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GreenStep Cities » Steps 4 & 5

GreenStep Cities Steps 4 & 5

Take the Next Step

The GreenStep Cities Program is a voluntary challenge, assistance, and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals. Launched in 2010, the program has five levels of recognition for city action:
  • Step 1:

    Commit to working on implementing sustainability best practices through a city council resolution.

  • Step 2:

    Implement 4, 6, or 8 best practices, depending on a city’s GreenStep Category designation.

  • Step 3:

    Implement 8, 12, 0r 16 best practices and complete a handful of specific high-impact actions, depending on a city’s GreenStep Category designation.

  • Step 4:

    Measure and report a minimum number of core and optional metrics for the previous calendar year or the most recent available data (specific metrics are described below).

  • Step 5:

    Demonstrate improvement three eligible metrics measured in Step 4, from one data year to the next.

Metrics for Steps 4 & 5

In order to receive Step 4 or 5 recognition, cities will record all of the CORE metrics listed in the table below under “Step 4 Metrics,” along with a handful of additional metrics chosen by the city (see the second table below). Each metric contains multiple metric elements. Every element within a metric must be completed in order for a metric to be completed for Step 4 recognition. Click on the links in the table to see the complete list of elements for each metric, as well as explanations of each metric element and how to record it. Or, click here to see all of the metric sheets in one document. Certain metric elements from these lists are considered “eligible metric elements” for Step 5 recognition. Cities may improve upon any three of the eligible metric elements listed in the Step 5 column to receive recognition for Step 5. Recognition will be awarded each year, so cities must continue to show improvement to maintain their Step 5 status.

To record city metrics for Steps 4 or 5, you need to download the submittal form and complete it per instructions found in the metric guidance sheets (in the table below). Click here to download the form and fill it out offline. When you have completed the form, please email it to Abby Finis at

Category Step 4 Metrics (Click links to view metric sheets) Step 5 Eligible Metric Elements Demonstrate improvement in 3 or more metric elements.
Buildings & Lighting 1. City Buildings and Lighting (CORE) 1.1 kBtu per square foot, per year
1.4 Percent LED street lights
2. Green Buildings 2.1 Number of city-owned green certified buildings
2.5 Number of private green certified buildings
Transportation 3. City Fleets 3.2 Average miles per gallon (MPG) for city’s gasoline fleet
3.4 Average miles per gallon (MPG) for diesel fleet
4. Infrastructure for Biking and Walking 4.2 % of housing within 1 mile of a bicycle route
5. Car, Transit, and Bike Options 5.1 Number of electric vehicle charging stations
6. Transportation Modes & Miles (CORE for A & B cities only) 6.1 City Population: Vehicle miles traveled per person, per day
6.2 City Employees in Single Occupancy Vehicles: Vehicle miles traveled per person, per day
Land Use 7. Land Use 7.6 New affordable housing units as a percent of all new housing units
Environmental Management 8. Open Space, Parks, & Trees (CORE) 8.6 Net number of new trees planted
9. Stormwater (CORE) 9.1 Assessment number (percent) from the Minnesota Blue Star City program
10. Drinking Water 10.1 Residential gallons used per person per day
10.2 Business gallons used per job per day
10.3 Annual city operations’ gallons: summer & non-summer
10.7 Percent of annual losses in drinking water system
11. Waste Water (CORE only cities with collection systems) 11.5 Ratio of Inflow & Infiltration volume to total volume entering collection system
12. Surface Water 12.3 One city-defined metric or index number concerning surface water
13. Solid Waste 13.1 Residential solid waste generated per city resident per day (lbs.)
13.2 Commercial solid waste generated per job per day (lbs.)
13.3 Percent of waste recycled
13.4 Percent of waste composted
14. Renewable Energy (CORE) 14.1 Number of city owned and private renewable energy generation sites
14.2 Generation capacity at city and at private renewable energy generation sites (kW)
14.4 Annual renewable energy purchases, city (MWhr/yr)
15. Local Food 15.1 Number of local food venues
Economic & Community Development 16. Jobs & Employment – 1 metric element No Step 5 eligible metrics
17. Climate (CORE only Regional Indicator cities) 17.1 Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from travel, Tonnes CO 2e
17.2 GHG emissions from waste, Tonnes CO 2 e
17.3 GHG emissions from (non-transportation) energy, Tonnes CO 2 e
18. Additional Metrics 18.1 Cities may report additional metrics of their choice.
City Category Number of Metrics (Additional to CORE) Required for step 4 Step 5 Minimum Requirements
Category A 5 Metrics of Choice Improve Upon 3 Eligible Metric Elements
Category B 3 Metrics of Choice Improve Upon 3 Eligible Metric Elements
Category C No Additional Metrics Improve Upon 3 Eligible Metric Elements

Steps 4 & 5 Metrics Submittal

Once cities have downloaded the spreadsheet and entered their data, submit it via e-mail to the GreenStep coordinator at the Great Plains Institute: Abby Finis, Please see the metric sheets in the table above for descriptions of the metrics and how to record them.

Like best practice action reports, Step 4 & 5 metrics must be submitted by May 1st for recognition at the annual League of Minnesota Cities conference in June.

Steps 4 & 5 Rationale

The primary purpose and benefit of Steps 4 and 5 is for cities to gather data against which a city can compare itself over time. We are, however, aware that sustainability is a very local condition and unique elements in each city make it difficult to set one number as “the number” to which every city must aspire. Recognizing that there are different ways to package metrics, cities should, in addition to submitting these GreenStep metrics, feel free to present the metrics to their residents in a way that makes the most sense to the community, and to add in relevant additional metrics that the city has historically been tracking and perhaps not communicating to community members. GreenStep’s attention to metrics is inspired by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler who wrote:

“If you don’t measure results, you can’t tell success from failure. If you can’t see success, you can’t reward it. If you can’t see failure, you can’t correct it.”

Special thanks are due to the consultants and pilot cities who helped develop Step 4: Michael Orange of Orange Environmental and Sarah Rudolf (now at the MN Dept. of Transportation), and the cities of Burnsville, Eden Prairie, Elk River, Maplewood, Saint Anthony and Shoreview

Please direct all critical comments and suggestions for improvement to the GreenStep coordinators via