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Thursday, April 21, 2016

From saving trees to carbon reduction, Dakota County has many results to celebrate on Earth Day

From more than 82,624 sheets of paper saved to significant reduced carbon output, Dakota County has much to celebrate this Earth Day.  Following is a look at a variety of sustainability efforts and results in Dakota County:
 
Paper reduction results
Dakota County is the first County in the State of Minnesota to adopt using 100 percent recycled paper as its standard printer paper for all internal operations. According to the Environmental Paper Network, in one year the decreased environmental impact to manufacturer the higher-recycled content paper will result in about 130 tons less wood needed to make the paper — the equivalent of 850 fewer trees used and 400,000 gallons of water saved.
 
A new badge-triggered copier-use system has also led to a substantial paper reduction.  Here's how it works:
 
When staff members print documents from their desk and do not swipe their badge to release the prints, the printing job doesn't occur and is canceled. Also, when a document is printed in error or by accident, a user can cancel without a single sheet being wasted.
 
Since this system began in September 2015 through April 15, 2016, the County saw 17,698 jobs cancelled before being printed. That's 82,624 sheets of paper saved.
 
Energy efficient construction results
Dakota County was a pioneer in constructing green buildings. For example, Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Eagan, has a vegetative roof, rain gardens, recycling bins and large windows to allow daylight in the common areas of the Visitor Center. It was the first building in Minnesota to be certified Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) from the U.S. Green Building Council in Washington, D.C.
 
Scharr's Bluff Gathering Center in Spring Lake Park Reserve features an innovative roof system where rainwater gets captured and redeployed for use as toilet water and supporting animal habitat. The building uses powered window shades to block the summer sun and permit solar heat in the winter.
 
All County buildings have energy efficient lighting, walls, windows and roofs. Many buildings have seen heating and cooling equipment upgrades that bring them energy savings. One 50,000 square-foot storage facility uses the earth for heating and cooling through use of a geothermal system.
 
While square footage increased 9 percent from 2006 to 2014 and energy costs bumped up 7.8 percent, Dakota County actually decreased energy use. The County's facility-related carbon production dropped 13 percent while energy use per square foot plummeted 14 percent.
 
"Achieving energy savings is attributable to high performance buildings as well as the human intervention of better operational procedures, maintenance practices and other improvements," said Steve Mielke, Physical Development Director.
 
Fleet efficiency results
Dakota County switched to lighter trucks to save gas and offer employees more appropriately sized vehicles to accomplish key business tasks.  Over the past decade, Dakota County eliminated 120 vehicles and "right-sized" another 61 to improve efficiency. Managers can also monitor vehicle mechanical systems and employee driving habits, allowing improved vehicle operation, engine troubleshooting and route analysis. 
 
Over the past nine years fleet has improved gas mileage by 25 percent. County workers drove 7 percent fewer miles due to onboard GPS-based telematics systems that provide real time information on vehicle performance, use and location.

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