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Woodbury praised for sustainability, energy conservation by new program

The city of Woodbury has been recognized for its green initiatives after participating in a statewide sustainability program for about six months.

The "GreenStep Cities" is a voluntary program put on by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency that encourages communities throughout the state to implement energy efficiency based on 28 best practices.

Cities are recognized for completing one, two or three-star level practices.

The city of Woodbury will be recognized at the annual League of Minnesota Cities conference Thursday, June 20, for advancing through all the steps and becoming a "Step 3 city."

Although the city of Woodbury just recently began participating in the program, Environmental Planner Steve Kernik said many of the best practices were already in place.

A group of college students worked with the city to identify those practices last fall, so when the city signed up for the GreenStep program, it was already at Step 2, Kernik said.

The Environmental Advisory Commission then continued identifying additional sustainability practices already done, or still left to do, after signing up for the program in January.

"We just thought that this GreenStep Cities program would be kind of a good matrix for that committee group to work on," Kernik said, noting that it became a strategic plan for the citizen advisory group.

The program is not exclusive to public buildings; Kernik said it encourages existing private structures to implement energy conservation and innovation by offering loan programs and incentives.

With much of Woodbury still in the development stages, he added the city is working with new commercial and housing developments to encourage sustainability in future buildings as well.

"There is still lots of things that we can do within this matrix that we can improve our performance." Kernik said.

Other examples of sustainability could be seen in city streets as well, he said.

In addition to designing streets to accommodate vehicle traffic, Kernik said the committee is looking at the system and suggesting minor improvements that encourage more biking and walking in future infrastructure.

"But also looking at existing areas seeing if there is any retrofit projects, or things we want to put on a wish list," he said.

Woodbury is one of 56 participating cities in the GreenStep program. The city has 22 of the total 28 best practices already in place.

Though city officials are proud of the recognition, the committee plans to continue advancing through the program.

"Right now we're sort of at the highest level, but they plan on adding additional levels in the future," Kernik said.

Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Team officials, who oversee the GreenStep program, praised Woodbury for taking the appropriate steps to make it to the highest level.

"Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a challenge, assistance, and recognition program," the group said in a press release. "Woodbury is helping to lead the way in sustainably across the state of Minnesota. Woodbury has worked hard to implement best practices in order to fulfill their sustainability goals."

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.