Community Planning

Stillwater unites to envision a cleaner energy future

Sharing ideas about growing clean energy

A Shared Vision

 

Local communities are taking their energy future into their own hands. I witnessed this firsthand at the listening session Vision for Stillwater’s Energy Future, hosted by the Sustainable Stillwater Energy Working Group in partnership with Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) and Conservation Minnesota.

The goal: to give Stillwater the opportunity to share their ideas and learn more about growing clean energy to benefit the community and neighbors for generations to come.

 

That seems to be just what happened.

About 30 community members attended, ranging from teachers to medical professionals to Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski and State Representative Shelly Christensen. Just having this broad a range of perspectives in the room was such a resource to draw on and I was excited to see where the conversation would go.

From the start, the community proved to be passionate and thoughtful.

General questions about goals for the city and this specific meeting were presented and a multitude of ideas were thrown out: create a better urban development plan, improve building codes to include energy efficiency, increase renewable energy development, reduce reliance on cars, and increase pollinator friendly areas. The conversation then moved to brainstorming who was responsible for initiating and completing these projects. Some members felt that the city government needed to play a larger role in leading the charge. Others concluded that businesses, some of the largest energy consumers in Stillwater, should be the focus. Ultimately, the conversation concluded that everyone has a role to play; it’s simply about helping them fill their niche.

conversation

Passionate and thoughtful attendees

Barriers were the next topic on the agenda and some key insights were discussed.

Financial restraints, lack of community buy-in, general fear of the unknown, difficulty making clean energy a priority when other issues seemed more pressing, lack of motivation; all these barriers were brought up by community members. As each person was heard and the conversation continued, it became clear that a strong education and outreach campaign was the first step in overcoming many of these barriers and ultimately achieve many of the larger goals.

At this point, community members in small table discussions shared local stories that they knew could motivate and inspire others.

At my table, a local hospital employee talked about the amazing work Lakeview Hospital has been doing to become more sustainable—in fact, they just won the prestigious 2019 Practice Greenhealth Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award. Another woman at my table talked about the motivated Stillwater High School students, who have multiple clean energy projects in the works and who are planning to attend the Nobel Conference 55: Climate Changed: Facing Our Future.

The message was clear: people in the community cared and were already taking action. These stories can be powerful when they are shared and used to inspire others, unite forces, and ultimately rally support for more clean energy projects moving forward, possibly on a coordinated, city-wide level.

Jordan Ashby, Metro CERT Intern at Great Plains Institute

At this point, they began brainstorming ways within the community to disseminate this information.

Tabling at community events, partnering with local businesses, social media, blogs, news articles in the local paper, poster campaigns; many ideas were shared which will eventually be narrowed down into one concrete plan, but simply having the stories, the ideas for communication, and the passion of this group is a promising start.

As the meeting came to a close, people were asked to throw out a word or two about how they were feeling at that moment.

Hopeful, educated, inspired, challenged, excited—as words traveled across the room, I would describe the general feeling as one of realistic anticipation. Knowledge that there was a lot of work to be done was balanced by the fact that everyone felt less alone in the effort. Following the meeting, I thought of what my word would be. After watching the eager participation of the community members, the varied perspectives, the attentive listening, the thoughtful brainstorming, what did I feel? “Optimistic,” I thought. All the things I had felt could be summed up broadly in that one word. The power of a community uniting, conversing, and listening was clear: it can ignite action and develop critical solutions.

Vision for Stillwater’s Energy Future

Looking to get involved and move forward in your community?

If you would like to host a similar community clean energy listening session, please contact Diana McKeown, Metro CERT Director, at dmckeown@gpisd.net. If you are a member of the Stillwater community and are interested in joining the Sustainable Stillwater Energy Working Group, please contact Don Schuld at donshuld@gmail.com. Together, we can build a clean energy future!

About the Author

 

Jordan Ashby is an intern at the Great Plains Institute where she works with the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team. She is a rising sophomore at Yale where she plans to focus on American studies or English.