Minneapolis’s inner city is home to The Green Institute, a nonprofit economic development organization focused on sustainable enterprise. Incorporated in 1993, the institute originated from a grassroots campaign against the siting of a large garbage transfer station in the Phillips neighborhood. After stopping the transfer station, the community developed a plan for a new commercial facility for high-growth, innovative businesses that offer products and services to help restore the environment.
A fundamental goal of the institute’s vision is to bring living-wage jobs to Phillips, an area of concentrated poverty and unemployment. The Green Institute already employs 40 staff and has an annual budget of $2.6 million. Funding sources are diverse, including program revenue; local, state, and federal government grants; foundation support; and contributions from private corporations and individuals.
Early efforts toward sustainable development included the establishment of the ReUse Center, the institute’s first wholly owned sustainable enterprise. Opened in 1995, the ReUse Center is a retail store selling salvaged and surplus building and construction materials at low cost, helping to remove tons of material from the waste stream. Retail sales for 1998 were $440,000, far exceeding the projected $282,000. Most staff members live in the surrounding communities, and all are paid living wages and receive good benefits.
Along with the retail store, the ReUse Center houses an education center and DeConstruction Services. The education center offers a variety of classes from hands-on home improvement, to new environmental construction techniques, to natural foods preparation. DeConstruction, or construction in reverse, began in 1997 with three goals: securing a more stable and high-quality inventory for the ReUse Center, reducing the construction material wastestream, and creating additional job opportunities. Trained and insured DeConstruction crews carefully salvage materials from building sites, allowing for reuse of up to 75 percent of a given structure. Salvaged materials are sold at the ReUse Center or from DeConstruction sites or are warehoused for later sale.
The Green Institute broke ground in November 1998 for the Phillips Eco-Enterprise Center (PEEC), a 64,000-square-foot commercial-industrial facility on the site originally intended for the garbage transfer station. PEEC will be the region’s most environmentally sound commercial facility, with high indoor air quality, reused and recycled materials, energy efficient operations incorporating solar, wind, and geothermal sources, and extensive daylighting. PEEC program objectives include developing a national model for urban redevelopment and environmentally-sound commercial facility construction, promoting Minnesota’s high potential energy and environment sector, creating a vehicle for targeted technical assistance and seed capital, and creating a local source of more than 100 jobs.
The Green Institute supports its projects and the community through diverse educational programming. Education efforts include home improvement and material reuse classes at the ReUse Center, environmental education seminars, volunteer programs, green building resources, and technical assistance to environmental entrepreneurs. The Institute is also home to the Phillips Environment and Transportation Committee, a neighborhood-based program focusing on local greening projects, youth programs, pollution prevention, home energy conservation, and sustainable transportation options.
The Green Institute
Annie Young, associate director
1433 E. Franklin Avenue, Suite 7A
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Phone: 612-874-1148; Fax: 612-874-6470