Welcome to The Twin Cities Green Guide!

What you have in your hands is a guidebook packed with information to educate, stimulate and motivate you to make some changes in your daily life. We have researched, compiled and written this entire guidebook to help Twin Cities and Minnesota residents learn from A-Z about “green” and sustainable living.

Almost two years ago, when I began this guidebook, my intention was to create a small handmade magazine or “zine,” made at the local copy shop, to hand circulate to friends and other activists. I had been collecting information for years. I was picking up brochures, going to conferences and jotting down numbers and organizations’ names here and there from flyers. While I was conducting research for the “zine,” someone suggested I should apply for grants to get “seed” money to create a full resource book. So I went for it! After countless hours of grant writing, posting flyers around town to find other like-minded people and attending many meetings, The Twin Cities Green Guidebecame an official non-profit organization!

We started by sorting the stacks of information into categories and filing them in milk crates. I’d completed other “projects” before: writing out an animal ingredients list in Japanese, creating a Vegan guide to Japan and organizing a cookbook for a fundraiser. This current guidebook, however, is my largest undertaking to date. I have learned a great deal about sustainability (and you will too if you read on). Also, I have realized how much I love Minnesota! Indeed, this state is packed with amazing organizations and passionate individuals.

When I was younger, I remember wishing there was a 24-hour hotline that could answer any question I had about living “greener.” Encyclopedias weren’t current enough and it took many hours of work to find my answers in a library. Then came along the Internet. This was my solution to the 24-hour hotline dilemma. (Well, almost.) In order to get the answers I needed, I spent hours sifting through invalid or unrelated web sites. Once I found the right organization to contact, I spent countless minutes on hold only to be transferred. I would leave a message with voicemail, hoping to get a return phone call. Without my persistence, I would have never obtained the information I needed. We now hand over our “crates” of information so that you can avoid these hassles. To help you in your pursuit of living lighter on the planet, this book will make it easier to find out about recycling, eco-building, gardening and activism.

The answer to living in harmony with the environment is to live a “green” and sustainable lifestyle. This means that we must ensure our impact on the environment is as minimal as possible so that we meet our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. According to a recent CNN report on the state of the environment, “The United Nations estimates that the wealthiest one-fifth of the world’s population [of which these United States are clearly included] consumes 86 percent of our planet’s goods and services. That’s an appetite with a cost of around $26 trillion a year.” This disproportionate abuse of the world’s resources, although couched in economic terms, does extreme harm to the earth’s various ecosystems, and must end.

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Every one of us possesses a great amount of power and responsibility to make changes for the environment. Every one of us should become activists. Unfortunately, Americans and non-Americans alike have an image of the protester hurling bottles and ruining capitalist enterprises; protesting with signs; writing letters or performing acts of civil disobedience. While all these methods have proven to be successful forms of bringing change, we are calling for a new kind of activism: lifestyle activism. This type of activism involves being conscious, for example, of the kinds of products we buy (organic/fair-trade), what businesses our money is supporting (socially responsible investing; buying local) or how we dispose of our waste (compost; recycle). As lifestyle activists, we must pay attention to the all-important votes we are casting with the things we buy.

Before The Twin Cities Green Guide reached your hands, the information in it already motivated our volunteers to make lifestyle changes. For example, one of our editors moved into a co-housing community and went “auto-free,” thus avoiding hassles, saving money and causing far less pollution by riding the bus. Another one of our volunteers purchased a compost bin and is creating less trash by decomposing her food scraps and yard waste; she now has nutrient-rich soil for planting her garden. Also, our computer technician finally got rid of his unused dusty computers and computer parts by putting them on the materials exchange web site. They were gone within days.

Becoming more self-sufficient and making our lives simpler is one of the most valuable skills we can learn in lessening our impact on the earth. Learning to do-it-yourself can make one appreciate all the labor and resources that go into the production of material items we usually take for granted, such as a bunch of basil or our favorite sweatshirt. We need to bring back to our families and communities the lost arts of homemaking skills such as canning, sewing, building and gardening.

The health of the environment is something we choose to degrade or preserve many times a day through each decision we make. Use this guidebook to choose a more sustainable approach to those decisions and share what you have learned. Reading the articles in this guidebook is a great first step to becoming educated about issues of sustainability. Start by reading a few articles or read this guidebook from start to finish. The Resource boxes will provide some outside sources of information on each subject and will be a good starting point for getting involved with these issues. Lastly, share this information with others and have discussions and debates to gain better understanding of these often times controversial issues.

Ami Voeltz
Project Coordinator