Archive for March, 2009

Green Job Roundup, 3/22 to 3/30

Green Jobs (image from

Green Jobs (image from

Looking for a green career? Here is a selection of green jobs posted in the last week for Saint Paul and Minneapolis.


Community Action Partnership
– Energy Conservation Specialist I ($16.21/hr, St. Paul) (posting)

– Energy Conservation Specialist II ($19.38/hr, St. Paul) (posting)

– Drupal Web Developer (unpaid, Inver Grove Heights) (posting)

– Summer Intern ($10/hr, Minneapolis) (posting)

Dakota Woodlands
– Fundraising and Communications Intern (unpaid, Metro Area) (posting)

Eureka Recycling
– Information Specialist ($10.50-11.50/hr, Minneapolis) (posting)

Looking for more jobs? Search last week’s post.


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Unique Thrift Store

You must go to the Unique Thrift Store in St. Paul’s North End. Soon.

Unique Thrift Store Haul, St. Paul, MN

Unique Thrift Store haul, St. Paul, MN

Unique Thrift Store
1657 Rice St. (Rice & Larpenteur)
St. Paul, MN
(its sister store in Columbia Heights was rated 2007 City Pages Best Thrift Store, but we all know how much to trust City Pages when it comes to rating businesses – so trust me instead!)

Let me start out with one caveat: there are no dressing rooms, and there are no returns allowed. This is no place to buy a pair of jeans. That said, it is a great place to buy pretty much anything else. Why?

You can get ten brand-name shirts for the price of one. It’s all in one place. You won’t see your neighbor in your shirt tomorrow. With a measuring tape, you can guess at what will fit and/or try it on over your clothes. It has a good selection for men, women, and kids (unlike TurnStyle, which carries a grand total of 5 men’s shirts). 

At Unique Thrift Store, style again becomes treasure hunting, not the art of spending money. Fashion experiments become possible. There are wetsuits. There are sweatsuits. There are unitards. Nobody will hassle you while you search. It’s mostly well organized, but occasionally you find XL and small shirts mingling on a rack like it’s high school prom. If your style trends towards the preppie, you will find Hollister and Abercrombie brands. If you like sequins, you will find beaded and sequined articles galore. Sundresses? Basketball jerseys? McCain/Palin shirts? Check, check, and check.

It’s a business model I can feel good supporting (for-profit, but buys from charitable orgs like ARC and isn’t funneling money to keep a sweatshop spinning… most importantly it keeps unwanted clothes out of the landfill). Did I mention it’s cheap?

I spent about two hours there yesterday and made off with the haul pictured above. I have clothes to wear to work and clothes to wear not at work. I have a raincoat. I have a laptop case. I spent under $70.

It’s mostly clean, and was very crowded on a Saturday. I did feel a bit grimy and overwhelmed when I left (I had to go wash a lot of black gunk from the hangers off my hands), but I’m still not feeling any buyer’s remorse.

Try Unique! I’m sure you’ll find something to take home – for $3.95 or less! For more opportunities for thrift store shopping, or other ideas for living greenly and cheaply, check out EcoCheapo Twin Cities.

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Green Job Roundup, 3/16 to 3/21

Green Jobs (image from

Green Jobs (image from

Looking for a green career? Here is a selection of green jobs posted in the last week for Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

* Don’t miss Mother Nature Network’s Green Jobs Primer.
* TIME thinks these opportunities are tough to find, but I’ll keep ’em coming as long as I find them.


Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
– Rural Communities Senior Associate (paid, Minneapolis) (posting)

Project for Pride in Living
– Community Garden Coordinator – Summer Intern (unpaid, Minneapolis) (posting)

Alliance Pipeline Ltd.
– Environmental Compliance Specialist (paid, Eden Prairie) (posting)

River Bend Nature Center
– Executive Director (paid, Faribault) (posting)

Great River Greening
– Seasonal Restoration Technician ($10-12/hr, St. Paul) (posting)

Minnesota Conservation Corps
– Field Assistant ($1975/month April – September, NE Minnesota Trails) (posting)

Looking for more jobs? Search last week’s post.

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Go Green, Make Green – The World Sees (again) That Environmentalism is Good for Business

We’re all familiar with the idea that resource efficiency is good for business.  A little over a week ago, Business Week published “10 Ways to Cut Business Costs” (with a nod to Jennifer Kaplan). My little miserly heart beats quickly seeing that #1 is “Reduce energy use” and pay less for utilities. Corollary to that, check your energy bill to be sure they added the right number of zeros.

Green jobs are good for the economy. Green jobs maven Van Jones  joined the Obama Administration Council on Environmental Quality this last week, no doubt to ensure that good, green collar jobs are a priority for the next few years.

Moreover, green companies survive better. Last month, management consulting firm A. T. Kearney found that green companies outperformed others by 15% (with a nod to Olga Orda’s post).

Not only are green companies more resilient, they’re more profitable. With the fading economy, Paul Smith (and others) sees the opportunity for ecopreneurs to make money by chasing consumer demand for green products and services.

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Energy Audit Tips

I want to share some tips for energy auditing after a week of training at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. This particular collection of tips is mine, but gleaned from expert presentations by great auditors who have done many more audits than I have.

Energy Auditor (from

Energy Auditor (from

Top Ten Tips for Energy Auditing

1. Come in to the energy audit saying, “I am here to make you more comfortable.” You will meet with resistance. Reassure your client. Discomfort is expensive, and it means that facilities managers get yelled at. Our predecessors in the energy efficiency field did a crappy job and proposed energy conservation measures that saved energy by making things dim and cold. Economically, it’s not worth utility bill savings if you make an employee less productive. 

2. Listen. Ask your client what problems they want you to look at. Ask them about their challenges and their ideas for improvements. Get information from any source you can. Don’t be hostile towards your client/facilities manager, but do report any lighting burnouts or maintenance problems like dirt or dust in your report. Never underestimate the role that human operators play in setting or re-setting equipment. Understand first, then make recommendations. (i.e. Make sure it makes sense to recommend a variable frequency drive before recommending it.)

3. Don’t promise anything unrealistic. Take the conservative estimate for any cost savings. Don’t bend numbers to convince a decision-maker to take action. Think about how much money your client has for upgrades (thousands? none?) and how many years of payback they are required to achieve (3 year payback or less? 5 year? 15 year?). You can use the line, “I want your savings to be more than this, but…” Think about making recommendations that simplify maintenance – there is no reason a building should have 15 different kinds of light bulbs.

4. Think about interactions. A lighting upgrade will impact the heat a little bit. Buildings operate and interact in sometimes mysterious ways. Keep in mind what the building was originally designed for. There may be weird holdovers from your building’s days as a 1970s hotel (i.e. “So that explains the package terminal air conditioners in every office!”).

5. Think about seasonal changes and daily operations. Normalizing for weather helps explain part of your heating and cooling story. Graph a year’s worth of utility bills to get a picture. Record a day’s energy use with a pulse monitor to see if something weird is happening (i.e. “Why is the air conditioning system being turned on at 4 a.m. when nobody arrives until 8?“). Keep custodial activities in mind (lights on all night?). Keep utility demand charges in mind (rates go up during peak hours or seasons) when proposing recommendations. 

6. Bring tools to help you measure now. Bring tools to help you remember later. Use a digital camera if you can. Take pictures of nameplates. Take pictures of equipment. This will help you remember the building when you are pulling together your report. Ask for a building schematic, or copy an evacuation plan map from the wall. Ask for a year’s worth of utility bills ahead of time. “Discriminators” tell you whether a ballast is electronic or magnetic. A “Watts Up” tool tells you how many Watts/hour a plug is drawing. You can order tools from the Davis catalogue. A mirror helps save your neck when you are performing a lighting audit. Bring a cell phone in case you get locked in somewhere. Tally counters are available at Target or Staples.

7. If you notice an OSHA or hazardous waste or fire code violation, you are liable and are legally obligated to report it. Familiarize yourself with these basic codes.

8. Energy efficient upgrades will increase the real estate value. Buildings sell better when they cost less to light, heat and cool.

9. Write your report for the building owner, who surely lives in California and will spend a grand total of 5 minutes reading your recommendations (if that). Use executive summaries, initial costs, and dollar savings. Include everything. If the lighting is already efficient, write that the lighting is already efficient and you have no recommendations at this time. Address building envelope, lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, and equipment/plug load/process equipment.

10. Benchmark against other buildings. Use 2005 ASHRAE Handbook Ch. 35 to compare energy intensity (kBTU/square foot/year) or Energy Star. Measure or estimate square footage to get this benchmark.

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Green Job Roundup, 3/8 to 3/15


Green Jobs (image from

Green Jobs (image from

Looking for a green career? Here is a selection of green jobs posted in the last week for Saint Paul and Minneapolis.



Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
– Urban Agriculture Intern, Local Foods Program (unpaid, Minneapolis) (posting)

Community Design Center of Minnesota
– Summer Garden Corps Supervisor ($10/hr, St. Paul) (posting)

Minnesota Conservation Corps
– Recruitment/Administrative Associate ($14/hr, Maplewood) (posting)

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
– Principal Informational Representative/Visitor Services and Reservations Manager ($40,000/yr, Chaska) (posting)

International Wolf Center
– Development Director (paid, Minneapolis) (posting)

State Department of Natural Resources
– Environmental Assessment Biologist ($40,000+, St. Paul) (posting)

City of Blaine
– Planning and Landscape Intern ($12/hr, Blaine) (posting)

Looking for more jobs? Search last week’s post.

This article is fantastic: The art of green networking: 15 tips from a reluctant schmoozer.

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Madison, Energy Audits, and Solar Lighting from Ikea!

Greetings from Madison!

We are staying and training in the same building on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, and I can see the state capitol building outside my window. This means several delightful things, not least of which is that I don’t have to go outside if I don’t want to. Moreover, if I do, there are exciting things very nearby – including Soap Opera, a purveyor of fine organic soaps, a fair trade coffee shop, and an American Apparel. Oh yippie chic, how I subscribe to your socially conscious yet socially climbing aesthetic…!

We learned about general energy audit theory yesterday (ASHRAE Level I, Level II, and Level III audits) and started off analyzing our conference center building (an old dorm built in 1959). Out of the 25 people in the class, we have a New Yorker, an Alaskan, a Missourian, a Texan, a Nevadan, and an Illinoisan – it’s exciting to be around people in the energy efficiency field nationwide. There are a couple buildings people (real estate audit coordinator, architect), a couple of utility people, an Air Force base, and some non-profits. Last night, one of my group members and I spent time entering and graphing utility bill data for the conference center. Today, our class gets a half hour to interview the building manager and then study lighting.

Speaking of lighting, I just read the exciting news that Ikea will begin offering SOLIG solar lighting in stores! I want some! (from Engadget via Caleb) Affordable solar. This is democracy in action, folks – difficult to offer politically, easy to achieve ikeaically.

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