The grass and gardens outside Minnesota’s public buildings could go brown as the state tackles an ambitious set of sustainability goals.
A report released Tuesday outlining Minnesota’s progress in six areas said cutting back on water use significantly lagged, while others — cutting waste and carbon emissions — saw substantial progress.
“This report demonstrates that our smart, sustained commitment to conservation is paying off,” Gov. Mark Dayton said in a news release announcing the update.
The progress report comes at a crucial moment of international attention toward problems with climate change. A U.N. report released this week cautioned that global warming could be catastrophic if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t reduced.
Dayton directed state agencies in November to begin working toward new sustainability goals. Many build on efforts already underway to make state operations more environmentally friendly and more cost effective, but critics argue that these initiatives don’t always solve the problem.
Without reading the progress report released Tuesday, Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, and Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said that these types of initiatives don’t always save money.
“We all share the goal of lower costs and lower pollution, but many of the initiatives that the Democrats are proposing are just expensive and don’t reduce much pollution,” Garofalo said.
Dayton’s proposal includes a 15 percent cut in water use by 2025; however, only 1.7 percent of that goal has been reached thus far.
The report indicates that landscape irrigation is a major contributor to water usage.
Larry Herke, who heads the sustainability office at the Department of Administration, said that automated systems still water the grounds even after rainfall.
“We need to improve these systems so that we’re making more use of collected rainfall and watering at proper amounts and intervals,” Herke said in the statement.
Also, the governor called for a 30 percent reduction in fossil fuel consumption by state-owned vehicles over the next decades, in part by converting 20 percent of the fleet to electric vehicles. Only 13 percent of that goal has been met.
When it comes to reducing greenhouse gases, in state spending and energy use, the state is almost or more than halfway toward meeting those goals.
“Coming out of the gate, that’s a great start,” Minnesota Department of Administration Commissioner Matt Massman said in the news release. “And the report shows where there are opportunities to improve. We’re following best practices that have been used successfully in the private sector. Our aim is to fully incorporate sustainability into the way we work and do business.”
The governor’s executive order sets targets to achieve by 2027, and the progress report acknowledges there’s still work to be done.
“Reducing waste, increasing our reliance on renewable energy, and using less energy overall is saving money and contributing to the betterment of our environment,” the governor said. “Still, there is more work to do, and much more to gain, by building upon these improvements across state government.”