It’s time to do more than walk the talk. It’s time to tango! NRRI is taking its overarching mission of sustainability and integrating it into every nook and cranny of the institute. The effort started in July 2013 with the development of a new part-time position — Sustainability Coordinator — and hiring the enthusiastic Ryan Hueffmeier to staff it.
"We’re coordinating NRRI’s sustainability operations lockstep with what UMD is doing on campus," said Hueffmeier, who spends the bulk of his time as NRRI Junior Scientist for Great Lakes Worm Watch. "And because we’re a research organization, we’re looking at how we can incorporate savings and reduce our waste into every research project, from beginning to end."
A recent example revealed itself when 700 pounds of corn stover was left over after a research project. A little extra effort went into making sure it was composted. Those pounds were added to the tally of compost that NRRI is now generating internally — almost 20 pounds a week from two lunchrooms. And this is just the start as NRRI staff learn new habits, like planning for composting and recycling efficiencies at every lunch meeting and waste-generating event.
As I write this, it’s been 35 days since my return to Duluth and my arrival at NRRI, and while the days have been long and busy, I have been heartened by the welcome, commitment and assistance offered to me by the NRRI staff, UMD colleagues and the Duluth business leadership.
As the owner and sole proprietor of Life’s Little Joys Photography, Laura Lucy has a busy year ahead of her: she’s looking into office space for the business, taking on some employees and — wait for it — finishing her sophomore year of high school.
Minnesota may be capable of sustainably harvesting up to five million cords of wood per year (according to the Generic Environmental Impact Statement), but is currently only harvesting about two thirds of that amount. While that may not be good news for loggers, there is a silver lining.
In the summer of 2002, NRRI scientists teamed up with tribal researchers from the Fond Du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to see what they could learn about wild rice ("manomin" in Ojibwe) lake restoration. They started with Perch Lake in Carlton County, Minn., a 425 acre wild rice lake that was choked with pickerel weed and water lily.
NRRI identified plants, provided GIS data and did statistical analysis on the lake. A plan was made to remove the weeds with cutters and raise the water level, which had been lowered a century earlier to create more farmland.