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Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary challenge, assistance and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals. This free continuous improvement program, managed by a public-private partnership, is based upon a menu of 29 optional best practices. Each best practice can be implemented, as decided by city elected officials, staff and community members, by completing one or more actions at a 1, 2 or 3-star level, from a list of four to eight actions. These voluntary actions are tailored to all Minnesota cities, focus on cost savings and energy use reduction, and encourage civic innovation.

What are the benefits of joining the GreenStep program and implementing its best practices?

The answers to this question will be different for different cities, but here are the key points we have heard from GreenStep cities and around which we have designed the program. The GreenStep program:

  • Is a continuous improvement pathway for cities to "go green," becoming more sustainable and resilient.
  • Will save city staff time in researching proven, cost-effective actions for cutting energy use, decreasing the city's carbon footprint, and accomplishing other sustainability goals that exceed regulatory requirements. Information on and an Advisor for how to complete 170 actions – in the best practice groups of buildings, land use, transportation, environment, and economic/community development – is continuously updated with Minnesota-specific information.
  • Will save cities money and deliver a stream of multiple environmental, social and financial benefits; will help cities explore how to spend the same amount of money smarter.
  • Is a home-grown, independent program tailored to Minnesota cities and provides maximum flexibility and total control and choice by city councils in how to implement a proven best practice.
  • Provides over 4,000 reports on how Minnesota cities are taking action, making it easy to learn from and contact peer cities so as to jump-start actions in your own city.
  • Opens up special opportunities for funding and technical assistance, available mostly to GreenStep cities because the GreenStep program focuses on existing GreenStep cities.
  • Positions a city to more easily apply for competitive grant and assistance programs.
  • Maps out how to follow-through on the various commitments cities may have made, such as the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, signed by over 40 Minnesota cities, and on the Minnesota Legislature's aggressive Next Generation Energy Act.
  • Provides leadership and action roles for community members, businesses and institutions so as to stretch limited city funds and strengthen a civic culture of engagement and innovation. We encourage cities to use student interns to help enter best practice action reports on the GreenStep web site, and have an intern manual to make this easier.
  • Continuously prompts program participants – like an exercise coach would! – to maximize opportunities to accelerate sustainability actions.
  • Provides public recognition of the good work being done by Minnesota cities.