Regional Indicators Initiative

An Inventory of Energy, Potable Water, Travel, Waste, and Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Twenty Minnesota Cities from 2008 to 2011.

Regional Indicators Initiative

Visit the Regional Indicators Initiative

Star Tribune article here.

Regional Indicators Initiative Wins ACEC MN 2015 Grand Award! See full post and a full list of winners here.

Project Overview

The Regional Indicators Initiative measures annual performance metrics for approximately 30 Minnesota cities committed to increasing their overall efficiency and level of sustainability. The project collects the following data generated through the activities of the people who live, work, learn, travel, visit, and recreate within the city’s geographical boundaries:

    • Energy (in BTUs): electricity, natural gas, and district energy consumed.
    • Water (in gallons): potable water consumed.
    • Waste (in pounds): municipal solid waste managed via recycling, composting, combustion, and landfilling.
    • Travel (in Vehicle Miles Traveled): on-road distance traveled

The greenhouse gas emissions associated with each of these measures is also calculated, providing a common metric to compare the environmental impacts of the indicators. The indicators are expressed not only as annual totals, but are also broken down into residential and commercial/industrial uses, and are presented in terms of per capita and per job, enabling them to be compared over time. The Initiative supports planning for sustainability by defining a baseline, tracking a business-as-usual trajectory, establishing targets, and measuring outcomes of sustainable strategies at a city-wide scale.


Recording these performance metrics is essential to promoting efficiency and sustainable change. By producing annually comparable indicators for twenty Minnesota cities – including most of the state’s largest cities – the success of the state’s GreenSteps Cities Program and activities in other cities can be measured. Additionally, the Initiative will indicate progress toward meeting the State’s energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction goals, as defined by the Minnesota Next Generation Energy Act of 2007.

Along with providing state-wide benefits, the Initiative is valuable to participating cities. Taking inventory of the resources consumed at the community level will:

    • Highlight opportunities to save resources and money.
    • Provide a baseline for estimating the effectiveness of sustainability measures.
    • Enable comparison with future inventories and peer cities.
    • Inform subsequent analyses, plans, and policy decisions by the cities and others.
    • Improve the cities’ competitiveness for federal and state funding opportunities that are targeted to cities that have taken steps to measure and improve their energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprints.
    • Assist in promoting public understanding of the cities’ effects on climate change.



The Initiative is an outgrowth of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s GreenStep Cities Program. To achieve GreenStep recognition, a city must meet minimum requirements and choose from 28 best management practices (BMPs) designed to improve the city’s sustainability. While the program tracks which practices cities have adopted, it does not currently have a method of tracking how effective these strategies have been at “moving the needle” towards sustainability.

The desire to measure the impacts of sustainable practices led to a collaborative project, managed for the Urban Land Institute Minnesota by LHB, a multi-disciplinary engineering, architecture, and planning firm known for its focus on measurable performance. This team developed a pilot to determine what citywide data can be collected annually to effectively measure progress towards sustainability. Three cities – St. Louis Park, Falcon Heights, and Edina – funded the study and volunteered to release their performance data for the period of 2008-2010. The pilot study proved that these four indicators of city sustainability can be measured, gathered, and analyzed annually in a reasonable period of time and at a relatively low cost: energy, water, vehicle miles traveled, and waste. The Regional Indicators Initiative was developed to continue this study at a larger scale, opening up the possibility to compare data across a range of Minnesota cities.


Urban Land Institute MN
LHB Inc.; with J. Michael Orange Environmental Consulting
Minnesota Department of Commerce
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Participating Cities to Date

Central/Stand-Alone Cities:
Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, Duluth
Inner-ring Suburbs:
Richfield, Hopkins, St. Louis Park, St. Anthony, Edina, Falcon Heights, Maplewood
Outer-ring Suburbs:
White Bear Lake, Coon Rapids, Oakdale, Bloomington, Shoreview, Eagan, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Woodbury, Rosemount, Lake Elmo


Want to Join?

Interested in becoming a participating city? Fill out and email this form to Rick Carter at LHB.

Contact Rick Carter (612.752.6923) at LHB for more information about the Regional Indicators Initiative.