Interview: Monitoring GreenStep Cities’ progress with the Regional Indicators Initiative

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The Minnesota GreenStep Cities program includes 28 best practices that cities strive to achieve, some of which involve making energy efficient changes to both existing buildings and infrastructure and new developments. Although progress can be tracked within the program by how many best practices have been achieved, hard data of the improvements has been lacking—until now. Recently, Diana McKeown, Metro CERT Director, sat down with Rick Carter, the Senior Vice President of LHB, Inc., to find out how the data gap is being bridged through the Regional Indicators Initiative.

Diana McKeown: How did the Regional Indicators Initiative get started?

Rick Carter: The Regional Indicators Initiative was conceived as a way to track the progress of cities involved in the GreenStep Cities (GSC) Program. From a list of 20 cities who submitted requests to participate in a GSC pilot, the ULI MN Regional Council of Mayors Environmental Committee helped select five cities. We discussed metrics with these five cities and decided to ask them to participate in a “pilot within a pilot” to try and measure citywide indicators such as energy, water, travel, and waste. Edina, Falcon Heights, and St. Louis Park opted in, helping to fund the study and volunteering to release their resource consumption for 2008-2010.

Diana: What have you learned so far that you weren’t expecting?

Rick: We learned that we can get most of the data fairly easily, that some is harder that we would have ever expected to obtain, and that generally speaking, emissions, and energy consumption are relatively flat over five years.

Diana: What have you learned that you knew, but needed confirmation with data?

Rick: The data confirmed our intuition that the majority of greenhouse gas emissions (nearly 70% using the geographic inventory method) comes from utility and district energy use. Most of this energy (60%) is used by businesses, while most of the potable water (60%) is used by residents.

Diana: Are there other efforts like this across the country?

Rick: While there are several individual cities tracking one or more of these metrics, we are not aware of any other efforts of this scale in the United States.

Diana: How many cities are involved and are you looking to grow that number?

Rick: There are currently 21 participating cities, and we are pushing to reach 40 in the next few months. Cities who want to get involved should contact me. The cost is $3,000 for 5 years of data.

To learn more and see all of the data, click here to visit the Regional Indicators Initiative.