Bikers in Minneapolis get ready for a bike ride with Mayor Rybak. (Photo: Bobby Bascomb)
Free bikes, neighborhood cleanups, and renewable energy were all part of the green agenda for the Republican National Convention. As Living on Earth's Bobby Bascomb reports, the city of St. Paul may see some long-term benefits, too.
The twin cities Minneapolis and St. Paul played host to the Republican National Convention. In addition to some 900 lakes, the cities are renowned for their uncommon friendliness known as “Minnesota Nice.” But Living on Earth's Bobby Bascomb reports that they'd also like to be known for their “Minnesota Green.”
BASCOMB: It's before dawn on the Minneapolis side of the Mississippi. Pillsbury and Gold Medal Flour still have mills on either side of the river here. They turn off their electric signs as the sunrise turns the sky pink and purple. Mayor R.T. Rybak, who was voted fittest mayor in America two years ago, meets with a group of 50 bikers for a 5K bike ride down the Mighty Mississippi.
WOMAN: Good morning, welcome everybody. Mayor Rybak is going to take you on a ride at 6:40.
Mayor R.T. Rybak gets ready to lead a bike ride along the Mississippi River. (Photo: Bobby Bascomb)
RYBAK: I have a breakfast I have to go to at 7:30 so I'm going to actually go fast.
RYBAK: Are you guys ready? Bikers ready!
[AIR HORN BLOWS AND CROWD LAUGHS]
RYBAK: Let's go!
[CROWD LAUGHS, SOUND OF BELLS AND BIKES GOING BY]
BASCOMB: Mayor Rybak rides one of the 1,000 “free wheelin” bikes brought into the city this spring in preparation for the convention. Visitors and locals sign up for the program with a credit card but are only charged if they don't return the bike at the end of the day.
RYBAK: We have a hundred miles of bike trails in the city and putting more bikes on through the bike share will I believe create a more bike friendly city.
BASCOMB: The Minneapolis convention center, where delegates met and mingled during the day, is 10 miles from the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul where they reconvened each evening for the serious business of democracy. The trip is not exactly bikeable for most delegates in their suits or high heels. Joanna Burgos is press secretary for the Republican National Convention.
BURGOS: We do have shuttles that will shuttle people from their hotels to the Xcel Energy Center. We do have a number of cars as well but every car that we do have is hybrid or flex fuel.
BASCOMB: And the DNC is encouraging people to reduce their carbon footprint. Have you talked with any about the process of getting here and their travel to get here?
BURGOS: We have a number of realistic environmental initiatives that our delegates and our visitors will see once they enter Xcel.
BASCOMB: Some of those realistic plans included 300 recycling containers at the convention. But when it came to actually using them some people didn’t quite seem to know how they worked. I asked a staff member how to recycle a plastic plate.
BASCOMB: Where can I recycle this?
MAN: I don't know, I don't even know if, oh there they are. But that's plastic bottles, paper, and aluminum.
BASCOMB: So, what's this one?
MAN: Garbage, I think. I have no idea.
BASCOMB: The RNC focused a lot of attention on greening their day-to-day operations. They used recycled office furniture and carpeting, as well as wind and solar power. Again, Joanna Burgos.
BURGOS: We’re using a lot of biodegradable materials. Our banners are biodegradable. We’re trying to use digital whenever we can instead of paper. From the beginning everything we’ve looked at it’s been, how can we make this more green?
BASCOMB: In the trendy neighborhood of Uptown Minneapolis a group of volunteers led by Maude Lovelle hit the streets to spruce up the place by picking up trash.
LOVELLE: We kind of have this huge effort today that involves business owners, there’s one of them right there painting a sign, he owns a local artist gallery.
BASCOMB: But cleaning up the neighborhood isn’t just about putting on a nice face for the Republican delegates. Lovelle says it’s just good for business.
Maude Lovelle with volunteers in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. (Photo: Bobby Bascomb)
LOVELLE: You know a longterm customer or a new visitor is not going to come to a business that looks disheveled. The perception of litter is unkempt and unsafe. There’s just no ifs ands or buts about that.
[TRAFFIC THEN SWEEPING SOUNDS]
BASCOMB: Bill Frothinger is out with his wife and two daughters sweeping up trash near a bus stop.
FROTHINGER: Finding a lot of cigarette butts. Typical debris -- wrappers, candy wrappers, pop cans. So, we’re just getting that stuff off the street making things look better, to keep things clean, yeah! It’s looking good. And it’s a beautiful day too, so we like it.
BASCOMB: So with local efforts and the good environmental choices made by the RNC, Minnesota nice might also claim the title Minnesota green.
For Living on Earth, I'm Bobby Bascomb in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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