Posts

Fargo’s Working to Make Every Day Earth Day. North Dakota Not So Much

One one hand, North Dakota is known for a fairly harsh environment with weather extremes and for higher than average per capita energy use and emissions. When compared with our Minnesota neighbors and other states with effective energy efficiency programs we pale in comparison. Just this week a national rating service Wallethub rated North Dakota 47th in the country for energy efficiency.
Most Environmentally Friendly States

Overall Rank
(1=Greenest)
State Total Score ‘Environmental Quality’ Rank ‘Eco-Friendly Behaviors’ Rank ‘Climate-Change Contributions’ Rank
1 Vermont 75.48 1 1 23
2 Oregon 74.23 3 2 20
3 Massachusetts 72.63 5 10 3
4 New York 72.11 4 19 2
5 South Dakota 70.54 6 5 11
6 Minnesota 69.46 2 14 16
7 Connecticut 68.99 9 22 1
8 New Hampshire 68.49 10 18 5
9 California 67.52 43 3 4
10 Rhode Island 66.68 7 28 6
11 Maine 66.63 13 4 17
12 Nevada 64.83 33 8 7
13 New Jersey 63.42 36 12 9
14 Wisconsin 63.40 8 29 13
15 Idaho 63.35 23 11 12
16 Hawaii 62.82 28 7 10
17 Washington 62.65 12 9 22
18 Maryland 62.19 38 16 8
19 Delaware 60.43 25 21 14
20 Michigan 60.38 11 35 19
21 Colorado 56.45 26 15 33
22 North Carolina 56.25 19 32 21
23 Tennessee 56.07 21 41 18
24 Georgia 55.74 18 27 27
25 Pennsylvania 55.17 17 24 32
26 Illinois 55.15 15 31 30
27 Missouri 54.85 14 42 28
28 Arizona 54.79 42 17 25
29 South Carolina 54.27 31 43 15
30 New Mexico 53.13 39 6 36
31 Iowa 52.99 16 20 40
32 Nebraska 52.87 34 25 31
33 Montana 52.35 44 13 29
34 Florida 51.70 24 39 35
35 Virginia 51.05 40 38 24
36 Alaska 50.79 22 36 37
37 Ohio 49.91 46 30 26
38 Kansas 49.77 29 23 41
39 Utah 48.89 30 34 39
40 Mississippi 45.35 20 45 43
41 Arkansas 44.99 45 44 34
42 Indiana 44.60 27 46 42
43 Texas 44.05 48 33 38
44 Oklahoma 40.82 47 40 44
45 Wyoming 40.44 35 37 46
46 Alabama 40.22 32 48 45
47 North Dakota 39.72 37 26 48
48 Kentucky 31.71 50 47 47
49 Louisiana 26.03 49 49 49
50 West Virginia 25.08 41 50 50

Fargo on the other hand, has been recognized for years as a national leader for innovative energy saving and revenue producing conservation efforts earning the designation by the Earth Day Network as the country’s most environmental city in 2007. Most recently, efargo was one of over 50 cities competing for the 2 year Georgetown University Energy Prize. 
Some good news is Geronimo Energy’s 200 MGW solar array in Cass County could provide the city of Fargo with another great renewable energy source to help us reach our efargo goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. Geronimo Energy announced these plans at last years Renewable Energy and Conservation presentation. Local resiliency leaders shared Fargo’s conservation projects and introduction by our grass roots group Citizens Leading Energy Action Network C.L.E.A.N. led by Ed Gruchalla and Paul Jensen.
As the sharing economy is becoming more prevalent, some of us have been working on a feasibility study for allocating some of the new solar and available wind power to Fargo. One way to start this could be allocating offsite renewable power for a pilot hybrid smart meter project that would include: smart chargers, electric car sharing project (EVs to GO) that would help shave peak energy costs, reduce congestion and emissions, store electricity, and add another transportation option that compliments Matbus, Great Rides Bikeshare, carpooling, and walking.  We learned about a similar system at Vulkan 5 in Oslo on our Smart Innovations Learning Tour to Norway in February that I helped coordinate with our eSmart Systems friend Henrik Bache and others.
Photo below. This mixed use residents/commercial/parking development uses mostly renewable energy, has smart EV car charging, and smart meters for the residences to reduce energy use and save money. Norway has a goal to be carbon neutral by 2030 and now a full 50% of new cars purchased are electric.
Here’s an earlier editorial about our efargo team led by Bush Fellow, Young Architect of the Year, and Nominee for YWCA Woman of the Year Malini Srivastava and students and community partners winning the 2 year national competition for the Georgetown University Energy Prize.

Editorial: Fargo’s ‘green city’ efforts save energy and money

The city of Fargo and its partners in conservation have been working hard for years to increase efficiencies and curb energy use. Their comprehensive efforts were recently recognized when they won the $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize, a two-year competition between 50 semifinalist cities throughout the nation. Over the two years, the city and its residents saved an estimated $2 million in energy costs. That’s tangible evidence of the benefits of energy conservation, which is too easy to dismiss as the lofty aim of do-gooders. It’s all the more remarkable considering that North Dakota consistently ranks at or near the bottom of states in energy efficiency.
Fargo began working in 2014 with its partners—North Dakota State University, the North Dakota Department of Commerce, Xcel Energy and Cass County Electric Cooperative—to form the partnership, called eFargo. But the conservation collaborations evident in Fargo’s winning effort can trace their lineage back years, some instigated by former City Commissioner Mike Williams.

The stench from the city landfill, for instance, prompted city officials in 2009 to turn methane gas into electricity, and convert sewage into water suitable for industrial use. That effort was estimated to contribute $2 million a year to city coffers. Every day, the city treats about 12 million gallons of wastewater. Now up to two million gallons of water per day, once discharged into the Red River, is piped to an ethanol plant in Casselton, earning a profit for the city and reducing the use of groundwater.
Since 2002, the city worked to replace incandescent street light bulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs, which now illuminate all traffic lights and 85 percent of pedestrian traffic lights, saving $30,000 per year. Similarly, the MATBUS fleet uses biofuel blends and runs eight hybrids to save fuel and therefore reduce emissions. Altogether, city generation from methane, solar power and wind over the years has produced 57.1 million kilowatt hours—impressive, considering 1 kilowatt hour will power a 100-watt light bulb for 10 hours. The landfill methane generator produces enough energy to power 700 homes every day.
The eFargo collaboration builds upon that foundation. Among other steps, it resulted in creation of a website that provides tips, data and games, including an evil character, Waste-A-Watt, to encourage energy efficiency and conservation. Students are a major focus of the effort, since they live where most energy is consumed—homes constitute 85 percent of Fargo’s energy use. The efforts saved the equivalent of 50.4 megawatts of power.

Fargo has long prided itself on being a “green city.” The $5 million prize will help spur further efforts that will make the city even greener. Malini Srivastava, a professor at NDSU and leader of the project, hopes to use the prize money to work toward a net-zero carbon future for the Fargo-Moorhead metro area. One of the criteria that enabled Fargo to win the competition was the replicability of its strategies. We should spread the green; more communities would do well to follow Fargo’s lead.
Editorials represent the views of Forum management and the Editorial Board.
~ End Article~
Fargo has made some solid progress building on good work by many proving conservation saves and pays. While it’s good to be recognized as an environmental leader nationally, we have much more work to do to protect our environment and natural resources. Let’s work together to vastly improve our stewardship of the only home we have, planet earth. After all, it’s in our hands. 

Swap Out Your Old Christmas Lights for New Solar Powered LED Tuesday

 
EXCHANGE OLD INCANDESCENT HOLIDAY LIGHTS FOR NEW SOLAR-POWERED LED HOLIDAY LIGHTS! Unplug and bring in your old electric incandescent light string to us and get a new string of zero-energy, solar holiday lights (200 lights, 72’ long)!
The first 12 people to stop by with their old incandescent light strings at the Downtown Fargo or Carlson Library on Tuesday, December 20th, 2016, will receive a string of solar-powered LED holiday lights!
In addition, we will be giving away LED bulbs till supplies last. Holiday strings and LED bulbs are limited to one per household. Old incandescent holiday lights are expensive and waste energy in households.
On average the cost of operating incandescent light strings is $122 versus LED light strings which cost $18 to operate over ten seasons. Using solar lights can save households the burden of ongoing outdoor lighting costs! efargo is a partnership with the City of Fargo, NDSU, Cass County Electric, and Xcel Energy to participate in the Georgetown University Energy Prize. Fargo is currently ranked #3 out 50 cities in the competition. You can help us win the competition by adopting energy-efficiency measures and lowering your energy bills. Go to www.efargo.org to learn more.

Pope's visit to DC reminds of past visit about environment

I’m excited about today’s visit from the pope to Washington DC and his strong message about improving our environmental stewardship.

pope_post_Blog Image 650 x 200

While no where near as epic, it reminded me how important it is for cities to maximize the opportunity to lead as we look for ways to take better care of our environment and of this fun interview at the White House in 2012. I didn’t get to meet the president, but I was honored to share some of Fargo’s story about how conservation saves and pays.

The video portion about Fargo is at 5:05 on C-Span in 2012.  Fargo environmental efforts at White House  http://www.c-span.org/video/?289219-5/global-climate-change-legislation&start=21

We have a lot to improve, and you can help learning more about our efargo team competing in the $5 million Georgetown Energy Challenge to reduce emissions and improve energy efficiency. Check out efargo

eFargo map

Fargo has received national recognition for our conservation efforts, we’ve been ranked as a #1 city for overall environment by the Earth Day Network, and have been featured on CNN’s Solutions for our innovative cash to trash and energy program.
You can register for the Matbus I go Eco Challenge, leave your car at home just one day and walk, skip, bike, or bus to qualify for a chance to win a sweet flat screen smart TV or other prizes.
Due to over three years of good community work by many, Fargo is also setting national usage records for Great Rides Bikeshare with our unique Matbus inspired, student led community effort.
Great Rides Fargo announcement photo 5-14-14

Working together, the best is yet to come.

Let’s keep working to grow well!

How to best build our city? Love it

 
This Strong Towns article could have been written about yesterdays efargo, Alley Fair, and The Hotel Donaldson Earth Day love yesterday. efargo launch, 2 hours of 50 people cleaning alleys and streets, partying at the Ho Do Fargo with the efargo “Earth Piano” and Diane Miller singing sweet tunes.

Sara Watson Curry jamming on efargo's solar powered "Earth Piano" that Raul Gomez and I built.

Sara Watson Curry jamming on efargo’s solar powered “Earth Piano” that Raul Gomez and I built.


To learn more about how we can grow well together and make the best community investments, we invited Charles Marohn of Strong Towns to tour Fargo and will be making presentations May 13th and 14th. Hope you can join us.
Here’s Gracen Johnson’s article about an unmatched economic development strategy in today’s Strong Towns post:

THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY THAT’S TOO CUTE TO PRIORITIZE.

Love, folks. It’s love. Love conquers all. At least that has been my almost unbearably hackneyed conclusion so far.
Last week, I was asked to join a panel discussion posed with the question, What role does placemaking have in building sustainable communities? This gave me a great excuse to break down and map out my personal theory of change. Here it is: love and working together. Have no doubt, the triteness is not lost on me – I grimace even writing this, but I really believe there’s something to it.

VACUUM-DRIVEN DEVELOPMENT

I arrived in the world of regeneration and “sustainable development” with an honest-to-goodness optimism about policy-driven change. Call it institutionalism or what have you, but I believed like so many of us do that the right policies and incentives could build the world we want. My MPhil (in something called Planning, Growth, and Regeneration) was an entire degree focused on the policies and economic tactics employed in regenerating places. I still believe policy is important and essential, such as putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions and installing feedback systems like road pricing. There are housing policies and anti-policies that I believe in as well, and let’s not forget about parking maximums. Where my confidence falters is in the zone of economic development policy, the stuff of business parks, tax perks, and a long aisle of pig-lipstick.
The revelation occurred while attending a conference about struggling rural villages, desperate to create jobs and retain young people. I had just been contemplating these same challenges for large cities like Liverpool, UK and it hit me that everyone feels like a struggling rural village in the globalized economy, except the top dogs like New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, London and Shanghai, etc.
Common practice favours what I call vacuum-driven economic development, where your goal is to suck up more talent, resources, and”job-creators” than your neighbours. We’ve seen all the tricks to do this, mostly resembling some form of bribery, freebies, or pleading with the government. It’s naively self-interested and doesn’t scale well. These policies don’t work for most of us because no matter how much money we throw at it, we can’t compete with the awesome vacuum power of the cities at the top of the food chain.

“LOVE WILL SAVE THIS PLACE.”

So I began pondering how we could create new value that is independent of the vacuums. Is there a form of value and meaning that creates an unbeatable stickiness, bound up in place? Of course there is: love. Love makes us do irrational things, like stay in a place where we need to fight tooth and nail to create opportunity for ourselves. The number of times family and memories came up when I asked my friends Why do you live where you live?is testament to that.
I came across a beautiful quote the other day and I don’t know who to credit it to.

“Men do not love Rome because she is beautiful. Rome is beautiful because men have loved her.”

— Leopold Kohr (Thanks commenter Mike Polen for solving that mystery)
We protect, improve, and beautify the places we love. Nowhere is this more obvious today than multi-generation farmers or the First Nations that are putting their lives on the line to protect the places they love and depend on from toxic spills and emissions. In the book, This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein shares the words of Montana rancher Alexis Bonogofsky:

“It sounds ridiculous but there’s this one spot where I can sit on the sandstone rock and you know that the mule deer are coming up and migrating through, you just watch these huge herds come through, and you know that they’ve been doing that for thousands and thousands of years. And you sit there and you feel connected to that. And sometimes it’s almost like you can feel the earth breathe. That connection to this place and the love that people have for it, that’s what Arch Coal doesn’t get. They underestimate that. They don’t understand it so they disregard it. And that’s what in the end will save that place. Is not the hatred of the coal companies, or anger, but love will save this place.”

— Alexis Bonogofsky as quoted in This Changes Everything
The words of a rancher can easily be transferred to our awe for the cities we love. Who doesn’t gaze from the street and appreciate the hours of sweat and care that went into building places we love? Who doesn’t ruminate on the thousands of days before, where someone has sat just like you and watched the daily activities unfold? Who doesn’t feel a tingle of connection when walking along a well-worn footpath? I believe love will save our places too, if they are indeed loveable.

HOW DO YOU MAKE A PLACE LOVEABLE?

Answering this question has become my raison d’étre – I only take on work that I deem “projects for places we love.” So far, what I’ve found is that it comes down to working together, intervention, and celebration.

The working together part has been my key learning from adventures in the human side of city building. The process of working alongside others on something worthwhile or just plain fun has actually created my strongest ties to this city. Working together creates bonds with people and place, and powerful memories of joint accomplishment. It’s an investment in relationships and the place you live, and motivation for others. For example, I just saw some lovely women doing a cleanup in their Halifax neighbourhood last weekend and now I’m feeling more inspired and obliged to participate in my own block cleanup this weekend. Many hands make light work!
Photo by Jim Kumon.
Photo by Jim Kumon.
The trouble is, we often lack venues and opportunities to work together or even be together nowadays. We live in an isolated world and most of our city spaces are in need of an intervention. We can use small interventions like Tactical Urbanism to give people excuses to linger, to volunteer, to ask questions and take part. This is the physical side of city-building that we are rapidly prototyping across the world. Our interventions can reinforce the humanness of our cities and give us reasons and avenues to work together.

Finally, it’s important to celebrate. Like the harvest feasts of yesteryear, we can validate hard work with the act of celebration. Food, drink, music, dancing – this is all so much more wonderful when it’s well-deserved.

Our situation is obviously precarious. We’ve done some serious, perhaps irreversible damage to our climate, ecosystems, finances, and communities. Current levels of inequality are staggering and our political systems are broken. It can be hard to have any hope at all. But I believe in the places that are loved. I believe that the survival skills we need are gratitude and generosity – caring about each other and our homes enough to learn, adapt, and be resourceful. Humanizing our cities is both a means and an end in doing that. I believe that as long as we’re walking that path together, we’ll have reason to celebrate.

And there you have it: your daily dose of sickly sweet, anti-wonk, actionable EcDev.


GRACEN JOHNSON is a communications designer living in The Maritimes. While she finished her MPhil in Planning, Growth, and Regeneration in 2013, she has never stopped studying the city. Gracen thinks of her day-to-day as participatory action research, diving into the question of how Strong Citizenship can transform a city. She wears many hats trying to crack that nut herself, including as the designer and coordinator of an accelerator for small businesses that build community. She also freelances around the vision of “Projects for Places we Love” and has a video blog called Another Place for Me.
This year, Gracen is sharing field notes on her experiences with Strong Citizenship. In this regular column, you’ll get snapshots of life as a friendly neighbour in a quintessential Little City that feels like a Big Town.