Map Monday: Minnesota’s Carbon Donut

I love interactive maps and one got my attention recently.

Christopher M. Jones and Daniel M. Kammen at UC Berkeley published a study in 2013 taking data on household carbon footprints to develop carbon profiles of zip codes, cities, counties, and states. They took the carbon profile data and produced an interactive map of the United States. If you follow that link you can mouseover zip codes to see the values of equivalent metric ton CO2 emission broken into categories of transportation, housing, food, goods, and services.

I zoomed the map in to the lower half of Minnesota to show the suburban carbon donut around the central core Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

Source: UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network, Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint (2013).

Source: UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network, Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint (2013).

Let’s zoom in closer.

Source: UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network, Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint (2013).

Source: UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network, Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint (2013).

You can see the central core downtowns are shown to be quite well off with regards to carbon emissions. The surrounding neighborhoods and inner suburbs also come out not too bad. Except most of Edina and a big part of Mendota Heights. What’s up with that?

For what it is worth, the Southdale area of Edina shows of the schizophrenic part of that city with a relatively great showing. It has about the same level of equivalent metric tons CO2 (40.3) as Northeast Minneapolis (40.8). Southwest Minneapolis looks like Minneapolis’ worst preforming area for this measurement at around 55, Southdale is a better carbon emission performer. is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

, , , , , ,

12 Responses to Map Monday: Minnesota’s Carbon Donut

  1. Scott December 7, 2015 at 12:08 pm #

    An interesting amalgam of dramatically reduced travel requirements, higher use of public transit, smaller size of housing units, plus the inherent energy efficiency of multi-unit housing.

    Imagine if we could pull together a real effort to upgrade older houses with improved insulation, windows, doors, and modernized heating and cooling systems (e.g., what if the city allowed you to drill ground source geothermal wells in the alley or in the boulevard for homes where backyard access is practically impossible?)

    Leverage short commutes with electric vehicles or PHEVs…combined with rooftop solar, or better yet, enhance public transit (especially electrified public transit) to better compete with private vehicles.

    We could turn the entire city deep, dark green.

    • Archiapolis December 8, 2015 at 9:56 am #

      We need to stop subsidizing fossil fuels and start subsidizing/incentivizing (to a much greater degree) renewables and the energy retrofits that you suggest.

  2. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke December 7, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    this map is really important, folks. PS that slice of Mendota Heights is where all the industry, and very few residences, are located.

  3. eric December 7, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    Nevermind this is average household right? I’d delete that comment if I knew how

  4. Eric Anondson
    Eric Anondson December 7, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    Zooming in on the interactive map to downtown Minneapolis you will see a crescent sliver by the University of Minnesota that is dark red.

    That zip code in fact as far as I can tell has the worst equivalent CO2 emissions values in the twin cities. By a large factor. What’s causing this?

  5. Evan Roberts
    Evan December 7, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    u of m heating plant?

    • Eric Anondson
      Eric Anondson December 7, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

      I thought about that. Wasn’t it shuttered some years ago while it’s been retrofitted? Maybe the study data set had it as an active coal powered plant?

      • Joey Senkyr
        Joey Senkyr December 7, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

        Well, that zip code (55455) is exclusively the U of M itself. I wonder if they might be counting the dorms as a single household each for whatever reason? I could see it being bright red if its a zip code with several thousand residents, and tens of thousands of workers, but only nine households.

        • GlowBoy December 8, 2015 at 6:45 pm #

          Maybe students who are only there for the school year aren’t being counted as residents for this purpose? Perhaps it’s based on drivers licenses or voter registrations, which many students maintain at their permanent/parents’ addresses.

    • Wayne December 8, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

      I thought they converted it to burn oat husks or something like that and still use it to provide steam heat to the campus?

  6. Sean Hayford Oleary
    Sean Hayford Oleary December 8, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

    The vast majority of residents in the Southdale area live in apartments. (A fact that could easily escape you at Edina City Hall, where the minority of Southdale-area residents from SFHs dominate the conversation about the “wrong sort” of development.)

    A large number of those apartments are for seniors, and many low-income as well. Carbon impact and likely VMT are lower in this area for residential than most of the region.

  7. Brendon Slotterback
    Brendon December 11, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    My understanding is that this map is a sort of average based on consumption. This data comes from surveys, they aren’t measuring emissions from a particular source (like a power plant). Rich people tend to use more energy and buy more goods, hence those zip codes have higher emissions footprints.

Note on Comments welcomes opinions from many perspectives. Please refrain from attacking or disparaging others in your comments. sees debate as a learning opportunity. Please share your perspective in a respectful manner. View our full comment policy to learn more.

Thanks for commenting on!