Get to Know Our Partners



Big Lake (2017-Present)

The City of Big Lake became a GreenStep City in 2016.  The City of Big Lake is "committed to ensuring its citizens with a safe, healthy and pleasant community to live and work."


Why did you decide to partner with SCP?

We heard about the program from a colleague at the City of Elk River. She expressed that Elk River has been highly satisfied with the work that has been produced through the SCP program. Also, I am a St. Thomas alumni (class of 2009) and have been looking for a way to get more involved with the UST community. When I was in graduate school at the University of Minnesota, I participated in several projects that were partnerships with metro area cities, and these gave me really useful experience that helped me launch my career as a city planner. Programs like this are a win-win for both the student and the client.

How will your community benefit from this project?

Big Lake is a small city but we are anticipating a lot of growth in the coming years. We have a number of projects and studies, some big and some small, that we have an interest in completing but lack the staff capacity to pursue at this time. These student projects are great because students can dive into a topic and dedicate far more time to researching it than what City Staff would typically be able to manage. They will also be able to offer their own unique perspective as outside observers which can be really useful to a community looking for fresh ideas. Many of these student projects result in a tangible plan or product that can be immediately used which is great for the community and really satisfying for the students who get to see their ideas come to life and make a real impact.

Why is it beneficial to work with college students to learn more about sustainability?

Big Lake is not a large enough city for us to have anyone on staff who can devote themselves entirely to sustainability and environmental topics. It’s going to be really exciting for us to have a group of enthusiastic young people sharing new ideas about sustainability with our City’s staff and policymakers. This partnership has the potential to start a lot of really beneficial discussions about things that we could do differently to grow the city in a responsible manner and increase quality of life for our residents.

Delano (2016)

The City of Delano became a GreenStep city in 2001 and seeks to improve sustainability and quality of life in their community.


Why did you decide to partner with SCP?

For Delano, SCP is as an opportunity to examine important issues they do not have the capacity to investigate.  Delano is a small community and the city staff often wear many hats. While sustainability goals are important, these goals are sometimes trumped by the more urgent, day to day matters that the staff must also address. The SCP program provides an opportunity to get some outside minds and outside help to advance their sustainability and energy efficiency goals.

How will your community benefit from this project?

For Delano, the city's purpose is to serve the common good and the community. Any way in which Delano can serve their residents by providing services more efficiently is certainly worth the effort and this partnership can help advance that goal.

Why is it beneficial to work with college students to learn more about sustainability?

For Delano, college students, with their boundless energy, unique insight, and fresh ideas may provide a new push towards improving goals which are important to all parties.

Elk River (2016-2017)

The City of Elk River was named an “Energy City” by the Minnesota Environmental Initiative in 1997 and has been designated a Level 3 GreenStep city.


Why did you decide to partner with SCP?

Elk River has a longstanding interest in energy efficiency and renewable energy. In 2014, the Energy City Commission finished their 10 year energy action plan which outlines the city’s sustainability goals. Many of the projects Elk River submitted to SCP are a result of this action. It’s a win-win situation, as Elk River is able to get a jump start on some of these projects while the students are provided with real life applications for their studies.

How will your community benefit from this project?

For Elk River, the goals outlined in the Energy Action plan revolve largely around city operations, energy efficiency, and sustainability. Improving energy efficiency and working towards sustainability goals almost always lead to cost reductions over time for Elk River. The projects from this partnership will help further the progress of making these goals a reality.

Why is it beneficial to work with college students to learn more about sustainability?

For Elk River, the multi-disciplinary aspect of the program is compelling because in real life, sustainability efforts are not limited to one department. Elk River is also pleased to provide experience to students and contribute to the education process, and current students might be future employees and coworkers!

Freshwater Society (2016-present)

The Freshwater Society's Master Water Stewards program partners with cities and watershed districts across Minnesota to train community leaders to manage stormwater and improve water quality on a neighborhood scale.


Why did you decide to partner with SCP?

The Freshwater Society has worked with other universities in the past and has always enjoyed the experience, specifically the new and fresh ideas put forth by students. Such collaboration has allowed us to work on projects and outreach programs that we may not have the capacity to do ourselves.

How will your community benefit from this project?

Protecting water sources and getting people involved is essential to the well being of all people. Fresh water is the basis for everything and is used in all facets of our lives. Since everything in our lives has to do with water, anything you do with water contributes to a more positive and more equitable world.

Why is it beneficial to work with college students to learn more about sustainability?

We appreciate that SCP involves many disciplines, because there is not a major that does not overlap with sustainability. Furthermore, the current generation will deal with sustainability long after they graduate, so SCP is an excellent way to engage students in sustainability issues who might not have otherwise learned about these topics in their studies.

Metropolitan Council (2017-present)

The Metropolitan Council is the "regional policy-making body, planning agency, and provider of essential services for the Twin Cities metropolitan region. The Council's mission is to foster efficient and economic growth for a prosperous region."


Why did you decide to partner with SCP?

The Metropolitan Council decided to partner with SCP principally because the model SCP provides for partnerships allows agencies and communities to propose a diverse range of projects, at various scales and scopes. Oftentimes we may have projects that require peripheral research, or we may have difficulty allocating staff resource to particular project areas, and SCP allows for sufficient flexibility and collaboration to really move projects and research forward.

How will your community benefit from this project?

Our principle clients are the 188 metropolitan jurisdictions that we serve, so the benefits to the metropolitan communities are wide-ranging. Given the fact that the Metropolitan Council acts as a convener provides us with an opportunity to connect project communities to each other and also provide ample benchmarking opportunities between metropolitan communities. For instance, a successful project completed for one community’s benefit can serve multiple communities through sharing lessons learned and best practices across the region.

Why is it beneficial to work with college students to learn more about sustainability?

College students offer fresh insight into our growing understanding of and need for sustainable practices and planning for resilience. Moreover, college students are well positioned to communicate the needs of future generations to elected officials and other regional stakeholders. The Metropolitan Council is also interested in communicating the importance of regional planning given the environmental challenges that we face as a region. Through working with aspiring student leaders, we have the opportunity to shape the future skills needed to overcome the many challenges that lie ahead for the Twin Cities metropolitan region.

MWMO (2016-present)

The Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO) is a joint-powers local government unit that works to provide for the long-term management of water and land resources surrounding the Mississippi River with a mission “to lead, and to foster stewardship of the watershed with actions that promote civic ownership and responsibility.” 


Why did you decide to partner with SCP?

The MWMO has many projects we are interested in pursuing but do not always have the capacity to do so. Working with the SCP program benefits all partners involved—students have the opportunity to participate in solving current issues in the field and watershed and the MWMO has the opportunity to have more people working in the field!

How will your community benefit from this project?

For the MWMO, much of their work goes towards helping the community, whether that is restoring habitats, setting up outreach programs, or providing clean water. The SCP program will serve to further focus and promote the work that the MWMO has already begun.

Why is it beneficial to work with college students to learn more about sustainability?

The MWMO is excited to work with students to expand awareness our their mission and organization and to reach audiences who may not be familiar with our programs. In addition, we look forward to working with students in all majors, because each person and department will likely view an issue with a fresh perspective and come at an issue from a different angle.

PLACE (2017-present)

PLACE (Projects Linking Art, Community & Environment) is a non-profit organization that collaborates with cities to create affordable living and working for people of all income levels and backgrounds within sustainable, mixed-use, transit-oriented communities.  PLACE is currently working with St. Louis Park, Minnesota.


Why did you decide to partner with SCP?

We joined the Sustainable Communities Partnership after hearing from Dr. Maria Dahmus about the unique green opportunities it provides to students of varying academic backgrounds and interests. Our own Advisory Board member, Dr. Chris Vye, provided the introduction to Dr. Dahmus. PLACE is a kindred spirit in many regards since our developments require skills and experience from experts in many fields while still intensely focused on our sustainability goals.

How will your community benefit from this project?

PLACE communities are crafted and cultivated with regional input from local citizens and municipalities, and one size never fits all. In this particular development, we are partnering with the City of Saint Louis Park to create a mixed-use, mixed-income, transit-oriented development with 299 new rental dwellings that will provide renewable energy, access to food, jobs, and a creative hub for micro as well as established businesses—all on site—for our residents and the greater city. Each element has been or will be crafted through community input into a vision that meets their needs.

Why is it beneficial to work with college students to learn more about sustainability?

Empowering up-and-coming professionals with sustainability tools and experience is pivotal to our mission objectives as well as the future of our planet. While PLACE may be getting much needed work product from the SCP, we believe the students will gain fundamental skills to enter a world market that is and will be focused on sustainability, no matter the academic focus.

Tiny Footprint Coffee (2016-2017)

Tiny Footprint Coffee is a carbon-negative coffee distributor with a focus on systems-level sustainability.


Why did you decide to partner with SCP?

Here at Tiny we’re always looking for more ways to become involved in the sustainability of our community. We originally approached SCP to look for help reusing and recycling our coffee chaff-- a necessary byproduct of the coffee roasting process. SCP is a great opportunity for us to gain some fresh perspectives on improving our sustainability as a roaster as well as a chance to teach students how a business can run on a carbon negative model.

How will your community benefit from this project?

As a growing company, we’re always looking for new ideas and fresh perspectives at Tiny Footprint Coffee. Having dedicated students working with us helps increase our sustainability efforts as well as presents us with a wider reach in teaching our community about being carbon negative.

Why is it beneficial to work with college students to learn more about sustainability?

Sustainability is only becoming more important in our world, and working with college students allows us the chance to work with the next generation of business owners and consumers. Students are able to provide opinions and innovations for the current landscape in a unique and thoughtful way that isn’t always readily available elsewhere. We’re looking forward to hearing their ideas on collaborating on solutions!

St. Thomas Department of Biology's Greenhouses (2017-present)

Why did you decide to partner with SCP?

I am partnering with SCP because, as the Biology Department greenhouse manager, I have been able to work with the Grounds Department to select perennials and annuals to plant on campus each spring. That design process led to the creation, with Doreen Schroeder of the Biology Department, of the “Pollinator Path” – a guided tour of planted sites on campus that are good illustrations of what kind of flowers provide pollen and nectar for bees and other pollinators and, incidentally, which plants do not.  We have worked with University Relations to design and install informational signage along the Path and this summer we hope to have an App (Story Map) to enable users to navigate the fifteen sites and learn as much as they can about pollinators on campus and their flower preferences via their mobile phones.  Courses across disciplines can contribute to this story map and other initiatives associated with the pollinator path to enrich and add educational value to the pollinator path for St. Thomas and the broader community.

How will your community benefit from this project?

The Pollinator Path turns parts of campus into an open-air lab for observing pollinators in action.  Anyone can walk it, from campus visitors, students, neighbors, preschoolers at CDC, students on field trips, etc.  In partnership with the SCP, the Path can be used as a lab for students to learn about many aspects of pollinator demographics, behavior, health, and value in a sustainable landscape.  Faculty can design projects to incorporate into their courses for Fall or Summer semesters (no plants or pollinators in winter/spring semester!). 

Why is it beneficial to work with college students to learn more about sustainability?

The concept of sustainability provides a paradigm with which to view all aspects of our world – the economy, the environment, the workplace, our food supply, etc.  It provides a framework to evaluate any issue, whether energy consumption in dorm rooms or soil management strategies for farmers.  College students should learn how to view the world through the sustainability lens in order to be responsible citizens and to be working for the common good.


SCP had a successful inaugural Spring 2016 semester with our pilot partners, the City of Delano, the City of Elk River, and the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO). Thank you to our pilot partners!

The 2016-2017 academic year is well underway! We are pleased to continue our partnership with the City of Elk River and the MWMO and to welcome the Freshwater Society's Master Water Stewards program and Tiny Footprint Coffee as partners.  At the end of spring 2017, we will wrap up our partnership with the City of Elk River. We would like to thank Elk River for their exceptional partnership. Elk River has been integral to the successful creation and establishment of our program.

For the 2017-2018 academic year, we are pleased to welcome the City of Big Lake, the Metropolitan Council, and PLACE as partners and to continue our partnership with the MWMO and the Freshwater Society's projects with cities and watershed districts.  We are also excited to partner with the University of St. Thomas Department of Biology's Greenhouses on their pollinator paths on campus!

Interested in learning more about our partners?  Check out their perspectives on the partnership above and visit their websites.  Interested in learning more about SCP projects?  Read about our exciting Spring 2017 projects, watch project films, or learn more about past projects and outcomes.  Also, see the exciting array of available projects for the upcoming 2017-2018 academic year!



SCP Partnership Timeline