Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Becoming a "Greener" and Stronger Community

Improving the well-being of our communities requires, obviously, that we address local issues and concerns. However, it also requires attention to national, international, and global issues. The quality of our environment, while it may seem like something over which we have little control, is one of those issues that relates fundamentally to our local quality of life. We need to do our part to preserve and enhance the environment.

For example, Wilder has a commitment to build an energy-efficient structure for our new Wilder Center at the corner of Lexington and University in Saint Paul. We hope to receive gold certification for the building; we'll be one of very few such buildings in the state, but hope that we are one of many over the next 10 years.

My annual visit to the Minnesota State Fair a month ago prompted me to wonder if we could make major progress toward a better environment through simple steps at public events like the Fair. Can the State Fair take visible action toward reducing waste and, through its example, educate Fair-goers, who will then increase their attention to environmentally friendly behavior?

One thing that struck me: the number of disposable items - cups, spoons, napkins, etc., -distributed by vendors, used by patrons for only a few minutes, and then discarded. Why not require that Fair-goers bring their own cups, or purchase one "souvenir cup" from the Fair, and then have vendors dispense portions into those cups? This could greatly reduce the 1,000 plus tons (2 million plus pounds) of garbage that the Pioneer Press reported the Fair produces. More important, though, it brings 125,000 people per day to realize that they should, and can, do their part for the environment.

Vaclav Havel, the author and a former president of the Czech Republic wrote recently that "Maybe we should consider our sojourn on earth as a loan. There can be no doubt that for the past hundred years at least, Europe and the United States have been running up a debt, and now other parts of the world are following their example. Nature is issuing a warning that we must not only stop the debt from growing but start to pay it back."

If all of us listen to nature's warning and do our small parts for the environment, the collective result will be very positive. We'll help the world, and we'll help the Twin Cities region!