As we grow Minneapolis, we’re growing it sustainably — because in this century, that’s the only way to do it. That’s why I’m very excited to be in Stockholm today to represent Minneapolis at the first-ever European Green Capital conference. I’m part of a National League of Cities delegation with officials of 10 other U.S. cities, and we’re here to learn how European cities are meeting the challenges of growth, sustainable economic development and enhancing the environment — and to share examples of how our cities are getting results in meeting the same challenges.
The European Union has officially designated Stockholm as the first European Green Capital, and part of that honor, Stockholm is holding this inaugural conference on urban sustainability. The National League of Cities, which is fully funding my travel and conference-related expenses, received a grant from the U.S. State Department to send our delegation to the conference. (You can follow the conference on Twitter at #EGCConference, and follow me at @MayorRTRybak — I’ll be tweeting it.)
On Thursday, I’ll speak on a panel entitled “Green Success Stories: American Best Practices,” and Minneapolis’ success stories will give me a lot to talk about. From building capacity for jobs and businesses in the clean-energy economy and launching the country’s largest bike-share system, to connecting residents to healthy, locally-grown, sustainable food and helping them save money and energy in their homes, we are building sustainability into everything we do. Sustainability is a key component of the City of Minneapolis’ five-year goals, and we are getting results.
After all, it’s not accident that earlier this year, an independent survey ranked Minneapolis the sixth-best eco city in the world. I’m proud of that ranking, but I’m much more proud of the planning and hard work that has led up to it. To get great results, you need a great plan, and we have that: The Minneapolis Plan for Sustainable Growth sets the framework for our efforts and guides all our decisions around planning, investment and regulation. I encourage you to take a look. And the Minneapolis Sustainability Initiative sets out 25 specific sustainability indicators — from increasing use of renewable energy and building bike capacity, to planting more trees and improving access to healthy, sustainably-produced, locally-grown food — that help us benchmark our progress.
Recent results include:
- Being rated the #1 bicycling city in the U.S. by Bicycling Magazine.
- Opening the largest bike-share program in the country in partnership with Nice Ride Minnesota, and nearly doubling the miles of on-street bike lanes.
- Launching ThincGreenMSP, a partnership with Saint Paul to grow green jobs and green-business capacity, including by implementing an aggressive green-procurement policy.
- Through the Homegrown Minneapolis initiative, opening up city-owned land to more community gardens, connecting emerging local food entrepreneurs to business financing and markets, and closing food deserts by establishing more mini-farmers markets.
- Establishing “Energy Savings Made Easy” to provide financing tools for energy-efficiency upgrades, with the goal of making 50% of buildings in the region energy-efficient in the next 10 years.
- Planting over 5,000 trees since 2006 through the City Trees program, whereby the City provides trees at a discount for residents to plant at their homes.
- Implementing Access Minneapolis, a comprehensive transportation plan that puts pedestrians, bikes and transit on equal footing with automobiles.
- Installing 600KW of solar power on the Minneapolis Convention Center, making it the largest solar array in the Upper Midwest.
- Being ranked 10th for clean drinking water among U.S. cities with populations of 250,000 or more, according to the Environmental Working Group.
- Implementing aggressive storm- and surface-water management programs that help protect the quality of our lakes and the Mississippi River, including by installing green roofs on major public buildings that help capture millions of gallons of storm water each year — and winning the “Innovation in Government Watershed Heroes Award” because of this work.
We’ve accomplished a lot in the last several years, but we’re not resting on our laurels: we’re folding sustainability into everything we do in order to make Minneapolis the most sustainable city anywhere. And that takes all of us doing our part, large and small, every single day.
Check back over the next few days for more updates from Stockholm.