More Sustainable Stuff from Minnesota

Alrighty, folks.

My last post gave a handful of people, organizations, and businesses that are making some headway into the sustainability arena. Here’s some more:

Cascade Meadows Wetland and Environmental Science Center

I just found out about this awesome project this week! Anyone living in Southeastern MN who is interested in science or the environment should definitely check this place out. The site, located in Rochester, MN (home of the famous Mayo Clinic and St. Mary’s Hospital) is 100 acres, 90 of which are being restored to native wetlands. The other 10 acres are a showcase of the best management and design practices in the business. For example, the Science Center building is one of the first in MN to receive the highest LEED rating, Platinum. Inside the building is interactive exhibits and places to hold meetings, classes, and workshops. The area surrounding the building demonstrates best management practices for storm water runoff (including swales, permeable pavers, a green roof, and treatment ponds) and landscaping with native plants. By this time next year, there should also be trails winding through the 90 acres of wetlands to showcase this local ecological asset. Here’s a little ditty from their website:

“The core programming at Cascade Meadow will initially be centered around two main issues: water and energy resources. Increasingly, citizens of Southeast Minnesota are being asked to make consumer and political decisions on the issues of water and energy resource management. In order to make informed decisions, SE Minnesotans require a certain level of water and energy “literacy.” All of Cascade Meadow’s initial exhibits, physical features, education programming and the building itself will be aimed at increasing the energy and water literacy of the greater Rochester community.

Specifically, programming will focus on:

  1. The science of energy and water
  2. The ways in which societies use and interact with energy and water resources,
  3. How technology and behavior changes can help move us towards the sustainable use of our water and energy resources.”

Yeah, wow. Can we get a round of applause? Needless to say, I’ve already been in contact with them to volunteer working the front desk.

The Perennial Plate

This is the brain-child of local chef/activist Daniel Klein (hailing from the Twin Cities area). The Perennial Plate is a web series and blog that documents “socially responsible and sustainable eating”. Episodes are anywhere from 2 to 15 minutes long on topics ranging from backyard chickens to wild foraging to invasive species to gardening to hunting. The first season is all in Minnesota, and then (with the help of Kickstarter) the second season is a tour of the entire U.S. I’ve spent many hours watching his stuff. I highly recommend you do the same!

Sustainability in the Local News

Winona has this great website called Winona 360 that is a sort of news outlet, community organization, social network hybrid. Recently there was a great article about how different members of the Winona community have embraced sustainability. Here were some of my favorite tid-bits from the article:

1. I found out (one of) my chemistry professor’s home is completely powered by solar energy. (And she just went up 100,000 points on my radar.)

Xcel Energy claims to have over 100 customers contributing wind energy to their system, most of which lie in the farms of Southern Minnesota.” Woo-who! Go us!

“Our [older] generation has just made a big mess of everything. Now [younger generations] get to clean it up. Good luck.”

Haha…thanks, I think.

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Taken Under Wing

This weekend was notably exciting in my little life! I recently had the opportunity to go out and work with two professional ecological designers, Daniel Halsey and Wayne Weiseman. I had previously met Dan through his educational programs he offers through his permaculture business Southwoods Forest Gardens in Prior Lake, MN. (Previous posts go into the details of the coursework and experience I had there.) I had been aware of Wayne’s permaculture work through social networks, especially facebook. But this weekend was the first time I had the pleasure of meeting Wayne in person. He runs The Permaculture Project, LLC in Illinois, which is an organization that educates individuals about ecology and permaculture, implements ecological designs, consults with business owners and home owners, and hosts workshops for the construction of green architecture. I felt very honored to be presented with an opportunity to get a glimpse of professional ecological design work, and I am so excited about the possibility of continuing to work with them in the future.

Dan and Wayne were in the area this weekend to work on a project they have been contracted to design and implement. Out of respect for the site owner’s wishes, I will not reveal too much about the project until she releases information to the local press. What I will say is that there is some inspiring, groundbreaking work happening in our local area. Permaculture and sustainability are going to be coming to the valley in a big way! If you are interested in helping to build a more sustainable Winona area, may I direct you again toward The Permaculture Project, LLC to register for a week long natural building workshop in Buffalo County, WI (see right side margin “2012 Course Schedule”). Stayed tuned for more information about this exciting development in local sustainability!

My First Project

While I was still busy at Sirius learning all about sustainable design and permaculture, I was already getting the itch to start something of my own. One of my teachers and resident of Sirius, Ryan Harb, had started his first permaculture garden at his parent’s house, turning their front lawn into an edible landscape. This gave me the idea to approach my own parents. My father and step-mother own and live in The Tefft House Bed and Breakfast (www.teffthouse.com) in Plainview, Minnesota. I thought this would be a perfect location to put a permaculture garden because it is located right on Broadway next to the only four-way stop sign in the entire town. What an optimal sight to raise awareness! Plus, both the guests and my parents could benefit from the low-cost, high-quality organic produce that will come from the garden. They already shop at the Plainview Farmer’s Market and buy organic, and this could be a great way for them to step up their game. So with all that in mind, I approached my parents. And they were thrilled!! They were very excited about everything I had been learning at the EcoVillage, and agreed to let me turn their front lawn into my first permaculture garden project. And with that, the e-mail exchanges began, and the ball was rolling.

My first project, The Tefft House Bed and Breakfast