Sustainability

The sustainability coordinator report directly to the city manager. However, the coordinator works collaboratively across departments within the city to address various areas. This position was initially created in 2019 under an LCCMR grant. The position was extended to June 2025 with a second LCCMR grant. The grant provides a broad workplan for the coordinator to follow- currently the work plan has broad goals for decarbonizing city operations and extending our lessons to community partners. The sustainability coordinator also works with various community partners, local businesses, non-profits, and residents to think about sustainability in different scenarios. The coordinator also oversees any Greencorps service members and German interns that serve the city intermittently. 

Team Members

Griffin Peck

Sustainability Coordinator

Griffin Peck has been the sustainability coordinator since June 2022. They grew up in Apple Valley, MN and graduated from UMN Morris with a BA in Environmental Studies and Sustainability. 

Cameron Berthiaume

Minnesota Greencorps Service Member

Sustainability Initiatives at City of Morris

Sustainability Initiatives

Renewable Energy

The city of Morris has various renewable energy technologies that power the city. 150 kilowatts of solar are installed across 4 of our city buildings including city hall, community center, library, and liquor store. The New York Times wrote that “our beer is cooled by the sun!” The solar produces over 130,000 kilowatt hours for the city each year and saves around $13,000 between direct energy offsets and energy sales to the utility. 

Our library also heats and cools the building using a ground source geothermal heat pump. The system, which was installed in the mid-90s, pulls heat out of the ground in the winter time to heat the building. Conversely, in the summer time, the building pulls heat out of the building and ‘dumps’ it into the ground. 

The city continues to explore future renewable energy projects- including adding solar to all city buildings and exploring the applicability of air source heat pumps for electrified and efficient heating and cooling.

Library Overhead Solar

Community Resilience

Resilience can be defined as the capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficulties. Community resilience is focused on ensuring our city and community are able to withstand and recover quickly from increasing extreme weather events and natural disasters. As a rural community one of our largest vulnerabilities in this area is extended power outages during and after extreme weather.

In 2020, the city received a grant to partner with the campus on community resilience planning. First, 6 guest lecturers gave presentations to the community about how climate change will affect our daily lives in west central Minnesota. Then in 2022 a Workshop was held with over 30 local stakeholders using the Community Resilience Building framework with support from the Nature Conservancy and Second Nature.

Then throughout 2022-23 the coordinator worked with a UMN Morris undergrad to conduct outreach and education with the finished plan. They held 2 community focused events and invited speakers from the City, UMN Campus, and Stevens county to discuss what they learned from the resilience planning and lessons learned from a derecho in May 2022. 

Now the city is evaluating projects that can increase resilience across the community, as well as, hardening city operations against extended power outages. One such project would be to create a microgrid with battery storage between City Hall and the Community center. 

Electric Vehicles

The city is working on several projects related to electric vehicles. The city already owns and operates a Chevy Volt- a plug-in hybrid with 50 miles of electric range and a gas powered range extender. This means that all of our driving within our county is electric! There is a level 2 charger installed on city hall where we are able to charge the vehicle with the building’s rooftop solar. 

At Willies, our area grocer, we worked with them to install the city’s first public EV charger in 2018. Recently Ottertail Power added 2 DC fast chargers in Morris as a part of their regional charging network. These two chargers are capable of charging a vehicle from 20-80% in just 30 minutes- adding hundreds of miles of range per hour. The chargers are located in downtown Morris making it the perfect spot to stop and charge your EV. The Chevrolet dealership has also installed 2 of their own fast chargers as they rollout 3 new EV models. 

The city is also a member of the EV Smart Cities program which is helping us think strategically about vehicle electrification. This includes updating our codes and policies to include EV charging infrastructure, EV charging parking lot minimums, and increasing the use of EV’s within our own operations. 

The city was also chosen to pilot an Electric Cutaway Transit bus- one of two rural transit agencies in the state chosen to pilot the technology. We will receive the bus in 2025 and share data collected on driving, use, and ridership with Minnesota DOT. The bus and fast charger were funded through a grant from the federal government.

Banner Shuttle New 1 

Climate Smart Municipalities Partnership

The Climate Smart Municipalities partnership is coordinated through the UMN Institute on the Environment. The partnership connects municipalities in Minnesota with sister cities in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany. Morris is partnered with the city of Saerbeck. Saerbeck is a rural community of 7,000 with a unique locally owned renewable energy park (see below) that produces 450% of the annual consumption of the community. Renewables include 5.7 Megawatts of solar, 21+ Megawatts of wind, and a Biogas digester that produces 1 Megawatt of electrical energy and 1 Megawatt of thermal energy for a district heating system. They also have a robust composting program. 

In 2016, Morris and Saerbeck signed a climate protection agreement to work together on our shared sustainability aspirations. Many of the projects and initiatives that have been started in Morris since then pull direct inspiration from our friends in Saerbeck. 

We also host interns from FH Munster who work on various renewable energy and energy engineering projects with the city. In 2022 Michael Abbing completed an analysis of our newly built water treatment plant and in 2023 Felix Luecken completed a performance analysis of our city owned solar.

 

Bioenergiepark Saerbeck4 Scaled

Green Infrastructure

Green Infrastructure refer to the natural assets that the city and it’s residents rely on in various ways. The two main areas that the city works on within green infrastructure is urban canopy health and storm water management.

Although Morris is located on the edge of the prairie region in Minnesota, trees play an extremely important role within the city. Trees have a huge impact on energy use and energy costs. Blocking wind throughout the year and shading areas during the hot summer months, trees reduce residential energy use by 20% in the winter and 25% in the summer. Trees also reduce storm water runoff and increase water quality. Mature boulevard trees can cut residential runoff by more than 60%. Additionally, boulevard trees provide a physical barrier that protects asphalt and other paved surfaces- reducing deterioration by as much as 60%. With Emerald Ash Borer quickly closing in on Morris, it is more important than ever for us to ensure our urban canopy remains healthy and diverse. 

Storm water is the other main area of green infrastructure we focus on. As a tributary to the Minnesota river and eventually the Mississippi, it is essential we limit nutrient, chemical, and other sources of pollution to protect our local ecosystem- and those thousands of miles away. The city has several sedimentation ponds to reduce sediment loads in storm water runoff and educates residents throughout the year on smart salting and lawn care best practices. 

In 2023-24 the city was chosen to host a Minnesota Greencorps service member who will exclusively focus on Morris’ green infrastructure assets and vulnerabilities. They will conduct inventories of city management practices, conduct a residential behavior survey, coordinate education and outreach events, and lead tree plantings and invasive species removals. They will work closely with the sustainability coordinator, Morris tree board, and the public works director.