It’s Easy Being Green: How to Combat Climate Change in Your Community

by | May 2020

An out of focus shot of plants.

Photo: Sarah Dovolos

Environmentalists say local advocacy is key to combating climate change.

Karol Durdle saw the effects of climate change first hand in Lesotho. The White Bear Lake resident fondly remembers her time in the Peace Corps in the small African nation within the borders of South Africa.

“Even back then in the ’90s they were saying how they were noticing that the climate was changing,” Durdle says. “I’m really worried about the vulnerable people and animals in the world. Most of them don’t add that much to climate change, but they are the ones being most affected by it.”

But climate change can be an overwhelming subject to tackle on one’s own. Durdle decided it was best to start at home. She answered a question about climate change during a League of Women Voters meeting, and after the meeting, someone suggested she look into the Northeast Metro Climate Action (NEMCA) group, one of several suburban climate change grassroots organizations started by Edina resident Chuck Prentice. The organizations are volunteer run. NEMCA started in late 2018.

“Our main mission is to raise awareness of the climate crisis and do outreach events where we can invite the public to hear about the effects of the climate crisis and also hear solutions, (which there are plenty of, we just need to implement them),” Steve Jorissen, NEMCA’s president, says.

“I’ve been involved with climate for a long time. I retired early from my corporate job last March to focus on climate,” he says. “I’ve been working with this group and some other nonprofits as well on initiatives.”

Creating Awareness

One of those important initiatives is to create awareness of climate change. NEMCA hosts tables and booths at local events in White Bear Lake, Vadnais Heights, Shoreview and other northeast metro suburbs. Jorissen and Durdle were at White Bear Marketfest and Taste of Shoreview.

“At every event, we have some kind of action people can take, be it writing letters to a school district in support of teaching kids about climate change, to writing to legislators about various climate-related issues,” Durdle says.

Electric Cars, Tree Planting & GreenStep Cities

“On top of the awareness mission, we are trying to take direct action with our communities, local representatives, and with our schools to advance climate initiatives,” Jorissen says.

Last October, on a cold, crisp day, the group hosted a tree planting—and after fundraising, they hope to plant more trees this spring and summer.

Another initiative is to have cities in the northeast metro join GreenStep Cities plan. NEMCA is advocating city councils to become members.

The GreenStep Cities program is a statewide program run by the NPCAs that helps cities reach sustainability goals. Cities volunteer to join and get assistance and a program to follow that will help them reach sustainability and quality-of-life goals. GreenStep is a public-private partnership and completely free. It has 29 optional “best practices” suggestions for cities to choose from—each city’s elected officials can choose which to implement and how and when to implement them.

NEMCA has 14 members on its council and hundreds on its mailing list. They hope to eventually have more active members on its council, hoping for three to five from each city in the northeast metro. Those five would help with outreach to cities, school districts and more.

Durdle, because it’s her home city, focuses on White Bear Lake. In addition to door knocking to talk to residents about climate change, she also is in touch with White Bear Lake Area Schools.

“We contacted the White Bear Lake school district about all their new initiatives with the schools to be on the committees when they’re planning on how to make the schools more environmentally friendly,” she says.

The group also hosted an electric vehicle showcase. They invited local electric car owners to bring their cars for other local residents to see. It allowed the public to see an electric vehicle firsthand, and also was an opportunity to ask questions about what it is like to own one.

North Oaks resident, Kate Winsor, says educational opportunities like this help promote awareness to others and show them to make changes in their lives.

“I believe that climate crisis is the paramount topic of our time,” Winsor says. “I’m a former wildlife biologist and my inclination was to exert my energies on helping plants and animals. Then I took a step back and I thought, ‘Well what’s the purpose of doing that if there isn’t an environment for them to live in?’”

Northeast Metro Climate Action: NEMCA has educational events once a month that are open to the public. NEMCA serves the northeast metro, including White Bear Lake, Vadnais Heights, North Oaks, Shoreview, North Saint Paul and other communities.

GreenStep Cities

There may be some actionable solutions to climate change. Here are some handy tips from NEMCA’s website.

To Start  Next Steps  Think About
Purchase less. Recycle. Compost.
Meatless Mondays. Shop farmers’ markets. Buy local. Join community supported agriculture (CSA).
Shut off lights. Install LED light bulbs. Join community solar garden or buy residential solar panels.
Conserve water. Install rain barrel. Replace sod with drought tolerant perennials.
Mow your lawn less often. Plant a tree. Donate to a conservation group.
Recycle. Use chemical-free lawn service. Ride your bike or take public transit to work.
Open a dialogue with friends and family about the impacts of climate change. Call your local representative and ask them to support renewable energy policies. Vote for candidates who support the environment and renewable energy policies.



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