Minneapolis revises its goals for sustainability


The city of Minneapolis recently revised its goals for becoming a more sustainable city.

The various targets for the 26 Minneapolis Sustainability Indicators, which measure the city’s progress towards environmental, economic and social sustainability, were revised to reflect progress the city has made toward these targets so far.

Some changes were made to reflect new census data.

Seven years ago, the City Council approved the initial 10-year targets for each indicator in order to set a “numerical goal and provide better focus to what is being measured.”

Gayle Prest, sustainability director for the city, said while many of the goals are achievable, some of them, like ending homelessness in Minneapolis by 2016, are more for promoting discussion on an issue.

“Not all the information is good, not all the indicators are going in the right direction, but that’s how you engage people to really work on things,” Prest said.

Homelessness in Minneapolis has trended upward for three years before leveling off in 2010.

Still, many of the targets have shown improvement and many believe the system is a success.

City Councilman Cam Gordon said the slow economy forced the city to fall short on some of its goals but the ability to view tangible statistics made the program worthwhile.

Beth Mercer-Taylor, a sustainability education coordinator at the University of Minnesota, said while other cities are more successful in improving certain indicators, Minneapolis has done a good job of targeting key areas of sustainability and not just dealing with the environment.

“I think Minneapolis has done a really good job of looking at the social sustainability piece as well,” Mercer-Taylor said. “Human well-being is really what drives sustainability.”

Some of the indicators work on reducing things like teen pregnancy, asthma and poverty. Prest said that there is deep correlation between many of the indicators.

Prest pointed to the 12.8 percent decrease in carbon emissions from 2006 to 2010 as one of the program’s most successful achievements.

Increases in biking, busing and renewable energy use, which are all indicators, helped lead to lower carbon emissions, she said.

Other cities like Chicago and Seattle have developed similar sustainability projects but their inability to measure the progress in all their indicators, even ones that are not successful, reduces their effectiveness, Prest said.

Minneapolis is the second city in the nation to report both progress and shortcomings in its sustainability program.

“There are many cities that have done better than us on certain sustainability events,” Prest said. “But they don’t report on all of these different indicators.”

Mercer-Taylor echoed Prest’s statement saying, “having a number out there is better than having a vague theory.”

“What’s impressive to me is the possibility of really delivering on this plan,” she said.