Como Green Village

The Como Green Village project was a multi-year environmental effort funded by a $250,000 grant from the McKnight Foundation.

Green Village-funded activities ended in 2014, but the environmental interests of the neighborhood remain active in a number of ways.

Contents

About

What is the “Como Green Village”?

The Green Village is an umbrella concept that SECIA is promoting in the urban island of Southeast Como in Minneapolis (an industrial, railroad, and highway-locked neighborhood). It is based on core principles related to sustainability. While there are many definitions of sustainability, they all involve providing a balance between the environment, economics, and social justice. When all three are working together in harmony those activities become ‘sustainable’ and can then be carried forward into the future indefinitely.

Since SECIA’s inception, environmental initiatives have always been a priority allowing us to undertake activities such as: tree planting, air quality program, opening new community gardens, organic lawn care, clothesline giveaways, building rain barrels, and our Solar Pilot Project are all past examples of the novel efforts of our eco-programs.

We have actively provided home loans and grants (via the Neighborhood Revitalization Program – NRP) to both residences and businesses in order to maintain better and safer buildings. We have also worked to involve the various populations in the community as part of the organization and at the numerous events hosted in order to build a stronger community.

The Green Village brings these activities to a wider and broader scale. SECIA is attempting to align its unique and creative green community activities several key categories. The ‘community’ includes the complex natural ecosystem we inhabit as well as the built environment.

  • Renewable Energy
  • Green Transportation
  • Stormwater Management
  • Local Foods
  • Air Toxics
  • Waste Reduction

As the organization matures along with the Como neighborhood it becomes clear that all the community initiatives are interconnected. Meaning that Housing, Safety, Livability, Transportation, the Environment and even the neighborhood History all are related and to ignore one area of focus affects the group as a whole. Even though we have had some great successes in local civic and environmental victories, which benefit not only the neighborhood but the region as well, there is still much to be done to achieve sustainability on a local level.

Throughout the next year, we will be asking for your participation in projects that forward the Como Green Village concept; we want and need your feedback and engagement to be successful. Sometimes it will be simple. like attending a meeting or supporting a cause, and other times it may be more complex and involve some direct form of action. Either way, you’re welcome to join us in discussions at our environment committee the fourth Tuesday of every month.

The current board president submitted an editorial to Natural Home magazine in December 2006 which does a great job of summarizing the past while looking to the future embracing the Como Green Village concept. Click here to read this letter.

SECIA Staff
Justin, James, Stephanie & Jennifer

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Air Quality

For additional air quality information, check out the Environmental Inventory. Updated in 2012 by Celeste Adams.

Click here for links to the actual Good Neighbor Agreements signed with Ritrama and Rock-Tenn (near the bottom of the page).

SECIA has led the way on citizen activism on air quality issues in the metro area for a number of years. This was recognized by the 2008 Governor’s Award, which acknowledged our work with local industry to set up stakeholder dialogues and ultimately reach Good Neighbor Agreements. Additionally, SECIA has been recognized in the media as a leader in air quality issues.

“Justin Eibenholzl was hired by the Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA) in April of 2001 as an environmental coordinator to address the number one concern of its residents: air pollution. Since then, he has gone so far beyond the original goals of the project that his position has become something completely different, according to James De Sota, neighborhood coordinator for SECIA.” What source is this article from? read more

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Bicycling

Grand Rounds Completing Coalition (GRCC)

 

The Grand Rounds Regional Trail has been in the works since 1883 and to this day is still not complete. Southeast Como Improvement Association has spearheaded the creation of this coalition to reopen the conversation hoping to finally connect the Grand Rounds Regional trail.

-Next Steps in the Project:

At the latest GRCC Meeting on February 24th, 2015 the majority of attendees seemed to agree that the focus of this coalition should be on connectivity to the Eastside neighborhoods in general. The completion of the Grand Rounds Regional Trail is at the forefront of this connectivity. We are searching for different avenues to continue the growth of connectivity.

Supporting the addition of Bike and Pedestrian research to MNDOT’s current plan to research redevelopment of the I-94/280 Corridor.

Encouraging the Minneapolis Park Board and the City of Minneapolis to continue to press Graco Corporation to abide by its commitment to provide and easement for a recreational trail on the bank of the Mississippi River in Northeast Minneapolis.

Continuing conversations about the redevelopment/inclusion of Industrial Boulevard or Saint Anthony Parkway in the Grand Rounds Regional Trail.

-Brief History of the Grand Rounds:

Late 1800s: The idea of the Grand Rounds first came around in 1883, where a newly formed Board of Park Commissioners were tasked with conserving land in Minneapolis to preserve its unique character, and to establish Minneapolis as a booming Metropolis. They contracted Horace Cleveland, one of the most prominent minds in landscape architecture in the time, to design a large­scale park system that would encompass both of the Twin Cities.

Early 1900s: The Park Board started acquiring large swaths of land, especially along the river, to create their Grand Rounds loop.
By 1902, only about half of the necessary land had been acquired for the “Grand Rounds” by the Park Board.
Small amounts of progress were made under several different Parks and Recreation Directors before and after WWI.
1930-1960s: The Great Depression was a time of almost no progress until we saw some of the New Deal programs go into effect. There was slow but steady progress up until WWII when most of the nation’s resources were shifted to war efforts. Following World War II we saw an explosion of highway building and car manufacturing. This lead to freeways, interstates, and highways being built all over the state and especially through the bustling city centers of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

1970s: The Grand Rounds project was basically forgotten about until now; when the Parks and Recreation Board hired an architecture firm to reanalyze the trail system. The firm’s push was to incorporate the Great River Road, following the Mississippi River, into the Grand Rounds project. At this time in landscape architecture, renewing once industrial riverfronts was popular. This connected a lot gaps in the system but there was never a solution to unify the system. Since the 1970’s there was little done to complete the system until…

2000s: In 2008 when the Parks Board published the Missing Link Development study. This proposal was met with lots of opposition by some of the citizens in Northeast Minneapolis. The project was dropped and once again set aside to collect dust on the shelf.

2010s: South East Como Improvement Association reopens the conversation and heads the creation of the Grand Rounds Completion Coalition. Working with other neighborhoods in northeast Minneapolis they begin to explore all available options to improve the connectivity between their neighborhood those on the other side of the rail yard that makes up the southern border of their neighborhood.

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Calendar

Note:  This calendar lists events in the Central Time Zone, which is the time zone for us here in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  If you have a Google account and the calendar is being presented to you in the Pacific (or some other) Time Zone, you likely need to set a time zone in your user settings.  If the calendar is being shown to you in a time zone other than Central, the start and end times for any events listed are being recalculated for the time zone the calendar is being shown in (e.g. the Pacific Time Zone shows all events 2 hours earlier than they will be occurring here in the Central Time Zone).

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Car Sharing

Hourcar

In the spring of 2011, SECIA sponsored an HourCar hub in the Como neighborhood with the assistance of funding from The McKnight Foundation.  The HourCar car-sharing program fits in nicely with the rest of SECIA’s Como Green Village programming, by encouraging residents to own fewer vehicles and share the use of a vehicle with others.

HourCar is a program of the Neighborhood Energy Connection, a St. Paul non-profit.

HourCar: The new black Honda Fit can be found in the Van Cleve Park parking lot.

NEW HourCar undergraduate college STUDENT RATE PLAN!

Zipcar

There is a Zipcar vehicle located in the neighborhood. It can be found in the University of Minnesota Printing Services building parking lot at 29th & Como Ave SE.

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Community Gardens

Como community gardens come in all shapes, types, and sizes. This page provides links and ways to connect to information on all of SE Como’s community gardens, which are a potential creative or emotional outlet to all neighborhood residents. You can find more information at each specific garden webpage. And if you want to join our cadre of community gardeners, contact SECIA (secomo@secomo.org) for help determining which garden is the best fit for you. Or else just show up at one of our many workdays or worknights (Monday or Wednesday 6-8PM or Saturday 10:30am-12:30 pm) ready to get your hands dirty (although gloves and tools are usually provided). All garden work sessions are found on the SECIA Event Calendar and many garden updates are posted on the Como Green Blog.

Como Corner

This garden is a volunteer supported “park” that provides a restful spot for bikers, bus riders, and neighbors! Originally an overgrown vacant lot that was mostly owned by the railroad, Como Corner is now beautiful perennial flower garden and community meeting place. There is lots of history in this garden and new exciting developments happening as well. The Como Corner gardeners meet the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays evenings from 6:30 to sundown and occasionally have special events as well. See the SECIA Event Calendar.

Como Corner Webpage Link

  • Google Group to stay informed of garden news
  • comocorner@secomo.org for more information

 

FairShare Farm Community Vegetable Garden

Southeast corner of 22nd Ave SE & Fairmount Ave SE

The FairShare Farm garden is a shared garden space without individual plots. The vegetables are grown communally and harvest is split with elders in the Como area and participating gardeners. FairShare Farm has an ongoing relationship with the Southeast Seniors and the Little Kitchen Foodshelf. It is a learning space, so all levels of gardeners are welcome. To facilitate gathering and learning, the FairShare members often host SkillShares and monthly events called Farm On!

Here is a glimpse of a couple of important elements about membership at FairShare:
Members garden and harvest communally;
Members attend at least one garden session per week during the gardening season (most weeks);
In order to keep up the level of participation, and attention to crops that is needed, we strongly encourage that gardeners live or work in SE Mpls. There is not a residency requirement, but close proximity is important in order to reduce barriers to participation and keep crops healthy.

Signing up for 2016: For returning members, we will start taking your form and fee on Feb 1st. On March 1st, we will open up the remaining spots to those who live or work in the 55414 zip code. April 1st will allow gardeners outside of SE Minneapolis. The form will be attached to this page. Inquiries can be made to secomo@secomo.org. We also take Supporters, who have a lower commitment expectation. Sign up as a Supporter here.

Talmage Crossing

Between 20th and 21st Ave SE at Talmage Ave SE (map)
Talmage Crossing started in 2009 by determined neighbors who wanted to beautify this herbicide sprayed and weed-covered area. The focus of this garden is the new median planters on both sides of the railroad crossing with hopes to expand into some of the adjacent vacant areas. The SECIA events calendar lists event dates where all community members are welcome

Accord Garden

Between 15th and Como at Van Cleve Park
Accord Garden is a small Native Plant Garden that exists around the Accord Statue in Van Cleve Park. The garden was started awhile back by a woman that lived in Como. Currently the garden is kept up by a few of the Como Gardens. If you have an interest or knowledge of Native Plants and would like to work in the garden, let us know!

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Como Earth Month

New in 2011, Como is featuring Earth Day activities for an entire 30 days from April 15 though May 14, 2011. Watch for your April and May
Como Earth Month blog postsComotion newsletters in your mailbox and check back here for all of the eco activities highlighted in and around Como.

Comotion newsletters in your mailbox and check back here for all of the eco activities highlighted in and around Como.

Earth
Day is good, Earth Week is better, but Earth Month…well that’s simply the best. We are busy working on putting together our 30 ideas creating events, workshops, and incentives for Como Earth Month.

We’ll have fun ones like “Mending Monday” where you fix something you would otherwise throw out, like a pair of jeans, etc… we’ll provide some sewing kits and patches to those who come first. Cheap ones, like “Frugal Friday” where the goal is to spend nothing. We’ll have practical ones like “Tire Pressure Tuesday” where you inflate your bike tire or car tires for best mileage and efficiency. There will be stargazing, movies to watch, neighborhood clean-ups and wildlife inventories to participate in. For the more hard-core we’ll have challenges like “kNOw Waste Wednesday” where we’ll give you a small bag and you’ll have to fit all the waste you generate that day into it (compost & recycling not included). Yes, there’s something for everyone and it all leads up to the Spring MIMO neighborhood Free Store! (see MIMO on our website for more info). A calendar is presented below with a general description, for more details see the full description of the various earth month activities or click on the subpage located below. The calendar handout can also be downloaded below.

Como Earth Month 30 Days of Earth-Friendly Activities beginning April 15, 2011

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Eco Books and Movies

Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic (2008, 2009)

Author Pamela Weintraub does a very good job of navigating the confusing and conflicting waters of Lyme Disease — the difficulty getting a diagnosis and proper treatment.  Her family was intimately affected by Lyme and she’s able to share the road they traveled as both an insider and a science writer.

Minnesota/Wisconsin and New England are the geographic hot spots for Lyme and other infections spread by ticks.  A must-read for anyone affected by Lyme or suffering from an as-of-yet undiagnosed illness (also just a very well-written non-fiction book that anyone would enjoy).  We have heard from several people in Como that they or their family/friends have been affected by Lyme.

From the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society:  “A groundbreaking investigation into the medical history, patient experience and brutal political war over Lyme disease.”

Everything’s Cool

Note: the SECIA office has a copy of this DVD that we can loan out to residents interested in seeing it.

Flow (2008)

Documentary featuring experts and activists working on safe drinking water supplies around the world.  Featuring communities in Michigan fighting a water bottling company and activists in South America fighting the Coca Cola Corporation.  Also details how many third world countries are having their water supplies privatized and residents in poverty are being forced to pay exorbitant fees for access to drinking water.

Gasland documentary by Josh Fox (2010)

This is the film that brought us images of lighting tap water on fire in homes in the United States.  Josh explores the natural gas industry and environmental and health impacts related to their “fracking” activities.  The maps he shows of thousands of natural gas wells throughout the country aren’t (as of yet) found in Minnesota, but since most of us use natural gas for heating or cooking, we have a responsibility to see what the current natural gas drilling procedures are doing to our fellow Americans.  Once you see and hear their stories, you won’t soon forget!  And it doesn’t have to be this way – the natural gas industry is harvesting this way because they can and because it maximizes their profits.  Add your voice to the efforts to regulate this industry so our water supplies and our collective health aren’t forever compromised.

Gasland:  A film by Josh Fox
In addition to being available on DVD, Gasland will be broadcast on HBO through 2012.

Power and Smoke: A Nation Built on Coal (2011)

By American Radio Works

This audio-documentary looks at the roots of America’s addiction to coal, and shows how our fuel choices changed American culture and history.The production of electricity in America pumps out more greenhouse gases than all of our cars, trucks, planes, and ships combined, and half of our electricity comes from burning coal.

Download the radio program.

Sacrifice Zones by Steve Lerner (2010)

This book should be required reading for Como residents and others living on Minneapolis’ East Side that are concerned about pollution, the environment and human health.  Lessons learned in this book can help communities such as ours better advocate for ourselves on these issues.  These skills are especially important since both Northeast and Southeast Minneapolis are home to many, many industries.

TAKING ROOT: The Vision of Wangari Maathai (2008)

a film about how planting trees transformed a nation. TAKING ROOT: The Vision of Wangari Maathai, tells the dramatic story of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai whose simple act of planting trees grew into a nationwide movement to safeguard the environment, protect human rights, and defend democracy. Learn more about the film at: http://takingrootfilm.com

The Garden (2008)

An Oscar-nominated documentary about the fight to save the country’s largest community garden in South Central Los Angeles.  Has a little bit of everything:  ties to the Rodney King beating & riots, the community successfully fighting the building of a garbage burner, City Hall back room deals, celebrity endorsements from Darryl Hannah, Danny Glover, Martin Sheen, Joan Baez, and Rage Against the Machine, political support from Dennis Kucinich and Maxine Waters, soccer fields versus the garden, and an unfortunate pitting of African Americans versus Latinos.  Lots of emotional ups and downs as the story unfolds; the 80 minutes goes by fast!

Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story (2010)
A documentary film by the Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota.  Winner of an Upper Midwest Emmy for “Best Documentary”. The film, or its release, was surrounded in controversy after Molly Priesmeyer at the Twin Cities Daily Planet uncovered inappropriate attempts at editorial influence by University of Minnesota Vice President Karen Himle.  Vice President Himle left her post within a few months of the “Troubled Waters” release.

The film is well done and covers lots of different ways that farmers and others can mitigate their negative influences on America’s greatest river.

Vanishing Of The Bees (2009, though with content from 2010)

We highly recommend this 1 1/2 hour documentary on the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).  It includes the U.S. beekeepers that fought hard to bring this issue to light when it first started happening on a large scale in 2006, author Michael Pollan, French beekeepers and scientists that experienced this about 10 years before it happened in the U.S., etc.

It covers a lot more ground and goes a lot more in-depth than the “60 Minutes” coverage of the mysterious bee decline.  They talk to organic beekeepers in the U.S. and show video footage of bees in France pollinating an organic sunflower and a sunflower grown with systemic pesticides.  Systemic pesticides are the incredibly important thing you will learn about by watching this film (be sure to pay special attention to any non-organic corn or sunflower seed or oil in your diet).  They also discuss the “sub-lethal effects” of these systemic pesticides on bees, etc.

Go to the www.vanishingbees.com website for more about viewings, etc.

Please go to our Air quality section for information about the Good Neighbor Agreements we’ve signed with industrial businesses in the surrounding area.

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Grow Barrels

Green Village GrowBarrelsTM – Como’s Eco-trainer for Sustainable Food

GrowBarrels are an easy-to-use, portable, self-watering container garden. If you love to eat fresh foods, GrowBarrels can provide you with fresh vegetables and flowers throughout the season. The self-watering feature is an important element of this container garden and allows it to successfully support food producing plants. Regular garden containers can grow vegetables too, but they are prone to drying out as they need frequent watering. When a tomato plant is subjected to wilt, it will not be productive. Self-watering containers protect your vegetable plants from wilting by providing consistent moisture. Whether you do not have access to green space or just want to try a unique way to garden, come learn to build a GrowBarrel for the 2011 season!

This project was funded in large part by a grant from the McKnight Foundation.
painted GrowBarrel with trellis

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HERC Garbage Burner

Current Action Alert for Feb 28th, 2013!!!!!

The HERC (Hennepin Energy Recovery Center) garbage burner located in downtown Minneapolis is seeking an expansion of the current permitted limits of 1000 tons of garbage burned per day to 1,212 tons per day. This facility that is operated by Covanta Energy and owned by Hennepin county was identified as the largest source of 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-Dioxin in 2002 by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. This form of dioxin is the same form that was the active ingredient in the chemical defoliant “Agent Orange”. Expanding garbage burning at the site will result in more trash being trucked in from farther and farther away and more air pollution including more mercury, lead, and other heavy metals released into our air, water, and soil.

 

The SE Como Improvement Association has taken a stance against expanding garbage burning at HERC and has a history of working with polluters to arrive at positive solutions to current bad practices.

More than half of what is currently being burned at the burner is recyclables and compost, which results in a trifold cost to the community: a loss of revenue from recyclables, a cost to burn, and a cost in our health.

We hope that you will join us in working to make Minneapolis a greener and cleaner City. We will try to keep you posted on public meetings and notices on this site.

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Rooftops

Seeking to assess and propose roof-top energy solutions to local industry 
Assessing businesses along Kasota Ave, Rollins Ave, MN 280, Como Ave, and Hennepin Ave
Partners of involvement:
-City council members: Cam Gordon and Kevin Reich
-Richard Venberg, green architect, and community resident
-Tim Pendergast, NABCEP-certified solar designer, installer, site assessor
-Ken Bradly, MN Community Solar
-Angie Durhman, AD Green Roof LLC
-Lucas Alm, MN Green Roof Council
-Emma Volbrecht, student intern
Goals:
-use currently wasted space to connect neighbors and companies
-increase sustainable energy options

-support pollinator populations-reduce storm water runoff
How goals will be accomplished:
-Analysis of total square footage of unused flat roofs
-Evaluate which roofs would be viable for use
-Determine proper point of contact
-For those willing to participate, an on-site meeting and site assessment will be held
-Assemble data of each roof studied to assess which potential technologies are appropriate for that site
-Hold second meeting with sites to provide specific data and recommendations
Desired results:
-help make energy and watershed improvements that will benefit us all
-decrease our dependency on gas, coal, and nuclear developed electrical power
-reduce carbon emissions that impact climate change
-Metro gardening that provides local vegetables for local people
-Rooftop beehives place metro bees in safe places where they are able to provide pollination without being endangered or endangering animals or people
-Provide sustainable method to properly filter and control storm water before it reaches groundwater supply and the Mississippi River
-Beautify our neighborhood
 

Grants:
-The Clean Energy Resource Team Seed grant

-Green Infrastructure Technical Assistance

-Great Plains Institute for Sustainable Development, Inc.

Information meetings will be held to introduce resources, technologies, and benefits for industrial partners and the SE Como community.

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Solar

SECIA has focused a lot of effort on sustainable energy sources, especially solar.  Minnesota in general, has great solar resources and so does Como, despite our fabulous tree-lined streets.  From solar motion lights and ovens to residential solar thermal systems.  We’ve also pursued public solar installations like solar flares at Van Cleve Park, though these efforts haven’t come to fruition . . . yet.

 

2013 Como Solar Tour October 5, 10 AM – 5 PM
The Southeast Como Improvement Association and Sunny Day Earth Solutions are sponsoring a Solar Tour for homes in the Como SE neighborhood that have working solar thermal heating systems, solar domestic hot water arrays, or Photovoltaic systems. This year’s tour will include a solar install! Maps can be picked up at Sunny Day Earth Solutions on 1000 26th Ave SE, Lift Coffee on Stinson and Kennedy, 1101 15th Ave. SE, Joe’s Market, Van Cleve Park or at secomo.org. For more information, email Richard Venberg at richardvenberg@me.com or call the office at (612) 676-1731.

 

Solar motion lights
The SE Como Improvement Association launched a solar motion light program in 2008. Funding for the program came fromThe McKnight Foundation, as part of the Como Green VillageTM  and the safety category in SECIA’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) Phase II plan.
Solar Ovens
The Solar Oven Society
 is an international non-profit with its headquarters right in the Como neighborhood at 32nd & E. Hennepin.  They sell and distribute solar ovens all over the world, with an emphasis on getting as many of them as they can to developing nations.

SECIA purchased our solar oven from the Solar Oven Society and we’ve used it to do cooking demonstrations at neighborhood events . . .

Solar thermal pilot project
The Southeast Como Solar Pilot Project was launched in 2005 with the intention of making solar panels more affordable and accessible to the typical family.
We had hoped to gather together 20 families for a bulk purchase of solar equipment for heating domestic hot water.  We heard from over 200 people who were interested from Western Wisconsin to Hutchinson Minnesota.

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Stormwater

Working to capture stormwater is an important focus of the  Como Green Village to protect our surface water resources.  In 2008-2009, SECIA undertook comprehensive residential rain garden and rain barrel projects. While rain barrel making support continues, SECIA’s stormwater focus is turning to community gardens and public spaces such as Como Corner and Talmage Crossing.  Check the Como Green Blog for recent announcements.

Links to Rain Garden Info and How-To

 

Past stormwater items from the Como Green Blog:

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Windsource

You can buy wind power in the Como neighborhood!
Sign up by calling Xcel Energy at 1-800-895-4999 and ask to sign up for their “Windsource” program. You can purchase wind power in increments of 100 kilowatt hours or you can ask that 100% of your power come from wind. The cost is nominal and provides for new wind turbines to be installed in the State of Minnesota to meet their customers requests along with being the environmentally responsible thing to do.
Anyone can sign up including residences, businesses, homeowners, and renters. You’ll actually get a fuel credit also on your bill since wind power requires zero fuel paying for almost half the premium they charge.
Example: I own a small house in Minneapolis and the costs to me is about $2.10 a month (cheaper than a latte) for 100% of my power from wind, and I get the benefit of knowing my power is coming from a renewable energy source that has zero carbon emissions and zero pollution.

FFI: go to http://www.xcelenergy.com/Minnesota/Business/RenewableEnergy/Windsource_/Pages/Windsource.aspx
There are links to an online and a mail-in Windsource sign-up form available on this web page.

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