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Bride plans zero-waste wedding, encourages others to do the same
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From the flowers and linens to decorations and attire, high costs aren’t the only thing that traditionally come with weddings. The amount of waste can be pretty high, too.

According to the Botanical Paperworks site, the average wedding generates over 400 pounds of garbage. With an estimated 2.5 million weddings per year, that’s about 1 billion pounds of trash from weddings and receptions alone.

Northfielder Kimberly Haroldson set out to plan her backyard, sustainable wedding with zero waste. Her Sept. 4 wedding included items either purchased secondhand, rented or borrowed.

About six to seven years ago, Haroldson stumbled upon a book by Bea Johnson about living in a zero waste home. On board with the zero waste approach, Haroldson texted her friend Ashley Kennedy, who was also game for trying it out. They started a private Facebook group in hopes of getting tips on how to reduce waste. Much to her surprise, she became a leader of the group and researched on her own how to go about minimizing what she discards.

Soon after that, Haroldson said they started receiving messages from others wishing there was classes taught on living a zero-waste lifestyle. With Kennedy’s experience as a teacher, the duo began teaching classes. They soon expanded their work, becoming zero-waste activists and even going to the Capitol to talk about the banning plastic bags.

Haroldson says it was easy to work zero waste into her wedding an easy one. Prior to moving to Northfield in May, Haroldson lived in the cities. During that time, she began collecting stemmed glasses and coffee mugs from “Buy Nothing” groups in the area. After realizing Northfield did not have a Facebook page similar to the one in the cities, she quickly created a place for people interested in giving away items to those searching for them. Along with the coffee mugs and and stemmed glasses, an arch and hutch were gifted to her from Buy Nothing groups.

Traditional wedding items like decorations, consisted of flowers from the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market, with arrangements put together by Kennedy.

Part of the zero-waste lifestyle, Haroldson says is to refuse everything first, and compost as a last resort. Instead of using cans, Haroldson opted for kegs of beer and rootbeer, and offered wine in bigger bottles. While she could have gotten compostable plates to use, Haroldson rented dinnerware from a local company since it takes a lot of energy for that many items to compost. Flatware and cloth napkins were also rented, while cake stands for pie were purchased from Goodwill or received from the “Buy Nothing” group.

Other decorations used to accent Haroldson’s decor, like a chalkboard that directed guests to pick a glass to use for the night, was an old piece slate of her grandma’s. The wooden border for the chalkboard was made by her father for a Christmas gift 10 years ago. Pallets, which were used to hold the unique collection of coffee mugs guests could use, were found in a dumpster in Faribault, and stained by Haroldson.

Personal touches

Haroldson’s wedding dress came from a consignment store, and her bridesmaids’ dresses were rented from Rent the Runway, ranging anywhere from $32 to $100.

The suit jacket her now husband, Ross, wore was bought a number of years ago for the first wedding he attended. Focusing on the passion Haroldson and her husband have for the earth, instead of asking for gifts at the wedding, they asked for donations toward a greenhouse or their honeymoon. For those who wanted to buy gifts, Haroldson picked out a few items that she could use from a registry site that allows for the addition of secondhand, handmade and experience gifts. Instead of purchasing wedding favors, the newlyweds made donations to Pheasants Forever and opted out of paper programs and wedding invitations.

The meal, catered from a local establishment, was vegan. Though not following a vegan lifestyle, Haroldson was pleased with how it fit into her goal of zero waste.

Kennedy added that there’s value in reducing the amount of meat that is consumed, especially for such a large gathering, as she says a lot of energy is involved with eating meat (including land, water, shipping and space). Food scraps from the meal were also composted.

Throughout her months of planning and collecting items, Haroldson said it’s been fun hearing the stories people share and relating to them through similar experiences.

After posting a photo of her wedding ring with sentimental value on the Zero Waste Advocates of MN Facebook and Instagram pages, Haroldson said she received messages from so many brides who also shared that their ring was secondhand, and people grew very excited to share more about it. Haroldson’s wedding ring was her grandmother’s, a ring that she remembers trying on and always finding so unique.

Finding that the whole world changed during COVID-19, as people found new ways of doing things, Haroldson feels people are getting more comfortable with change.

Planning a zero-waste wedding is pretty easy, Kennedy said, adding that a zero-waste lifestyle can be applied to many aspects of life.

“There’s so much excess in existence already that there’s no need to add to the waste stream by purchasing new items,” said Kennedy. “The idea is that we all have things we don’t need that others need.”

When beginning the wedding planning, Kennedy says they took a step back and focused on the three important things wanted at the ceremony: good friends and family, good food and good music. She says Haroldson was able to add personal touches by being creative, without having to purchase new things.

“This is something anybody can do,” said Kennedy. “It actually alleviates a little bit of stress to step back and think about what’s really important.”

Allina to mull appeal after Commission won't endorse Johnston Hall demo
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Allina Health officials say it will be Thursday or Friday before they decide whether to appeal a decision by the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission essentially denying permission to raze the 133-year old Johnston Hall.

The Commission on Wednesday voted not to approve a Certificate of Appropriateness that would have made the path to demolition straighter. A denial gives the property owner 15 days to appeal to the City Council.

But even then, the city’s building official could step in if he finds the building’s condition so dire that demolition can’t be delayed

A Sept. 2 report from a structural engineering firm hired by Allina found that “immediate action needs to be taken to prevent possible damage to property or persons by a sudden collapse of the bell tower.” City Building Official John Rued, in a memo to the Commission, agreed.

Commissioners were clearly dismayed. Commissioner Karl Vohs called the hall’s condition and the request “demolition by neglect.” Commission member Cori Kelly was angry.

“I’m absolutely furious with Allina,” she said. “They knew what that building was and they didn’t maintain it.”

While maintenance has clearly been a problem for the historic building, the last piece of Seabury Divinity School founded by Bishop Henry Whipple, it was an issue long before Allina took ownership in 2015.

A 2010 report done for District One Hospital, which owned the building before the hospital became part of Allina, listed concerns with the bell tower dating back to 1984. Cracks in the tower have been repaired, according to the recent report, but others have appeared.

At one point, Commission member Sam Temple asked Allina’s South Market President Michael Johnston (no relation to Johnston Hall’s namesake) if the healthcare group would consider removing only the tower. Johnston demurred, saying it wasn’t a decision that could be made that evening.

But after the meeting, Johnston indicated it’s something the Allina team working on the project would consider. Engineers, he said, would look at the impact of taking down just a portion of the building and whether that’s something Allina is interested in.

Finances will play a role in any decision, as taking the building down in stages, even if it’s years apart, will increase the final cost, said Rued.

Johnston concurred, noting that Allina needs to keep expenditures focused on its mission: healthcare.

Finances have also played a role in the building’s deterioration. Eleven years ago, repair estimates were about $1.06 million. Recently, a developer told the city they expected the costs to be closer to $4 million.

And while Allina has installed fencing around the historic hall to keep people away, it’s moved healthcare services out of a portion of the hospital that lies just feet south of the tower. Patients have had to go outside to access care, he said, underscoring the importance of quick action.

Commission members seemed to abandon any hope of negotiating a deal to salvage the brunt of Johnston Hall with their vote, an action Temple said was “a referendum on Allina, a referendum on all owners previously.”

Its vote, he said, was the board standing against the neglect found in any number of Faribault’s historic properties and what he believes is the lack of value placed on the board.

“We’re not going to sanction that,” he said.

The city had been working since late 2018 to market the property for reuse. At one point, a deal had been struck to convert the building into a chemical health treatment facility, but the agreement between the developer and treatment providers soured. Since then, the city’s been unable to find an interested developer.

Miller of Winona to lead Senate GOP caucus, team up with Jasinski

Republicans in the Minnesota Senate have picked Winona Sen. Jeremy Miller to lead their caucus.

The 34-member caucus and two affiliated independents selected Miller as their leader Wednesday night. It’s an initial step toward officially naming him majority leader, which will require a formal resolution when the Senate meets in session again.

Despite early rumors — before Paul Gazelka, of East Gull Lake, stepped down — that Faribault’s John Jasinski might be named the next majority leader, Jasinski said there has been a plan in motion for “a long time” to put Miller in that top seat.

“This was always the plan from the beginning,” said Jasinski, who is the current assistant Senate majority leader. “Jeremy and I had been working together to prepare for his nomination, and I wanted to be the one to personally nominate him, but so did Sen. [David] Senjem.”

Jasinski said that, because the Rochester senator has seniority, he yielded to let Senjem make the official nomination. Nevertheless, it all played out how Jasinski was hoping it would.

“Jeremy has 11 years of experience in the Senate, and I only have five, with an upcoming election where we want to keep the majority; we want to be able to use his expertise,” said Jasinski, reiterating that the rumors of him being named the next majority leader were just that — rumors. “I am going to be a heavy team player with Jeremy and am not disappointed at all; I will be playing a crucial role in the upcoming session.”

According to Jasinski, he plans on working closely with Miller to ensure the dispersing of federal dollars for frontline hero pay will be an immediate priority. He also said they will work closely together, as they move into the bonding year during the 2022 session.

Miller said he and other republicans have a similar vision.

“We just want to get good things done for the people of the state of Minnesota,” Miller said. “I feel like I’m well positioned to work within our caucus as well as with members across the aisle to get that done, including the governor.”

Miller said he would work across the aisle to get things done and that he has a good relationship with DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman, of Brooklyn Park.

First elected in 2010, Miller, 38, has been Senate president since 2019, at the time the youngest senator in state history to hold that position. A husband and father of three, he works for his family’s metal recycling business based in Winona.

Miller succeeds Gazelka, who stepped down last week and announced a run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination on Wednesday.

The Senate DFL caucus is also planning a leadership election after Minority Leader Susan Kent, of Woodbury, stepped down last week.