone who presented and attended.

For those of you who meant to come but couldn't, below is a brief synopsis of each Early Adopter plan:

Upper Lakes Foods. As a local, family-owned-and-operated food distributor, Upper Lakes Foods has worked closely with an impressive number of local and regional producers, including Locally Laid Egg Company, Ferndale Farms and Thousand Hills Cattle Company, to help restaurants put local products on their menus. As part of their 2015 Early Adopter Plan, ULF has decided to focus on reducing the amount of energy their operations consume.

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The company engaged Minnesota Power to perform an energy audit of their office and warehouse facility in Cloquet in order to identify fixtures and appliances that can be upgraded to more efficient and cost-saving alternatives. This service is available to all Minnesota Power customers and I would encourage all business owners to learn more about it at mnpower.com/OneBusiness, given the potential savings and green benefits it can yield. Based on the MP audit findings, the ULF team developed a phased implementation plan for changing out the electrical fixtures in its office building. (The warehouse already features efficiency-driven technology like motion-sensing lights and auto-closing doors in the walk-in fridges and freezers.)

For a fuller accounting of ULF's plan and the sustainable practices it already has in place, visit upperlakesfoods.com/about/sustainability .

Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The FDL team took inspiration from a telling statistic provided as part of a presentation by the Duluth Transit Authority, a past Early Adopter: If you swapped out all your appliances for energy efficient models, and changed all your light bulbs to LED or fluorescents, you would still not save as much carbon emissions as you would if you shared a ride or took the bus to work just one day per week instead of driving yourself.

The team undertook an extensive process to identify where FDL employees drive from each day, and survey them about their willingness to participate in a rideshare program. The team's goal is to design and launch a ride share program later this fall that decreases the number of employee commuter trips by 5 percent in the first year. Given the 70-mile radius from which FDL employees commute, that's a lot of potential miles - and carbon - saved.

Duluth Superior Eco Rotary. The members of the Eco Rotary jokingly refer to themselves as the "Garbage Club," given that they are so often seen managing the cleanup after events like Grandma's Marathon and All Pints North. This commitment to service and to preserving the ecological health of our region inspired the Eco Rotary team to develop a "best practices" guide and checklist for organizations that want to reduce the environmental impact of the events they stage. Facets include how to evaluate venues and vendors, how to conserve food and water, and how to minimize event-generated waste. The ultimate goal is to create a standard "green" certification process that can be used for planning any event, anywhere. To our knowledge, this is one of the very first efforts of this type in the country, if not the world. Find more information on this ground-breaking project here .

I hope that you find each these plans as exciting as we at STP do. And we look forward to the positive impact that each promises to have in driving the adoption of more sustainable practices here in the Northland.

Michael Kooi is the board president of Sustainable Twin Ports. You can email him at mkooi42@gmail.com .

 

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Related Topics: ENVIRONMENT
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