GreenStep Cities is a tool that you can use to help bring your personal sustainability commitment to your broader community – the city where you live. It is a voluntary program that offers 28 proven green ideas that will help make your city greener and healthier while saving money.
GreenStep's 28 green ideas or best practices focus on cost savings through energy use reduction and other earth-friendly innovations. Each of the 28 challenges can be implemented by completing one or more specific actions from a list of four to eight actions. One example action is cities can improve the energy efficiency of lighting in and on public buildings. Another is that cities can adopt “complete streets policies” with sidewalks and bike trails that better facilitate walking and biking . They also have actions that address green purchasing, cleaning up lakes and rivers and campaigns that encourage backyard gardening and locally sourced foods.
Each best practice action has a series of implementation resources to help cities and citizens get the information that they need to follow through on a project, which can also mean help with funding. Their website offers a cost benefit for each area of actions along with a list of the benefits, so that a city council doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel and do a bunch of research to get going.
One of the things that makes the program so innovative is that it is a grand collaboration between Great Plains Institute, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Izaak Walton League, Urban Land Institute, The League of Minnesota Cities and Clean Energy Resource Teams. This unusually large group has been able to get some good traction already.
The pilot cities were mainly metro area: Bloomington, Edina, St. Louis Park, Falcon Heights and Victoria. But many more have joined including Northfield, Breezy Point, Pine River and St. Cloud, and many others.
Once the program gathers steam, the plan is to recognized cities that get somewhere with their best practices, at the League of Minnesota Cities’ annual conference.
Steps to getting your city involved (from the GreenStep website):
- Build (anyone can do this); have someone from the GreenStep program visit your city.
- Have your city council approve a resolution to work toward GreenStep recognition.
- Post some information about your city and what steps your city has taken.
- Work on GreenSteps best practices
- Get recognized for the work that you have done each year and share that knowledge with others on the GreenStep website.
This program holds promise for communities trying to figure out how to plug into the sustainability movement. It makes green accessible and almost easy by providing a step-by-step “how to” guide for citizens and city governments.