Water Quality - Softening and Sustainability Issues

Water quality is often overlooked when thinking about water sustainability, but the quality of treated water has a large impact both at the building scale and at the ecosystem scale.  Water softening, which is usually the method for mitigating hard water sources, is not just an issue for building users, but has a large impact on energy use and water quality at a community or regional level.  Some areas with a very hard water supply find that salt-based water softening systems contribute to salinity of natural water bodies, which not only alters water ecosystems, but has impacts for reuse of water in agriculture or municipal water supplies.  For example, irrigating with high salinity water can reduce crop yields, which can be even more problematic as agricultural fertilizer runoff can also contribute to water salinity.  Further, some communities where conventional salt-based systems are very popular have found that municipal water treatment plants have experienced increased costs from having to mitigate higher salinity water.  


Happy Bike Walk Week!

Bike Walk Week, the Twin Cities' annual celebration of biking and walking, is next week! Are you ready?

If you signed up for the Commuter Challenge back in April, this is a great time for you to make good on your pledge.  All it takes is going by foot or by bike for a trip you would usually drive during the week of June 9th.  It doesn't have to be a long trip, and it doesn't even have to be your commute to work, we just ask that you try leaving your car behind to get from point A to point B.


AAM Annual Meeting Sustainability Wrap-Up

What a great time at the 2013 AAM Annual Meeting last week in Baltimore!   Among the many highlights of the conference was the new app that organized all program and session information alongside social media and notifications.  This was the first year for the app, so there were still print programs, but there will be some great paper savings next year.  At a larger scale, though, sustainability was featured all throughout the conference.  As a new co-chair on Professional Interest Committee on Green, I met many leaders in sustainability that are doing great conservation work in their own businesses or in museums.   Also, the Summit on Sustainability Standards in Museums produced a great discussion on the challenges and benefits of standardization.  

PIC-Green's MuseumExpo booth.

PIC-Green's MuseumExpo booth at the AAM 2013 Annual Meeting.  Pictured are our very own Matt Hill, and Luke Leyh from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (photo credit: PIC-Green).


My Energy Story: Measuring and Reducing Home Energy Usage

LED lights with our dining room hutchAs I mentioned in a previous blog post, my partner and I are relatively new homeowners; we’ve lived in our 1914 story-and-a-half South Minneapolis bungalow for about a year and a half.  Given that we’ve both worked in the energy efficiency field, we’re pretty cognizant of our energy usage, and try our best to walk the talk when it comes to conservation.  But, as the Minnesota Historical Society knows well, older buildings pose a number of challenges for achieving efficiency, as well as a number of opportunities. We love the original woodwork in our house, the built-in dining room buffet, and the colonnade archway that separates the living room from the dining room.  The house tells a story of the growth and development of South Minneapolis in the early 20th century, of the old-growth lumber that was used in the construction (that would be quite expensive and hard to find today), and the high quality, solidly built homes that characterized the aesthetic of that era.  


Commuter Challenge Follow-up

Last week we held a kick-off event and resource fair for the More for the Mission Commuter Challenge.  The event was intended to encourage MHS staff to sign up for the Commuter Challenge- a pledge to try taking the bus or train, bicycling, carpooling, walking, teleworking or vanpooling to work instead of driving alone at least once between now and June 30th.  Over 65 staff, volunteers and interns signed up for the Challenge at the event, a 20% increase in participation from last year!  Those who signed up at the event were entered to win some door prizes, including $10 Go-To passes and a laminated Twin Cities bike route map ($12 value).  All those staff who took the pledge (in person or online) will also be entered into the Commuter Challenge-sponsored prize drawing.

The event featured resources from St. Paul Smart Trips, a nonprofit organization that provides information and resources about transportation options in and around St. Paul.  Staff had a chance to ask questions about potential commuting routes and pick up helpful resources such as transit, skyway and bike path maps.  Shengyin also had a table with updates about the More for the Mission campaign, which is on track to reduce the MN Historical Society's greenhouse gas emissions by 1.9 million kg.  That is equivalent to removing the annual emissions from 380 cars and saves the organization a five year total of $1.7 million.  


MHS Commuter Challenge

Minnesota Historical Society Commuter Challenge Kick-off and Resource Fair!

WHEN: Wednesday, April 24th from 8:00-10:00 a.m.

WHERE: MN History Center, Staff Lounge

Join the Minnesota Historical Society's 2013 Commuter Challenge! At the kick-off event on April 24th you'll learn about sustainable transportation options, enjoy free food and coffee, and have a chance to win prizes when you sign up to take the Commuter Challenge!

Remember to fill out our simple online poll with the zip code where you commute from.  We'll use that information anonymously to map out the distances MHS staff are commuting.


TEEN TAKEOVER @ MINNESOTA HISTORY CENTER, APRIL 30TH 5-8 PM

Explore the history and future of Minneapolis and Saint
Paul through art, music and activities at this event created 

by and for teens. Adults welcome.
Featuring:
• Live music by Beatrix Jar and the Melismatics
• Photography exhibit
• Souvenir activities and photo opp
• activities fair with teen groups from around the
Twin Cities
When: Tues., April 30, 2013
5–8 p.m.
Where: Minnesota History Center, St. Paul
Cost: FREE


How's Your State Doing?

Use this interactive map to find out how individual US states are performing with regard to the "10 elements of high quality digital learning."


Minnesota History Center: Most Improved State Building on the Capitol Complex!

Water bottle filling station on the 4th floor

In the few weeks I’ve been working in the MN History Center building so far, I’ve noticed some of the visible things that are helping to reduce resource use and encourage sustainable behavior- like the water bottle filling stations that make it easy to bring your own reusable bottle rather than a disposable plastic bottle and the junk mail reduction campaign posters. I was interested in hearing more about some of the behind-the-scenes (or in-the-mechanical-room) actions that are resulting in such impressive savings throughout the MHS. Last week I talked with Karen Nichols, Facilities Manager here at the MN History Center and Green Team member, to learn about initiatives in the building to save energy, water and waste.

Shortly after I sat down, Karen proudly shared with me that the MN History Center has seen the biggest savings of any building in the State Capitol Complex. Part of the impetus for making these building improvements was based on an Executive Order from the Governor, to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent in state facilities. The energy consumption for all buildings in the Capitol complex is tracked through the State of Minnesota Plant Management Division at the Department of Administration. Based on those numbers, the Minnesota History Center has seen a nearly 60% savings in energy usage over the past 6 years, significantly more than other state facilities and above and beyond the goal of the Executive Order (1). This is especially significant given that in 2005 the History Center was the Capitol Complex building with the highest total energy use.


Welcome to our new Sustainability Intern!

We are very lucky to have Julia Eagles join our sustainability team this spring. She is currently a graduate student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the U and will be providing her skills to help us communicate our sustainability program and its associated metrics. Below she has written a brief narrative about herself, so be sure to stop by the intern workstation area on level 4 to welcome her and introduce yourselves. Welcome, Julia!
-Shengyin Xu

Hi everyone! My name is Julia Eagles and I am the new Sustainability Intern here at the Minnesota Historical Society. As part of my internship this spring I’ll be blogging here, producing information graphics and other visual communications about the More for the Mission campaign and helping to plan events. I hope through this position to increase my (and hopefully your) awareness of sustainability implementation and measurement, particularly in the context of the museum and historic sites. I’m excited to be joining the MHS team, especially in supporting efforts to make the Historical Society more sustainable! Since I’ll be posting here pretty regularly this spring, I thought I would tell you a little bit more about myself and how I got here.