I first attended a Partnerships meeting last fall as part of my job here, and have attended several meetings in St. Paul since then. This one was different, though, because we were in a different location, got an awesome sustainability tour of Duluth, and got to sleep in cabins!
We started at the DECC, the region's major convention center. They have been active in waste reduction, energy efficiency, local foods, and other important aspects of sustainability for an institution with such a large environmental impact.
Next, we went to the county building downtown and toured the new motor pool garage rooftop garden. This is a community garden growing vegetables and other plants, and also houses a large solar panel for energy production.
To conclude our Duluth tour, we visited the U of M's Duluth campus to see the Bagley Nature Area and classroom. The classroom is the University system's "greenest" building to date, and offers UMD students a place to learn about environmental sciences, as well as various other subjects. It has large windows for lighting and winter heating, a green roof to reduce stormwater runoff, composting toilets, and additional assets not found in most buildings. UMD's Sustainability Coordinator, Mindy Granley, gave us a tour of the site and told us lots of interesting information.
Hopefully in the future, buildings like this will be the norm! Though I am happy this building exists, I would like to see similar things built on the Twin Cities campus (as well as all campuses). I had not known about it before my visit last week, and if the U of M encouraged more of this type of development, it could greatly improve our sustainability reputation. By seeing and experiencing things first-hand, I believe students will have a much better understanding and appreciation of sustainable development and education.
After Duluth, we stayed at Cloquet Forestry Center and had the actual Partnerships meeting. Cloquet is beautiful! The meeting was long but productive. One of the things I heard many people mention was the desire for more students and young people to become involved with the organization. We are trying to figure out ways to make this happen.
Besides that incredible trip, I have mainly been planning the Sustainability Open House for first-year students during Welcome Week. Starting next week and lasting until the weekend before fall semester begins, I will be venturing to western Minnesota to farm-sit for Kathy Draeger, whom I know through Regional Partnerships. Best of all, I will be able to telecommute to my job here. I am grateful for having such a fun and rewarding job!
See you next month, Twin Cities!