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Environment Commission Conference an unprecedented opportunity for collaboration

The Minnesota Metro Environment Commission Conference was held in Minneapolis on April 13th at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church. The overall purpose of the event was to enable participants to meet, get to know each other, and learn from each other’s experience as members of commissions focused on environmental issues.

Last year, only commission members from the metro area were invited. This year the event was expanded to Greater Minnesota commissions and included afternoon panels.

Small Groups Focus on Shared Learning Opportunities & Engagement

At the event, commissioners networked with each other to improve understanding of the work happening at other commissions. The morning was spent in small groups, facilitated by co-sponsoring organizations. There were five small group topics:

  1. Energy & Carbon
  2. Organics
  3. Surface & Ground Water
  4. Sustainable Lawns & Landscaping 
  5. Transportation

During the table top discussions each person had a few minutes to share something their commission has done in their city that may be of interest to other commissioners, to request advice and guidance on a specific initiative that their commission is considering, or to explore ideas based on the experiences of other cities.

Diana McKeown provided the short presentation giving some basics about behavior change science and how to approach getting people to take action in the commissioners' communities. Tips were given about:

  1. How to identify barriers and opportunities
  2. How to choose an action to focus on
  3. Compelling ways to reach your audience

Panels full of experience

Based on the evaluation from the event in 2018, we also added outreach panel in the afternoon to address the “How do we get there” question. The participants were hoping for more ideas and examples for outreach to specific audiences. The three outreach panels were residential, business, and youth:

  • The residential panel consisted of Tara Brown from City of Edina, John Howard with the City of Winona, and Keith Buttleman, Maplewood Environment Commissioner.
  • The business panel included Steve Flagg a Bloomington Commissioner and business owner, Dave Wanberg, planner for the city of Faribault, and Diana McKeown with CERTs.
  • The youth panel was organized and facilitated by Larry Kraft of iMatter, and had six youth commissioners from around the metro and one from Northfield.

Speaker panel


This second environment commission conference was again a result of work by a steering committee made up of commission members mostly from around the metro region and one Greater Minnesota representative, and was supported by co-sponsoring organizations that provided resources to help the commissioners realize their vision for the event.

The goal again this year was to create an event organized by and for an audience of environmental commission members, so commission members on the steering committee created an agenda that was well-tailored to environmental commission interests. The steering committee members were:

  • Kimberly Byrd (Mahtomedi)
  • Katie Christiansen (St. Louis Park)
  • Rebecca Holmlund (Coon Rapids)
  • Richard Huelskamp (Red Wing)
  • Carolyn Jackson (Edina)
  • Laura Moore (Ramsey)
  • Ted Redmond (Maplewood)
  • Tim Sandry (Bloomington)
  • Katie Schroeer (Northfield)
  • Lori Tritz (Eden Prairie)

For the second year, Tim Sandry, the chair of the Bloomington Sustainability Commission, spearheaded the whole effort along with the co-sponsoring organizations including: The Alliance for Sustainability, Conservation Minnesota, Great Plains Institute, Metro CERT, and the Minnesota GreenStep Cities program.

Again, there is strong interest in having another gathering next year and the Metro region of the statewide Clean Energy Resource Teams at the Great Plains Institute plans to be part of the planning and execution again and to support the clean energy work of the commissions in the mean time on the topic of clean energy. We are happy to help communities reach their energy goals!

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