What's happening at Eco Experience 2022?
August 8, 2022
Eco Experience is the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s premier outreach opportunity, filled with hands-on activities, demonstrations and resources, during the 12 days of the Minnesota State Fair. Learn from experts about what you can do to help improve our air, land, water, and climate.
The MPCA’s “Green Garage” will display environmentally friendly choices for items kept in the garage, focusing on battery and solar power to reduce harmful air emissions. This includes:
• Battery-powered equipment-- mower, snow blower, string trimmer, chain saw, leaf blower, etc. will include messaging about lower emissions, less noise and maintenance, and ease of use.
• Bike display in the garage with messaging about benefits of biking and making cycling convenient, and E-bike FAQs.
• Proper battery disposal information for the battery-powered equipment and general information about household hazardous waste disposal.
• Human powered yard tools—rake, shovel, manual mower.
• Creating an accessible outdoor play area for children.
• 2 electric vehicles will be on display—a Tesla Model Y and an F150 Lightning.
• EV Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 charging comparisons and information.
• A Purple Air sensor will be mounted on the roof and connected to a computer monitor below that will display live air quality data.
• Vehicle emissions control equipment tampering information.
• Gas fire pit with messaging about the benefits of burning gas vs. wood.
• Live air quality forecasting with MPCA staff meteorologists, and information about AQ forecasting and wildfires.
Are Minnesota moose really this big?
OK, we might have exaggerated its size a bit. But there’s no better way to show that paper products — like the cardboard used for this moose, named “Cory Gated” — make up the largest portion of what Minnesotans recycle. We already used lots of cardboard before the pandemic pushed product deliveries fueled by online shopping into overdrive. In 2020, we sent 760 million pounds of cardboard to recycling facilities. That’s enough to build 1.5 million of these giant moose!
Recycled cardboard boxes are made into more cardboard, cereal boxes, and other packaging. We do this right here in Minnesota! Manufacturing facilities in Becker and St. Paul employ more than 800 people. This is good for our economy and the environment.
Charge for delivery
Cardboard may be recyclable, but gasoline isn’t — and delivery trucks burn through a lot of it.
Converting delivery fleets from gas to electric engines would keep our air cleaner and slow the effects of climate change. Through funding from the Volkswagen Settlement, the MPCA is helping to replace many types of medium- and heavy-duty diesel vehicles with electric-powered alternatives. We hope to see delivery vehicles join their ranks before long!
We’re going to need a bigger bin
Give yourself a pat on the back! Minnesotans do a better job of recycling than most states. In 2020, 44% of our waste was recycled, compared to a 32% national average.
But we can always do better. We still threw away 242 million pounds of cardboard that year. That’s $12.6 million in lost material that could have been used to make new products.
Keep recycling! It takes less energy to make products from recyclables than new material. Our environment will thank you.
Made in Minnesota from Recycled Material
Check out our large see-through cubes filled with material that Minnesotans most commonly recycle. On top of this will be the raw material they are turned into before being sold to manufacturers, and around these cubes we will feature the Minnesota companies and the products they make from this raw material.
Composting/Organics Collection/Backyard compost
This popular area, will have examples of homemade compost bins. Download brochures via QR codes to help you develop you own composting plans at home.
A tall cube of shredded e-waste showcases the valuable materials that are in e-waste and the importance of recycling. Electronics are made using precious and not-so-precious metals. This exhibit will highlight what metals are valuable and why recycling is important. You can dispose of your used cell phones and other devices in our Tech Dump box and they’ll be recycled or donated.
Reuse and Repair in Our Communities
New this year, learn about a variety of reuse, repair, and rental organizations and businesses at this community booth. When we talk about reuse and how it contributes to more sustainable living we tend to focus on reusable bags, mugs/cups, straws, packaging, and food ware. These can be great switches, but it is essential we prioritize reuse, rental, and repair opportunities with other products we use and interact with every day, such as:
• Buildings & building materials
• Furnishings, home goods, clothing and textiles
Reuse in Minnesota
Reuse has a positive impact on Minnesota’s environment, economy, and society (data from ReUSE Minnesota’s recent report, “REUSE – Environmental, Economic, & Social Impacts of Reuse in Minnesota”).
• Environmental Impacts
o Avoidance of over 2.7 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions per year, including greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons.
o Reduction of over 67 billion gallons in withdrawals of freshwater each year from ground or surface water sources.
• Economic Impacts
o Statewide, the reuse economy generates about $5.8 billion each year – $1,035 per capita per year.
o The 10,631 reuse businesses make up 7% of all statewide businesses.
o The reuse sector accounts for over 55,000 jobs in Minnesota, about 1 percent of overall employment in the state.
• Social Impacts
o Reuse businesses build a community of like-minded individuals.
Land of the Loon: protecting Minnesota’s iconic state bird
Virginia, Minnesota’s 20-foot, floating loon has been a roadside attraction for 40 years. It is the world’s largest floating loon, and it is making a special visit to the Eco Experience this year!
The loon is part spectacle (it’s huge!) and part serious-talk about threats to the common loon. Minnesotans love loons, and yet there is no guarantee of their continued presence in our state. To survive, loons need us to use lead-free tackle, keep lakes clean and shorelines natural, and to take action to reduce climate change. Come see this historic Minnesota icon and get a free sample of lead-free tackle and a loon temporary tattoo!
Measure water clarity
Visitor to this exhibit will measure water clarity using a Secchi disk. Volunteers in our Volunteer Water Monitoring program use this tool to collect data. Tracking water clarity is like monitoring your blood pressure - it can serve as a basic indicator of lake health. In general, low clarity reflects excess material, like algae, in the water. Also sign up for an email about our volunteer program for a chance to win a kayak, life jacket and Secchi disk.
Life in healthy and unhealthy streams
The fish and insects living in streams are one way we can tell if a stream is healthy or unhealthy. Check out this exhibit to learn what makes a stream healthy and resilient. Healthy streams have diverse aquatic invertebrate communities. Unhealthy streams have less diverse invertebrates and fewer sensitive species.
The road salt dilemma
When snow and ice melts, the salt we spread on icy roads, parking lots, and sidewalks flows with it into storm drains and our lakes, streams, wetlands, and groundwater. An estimated 365,000 tons of road salt is applied in just the Twin Cities metro area each year. A study by the University of Minnesota found that about 78% of salt applied in the Twin Cities for winter maintenance is either transported to groundwater or remains in the local lakes and wetlands. In the Twin Cities and other communities across Minnesota, local partners are addressing this problem by using sand and other strategies to keep winter roads safe while using less salt as a deicer.
Community science program of the day
Data collected by volunteers can help professional scientists answer research questions about wild plant and animal populations, as well as environmental conditions such as water clarity or temperature. By joining a volunteer data collection program, you can start making a difference for clean water and climate right away. This citizen science community table will feature different volunteer programs throughout the Fair, including:
• August 25: Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Volunteer Water Monitoring Program
• August 26: Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota
• August 27: University of Minnesota - Bee Lab
• August 28: Minnesota DNR – Minnesota Loon Restoration Program
• August 29: Minnesota DNR – Minnesota Loon Restoration Program
• August 30: Minnesota Dragonfly Society
• August 31: Starry Skies North
• September 1: University of Minnesota Extension
• September 2: Izaak Walton League of America – Salt Watch
• September 3: River Watch
• September 4: Wetland Health Evaluation Program
• September 5: Wetland Health Evaluation Program
There is so much we can do at the state level to slow climate change, adapt to our new climate, and improve Minnesota communities. We’ve got a new set of exhibits, called the Climate Wall of Action, that highlight the climate and what we might do about it--all in the fun, up-beat style you expect from Eco Experience.
We are also featuring a climate program or organization each day. Check out what they are up to and find out how you can get involved. We will share the daily schedule of featured organizations as it develops throughout the summer.
MN EV owners
This area is staffed by MN EV Owners who can share their experiences on owning, driving and charging EVs in Minnesota. Stop by to check out the leading-edge automotive technology and ask more from EV owners. In addition to the cars, MPCA together with Great River Energy have a charging station setup on display at their electric garage. For general info about EVs in Minnesota visit http://www.MNEVBuyer.com.
E-bikes! – climate-friendly transportation
Have you been hearing about E-bikes and wondered if they’re a good transportation option for you? Learn all about them from E-bike owners and check out a variety of options by the Eco Experience Green Garage. One lucky fairgoer will win an E-bike, courtesy of Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union. The E-bike display partners include: Pedego, Have Fun Biking, E-bike Challenge Minneapolis, Surly, Move Minnesota, Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Nice Ride/Lyft, Erik’s Bike Shop, and Perennial Cycle.
Back and better than ever! Eco bingo makes its return to Eco Experience. Individuals, families, and groups can pick up a bingo card at the Information Desk, visit exhibits throughout Eco Experience, learn about our air, land, water and climate, and win a fun prize when you get a BINGO!
Nature Adventure Play
We are excited to announce that the Nature Adventure Play is back in full swing this year! Children can play in the messy sand kitchen, hang out in bright colored teepees, or create forts in the Construction Zone. Time to let their imaginations run wild! The play yard is a collaboration between the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Fireflies Play Environments, Inc. It began in 2014 as a temporary exhibit. Due to the popularity of the play experience, the Minnesota State Fair requested it become a permanent feature.
Partners and exhibitors
• Eco Experience, powered by Xcel Energy - We’re going 100% carbon-free by 2050, but a carbon-free future only happens if we build it. Learn how you can help by doing some little things in your daily life. Xcel Energy has the tools and resources to help you save energy and money today. Learn more about energy efficiency programs like AC Rewards, Home Energy Squad, Lighting deals and more. Visit our tiny house to discover tips and tricks to conserve energy at home. Learn more about what renewable option is right for you by visiting our Renewable Pillar. Practice charging an electric vehicle in our EV Garage. We want to empower visitors to take action and understand that together we can get to a carbon-free future. Join us. You. Us. Together.
• Blue Thumb Partners (Metro Blooms) – The Lawns to Legumes program is managed by the Blue Thumb Partnership, with funding from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. This coloring activity will feature printed images of MN native plants and pollinators, and a button making machine.
• Center for Global Environmental Education at Hamline University - Get your photo taken defending a storm drain from runoff pollution! Sign up to adopt a storm drain in your own neighborhood and get a small yard sign that recognizes your commitment to keeping lakes and rivers clean. Our exhibit features arcade games like air hockey and foosball that highlight the connection between Minnesota's changing climate and pollutants washing into storm drains. Find out why it's now more important than ever to take action to protect local waterways. With nearly 9,500 adopters currently, we are nearing 10,000 storm drain adopters in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes! We hope to reach this goal at the 2022 State Fair!
• Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources – Dig it! The secrets of soil - Soils are crucial to our everyday lives, storing carbon, filtering water, growing plants, and so much more. Meet Minnesota soils and discover a whole new world beneath your feet through an interactive exhibit. Come see our soiled undies! We buried 5 pair of new men’s underwear for about 10 weeks in a variety of different fields. Now they are chewed-up, ripped, torn, and riddled with holes, what happened? Why don’t they all look the same?
• Minnesota Department of Commerce – MN Energy Information Center - The MN Energy Information Center features emerging technologies, achievable cost saving, and energy efficiencies for homeowners, renters and business across Minnesota. The MN Energy Information Center features the new Solar for Schools program’s statewide reach and potential.
• Minnesota Department of Transportation – MnDOT’s From A to Green -This interactive exhibit will allow Minnesotans to learn more about green transportation choices like walking, biking, public transit, and shared mobility and give them the tools make a change. We will be showing a demonstration of the online statewide bike map and a chance to try out putting a bike on and off a transit bus bike rack.
• Minnesota Renewable Energy Society (MRES) – empowering Minnesotans to reverse global warming - The Race to Renewables exhibit will use art, science, and technology to pique families’ curiosity and answer their questions about energy efficiency, renewable energy, and energy storage options for homes, apartments, cabins, and mobile applications, including deployment of emergency response solar.
• Renewing the Countryside - A 2021 report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calls for drastic changes to human food production in order to prevent or slow catastrophic climate change. At the same time, local farms have been forced to adjust to the unpredictable and often devastating effects related to a changing climate. To explore this relationship between climate change and agriculture, we’ll share how responsible soil and water management, grazing, continuous cover, and the prevention of food waste can play a role in helping mitigate the climate crisis. In our exhibit, we’ll share stories of innovative farmers, foodmakers, and organizations who are building successful businesses and tackling the climate problem head-on. Fairgoers will learn what they can do to support climate-friendly food and agriculture and enjoy daily cooking demonstrations and free food samples!
• University of Minnesota Tree Care Advisors – Do you have questions about your beloved trees? Wondering what tree you should plant? Come visit the Ask a Tree Care Advisor booth in the Eco Experience building. Tree Care Advisors are trained and knowledgeable volunteers with a passion for trees and here to answer your questions.
About the Eco Experience:
A partnership between the Minnesota State Fair, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and more than 150 organizations and businesses across the state, the Eco Experience has become the second most visited exhibit at the fair. The Eco Experience is the largest environmental event of its kind, nationally, in the last two decades. In 2013, the Eco Experience won the People’s Choice Award voted on by the fair goers at the Minnesota State Fair. Since 2006, more than 3.5 million visitors have attended the 25,000-square-foot exhibit to learn more about clean air and water, saving energy, climate change, recycling, healthy local food, gardening, transportation, green building and remodeling, and other ways to lead more eco-friendly lives.