St. Paul attempts to go green

By Alex Park

Setting its sights on environmental sustainability, the St. Paul Mayor’s office has opened an ongoing dialogue with environmental activists at Macalester. St. Paul has begun turning to colleges in the city, Macalester in particular, seeking ways to make the city greener.

Both Minneapolis and St. Paul already meet Kyoto protocol emissions standards. The Green Guide magazine named them two of the top twenty greenest cities in America this year. However, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has said that he wants the city to continue to take a more active environmental role nationally and develop a comprehensive game plan for combating global warming locally.

Referring to all of St. Paul ‘s 20 college campuses, Anne Hunt, Coleman’s Deputy Policy Director, said that higher education would play a key role in this plan.

“Students and faculty are an important resource for the administration and the city of St. Paul on climate change,” she said. “We’re going to need a variety of partners, and our institutions of higher education are going to be a really critical part of that.”

Addressing Macalester faculty and students in Olin-Rice recently, Coleman reaffirmed his goal of cutting the city’s emissions by 20 percent by 2020, urging colleges to take an active role in the effort.
“There’s just a lot of things we can be working on,” he said.
Since Coleman’s appearance on campus, Hunt has spoken with two Mac environmental activists, among them, Timothy Den Herder-Thomas ’09 and Claire Stoscheck ’07.

Den Herder-Thomas, a visible figure in campus environmental activism, is chapter
organizer of Campus Climate Challenge, a nation-wide student-led organization fighting climate change.

“There’s just so many people doing so many things here, whether it’s bio-diesel, or the new athletics facility—greening that—or cutting back on foam products [at Café Mac],” he said.
Den Herder-Thomas, who helped to organize the construction of a green roof on the Doty-Turck fishbowl and Kagin Commons, said that in his vision, a hands-in-the-dirt approach to environmentalism rather than an initiative-focused one, would impact policy at the city and state levels.

Den Herder-Thomas said that this approach was unique to Macalester among other Minnesota colleges and universities. Already, he sees Macalester as a leader on sustainability in the Twin Cities, but in the future he envisions the school helping to bring St. Paul into a larger regional role.

“The idea is to use the [college] campus and the university as a beginning place for zero emissions,” he said. “We’re definitely creating a wave in Minnesota.”

Since Mayor Coleman’s address, Hunt has continued to speak with Den-Herder Thomas about the role of higher education in the creating a sustainable city.

Claire Stoscheck ‘07, a co-chair of Mac Bike, has also spoken with Hunt. Stoscheck said she is optimistic that change is possible.

“I feel like the vision is there, the desire is there,” she said.

The effort would be helped, she said, “if they can tap into grassroots organizations, supporting them financially and technically” with grants and other modes of support.

“I think you can say that the mayor’s office wants to continue working with Macalester’s students and faculty,” Hunt said, adding that she hopes the Mayor will be able to visit campus again this spring to see the green roof on Kagin Commons.