If you’ve been thinking about starting a compost bin or switching to LED lights in your home, or if you’re just yearning to live a greener life but don’t know where to begin, the answers might be right in your own backyard — or your neighbor’s.
This summer, St. Anthony Park residents will gather in backyards throughout the neighborhood to learn about how to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle through the District 12 Community Council’s Backyard Talks. The talks are part of the council’s Green Neighborhood Project, a three-pronged program that includes Backyard Talks, Windsource Promotion and Environmental Movie Night.
Backyard Talks kicked off May 20 with the Kasota Pond Walk, where Karlyn Eckman of the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center (and St. Anthony Park resident) gave a walking tour of the area located west of Highway 280 on Energy Park Drive. Kasota Pond is the last remnant of a once-larger interconnected creek, pond and wetlands system in St. Anthony Park and home to a range of wildlife, including snapping turtles, salamanders and herons.
Nine additional talks are scheduled, and coordinator Mary Hamel said there could be more by fall. Renee Lepreau, District 12 community organizer, said the Backyard Talks are a “great opportunity for neighbors to share their knowledge with other neighbors.”
Hamel’s lineup includes sessions on native planting and native insects, composting, eco-friendly housekeeping, green remodeling, organic gardening on the boulevard and switching a home over to LED lights. Most of these talks will take place in a resident’s yard on a Tuesday evening and will include refreshments.
Program organizers want people to register for the talks and are offering incentives for those who respond first. For example, the first 25 to register for the Kasota Pond Walk received free field guides. The first callers to commit to the talk on kitchen composting will receive a countertop compost bucket.
The Green Neighborhood Project is being funded with a $3,000 grant from the St. Anthony Park Community Foundation and a $2,000 grant from Park Midway Bank.
Amy Sparks, District 12 executive director, said she and Lepreau got the idea for the project at the Neighborhood Sustainability Conference in March at Augsburg College, where they learned about activities in other metro neighborhoods. Conversations with Jon Schumacher and Glen Skovholt of the Community Foundation led to the development of the program.
Lepreau said the goal is to get neighbors to share their knowledge about environmental matters. “I know people in District 12 are doing great things,” she said. “This is an opportunity for them to share what they are doing.”
“The speakers are all experts in their fields,” Hamel said, “and they all either live here or are connected to the neighborhood in some way.”
Environmental Movie Night is patterned after a similar program offered by the Hamline-Midway Coalition Environ-mental Group, which is showing movies with environmental themes this summer. District 12 will begin with a showing in July at the St. Anthony Park Library and another in August at an outdoor venue. Specific dates and films are still being planned.
The third part of the Green Neighborhood Project is Windsource Promotion, which is being coordinated by Brandon Wiarda, a member of the District 12 Environmental Committee and a representative to the Capitol Region Watershed District. Windsource is a voluntary program offered by Xcel Energy that allows customers to buy monthly “blocks” of 100 kilowatt-hours or request 100 percent Windsource from Xcel.
According to Xcel Energy data, purchasing just one block of Windsource each month for a year has the same effect on the environment as reducing one’s driving by 2,400 miles or planting one-third of an acre of trees. The cost is $3.53 per block, minus a credit for fuel costs related to conventional sources of energy. Both renters and homeowners can sign up.
While paying for Windsource doesn’t mean the electricity in one’s home comes directly from wind turbines, “it ideally increases buying power for more windmills,” Sparks said, “and raises awareness about energy in general.”
Windsource Promotion is a work in progress. Wiarda will spend the summer creating promotional materials, and the District 12 Environment Committee is discussing incentives to encourage people to sign up.
A master calendar of Backyard Talks and Environmental Movie Nights will be available soon, Hamel said. She suggested signing up for the District 12 e-newsletter to stay informed about the project. To find out more about the talks and their locations or to sign up for the e-newsletter, call 649-5992 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Reservations for a specific talk can be sent to email@example.com.