"We're having trouble fitting everything," was the first thing Mark told me as I approached the car in the snowstorm. After some creative repacking, however, we left Carleton and hit the radio as we turned onto highway 19 at 8:30.
Our trip was short-lived, however, as steering problems with the car forced us to limp back to Northfield through the snow and slush. In the end, we traded cars and arrived at our first stop, the Phillips Eco-Enterprise Center (PEEC) in Minneapolis at around 1 p.m.
The difference in design was immediate: We parked our car in a lot lacking the usual concrete barriers and sterile islands of grass and trees. The delay with the car caused us to miss our tour with the people at the Green Institute, who planned the building. But the building is self-documented, and we read about the design goals for the project (all natural lighting, less than 50 percent typical energy usage) and saw some of the art and photography. We let ourselves out onto the rooftop garden, where we could see Minneapolis light rail running past row after row of solar paneling.Although we missed our tour of the building , we were able eto spend some time talking to Andy from Peace Coffee, which is located in the light-industrial section of the PEEC. We chatted over coffee, and what he had to say was exciting. Peace Coffee started ten years ago as a for-profit project run by a Twin Cities nonprofit, and has now grown to 12 employees. Everything impressed me with its practicality and commitment to sustainability. All their deliveries are made by bike or biodiesel van; their coffee chaff and bags are reused by local gardeners; all their beans are bought through fair-trade certified farmer co-ops.
With the improved state of the roads, we decided we could make it to team member Mark Luterra's house in Renville, Minnesota. Mark's house lies on one side of the Minnesota River Valley, the only change in elevation I had seen that day. Ed Stone, Mark's father, gave us a walking tour of his garden and the woods behind his house. We traced a few opossum, fox, and rabbit tracks, and stopped for a beautiful sunset. Just as the last rays of sun cleared the valley wall, a great horned owl took off from the tree above us and flew right through the sun, catching the tail end of the light.