10 Years of GreenStep

Elk River is energized about sustainability

From solar to electric vehicles and everything in between

10 Years of GreenStep

 

Now in its 10th year, Minnesota GreenStep is a voluntary challenge, assistance, and recognition program to help cities and tribal nations achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals.

Diana McKeown, Metro CERT Director at Great Plains Institute, connected with Amanda Erickson, Environmental Coordinator with the City of Elk River. Elk River has been part of the GreenStep program since 2010 (see their progress).

 

What action is the City of Elk River most proud of since joining GreenStep Cities?

Amanda Erickson: Elk River has completed numerous action items over the years, many of which we are very proud of and have resulted in benefits to our city and community. Most recently, we are proud of the progress we have made related to electric vehicles (EVs) and EV charging stations in our city. We are fortunate to work closely with Elk River Municipal Utilities (ERMU). Together we completed a FleetCarma study which provided clear information about options that would fit our needs for EVs. ERMU also installed three public charging stations in recent years and provides rebate incentives to residents for at-home charging. The city is currently leasing a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) Mitsubishi Outlander and our Police Department continues to add hybrid vehicles to their fleet. We’re excited to be reducing our fuel use and utilizing new technology in electric vehicles. 

See Best Practice Actions for more information on city electric vehicle fleets (13.3) and public EV charging infrastructure (23.5).

Can you describe a barrier that you had to overcome to achieve a GreenStep Cities action?

Amanda Erickson: A barrier for some GreenStep Cities actions for us has been staff time and available funding but in other cases it is not having the necessary data to make changes. In the case of adding electric vehicles to our fleet, the Fleet Carma study provided us a tool to show the change would provide overall cost savings by replacing an existing car with an electric vehicle. Having this data specific to our city’s needs allowed us to move forward with adding an electric vehicle to our fleet.

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What has the GreenStep Cities program helped the City of Elk River achieve?

Amanda Erickson: The GreenStep Cities program has helped the city to more clearly understand the various areas of sustainability we can improve on and better track what we are doing through the lens of sustainability. This has resulted in numerous benefits including energy savings, better natural resource protection, cost reductions and more. GreenStep Cities has helped us achieve a broader understanding of sustainability which broadens our impact. 

The GreenStep Cities program has helped the city to more clearly understand the various areas of sustainability we can improve on and better track what we are doing through the lens of sustainability.

Amanda Erickson, Environmental Coordinator, City of Elk River
 

Can you tell us about an example of sustainability in action that people can see or visit?

Amanda Erickson: We installed a 5-kilowatt solar array through a partnership with Elk River Municipal Utilities and Minnesota Municipal Power Agency. Residents can visit the panels at City Hall and visit the educational kiosk at the Elk River Regional Library across the street. 

See Best Practice Actions for more information on installing public renewable energy projects (26.5).

What about something that can’t be seen or visited but is important to your sustainability efforts?

Amanda Erickson: Many of our actions are not easily seen or noticed by the public. For example, we have done a lot of energy efficiency work to save energy in our buildings, and all of our public buildings’ energy data is uploaded into the B3 Benchmarking program. Although our residents cannot see this data, our staff closely monitors it to know if we’re using more energy than normal and what buildings may need improvements. 

Elk River has also chosen to participate in our utility’s Clean Energy Choice program which allows us to purchase clean energy for all our city buildings through Elk River Municipal Utilities and Minnesota Municipal Power Agency. Although we don’t have any large-scale clean energy production of our own, this program allows us to support clean energy. 

See Best Practice Actions for more information on B3 Benchmarking (1.1) and purchasing green energy (15.2).

Elk River is a Step 5 community. Why is metric-reporting important to your community?

Amanda Erickson: The metric reporting allows us to track actions from year to year that we otherwise may not have the means to keep track of. The information is useful to see how things change and our efforts are making a real impact. 

Initially we learned that we weren’t always keeping a thorough log of our sustainability efforts or action items in the Greenstep Cities program. The reporting has helped us to keep better track of actions that we’re taking throughout the year because of the annual reporting and allows us the ability to promote any accomplishments with pride. 

Learn more about Steps 4 and 5 metric reporting.

 

Would you recommend the GreenStep Cities program to other communities? Why?

Amanda Erickson: Yes we would certainly recommend the GreenStep Cities program to other communities! It provides great resources and tools, including sample ordinances and direct staff contacts at various agencies. It is also beneficial that the program is completely voluntary for cities. 

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