the TAO of CHANGE

a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Minneapolis – fountains of sustainability

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

It’s good to be back. It spent time with my family and explored what’s new in my big city – one of those making significant strides towards a sustainable future. I’ve heard that the Twin Cities have held a high green ranking for decades and the city lakes, free of motorized boats, are some of the cleanest in the country. A stroll around a few busy spots will show you some of the most litter-free places on the planet. I saw street sweepers in the neighborhoods, doing the seasonal clean-up of curbside debris to keep it from entering the sewer system and waterways, my former local co-op is now solar-powered and stocks a wide selection of local farm products and I saw a few urban vegetable gardens where lawns used to be. A newish downtown Farmer’s Market is thriving. The city lakes and parks, populated by an abundance of cyclists and pedestrians, have been made more friendly for wildlife with natual rain gardens and flowering trees and plants. Out in the ‘burbs, a new light rail system is in place.

Last week’s NY Times column, by Elizabeth Royte, (author of Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It) also informed me that Minneapolis recently committed to spending $500,000 on drinking fountains that will be placed in areas of high foot and bicycle traffic. This is part of an effort (joined by San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newsom), to reduce bottle use – and the huge carbon footprint that goes along with it.

Now there’s another (like electric cars and electric hand-dryers) retro-solution to both plastic and water waste issues! Remember when most places had drinking fountains? They used to be in markets and department stores and in all parks. No cups, bottles or trash cans required. And it stands to reason that they conserve water, too. I’ve long wondered what happened to what used to be available to all – a cool, clean drink without the cost, waste and inconvenience of carrying a bottle. Germ-phobics can’t claim this one – fountains are designed so that the treated water coming from a spigot is safe. I shudder to think the bottled water industry had anything to do with the demise of the fountain, but then, what gives? More importantly, how can we reclaim a sane way to keep all of us quenched? I’ll be looking into this one – stay tuned.

BTW, thanks for the comments and thoughts about my mom. She is enjoying the Spring weather just arriving in MN. On the day I was leaving, we found a bird’s nest with 3 small eggs, hidden in a potted plant outside her front door. It made all of us smile. Nature has a nice way of speaking.

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