Edina's Sustainability Story

June 9, 2022

By Chad Millner, Engineering Director, City of Edina

The City of Edina is committed to sustainability and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

To kick off its commitment, the Edina City Council developed a statement of support: “We ensure that our policies, decisions and plans have a positive impact on people and the planet now and for future generations.” 

The City’s first Climate Action Plan (CAP) was approved in 2021 with 36 strategies supported by 200 actions. The CAP identifies the City’s GHG emission reduction target of 45% below 2019 levels by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. 

As the Director overseeing not only the City’s Engineering Department but also its Facilities and Sustainability divisions, I have a unique opportunity to be a part of many decisions related to embedding sustainability in all decisions. 

Street reconstruction is a large part of our yearly operations and provides an opportunity to review how we do things. Reclaiming or recycling the existing street pavement has become a standard practice for not only Edina but many other communities. For Edina, we require the contractor to create and use most of the reclaimed aggregate base within the project limits. This reduces all the environmental costs associated with mining and hauling of new aggregate base materials to the job site. 

Trenchless pipe rehabilitation and installation methods such as pipe bursting and horizontal directional drilling (HDD) have become standard practice unless otherwise determined to be not applicable to the situation. These methods save all the additional work associated with traditional open-cut replacement and install methods. The methods are faster, use less fuel, create fewer emissions, and lessen noise and property impacts.

A recent review of pipe material type used for storm sewer applications generated lots of conversation. We learned that this type of environmental analysis has many variables and can be very challenging to calculate. We also learned how difficult it is to find the data in a format that is trusted and speaking to the exact need of the City. However, we now have a better understanding of the overall environmental impacts of different pipe materials.

We are also making significant sustainability improvements through our Facilities Division. We are in the process of completing energy management plans to inform equipment replacements and reduce energy use and thus greenhouse gas emissions. As equipment is replaced, we are pausing to better understand the possible options and lifecycle costs before making the purchase. In many cases, the equipment may have a higher up-front cost but lower operations and maintenance costs long term because of the higher efficient equipment. Some of the equipment replacements include converting gas water heaters to electric water heaters; retrofitting lighting systems to LED; and simple, not flashy building envelope improvements such as new door jams, caulking, windows and insulation. We are converting vehicles to fully electric and adding electric vehicle chargers for both the City fleet and the public. We are also building out alternative energy sources such as solar arrays to reduce the energy needs at specific buildings. And with the impacts of COVID-19, we’ve adopted a hybrid work policy to allow employees to work from home a few days a week, reducing their personal vehicle use and their contribution to GHG emissions. 

While climate change is a huge issue that is much larger than just City operations, the City of Edina strives to lead by example by having a lens toward sustainability in all decisions. This is only done by continuous learning, asking questions, and making decisions with the best available data.

 

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