MN350 Is Going to D.C.!


On President’s Day weekend, MN350 will join thousands of others in Washington, D.C. to ask President Obama to honor his commitment to the environment by rejecting the Keystone LX pipeline once and for all. Keystone XL, proposed in 2008, is an extension of the Keystone Pipeline, which transports synthetic crude oil and “dilbit” (diluted bitumen, or asphalt thinned enough to fit through a pipe) to from Alberta, Canada, to various places in the United States. Continue reading

Thank You Grand Aspirations

This is Carey, a Program Manager of the Unity MNIC program for YEA Corps. I’ve been writing blogs for the past few months with updates of an aquaponics project that YEA launched at a high school in North Minneapolis. I was initially pulled to YEA for it’s focus in sustainable and entrepreneurial education. Through my work with YEA I’ve been immersed in the challenging and exciting ventures of teaching students about agriculture, the environment, aquaponics, and other related subjects. It’s been exciting to observe the positive trends in emerging environmental education programs in Minneapolis and around the country.

All that I’ve learned has given me a great amount of hope in shifting education systems and providing the next generations with the knowledge and tools to face oncoming environmental challenges. I was lucky enough to become a part of YEA Corps through a Grand Aspirations grant for Sustainable Community Organizers, and I’ve been very appreciative of the chance to work with these organizations and on the Unity aquaponics project.


(Above is a picture of YEA staff running an interactive ‘Systems’ activity with Unity students.)

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Constructing Unity Gardens

Hey ya’ll, this is Carey here, a Program Manager of the YEA Corps initiatives at Unity MNIC. I’ve been providing updates each week on the progress of the Unity Gardens program that launched back in September. Below are updates from the past two weeks on the Unity Gardens, soon to be blooming and bursting with life!

The YEA team at Unity works to manage and direct the students towards our project goals, and these students never fail to bring energy needed to accomplish them. We have spent the last two work sessions at the school directing the energy of the students towards painting projects, construction of biofilters, project planning, and engaging worksheets. On December 5th our team, Zach, Saeed, Mike, and myself came to Unity with painting supplies, constructions tools, and materials for the aquaponics systems. We also brought in the first garden bed for the systems. Greg, a student, helped the team to bring the garden bed from the parking lot up to the classroom, which is not as easy as it sounds. The bed is four by eight feet, and however large, fits very well in the project room.


Unity Student, Mike, and Saeed from YEA are constructing a biofilter.

Rere, another student, is in the marketing group that focuses on managing media, product design, branding, and other aspects of the project. Last week, Rere was talking about how she was ready to plant and grow vegetables. When the garden bed was brought into the school she asked if we would be planting seeds that day. Students will be planting seeds very soon, but not till after the Holidays. The students are engaging in different aspects of the project but they will all take part in the process of producing fish and plants through the Spring. This project is great in many ways, and one positive aspect is giving the students opportunities to work on a wide variety of subjects. Students like Rere, focus on planning and marketing of the project, and also participate in the more hands-on learning activities. Continue reading

Do the Math: Author Bill McKibben Visits Minneapolis


The turnout was astounding: 1296 in attendance (fire code limit: 1306).

This post is by sustainable community organizer Patricia Lamas. You can read her last post here.

This past Friday night, environmentalist, author, and founder of Bill McKibben came to Minneapolis as part of his Do the Math tour through twenty-one cities across the country. His message? A call to action in response to his July 2012 article in Rolling Stones Magazine, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.”  

In his article, McKibben pieces together a stark picture of our present reality. To summarize, the fossil fuel industry has in its total known reserves five times the amount of coal, oil and gas we would need to burn in order to cause a global climate catastrophe. The numbers are fairly simple. Though not much else was decided at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, it was agreed that a 2ºC rise in global temperatures is the absolute highest that we can “safely” allow (see a breakdown of scenarios here). We have already raised the global temperature by 1°C. To raise it one more degree, we would need to emit 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Sounds like a lot, but we already have 2,795 gigatons at our taking. So much for peak oil, right? Continue reading

Unifying Aquaponics at Unity

This post is by sustainable community organizer Carey deVictoria-Michel. You can read her previous posts here and here.

I started my positions with YEA in September when I helped launch one of our programs at Unity Minnesota Internship Center (MNIC) in lively North Minneapolis. Yea Corps’ mission is to provide hands-on sustainable education to youth empowering them for life, education, and employment. This is what YEA has been gradually implementing at Unity MNIC students during this school year into the Spring.

The YEA Unity field trip to an aquaponics business in Minneapolis.

YEA program managers, including myself, arrive at Unity MNIC most every Wednesday. Usually we get to the school, greet our regular students at the entrance when they are hanging out and taking one of their breaks. Our program is based out of the top level of the school in the upper-class classrooms in a shared two room space. Students work in this space with teachers, scattered at different tables and working on various assignments, or taking one the required standardized tests. Students at Unity come from diverse backgrounds, and have the opportunity of alternative education at MNIC, where they are given flexible classes and assistance in getting their diplomas. Continue reading

Alternative economies in the Twin Cities

This post is by sustainable community organizer Patricia Lamas. You can read her first post here.

With the MN350 Barter-to-Cash Network project well underway, we’re now beginning to reach out to the community in search of talent, time, and underused belongings here in the Twin Cities. We have set November 30th as the official launch date for the online platform, just in time to give it a publicity jumpstart when Bill McKibben comes to town for his “Do the Math” Tour on the same day. (He’s touring the whole country! Do you have your ticket yet?) Continue reading

North Minneapolis Youth Visit the Urban Farm Project

Chad (L) sharing his knowledge with the students (R).

This is Carey with some updates from the YEA Corps program at Unity high school in Minneapolis where YEA is teaching sustainability and entrepreneurial education. YEA Corps is a month into our school programs, and recently we took students on a field trip. We got to the Unity campus last Wednesday prepped and ready to bring students to the Urban Farm Project. The first thing I heard once we got to the school was a couple students making jokes about churning butter and petting the cows at the ‘farm’. This was pretty funny, because there would be no cows, no farm animals, and no butter churning on this farm visit (although that would be fun). The Urban Farm Project is not your classical farm on the countryside. The Urban Farm Project is a for-profit operation in South Minneapolis that produces perch and a plethora of fresh vegetables, and they grow all of this through aquaponics systems in a large converted warehouse space. Continue reading

Barter to Cash with MN350

This is the fourth post in a series of introductions by Sustainable Community Organizers working in the Midwest. This post is by Patricia Lamas from the Twin Cities Summer of Solutions program.

ImageHello! My name is Patricia Lamas, and I began working with MN350 this September on a project called the “Barter to Cash Network.” We’re developing a new system for creative resource generation and community engagement, and we aim to spread it as a model for nonprofits and to our partners in climate movement. How will it work? Instead of sustaining our organization on direct monetary donations, we are inviting people to offer their diverse skills and resources – truly anything on hand. Maybe Susan has a surplus of cinder blocks, or a knack for home repair. Jim might take his dog to the park every morning, and wouldn’t mind picking up another playmate on the way. Whether or not MN350 can use these contributions, someone else in the community can! The idea is a system similar to, only the proceeds go to funding the work of the organization. This way, donations can be infinitely creative, and just as fun – all while creating new connections among members of the local community. Continue reading

Reflections on Leading a Summer of Solutions Program- 2 Years Later

I can literally say that being a program leader with the Twin Cities Summer of Solutions in 2011 was more educational than college. Planning and leading a program gave me a unique opportunity to pick up skills that many people do not gain until much later in life on a more traditional career path. I loved the work of developing the program, even the less exciting bits like creating a budget, writing grants, hiring program leaders, and allocating funding to participant applications, because I knew how much I was learning through every step of the process.

It was also so rewarding to be working in an environment where I was my own boss at age 20. I collaborated with an incredible team of co-leaders and we had a really strong system of holding each other accountable to our commitments, just based on the understanding that our program would suffer if we didn’t all step up. Even though most of my work planning the program was done remotely, I honestly looked forward to our conference calls a surprising amount, just based on how much I liked working with my team.

As carefully as we planned the summer, once the program started, it was a little like diving off the deep end, with the varied responsibilities of running a bunch of different projects and planning ongoing training sessions. Fortunately, this forced me to really learn how to swim. I learned how to plan trainings in a couple hours, where it would have taken me days just a few months before. I learned how to problem solve about anything that could and world arise, from interpersonal issues with participants to unresponsive residents we contacted in our energy efficiency campaign.

I think my experience planning and leading a SoS program was a big asset in helping me get my current job coordinating a program called Green Jobs Green New York at the Pratt Center for Community Development in Brooklyn, NY. Green Jobs Green New York has a remarkable similar mission to the work I was doing through the Twin Cities Summer of Solutions program, in terms of building sustainable and economically just communities from the bottom up through energy efficiency and job creation. Being a program leader with SoS gave me a really strong base to continue my work both in and outside of Grand Aspirations to create an economy in harmony with nature that allows all people to thrive.

If you’re interested in planning and leading a Summer of Solutions program, check out the application at The deadline to apply is coming up on October 19. As you might be able to tell, I can’t recommend it highly enough. 

YEA Corps Launch Day

My name is Carey deVictoria-Michel. This summer, I was a participant in the Twin Cities Summer of Solutions and during this time my eyes were opened to all the amazing things that are happening in this city.  Through funding available to Summer of Solutions participants, I was able to create a position for myself at YEA Corps, a Minneapolis based non-profit that leads educational programs focused on entrepreneurship and sustainability. This is the first blog post in a series by the five Summer of Solutions alumni who will be building their own careers with support from Grand Aspirations in the coming year.

Me (r) talking to a student at the YEA Corps launch day at Unity Charter School.

My job with YEA Corps this year will be to mange a project at the YEA Corps program at the Minnesota Internship Center at the Unity Campus. Unity is a charter school located in North Minneapolis working with students who come from diverse backgrounds, in a neighborhood considered to be a food desert. YEA Corps and Minnesota Internship Center received a grant from Hennepin County to start an experiential learning program for environmental education in North Minneapolis. By the end of the year these kids will have built their own aquaponics systems, created their own business and marketing plan to sell fresh produce and fish, and have learned about sustainability and food systems. We had our big launch day with the students this past week. Continue reading