Measuring progress. Inspiring action.


Goal: A clean and healthy environment that contributes to our state's well-being now and into the future.

A long-running ad campaign dubbed Minnesota "the land of sky blue waters," hinting at our tradition of caring for the environment: Forward thinking in environmental preservation, an array of natural spaces, laws keeping our air clean, innovation in "green" practices, and people who enjoy the outdoors all year long. But are we doing as well as we could be? As the world begins to clean up its act, are we still setting the bar, or lowering it?

What's happening

  • The Next Generation Energy Act established a greenhouse gas emission reduction goal of 15 percent below 2005 emissions by 2012. In 2010, greenhouse gas emissions had been reduced by 4 percent, which means the state will have to accelerate this positive trend to meet mandated targets for 2025, and beyond.
  • Residents of Duluth, Fargo-Moorhead, La Crosse, Rochester, and St. Cloud enjoy the best air quality of metros in the state, while residents of the Twin Cities metro typically have the fewest "good" Air Quality Index days.
  • Air quality has been on the decline in the Twin Cities metro area since 2013. Back then, 64 percent of days in the metro were rated as having "good" air quality, compared to 50 percent in 2016.
  • Of the 20 Minnesota counties that monitored air quality at least half the year in 2016, Cook County topped the list for share of days with "good" air quality. Mille Lacs, Beltrami, and Lake followed close behind. At the other end of the ranking list, Washington and Hennepin posted the smallest shares of "good" days.

Making connections

There is no question that transportation has a major effect on the environment. Likewise, how our business sectors work to the good or detriment of the environment has an effect on the economy and workforce. Poor air and water quality negatively impact the health of residents in the region, which brings down our quality of life.


Which of these Minnesota counties enjoys the greatest percentage of days with good air quality?
a) Becker
b) Cook
c) Goodhue
d) Lyon

Featured trend

air quality graph
environment icon

Air quality in Twin Cities climbs up

In 2001, 40% of days were rated “Good air quality days” in the St. Paul-Minneapolis greater metropolitan area as measured by the Air Quality Index. Since then, the Index has climbed to 64% in 2013.  On the other hand, while greater Minnesota metropolitan areas rated higher than the Twin Cities a decade ago and still do today, progress has been mixed.

View topic: Environment