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Ready and Resilient: To Much Stuff

Posted on 06 December 2016 by Calvin

garbage-cans-cmykBy TRUDY DUNHAM

At this time of the year, many of us buy a lot of stuff, gifts for family and friends. Some of us also indulge in the practice of buying “one for you and one for me.” Do we really need all this stuff? Do we know the true price to our environment, society, and our own personal and financial well-being? Some consumption is necessary for life. But how much stuff is really needed? Do today’s Americans need to buy five times as much clothing as we did in 1980?

Let’s examine the impact of consumerism on the environment. Everything we purchase comes from our planet: it is farmed or grown, mined or extracted, manufactured or produced from our natural resources. Consider the T-shirt. Cotton is the most pesticide-intensive crop in the world, and the chemicals used to produce the cotton stay in the cloth and are released throughout its life. Making one T-shirt requires approximately 700 gallons of water. Producing and transporting it to the store adds about nine pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And only 15% of clothing is recycled.

Our discards add 10 million tons of waste each year, creating additional greenhouse gases in our landfills and incinerators. Is that new T-shirt worth the true cost?

The social costs are high as well. Much of the stuff we buy is grown or produced in third world countries, often at the cost of their environmental and personal health. Their living standards and life span are often far below ours due to exposure to chemicals, pollution, and unsafe working conditions as well as the diversion of resources needed for a sustainable lifestyle.

Within our country, we’ve allowed the concept of good citizenship to be redefined as being a good consumer. Our leaders tell us that we can solve world problems by buying stuff. We are so used to the identity of consumer that it has become our go-to strategy. When faced with climate change or other major issues, our reaction is too often “I’ll buy Product X instead of Product Y.” It doesn’t solve the problem.

And then consumerism gets personal: we shop to feel better about ourselves, to deal with depression, to make statements about ourselves and identity. The difficulty is that things don’t make us happy, and the new outfit doesn’t change our abilities. Next, we bring all this stuff home, and our safe space becomes cluttered. Clutter and keeping stuff organized is a struggle and a major source of home-based stress. Then the bills arrive, along with the realization that we have spent more than we can afford, more than we want given our real interests and priorities.

Let’s step back and think this through: how can we give, consume, spend money, stay within budget, and reduce stress in ways that bring us closer to our family and friends, enhance our world, and build our personal happiness? Here are some ideas:
1) Gift your time and skills. Create a gift coupon for a home-cooked meal, walking the dog, run errands, shovel the sidewalk. Give home-made salsa, hand-knitted mittens, a poem or painting, dried flowers from your garden, photos from a shared experience.
2) Gift your money, goods and time to those in need. There are many organizations which accept donations in honor or memory of someone. So buy the goat or the tree or the winter coat that others need, and indicate it is a gift in honor of your family or friend.
3) Buy experiences. Instead of items that add clutter, purchase theater tickets, museum membership, park pass, gift cards at a favorite restaurant. Keep in the mind that the best gifts are when you participate with family or friends—so plan a night out when all can attend.
4) Borrow, rent, or download instead of purchasing. Participate in our shared economy.
5) Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Recognize that the true cost is a ratio of price to use. So buy things that will last, and wear or use them often. Don’t throw away stuff. If it no longer has use or value for you, look for ways to recycle.

And, to upgrade your perspective:
1) Recognize your relative affluence and privilege. No matter how little you have, many have much less than you do. Be generous to those in real need. It will make you feel good.
2) Recognize that our society continually tells us that we need more and better and newer. We don’t. Establish your own fashion sense and life style, and don’t believe the marketing pitch that says you need to upgrade or follow the latest trend.
3) Express your identity through your spending: the causes and the makers you support. Buy local, and buy sustainable.

There are many benefits of owning fewer possessions: healthier planet, happier people, less to clean and organize, less stress, less debt, and more money and energy for our priorities.

The Ready & Resilient Hamline Midway project is an initiative of the Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) to build climate change resiliency in our community.

Resources:
• The story of stuff: (2007 video that presents the issues around over-production and consumption of stuff.) http://storyofstuff.org/
• Better World Shopper: comprehensive, reliable account of the social and environmental responsibility of every company on the planet in a practical format that individuals can use in their everyday lives. http://www.betterworldshopper.com/
• The St. Paul Public Library http://www.sppl.org/
• The St. Paul Tool Library https://www.ioby.org/project/saint-paul-tool-library

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Rain garden

Ready and Resilient

Posted on 10 May 2016 by Calvin

Patterns tend toward extreme rain events as the norm by 2025

By TRUDY DUNHAM

Extreme rainfall. Kenny Blumenfield, a Senior Climatologist at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told the recent Gov­ernor’s Water Summit that our MN rainfall pattern is beyond the range of historical probability. Annual precipitation increased 10-15 percent from 1985 to 2007. Heavy downpours are twice as frequent as they were 100 years ago.

“Unprecedented” rainfall events are possible in the coming years, and will become the norm by 2025.

Warmer temperatures increase the evaporation of water into vapor. Warmer air can hold more water vapor than cooler air. When the vapor condenses into rain, there’s more of it to fall. Blumenfield called the increasing intensity and frequency of rainfall the “smoking gun” of climate change.

What is extreme rainfall? A lot of rain falling in a very short time. It can be several inches within a few hours, or rain falling for days at a time. The July 1987 “Superstorm” dropped 9 inches of rain at the Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport in 6 hours.

While heavy rain can make travel dangerous and result in power outages, the real problem is stormwater runoff: when the rain cannot soak into the ground. Water runs off our yards, driveways, parking lots and streets. Sometimes it flows into our rain gardens and stormwater ponds, but too often it runs directly into our storm sewers.

Stormwater runoff threatens our water quality. Sediment, litter, leaves, pesticides, fertilizers and oil waste flow through our storm sewers into our waterways. Lakes and rivers are polluted, aquatic ecosystems impaired, and recreational use spoiled.

The runoff contributes to flooding. Infrastructure built for 20th-century precipitation patterns cannot handle the rapid influx of rainwater. Drainage systems, roads, and stormwater holding ponds are overwhelmed. Since 2000, federal, state and local government agencies have spent $350 million in Minnesota to repair flood damage.

Finally, we need the rainwater to recharge our groundwater supply. Minnesota’s groundwater use has increased 35% in the last 25 years. Rain held in the soil has time to filter contaminants and seep down to replenish aquifers. We need this water to prevent future water shortages.
What can we do to adapt to the extreme rainfall and stormwater runoff?

Let’s start with our yards:
Aerate your lawn. Residential lawns tend to be highly compacted and absorb little water. Removing small plugs of soil or punching holes in the ground with an aerator helps the lawn to soak up more water.
Let your grass grow taller. Grass roots are about as long as grass blades. Longer roots mean better water absorption, so consider letting your grass grow to a height of 2.5–3.5 inches.
Replace some grass with native plants. Even if taller, grass is inferior to native shrubs and wildflowers at absorbing and retaining water. The extensive root systems of native plants keep soil from washing away and increase the amount of water the soil can absorb. Plants are especially important in areas where stormwater runoff collects. Consider installing a rain garden.
Add mulch and compost. Cover any bare soil with mulch or wood chips to reduce runoff and prevent soil from washing away. Compost can improve the soil structure and nutrient content, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. It also retains a lot of water, reduces runoff and filters pollutants. Consider adding 2-4” of organic material each year.
Protect urban trees. The root system of a single large tree can absorb up to 100 gallons of water in a day. Tree canopies also slow the rainfall and spread it over a larger area.

Some maintenance issues to consider:
Keep your trees trimmed. Branches are more likely to break off in severe storms, falling on roofs, cars and power lines where they can inflict more damage.
Pick up pet waste. When pet waste becomes part of the storm runoff, it adds disease-producing organisms, further impairing the water quality.
Clean your gutters. Flush your gutters to keep rainfall away from your house foundation. If they still overflow, consider installing wider “elbows.”
Pick up trash. Pick up litter in your street and along the boulevard so it isn’t swept down the storm sewer in a storm. If leaf debris collects between City street sweepings, consider raking and recycling it. Clear debris from around the storm drains.

If you arRain gardene considering renovation or landscaping:
Use permeable surfaces. If you are replacing a driveway or patio, consider permeable pavers. Gravel, flagstones, and bricks allow water to soak in between them.
5% slope: Make sure that the yard slopes away from the house a minimum of 5%, to minimize possible drainage into your basement.
Catch or slow the runoff: If your lawn slopes, consider installing a rain garden or berm to prevent or slow stormwater from flowing into the street. Install a rain barrel or cistern to catch stormwater runoff from your roof.
Channel the water: Direct your gutter downspout into your yard, not onto a paved surface. Consider incorporating slight slopes or ditches into your landscaping to slow the runoff, and channel it where you want it to go.

Be ready—the storms are coming! Do what you can to prevent stormwater runoff. We’ll need it for the water shortages to come.

The Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway project is an initiative of the Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) to build climate change resiliency in our community.

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IMG_4813

Building a ready and resilient neighborhood

Posted on 10 December 2015 by Calvin

By MARIA HERD
What are the challenges to building resilience?
How can you increase readiness and resilience in your community?
How do people connect in the neighborhood?
How can we increase trust and communication face to face with neighbors?

Midway residents brainstormed answers to these questions and more at three community workshops held in October and November—the beginning of the Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway movement. The main purpose of the meetings was to better prepare the community for events of extreme weather like ice storms and heat waves. However, the overall mission expanded to strengthen connections between neighbors in Hamline Midway.

IMG_4831PHOTO LEFT: Neighbors brainstorm how to make Midway more Ready and Resilient in Snelling Cafe on Tue., Nov. 17. (Photo by Maria Herd)

“They’re really discussion-lead,” said Kyle Mianulli, the Director of Community and Engagement at the Hamline Midway Coalition. “We want to be able to learn from the from the elders in our community who might have experienced moments of adversity in their lives, and use their experiences to form a blueprint for similar situations in the future.”

Last May, five members of the Hamline Midway Environmental Group attended a day-long climate change resilience training put on by Macalester College at the Science Museum of Minnesota. The goal of the workshop was to empower St. Paul communities to be prepared for extreme weather events that are increasing in frequency in the face of climate change. Attendees had the opportunity to apply for a neighborhood grant, and Midway was awarded $1,500.

The need for community
At the training, a news clip covering the heat wave of 1995 was shown to the audience. The extreme weather event resulted in over 700 heat-related deaths in Chicago over a span of five days. The majority of victims were poor, elderly residents that lived alone.

IMG_4801PHOTO RIGHT: Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway Coordinator Julie Hellwich’s example of an emergency tool kit that she had on display at each workshop. (Photo by Maria Herd)

“A lot of people died in their homes because no one knew that they weren’t okay, and that video is what inspired us to try to connect more with the community,” said Ande Quercus, a four year resident of Hamline Midway.

Through discussions at the Ready and Resilient workshops, attendees began developing the language for a buddy system to implement throughout the neighborhood. Someone will be assigned to check in on an elderly or vulnerable person on their block during an emergency.

The purpose is that when disaster strikes, “instead of spreading out multi-directionally and connecting with everybody, you know that you’re supposed to connect with this one person to make sure they’re okay and tend to immediate needs they might have,” said Mianulli.

The elderly is not the only sector of the population that Ready and Resilient Midway hopes to both learn from and assist in emergencies. Immigrants and single mothers in the neighborhood may require special assistance during disasters as well.

“When we talk about immigrants or elderly people we think of vulnerability, but they’re also very rich assets,” said Julie Hellwich, Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway Coordinator. “We can learn from immigrants who come here if the pathways of communication are sensitive, and the is trust there.”

IMG_4813PHOTO LEFT: Neighbors discuss their concerns and suggestions to be better prepared in emergency situations at the third workshop in Snelling Cafe on Nov. 17. (Photo by Maria Herd)

At one workshop, attendees participated in a role play in which everyone was given a character to act out in the event of an emergency. For example, Mianulli was a single mother with three children whose native language is not English, and a big storm had cut off the power. He had to come up with what that person’s immediate needs would be, what resources are available to tap into and what kinds of community resources would be helpful.

“We realized that everyone has vulnerabilities and that we all need to be prepared,” said Lucy Hunt, President of the Hamline Midway Environmental Group and one of the grant writers for Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway.

How do we communicate when technology breaks
Additionally, finding a means of communication if there is no mobile or internet connection available is an unanswered question that was discussed at more than one workshop.
“I worry that in an emergency if the cell phone network went down, people would just be paralyzed and not know what to do,” said Quercus.

Mianulli noted the effect technology has had on personal relationships in neighborhoods.
“It’s an interesting dynamic that has risen in the past couple of decades,” he said. “As people get more and more plugged in and more and more connected—we are more connected than we ever have been before—but at the same time people have turned internally and are less likely to know their neighbors or be familiar with them on a personal basis.”

A continuing role for neighborhood block clubs
One portion of the grant is helping revitalize the Hamline Midway Block Club program. There are currently 25-30 active block clubs in Hamline Midway. Organizers decide the geographic parameters and level of activity, which can range from an annual block party to monthly potlucks.

IMG_4837PHOTO RIGHT: Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway Coordinator Julie Hellwich presents attendees’ thoughts on the challenges to building resilience in the neighborhood.  (Photo by Maria Herd)

“It was interesting hearing about how some people in the community have tried to set up block clubs, but there has not been interest on their block,” said Quercus. “How do you be a part of an involved community when no one else around wants to be in that with you?”
Ready and Resilient attendees collaborated ideas to further connect with neighbors, and revitalizing the block clubs will hopefully build stronger bonds throughout the Midway.

Mianulli plans to include the buddy system in the latest edition of the block club manual, which includes community and city resources, contact numbers, flyer templates and information on how to start and organize a block club.

“How we better connect the block clubs and organize people is a big part of this discussion because you’re most likely to know and go to your immediate neighbors in the case of an emergency,” Mianulli said.

Hellwich, a 15 year resident of the Midway, has formed close friendships with the neighbors on her block through monthly potlucks. At one workshop, she shared an emergency situation in which she was grateful to have those connections.

Her teenage daughter was home alone when an intruder broke into their home. Hellwich instructed her daughter to call 911 and then immediately called her neighbors, whose numbers were already programmed into her cell phone. The neighbors came over, and her daughter was able to find safety in the home of a close friend.

“It wasn’t just someone that she had waved at, it was someone that she knew, she had many meals with, it was a family person, and that was a great comfort to me,” said Hellwich.

Block clubs are not the only way Hamline Midway neighbors stay connected. Representatives from the Hamline Midway Elders, Hamline Midway Health Movement and African Economic Development Solutions were all present at the final workshop in Snelling Cafe.

“It’s interesting that we have so many things going on in the neighborhood, all of these groups and events. Now we have this group, and I don’t think I’ve met any of you before,” said Margaret Schuster at the third workshop. “The more that we have the opportunities to meet each other, it enriches our neighborhood.”

Surveying Hamline Midway to compile a community resource list is another possible solution to be more ready and resilient. This list could include physical items such as generators to provide electricity during a power outage or skill sets such as fluency in another language or emergency medical training.

This list would be so that people “know exactly where to go in the event of an emergency, and not have to get on Facebook assuming that it’s working, or search high and low for someone with a certain medical background,” explained Mianulli.

The next steps
But the next official steps for the Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway movement are still to be decided.

“One of the big questions the organizing group has asked as we move forward is how do we continue this momentum and turn these conversations and workshops into something tangible for the community,” said Mianulli.

However, Ready and Resilient attendees appeared passionate about carrying over this energy into the new year after the grant period is over.

If you’re interested in becoming more involved with Ready & Resilient Hamline Midway or a block club, contact Kyle Mianulli at kyle@hamlinemidway.org.

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R&R Forms

Be prepared to be resilient

Posted on 05 September 2016 by Calvin

Ready and Resilient by TRUDY DUNHAM

Be prepared. It works for the Boy Scouts. It also works for life. We are more flexible, more efficient and more resilient when we are prepared for what life sends us.

And climate change is sending us a lot of severe weather. So take advantage of National Preparedness Month to get ready! Have the conversations, put your plans in writing, and gather supplies for your emergency kits!

How are we impacted by severe weather?
The most common impact is the loss of power. No electricity. This can mean no lights, the inability to cook a meal or to charge or use a cell phone, and limitations on our ability to work or entertain ourselves. Our food supplies may be endangered. We may not be able to stay warm or cool. If the power outage is prolonged, there can be safety concerns.

Storms can result in unexpected school and business closures, disrupt transportation routes and leave family members stranded. Severe weather can mean we can’t stay in our home, and we may even need to evacuate our community.

The result is often confusion and chaos—unless we have thought about it, talked it over with our family, and formed a plan.

As you hold that conversation, include these questions: Can everyone text their location and confirm their safety in severe weather or other emergencies? What out-of-town person could act as your backup emergency contact? Can everyone memorize that person’s phone number? Where is a safe meeting place in your neighborhood, in case your home is unavailable? A meeting place outside of your neighborhood? Can everyone get there on their own?

If you live alone, or if you may need assistance, identify several people who can help you. Talk with them about your needs and your plan. If you have pets, don’t forget to consider their needs.

R&R FormsPlan, then prepare
Once you have your plan, then you need to take the action steps to be prepared to respond quickly without panicking. Some habits that can help you be ready include:
• Keep gas in the car, or have a Bus Pass or Go Card so that you can transport yourself
• Renew prescriptions so you always have at least a week’s supply on hand
• Keep your cell phone at least half charged
• Write out instructions on how to turn off utilities (water, gas, electricity), and place them by the various switches, with any tools needed to turn them off.
• Carry Emergency Information in your wallet
• Have your Emergency To-Go Bag packed and easily accessible
• Have your Emergency House Kit stocked and in the safest part of your home (likely the basement or bathroom)

R&R WalletWallet Emergency Information (left) includes your emergency out-of-town contact (name, phone number) and safe meeting place (name, address, phone number, how to get there) information. It is good to have this written down as many people have difficulty recalling details in a crisis. If you are unable to communicate, emergency personnel may find it.

The Emergency To-Go bag holds things you may need if you have to leave your home on short notice and are not sure when you can get back.
• Copies of identity information, insurance and bank documents, and prescriptions for glasses or medications
• Cash (smaller bills)
• Complete change of clothes, suitable to the weather (include shoes)
• Personal hygiene supplies
• Flashlight with batteries

Your Emergency House Kit will have things you need if you have to shelter in your home for several days without utilities. Recommended supplies include:
• 3 gallons of water per person, for drinking and sanitation (3 day supply)
• 3-day supply of non-perishable food per person, that does not require cooking
• Paper plates, cups, plastic utensils, paper towels, multipurpose tool
• First aid kit
• Garbage bags, ties and moist wipes for sanitation
• Flashlights and batteries
• Weather radio (battery powered or hand crank)
• Special needs supplies (e.g., diapers for infants, pet food, etc.)
• Games, books and other activities
• Blankets, sleeping bag, tarp

Federal websites offer more complete lists and information to help you prepare:
• https://www.ready.gov/publications
• http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/npm/index.htm
• http://www.nctsn.org/resources/public-awareness/national-preparedness-month%20
When you have your information and kits in place, hold a practice drill. Have a friend text “emergency preparedness drill” to each member of your family. Each member should then text the emergency contact and proceed to the agreed-upon safe meeting site on their own. As you gather, talk about what worked well, or not so well. Then celebrate your preparedness!

The Ready & Resilient Hamline Midway project is an initiative of the Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) to build climate change resilience in our community.

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CleaningUpPark

Earth Day: a time for celebration and resolution

Posted on 12 April 2016 by Calvin

By TRUDY DUNHAM, Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway

April is a time to celebrate our planet. The greening lawns and sun warming our faces herald Earth Day on Apr. 22. Celebrated in nearly 200 countries, Earth Day is touted as one of the largest secular celebrations in the world.

And like New Year, it is a time to step back and take global stock of where we are. How are we doing on those resolutions to adopt Earth-friendly behaviors? Are we good role models?

CleaningUpParkPhoto left: Hamline Midway residents clean up Hamline Park as a celebration of Earth Day. (Photo submitted)

The world is adopting earth-friendly practices. The United Nations agreement negotiated at the COP21 meeting in Paris last December opens for signatures on Earth Day. This agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions only goes into force when at least 55 countries responsible for 55% of the emissions have formally adopted it. Both the United States and China, responsible for 40% of the world greenhouse gas emissions, have indicated that they will sign the agreement on Earth Day. Another 120 countries will also sign on Earth Day. These Earth Day actions start building the momentum for the formal agreement adoption process.

Minnesota is a good role model. Xcel Energy announced last fall that it would cut carbon emissions 60% by 2030 by reducing its dependence on coal-fired plants and increasing its use of renewable energy sources. Some big MN businesses (including 3M, Best Buy, Cargill, General Mills and Target) have felt the impact of climate change on their supply routes, production, and sales, and are taking adaptive action. They are vocal in their support for more aggressive governmental action. Minnesota has made protecting water quality and quantity, and the tradeoffs it entails, a high-profile issue.

St. Paul is actively pursuing its status as a GreenStep City, and its Forestry Department is planting boulevard trees in our neighborhood. Hamline University has established a Director of Sustainability, Hamline Church formed a “Green Team,” and Hamline Midway Coalition is reorganizing its citizen input to strengthen our voice on environmental issues.

What can I do?
Which brings us to individual citizens. What are our goals, what do we need to do to keep the momentum building?

Many of us will take the Earth Footprint Calculator (http://www.earthday.org/take-action/footprint-calculator/). How many planets would it take if everyone lived as you do? ‘More planets than we have!’ is the usual answer. The behaviors at the forefront of change are often around our diet, transportation, and housing.

But given the current discussion about trash hauling in St. Paul (https://www.stpaul.gov/residents/live-saint-paul/utilities/organized-trash-collection), I decided to adopt trash reduction behavior as my individual goal for 2016.

It is said that if you want to understand a society, don’t look at its museums, but at its trash dump. We can’t haul our trash away—there is no “away.” Everything in our trash is a resource from our finite planet that we have wasted, which we might have put to better use.

So how can I reduce my trash? A quick look in my waste can says to start with less packaging. For whatever reason, the food and objects we purchase come elaborately wrapped in plastic, paper and cardboard. While there are debates about which covering is more environmentally friendly, the best option is as little packaging as possible. Carrying reusable containers for food is a strategy I’ll adopt:
• A reusable water bottle and coffee cup to decrease use of bottled water and disposable cups
• A “refrigerator dish” to avoid the to-go container when eating out
• Buying in bulk when feasible and using my reusable containers to carry it home
• A reusable bag or basket to hold all purchases

Composting is on my list. Ramsey County offers a how-to kit and free compostable bags (https://www.ramseycounty.us/residents/recycling-waste/organic-waste). Just drop it off at the Recycling site on Pierce Butler. And give more thought to what I purchase to ensure it is a durable or reusable product, or will be consumed before its shelf life expires.

At the core of my resolution is the consistency of my behavior—I do all the things I listed some or most of the time. Just not always. If I want to reach the zero waste standard (at least 90 percent of garbage is recycled, composted or reused), I can’t be inconsistent.

But my actions aren’t enough in 2016. I will need to speak out—to policy makers and friends. I will need to write letters and use social media to advocate for less packaging and more recyclable packaging, to talk trash reduction and earth-friendly actions.

Make your personal resolution to be a good steward of our earth. Use the power you have as neighbors, family, citizens and caregivers of this planet to speak up for it, to create a new normal that recognizes there is only one Earth. We can’t afford to waste it or its resources. I think this may be more important than any other Earth Day resolution.

The Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway project is an initiative of the Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) to build climate change resiliency in our community.

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R&RTreePlantZach

Planting trees is an effective tool to fight the “heat island” of the city

Posted on 12 February 2016 by Calvin

By TRUDY DUNHAM

There is an old Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” In this period of rapid climate change, the proverb is certainly true. We need trees today more than ever.

Why? It is getting hotter in St. Paul.

R&RTreePlantZachPhoto left: Members of the Hamline Midway Progressive Women’s Network look on as City of St. Paul Urban Forester Zach Jorgensen plants one of the trees they donated to Hamline Park.

Climate change means that St. Paul is experiencing the urban “heat island” effect. Built-up areas (areas with more buildings and pavements) are hotter than forested areas. Pavement and roofs absorb more sunlight and then radiate the heat back into the neighborhood. We can expect St. Paul daytime temperatures to be higher than local rural areas, and our summer nighttime temperatures may be much higher. Trees can moderate this effect. Trees better reflect the sun’s rays than do pavement, provide shade and the evapotranspiration process cools as it releases moisture into the air. Well-shaded neighborhoods can be significantly cooler in the summer.

Climate change also results in more “bad air days” when those with respiratory problems find it difficult to breathe outdoors. Health warnings will encourage you to stay inside and keep your windows closed. The higher temperatures, more stagnant air, and higher humidity result in higher ozone levels and air pollution. Trees help to filter the pollutants and absorb carbon dioxide, making the air cleaner and healthier for you to be outside in your yard, walking or jogging.

The City is already at work adding to our urban tree canopy. Zach Jorgensen, Urban Forester for the City of St. Paul, says “The Hamline Midway neighborhood is on this year’s planting list,” so expect to see new boulevard trees. They will replace trees lost to heat stress, the emerald ash borer, and other causes.

What can we do as residents to support the urban tree canopy in our neighborhood? Ready and Resilient recommends several actions:

1) Keep the trees we have healthy by watering the trees in your yard and along the boulevard when rain is scarce. One of the side effects of climate change is severe weather: periods of heavy rains interspersed with long periods of no rain. Trees become stressed without adequate water. When you notice that your lawn or garden needs watering, don’t forget to consider your trees. Newly planted trees are especially susceptible and require frequent watering if there is no rain. Established trees prefer less frequent but longer soakings, enough to moisten the soil all along the tree drip line to a depth of 10-12 inches. Check the St. Paul Forestry website (https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/parks-recreation/natural-resources/forestry/tree-maintenance) for recommendations.

2) Donate a tree to the St. Paul Parks. Your support for parks can speed up the City’s timeline for tree planting. The easiest way to do this is through the Friends of the Parks and Trails (http://friendsoftheparks.org/) annual spring tree sale. Check that you want to donate the tree to a local park. Write in the park to which you want to donate (don’t list Newell or Como: they don’t need additional trees), or just say “a park in the XYZ neighborhood” (whatever neighborhood you choose). The order deadline is Apr. 22. The City plants the tree for you. Can’t afford to donate a tree? Talk to your neighbors. Last year members of the Hamline Midway Progressive Women’s Network pooled their resources and together were able to purchase three trees for Hamline Park.

3) Plant a tree in your yard. If you own your home or your landlord okays adding a tree to the yard, consider whether your yard can support a tree. You will need a large open space away from buildings or other structures, open to the sky, with no power lines above you or buried utilities below you. (Note: It is state law that you contact Gopher State One Call, 651-454-8388, before you dig!) The space needed will vary with the tree you choose. Consider the tree’s canopy or drip line: the diameter of the tree plus the length of its branches in each direction at maturity. For a mature shade tree, this can be 20 to 40 feet, and its roots will be at least that wide. A healthy tree requires this much space to grow. Check with experts to decide what to plant: our average temperatures will be 4-5° F higher by mid-century, and trees that currently flourish 200-400 miles south may be your best options. If you need help deciding whether your lawn can support a tree or what type of tree to plant, contact the Ramsey County Master Gardeners (call 651-704-2071 and leave a message; a MG will return your call). The Friends of the Parks and Trails (http://friendsoftheparks.org/) tree sale offers trees in a variety of sizes appropriate to our area.

4) Plant a tree on a public boulevard. After 2016, the next time the City is scheduled to plant trees on Hamline Midway boulevards is 2021. “Residents are welcome to plant trees on public boulevards,” Jorgensen said, “though we do require an approved no-fee permit available through the St. Paul Forestry office to do so. We will review the site and the proposed tree type to make sure the site is suitable for tree planting and the tree type is appropriate for the location.” You are responsible for planting the tree. Check the details at https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/parks-recreation/natural-resources/forestry/tree-permit-terms-and-conditions.
Support our neighborhood tree canopy. Water your trees. If you can, donate or plant a tree this year to keep our neighborhood cool and healthy!

The Ready & Resilient Hamline Midway project is an initiative of the Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) to build climate change resiliency in our community.

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Preventing food waste while feasting

Posted on 08 November 2016 by Calvin

Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway
By TRUDY DUNHAM

Food! Glorious food! November is traditionally a time of feasting and thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest. But it is also a time to highlight the downside: one in five children in Minnesota goes hungry every day. About 50 million Americans, or 1 in 6, live in food insecure households: they don’t know if they can afford to feed themselves on a daily basis.

Yet, one-third of the food produced globally for human consumption, about 1.3 billion metric tons, is not consumed: it is wasted. We waste enough to feed the world’s hungry. In the US, we waste about 40% of food produced for our consumption.

But how does this relate to climate change, and to our community’s resilience to climate change?
It wastes energy and increases greenhouse gas emissions. In the US, about 34 million tons, or 68 billion pounds, of food are wasted each year. Growing and transporting each ton of wasted food results is estimated to produce about 3.8 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, nearly 150 million tons per year. This waste uses about 300 million barrels of oil each year, or about 4% of the US oil use.

Reducing food waste reduces our carbon footprint.

It also wastes time and money. Think of the effort by farmers, manufacturers, transporters, grocery stores and restaurants to produce these tons of wasted food. And your effort: Americans throw away about 25% of groceries purchased, an annual cost of about $1300-$2275 for the average four-person American family.

So what can we do about it?
• Understand the “sell by” date on your food. “Sell by,” “use by” and “best by” dates are suggested time frames for best quality; the food is still safe to eat after these dates. Often these dates are created by manufacturers, and not based on research or food safety guidelines.

• Don’t buy more food than you will likely use. The bigger jar may cost less per ounce, but only if you eat all the food in the jar. The two-for-one deal only works in your favor if you eat both of the products.

• Plan your meals, buying only foods you will use in your at-home meals. Limit impulse buys. Limit unplanned restaurant meals that result in the food at your home going uneaten.

• Consider buying “ugly” (bruised) fruits and vegetables if you will be chopping or stewing it: you can save money at no cost to taste or appearance.

• When you eat out, order ala carte or smaller portion options from the menu if you know you won’t eat it all. Request a doggie bag or bring your own container so you can bring leftovers home. Then, remember to eat those leftovers before they spoil!
Once you get the food home, there are procedures you can use to prevent food waste:

• Maintain proper refrigerator temperatures; 35-38F is recommended (bacteria growth rates accelerate around 40F, and things freeze at 32F). Use the high humidity drawer for foods sensitive to moisture loss and that give off ethylene (e.g., strawberries, lettuce).

• Invest in products to lengthen food shelf life. Examples include reusable, compostable “green bags” which allow ethylene and moisture emitted by fruits and vegetables to escape and FreshPaper sheets infused with herbs that inhibit the growth of bacteria. Inserting nitrogen to push oxygen out of a sealable food container is another option.

• Join the Clean Plate Club. Use smaller plates and smaller portions to decrease the amount served, and thus the uneaten food left on a plate. (Did you know that our plate size has increased more than a third since 1960?)

• After your meal, use leftovers you won’t be eating the next day to make your own “frozen dinner.” You will appreciate the convenience of the already prepared meal!

• Compost your food waste. No matter how efficient we are, there will always be some food waste. Use the Ramsey County Organic Recycling program.

Finally, consider advocating policies and practices that discourage food waste. Some innovative practices are:
• Suggest that grocers provide smaller packages of fresh fruits and vegetables, and replace two-for-one deals with mix-and-match options.
• Encourage restaurants to offer smaller portion options.
• Update federal tax incentives to encourage businesses to donate nutritious foods; often the cost of packaging and transporting excess foods costs a business more than just throwing it away.
• Suggest legislation to discourage waste: France has banned large grocers from throwing away or destroying unsold food, requiring they donate it to charities.

As you enjoy the bounty of the Thanksgiving holiday, consider the environmental costs of food waste. Do what you can to prevent it!

The Ready & Resilient Hamline Midway project is an initiative of the Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) to build climate change resilience in our community.

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Ready and Resilient -bpi label

Compost those food scraps!

Posted on 08 August 2016 by Calvin

By TRUDY DUNHAM

Corn on the cob. Watermelon. Zucchini. Eggplant. Summer’s bounty makes for great eating.

But what do you do with the remains? The corn cobs and husks, melon rinds and seeds, all the stems, leaves and peels from your veggies? Compost! That should be your go-to strategy. Tossing them into the trash is your last resort. And composting is easier than ever.
But does it really matter? Yes! It is all about greenhouse gas emissions, and keeping them as low as possible.

Plants are full of carbon. Photosynthesis allows plants to convert carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into food and sequester that carbon. When we harvest our fruits and vegetables, we remove carbon that otherwise would go back into the soil when the plant dies and decomposes.

In composting, the plant and food scraps decompose somewhat naturally. (The composting process mixes food scraps with leaves or straw, shredded newspaper, soil and water, and one must periodically turn the pile, so it isn’t completely natural.) While small amounts of gasses may be given off in the composting process, these gasses are natural and don’t add to greenhouse gas emissions.

When ready, the compost is spread on or mixed into the soil. It returns organic matter to the soil. The nitrogen in compost naturally increases soil productivity, reducing the need to add fertilizers. The compost makes the soil more stable, better able to hold water and inhibit erosion. The composting process sequesters the carbon, keeping it in the soil for long periods of time until it is again taken up by plants as food in the carbon cycle. All positive benefits for our climate and your garden and lawn!

Ready and Resilient -Organic CompostAlternatively, if we throw our food waste into the trash, it adds to greenhouse gas emissions. Trash either undergoes a waste to energy process, or it is landfilled. Your trash hauler is required to tell you what they do with your trash. Most Ramsey County trash goes to the Ramsey/Washington Recycling and Energy Board1ashington Recycling and Energy Board in Newport where it goes through a waste to energy process, but some trash is taken to a landfill.

Waste to energy processing is a good option for trash that cannot be composted or recycled, but the end product of the incineration or gasification process is still gas, which creates greenhouse gas emissions. There is no good reason to add to our emission levels when composting is so easy.

Burying trash in a landfill should be avoided whenever possible. Food scraps rotting in a landfill emit methane and nitrous oxide, greenhouse gasses which are even more damaging than carbon dioxide.

So how can you compost your food scraps? As you clean up after eating, just put the fruit and veggie scraps in a lidded container. When it gets full or before it begins to smell, empty it in your backyard compost bin or at a Ramsey County organics drop. Line your container with a compostable bag if you are using the county Organics drop.

The Midway Recycling Center, 1943 W. Pierce Butler, is an organics drop site. Ramsey County provides a free starter kit (3-gallon lockable bin, bags, and instructions) that makes hauling mess-free. For complete information, see their website: www.ramseycounty.us/residents/recycling-waste/organic-waste.

Or, you can set up a home compost site. The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners provide instructions to help you establish and manage your compost site: www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/soils/backyard-composting-guide.

In addition to fruits and veggie food scraps, you can compost egg shells, coffee grounds and filters, and tea bags. If you are using the County organics drop, you can compost meat, bones, and dairy food scraps. Composting meat and dairy is not recommended for backyard compost sites because these foods attract rodents. The cardboard rolls from paper towels and egg cartons can also be dropped at the organics section of the Midway Recycling site. See the websites for a complete list.

Ready and Resilient -bpi labelWhile you can pick up a free bag or two at the Midway Recycling site, you may want to purchase a supply from a store, so you have plenty on hand for events. Just be sure that the bags and any other products you want to compost have the BPI certified logo (see illustration) on them, indicating that the microbes in compost can break them down.

The Ramsey/Washington Recycling and Energy Board is currently engaged in planning to reduce waste, increase resource recovery and recycling, and eliminate landfill use. For more information: morevaluelesstrash.com/designation-and-master-plans.

Enjoy summer’s bounty, and compost those scraps so we limit greenhouse gas emissions and enhance the soil!

The Ready & Resilient Hamline Midway project is an initiative of the Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) to build climate change resiliency in our community.

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PhloxAniseHyssop

Save the pollinators for our food security

Posted on 07 June 2016 by Calvin

Ready and Resilient Hamline Midway
By TRUDY DUNHAM

Pollination is about transferring pollen to produce food and seeds. Three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce: our bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, birds, bats, ants, beetles, and more.

PhloxAniseHyssopPhoto left: Phlox and anise hyssop are just two blooms attractive to pollinators. (Photo by Trudy Dunham)

As these pollinators feed on nectar and pollen, they become dusted with pollen which is then transferred from flower to flower, creating the nuts, fruits and vegetables we love. They even pollinate alfalfa and clover in fields, essential to the dairy and beef food products we enjoy.

But we are losing our pollinators. And food that isn’t adequately pollinated is smaller, less flavorful, with fewer vitamins and minerals. If humans need to take on the task of hand-pollinating our food crops, the labor cost has been estimated at $90 billion a year. What would that do to your grocery bill? To agriculture and food options as we know them?

The threats to our pollinators are numerous, including pesticides, parasites, habitat loss, and climate change.

We don’t know how to counter all the threats. But we do know that honey beekeepers lost about 44% of their colonies in 2015. Migratory pollinators and insects maturing from larva are finding themselves out of synch with the emergence and blooming of needed plant food sources. Loss of habitat means wild pollinator communities aren’t able to find the continuous food sources necessary for survival.

Bees are a major pollinator of our food crops. There are more than 20,000 bee species in the world.
Many wild bees are tiny, don’t sting, and live to pollinate. But, bees can’t adjust to the rapid pace of climate change. The North American rusty-patched bumblebee is already nearly extinct (we are lucky to still find it in Como Park). Temperature is a major factor. Migration isn’t a good option.

With relatively fat bodies and tiny wings, bees are built to fly only a few hundred feet. The cycle of heavy rains and frequent droughts means floods wipe out ground-nesting bees and droughts result in starvation. Because bees breathe through their exoskeleton, they are endangered by particulates and wildfire smoke in the atmosphere.

Ground NesterThere are some steps we can take to create healthy environments for pollinators in our yards and neighborhood:

Photo right: Sunny with sparse vegetation makes excellent habitat for ground nesting bees. (Photo by Heather Holms)

Cavity Nester—Provide nesting sites for a diversity of pollinators: consider keeping some wild space in your yard where pollinators can nest undisturbed—a bat house for bats, shrubs for hummingbirds (with mosses and lichens to build nests), and milkweed for Monarchs. Elaine Evans of the University of Minnesota’s Bee Lab has suggestions for native bee habitat: sunny, well-drained undisturbed ground with little or no vegetation or mulch for ground nesters, and dry plant stems (prune raspberries, roses, coneflower and other plants with hollow or soft stems 10-12” off the ground) and wood (dead tree limbs, or drill holes in blocks of preservative-free wood) for the cavity nesters (photo right by Heather Holms).

—Plant a pollinator garden: plant more flowers and crops to provide a diversity of nectar and pollen sources. If this doesn’t fit your landscape design, consider your alley! The best pollinator gardens are:
• Continuous: extend nectar and pollen availability from early spring to late fall and include plants with overlapping blooming seasons to ensure a continuous food source.
• Diverse: include a variety of plant types, colors and shapes to attract different pollinators (see http://www.pollinator.org/Resources/Pollinator_Syndromes.pdf for information)
• Go native: native pollinators prefer native plants, and old-fashioned plant varieties over the newer hybrids and cultivars.
• Groups: plant flowers to bloom in large clumps or swaths to better attract pollinators.
• No neonicotinoids: Avoid seeds and plants treated with neonicotinoids, thought to poison bees and other pollinators.
• Make “pollinator roads”: a pollinator friendly yard can be a small island in the great urban sea. Encourage all your neighbors to plant pollinator gardens, creating pollinator “roads” and a pollinator-friendly community.

—Plant people food: To better understand the role of pollination for food security, consider including people food when you plant food for pollinators. “Our urban neighborhoods are becoming a haven for pollinators,” says Lindsay Rebhan of Ecological Design. “We can transform them into a safe edible landscape for people as well.” A few herbs and some leafy greens won’t take much space in your yard, but add a tomato or cucumber plant and some raspberries to enjoy the fruits of your pollinators. And check out our community gardens and farmers’ markets.

—Provide water: add a shaded bird bath or shallow water dish to your yard. Keep it relatively clean, but tap water that has been sitting for a day or two (to allow the chlorine to dissipate) is better than ‘fresh.’ Agitate the water every day or two (stir with a stick) to prevent it from becoming a mosquito breeding ground. Provide a ‘landing place’ (rock, floating cork) for insects.

—Avoid or limit pesticide use: A safe pollinator environment means pesticide-free. If you must use a pesticide, use it sparingly (same for fungicides and herbicides), and choose one that does not persist on vegetation, avoid applying when flowers are in bloom, and apply it in the late afternoon or evening when most pollinators are not as active.

—Participate: there are many local opportunities to learn and support pollinators this summer:
• Celebrate National Pollinator Week, June 20-26, https://www.fws.gov/pollinators.
• Bumble bee survey: Volunteer to survey the endangered Rusty-patched Bumble Bee and other wild bees in Como Park on Aug.13 and 21: http://facebook.com/minnesotabumblebeesurvey.

More than ever before, what you do on your property can make a big difference. Plant flowers.

Grow a little food. Make a buffer zone for pollinators and migrating birds to mitigate the effects of climate change. Be part of a pollinator-friendly road. The pollinators will repay you with healthy food and beautiful flowers!

The Ready & Resilient Hamline Midway project is an initiative of the Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) to build climate change resiliency in our community.

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Represent your neighborhood by running for HMC Board of Directors

Posted on 07 October 2015 by Calvin

Hamline Midway Coalition (HMC) is seeking candidates for its Board of Directors. Anyone age 16 or older that resides within, owns property within, or owns a business that is headquartered and principally operates within Hamline Midway, is eligible to run AND vote in the board election!

If you’re interested in working with an informed and engaged group of neighbors to focus on local issues around transportation, development, sustainability and more, consider running for the board. We work with the understanding that big change begins at the local level, and only by working together, can we ensure a prosperous future for the entire community. Candidates from traditionally underrepresented populations are particularly encouraged to run.

There are three seats up for election in 2015, one in each of the three neighborhood sub-districts (A, B, and C). Sub-district A covers the area from Transfer Rd. to Snelling Ave. Sub-district B spans the area from Snelling Ave. to Hamline Ave. Sub-district C covers Hamline Ave. to Lexington Ave. All sub-districts are bounded by University Ave. to the south, the railroad tracks just north of Pierce Butler Rte. to the north.

Candidates can run for a seat in the sub-district in which they live, own property or own a business that is headquartered there.

Anyone interested in running for a seat on the Board of Directors must return a completed application to the Executive Director no later than 8pm, Sun., Nov. 15. To request an application—or for more information about serving on the HMC Board of Directors, please contact Michael Jon Olson at 651-494-7682 or michaeljon@hamlinemidway.org.

HMC Board of Directors voting information
This year, neighbors will have the opportunity to vote either in person or through an online platform that will be posted at www.hamlinemidway.org/elections following the candidate application deadline. Dates and locations for in-person voting will be announced later this month. Neighbors will be able to vote for one representative running in their respective sub-district.

New project: “Ready & Resilient Hamline Midway”
What makes a community ready and resilient? How can we better prepare to rise to the occasion in the face of extreme weather events or other points of adversity?

“Ready & Resilient Hamline Midway,” is a new project that seeks to bring neighbors of all ages and backgrounds together for an interactive exploration of ways we can better prepare for adversity in our community.

What can we do now, so we are ready to act when the occasion requires? How do we communicate with each other, especially in the absence of traditional lines of communication? What skills and tools are helpful when decisions are to be made quickly and action is required? How do we ensure that the most vulnerable among us are connected with resources and neighbors who can offer timely assistance?

This project will include three intergenerational gatherings of Hamline Midway community members, who will explore various scenarios while building capacity to rise collectively to the occasion, should circumstances require it. All events are free and open to the public. Light refreshments and snacks will be provided.

Please join your community for one of the following Ready & Resilient Hamline Midway workshops:
—Sat., Oct. 24, 3-4:30pm, at Holy Trinity Church, 1636 Van Buren Ave.
—Tue., Nov. 10, 1:30-3pm, at Hamline Church United Methodist, 1514 Englewood Ave.
—Tue., Nov. 17, 6:30-8pm, at Snelling Café, 638 Snelling Ave. N.

MG_0954-1024x682Fairview Ave. Underpass Party
scheduled Oct. 24

Save the date for the second Fairview Ave. Underpass Party, Sat., Oct. 24, 6-10pm on Fairview Ave. beneath I-94. For the Second year in a row the Friendly Streets Initiative, in collaboration with neighborhood groups and volunteers, will light up the dark and dismal space beneath I-94 on Fairview Ave. This year, there will be an unveiling of a creative lighting pilot project that will remain in place for a period of time following the party. Grab your family friends and neighbors and come down for an evening full of free food, music, art activities, and more!

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