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Farmington is making progress on going green

These days, everyone seems to be talking about "going green." As the catch-phrase gradually evolves into a lifestyle, new programs are starting all the time, in hopes of helping people become more earth friendly.

Now, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has started a new sustainability program called Minnesota GreenStep Cities. With that program comes a list of 28 best practices, and 163 action steps to help communities help the environment and conserve energy.

But the city of Farmington is ahead of the curve. When city planner Lee Smick received the details of the GreenStep program, she discovered Farmington is already doing several of the proposed best practices.

"Out of the 28 best practices, we've already got 11 of those completed," Smick said. "We've been doing a lot of it for a while already."

The recommended steps to a greener community include things like installing rain gardens, holding farmers markets and offering community gardens, or making sure city vehicles are being maintained and using fuel efficiently. Reusing public buildings and developing maps of trails and walking paths are just some of the suggested action steps.

In most cases, the city is simply following its own policies - making sure there is ample filtering around stormwater ponds, for example. When the new Farmington City Hall was built, energy efficient equipment was installed, and ultimately, the older city hall building was recycled into the Rambling River Center.

But with so many best practices and action plans in place, city officials know there is still more work to be done. It won't happen all at once, but gradually becoming more sustainable is on the city's to-do list.

And soon, it will be on the official to-do list: the city's comprehensive plan. Smick brought the GreenSteps information to the Farmington Planning Commission Tuesday night so members could start to identify goals and objectives to implement more of the GreenSteps initiatives.

Participation in the program is voluntary, but the Farmington City Council has expressed an interest in being part of the program. Once the planning commission sets up the parameters of future participation, city officials will look at adding a chapter on sustainability to the current comp plan.

"Sustainability is a big issue right now," Smick said. "In a lot of cases, we're just doing these things because we know they're good to do. Like filtering the stormwater from the salt, that's a good thing to do.

"With 163 action steps to go through, it's going to take a little bit of time, we'll have something to work with. Farmington is becoming sustainable."