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In the Air: November News

November 30th, 2016

Welcome to the second installment of a new, monthly blog series focused on the environmental, economic, and health effects of air pollution exposure. Think of this as an easy way to keep up to date on air quality news.

In this month’s issue, learn about vulnerable populations, how trees can cut air pollution, and the first EV shuttle bus fleet.

AIR QUALITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT


Study: Tree planting pays off for Minneapolis, other cities

A study conducted by The Nature Conservancy found that Minneapolis was among 16 North American cities where there is a return on investment for planting trees. They provide both a cooling effect and significant reductions in air pollution. Read MPR’s coverage »

Rise in global carbon emissions slows

The Scientific American reports, “While Americans used more oil and gas in 2015, the United States decreased emissions by 2.6 percent as the use of coal declined. Researchers expect to see a decrease in emissions of 1.7 percent in 2016.” Read the full story »

 

AIR QUALITY AND THE ECONOMY

School bus
First ever EV shuttle bus fleet launches

EV company Proterra and real estate company JLL are partnering to create an electric bus fleet in Chicago. The new fleet of 10 electric buses is more economical the first all-electric shuttle fleet to operate in the United States. Learn more »

Introducing Project Stove Swap  

Project Stove Swap provides financial incentives to residents, businesses, and organizations to replace old appliances with more efficient, less-polluting technologies. Read more about Project Stove Swap and how your organization can become more efficient »

A step toward producing cleaner air

Mathiowetz Construction in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota partnered with Project Green Fleet to retrofit one of their loaders.  Learn more about their commitment to cleaner air »

 

AIR QUALITY AND HEALTH


300M Children are breathing extremely toxic air, UNICEFF says

According to a UNICEFF report released this month, it is estimated that 300 million children around the world are breathing toxic air. Children are among the populations most vulnerable to air pollution’s health effects, and many of the affected live in areas “where outdoor air pollution exceeds international guidelines by at least six times.”

Air pollution linked to blood vessel damage in healthy young adults

While we know air pollution can impact vulnerable populations, like children and the elderly, a new study from the University of Louisville reports that fine particulate matter may be associated with blood vessel damage among young, healthy adults. Read the report »

Bill Droessler

POSTED BY:

Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning

16 Reasons to Give this Season

November 16th, 2016

GTMD16GivingTuesday

Toward the end of every year, Environmental Initiative takes time to reflect and be thankful for our collaborative efforts. We’ve launched new projects, gathered business leaders, and informed serious policy decisions— but we cannot do what we do without you.

November 17 and 29, Give to the Max Day and Giving Tuesday, are two days of the year when individuals across the state make donations to the causes they care about. In 2016, our staff grew to 16 employees, so to celebrate we discussed 16 reasons to give to Environmental Initiative.

Here are our thoughts on the most important reasons to donate today:

The 16 Most Important Reasons to Give:

1. “No one can solve environmental problems alone, and we all have to help! We’re better together.” – Greg Bohrer, Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment Program

2. “I think our most exciting project right now is the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition. It’s an unprecedented venture, seeking a sustainable and renewable supply chain.” – Brian Columbus, Business Manager

3. “For those who believe in collaborative, inclusive, partnership-driven change, now is the time to support Minnesota’s best example of this behavior on environmental issues.” – Bill Droessler, Director, Air Program

4. “We’re an organization that truly works with people in mind. Our efforts have far-reaching health benefits for individuals living across the state.” – Rachel Dupree, Communications Associate

5. “We’re not a single issue nonprofit—we work to improve Minnesota’s air, land, water, public health, and energy practices. Your donation can mean a lot of different things.” – Emily Franklin, Communications Director

6. “Invest in innovation! We’re not afraid to try things that have never been done before.” – Ellen Gibson, Senior Director, Project and Programs

7. “Environmental Initiative is truly courageous in its approach. We are an organization of big thinkers and we deliver real results.” – Sam Hanson, Director, Sustainability

8. “Help us celebrate our 25 years of established and results-driven work with your support and partnership!” – Mike Harley, Executive Director

9. “Our policy programs are always changing, and your gift allows us to scope new projects and respond to community needs.” – Meleah Houseknecht, Director, Environmental Policy

10. “Now, more than ever, we need to work to find common ground to solve our state’s environmental problems.” – Erin Niehoff, Project and Administrative Assistant

11. “We’ll use your gift in the most responsible way possible for the greatest impact.” – Judd Larson, Chief Financial Officer

12. “We don’t say it because we’re “Minnesota nice,” but we’re the best at what we do. From consensus to execution, we are efficient, effective, and always striving to get better. I’m proud of the work we do and you should be too.” – Bjorn Olson, Senior Environmental Project Associate

13. “We don’t just pioneer projects, we also lift up the work of others. We seek out local environmental champions and honor them every year at the Environmental Initiative Awards.” – Andrea Robbins, Director, Designer and Engagement

14. “When you give to Environmental Initiative, it demonstrates that your values align with ours.” – Dani Schurter, Project Manager

15. “We bring people together that normally may not sit at the same table and work to build consensus, which is something the world needs more of these days.” – Sacha Seymour-Anderson, Director, Development

16. “In a time of division, Environmental Initiative cuts through disagreement, partisanship, and rhetoric to build lasting partnerships that lead to real, measurable environmental results.” – Mikey Weitekamp, Senior Project Manager

Mike Harley

POSTED BY:

Executive Director

Greg Bohrer Selected to Participate in the Minnesota Agricultural & Rural Leadership Program

November 14th, 2016

We are proud to share that Greg Bohrer, Senior Manager of Agriculture & Environment at Environmental Initiative was one of thirty individuals selected to participate in the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership Program. Two thirds of participants are agricultural producers and the other third are people involved in agribusiness or rural leadership positions.

GregAs a member of Class IX, Greg will participate in a dynamic two-year educational experience featuring several in-state seminars, a six-day national study seminar, and a 10- to 14-day international study seminar. The current cohort meets starting next week through April 2018.

“I am really looking forward to the program, said Greg Bohrer – Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment, “This is a tremendous opportunity to get to know other emerging leaders in agriculture and rural Minnesota and to develop my own leadership skills and understanding of agricultural issues. I am excited to start diving into it and am grateful to have been selected.”

Program curriculum covers a range of topics including leadership development, rural industry and trade, natural resources, and diversity. The goal of the program is to help rural and agricultural leaders develop the necessary skills to maximize their impact across local, state, and international arenas.

Congratulations to Greg and to his fellow Minnesota Agricultural & Rural Leadership Program participants. Meet Class IX »

Ellen Gibson

POSTED BY:

Senior Director, Projects & Programs

Introducing Project Stove Swap

November 3rd, 2016

Since Clean Air Minnesota’s inception, members of the partnership have been thinking about and working on many strategies to improve Minnesota’s air quality. While wood smoke had been identified as a major source of pollutants, a significant funding source has not been available to start a project until this year with Minnesota Power. After consulting with air experts, securing funding, setting concrete goals, and hiring staff (me!), we’re excited to introduce Project Stove Swap.

PSS-HEADER-shortIn short, Project Stove Swap is a voluntary wood stove change-out program. The project provides financial incentives to residents and organizations to replace old appliances with new, more efficient, less-polluting technologies. Currently, Project Stove Swap is working in 17 Northeastern Minnesota counties. We’re excited to be expanding the scope of our clean air work (And I’m excited to be visiting 17 Northeastern Minnesota counties on a regular basis!) 

How Project Stove Swap Works

Residents and organizations that use older, non-EPA certified wood heaters as a primary or major heat source are eligible for a financial incentive to change out their appliance.

To start, participants can contact one of our pre-qualified vendors, to verify their eligibility, select a new appliance, and fill out an application. If approved, vendors will provide the Project Stove Swap incentive as a straight discount off of the total cost at the time of payment. Learn more about the application and change-out process »

Why Wood Smoke?

While the smell of wood smoke on a crisp November day may seem cozy and nostalgic, wood smoke is composed of gases, chemicals, and fine particles that can lead to a variety of serious health issues. The finest particles are so small that they can be absorbed by your lungs and enter your bloodstream, causing cardiac and respiratory complications. Learn more about your health and wood smoke »

While Minnesota is fortunate to have generally good air quality, negative health effects of air pollution are being observed at ever lower concentrations. Because of this, federal air quality standards are predicted to become stricter over time, putting Minnesota at risk of violating these standards.

Swapping out just one older wood stove for a new, more efficient model is the pollution reduction equivalent of removing over 700 cars from the road per year. In other words, it’s a cost effective way to proactively and voluntarily reduce air pollution, improve health outcomes, and avoid costly federal regulations. In addition, many of the heating appliances are made in Minnesota and all of the vendors are Minnesota-based so every dollar Project Stove Swap spends is pumped into the local economy.

We’re just getting Started

Project Stove Swap is just one of several efforts underway to help achieve Clean Air Minnesota’s goal of reducing man-made sources of fine particulate matter (soot) and ground level ozone precursor emissions (smog) by 10%.

Though we’re thrilled our clean air work is growing, we’re never really satisfied. While our efforts in Northeastern Minnesota will continue for at least the next year, we’re keeping our eyes peeled for ways to improve and expand the project.

Getting Involved

Want to get involved? Contact me at 612-334-3388 ext. 8109 to learn more about replacing your wood burning appliance, becoming a participating a vendor, or educating your community about wood smoke. Visit our frequently asked questions page for additional information.

Mikey Weitekamp

POSTED BY:

Senior Project Manager, Environmental Initiative

Meet Antea Group: Member of the Month

November 1st, 2016

Antea Group is an international engineering and environmental consulting firm with USA headquarters in Minnesota. We work to reduce environmental footprints, mitigate safety risks, protect against engineering failures and minimize social impacts for our clients worldwide. Subscribing to a philosophy of Better Business, Better World®, we believe that doing the right thing environmentally and socially will improve competitive position and prosperity over the long-term.

As an environmental consulting firm, we are always looking for new ways to bring value to clients that positively impacts both their business performance and their environmental performance. A concept that has become increasingly important to our clients recently is the Circular Economy, a framework that departs from the linear ‘take-make-dispose’ manufacturing process and urges that businesses cycle materials and resources back into supply chains, effectively eliminating waste. Today, we are at the forefront of these discussions as a founding member of the Circular Economy 100, a global platform bringing together leading companies and emerging innovators to accelerate a sustainable path forward for industry.MemberoftheMonth

Another way we are helping clients make better decisions when it comes to sustainability is through our Accounting for Sustainability practice. We are often asked: How do I know which sustainability projects to invest in? Which sustainability efforts will create the greatest environmental, social and business benefits? To reduce this uncertainty, we’ve developed a process and set of tools that enable quantification and monetization of business benefits, both tangible and intangible, that accompany sustainability investments. Through business case development, cost/benefit analysis, predictive modeling, and metrics formulation, we can help demonstrate business impact for every dollar spent on sustainability. Check out this explainer video.

Antea Group has been a proud supporter of Environmental Initiative for over two decades. Through membership, board participation and sponsorship of the annual awards program, we demonstrate our excitement and appreciation for all of the great work that Environmental Initiative undertakes to develop collaborative solutions to Minnesota’s environmental problems.

Alison Bryant

POSTED BY:

Antea Group

In the Air: October News

October 31st, 2016

Welcome to a new blog series!

Every month, we’ll be keeping you up to date with the latest in air quality news. Think of this as your one-stop shop for air news, with special focus on the environmental, economic, and health effects of air pollution exposure.

In this month’s issue, learn about local air quality heroes, how clean air legislation affects the way we see the world, and how science is advancing around air pollution and health.

Air Quality and the Environment


Alternate Reality: U.S. Cities without The Clean Air Act

In a weird, alternate reality, you can see two versions of major U.S. skylines: one with The Clean Air Act, and one without. The results? The Statue of Liberty would be “submerged in a sea of smog” without the legislation. See the eerie photos for yourself »


Mathiowetz Construction Invests in Cleaner Air

A construction company in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota took the steps to invest in clean air with Project Green Fleet. Pollution reductions from their diesel equipment upgrades are equal to removing 2,200 cars from the road each year in Minnesota. Read about their accomplishments »

Air Quality and the Economy


Judge Approves VW’s $14.7 Billion Settlement Over Emissions Scandal

Earlier this month, a federal judge approved the “largest civil settlement in automaker history” with Volkswagen in regard to their vehicle emissions. The process of compensating U.S. car-owners is beginning now. NPR covers this historic settlement »


Clean Car Standards Continue to Save Americans Money, Reduce Air Pollution

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, consumers will save an estimated 1.7 trillion dollars in gas money over the life of the current federal Clean Car Standards. In doing so, we’ll eliminate 6 billion metric tons of air pollution. Read more about how consumers benefit from the Clean Car Standards »

Air Quality and Health


In New Ozone Alert, A Warning of Harm to Plants and to People

Midwest scientists continue to discover the negative effects air pollution can have on the environment and our bodies. As the world warms, ground-level ozone is causing plants to “turn brown and sickly,” and is having negative health outcomes in people as well. Ozone is both a naturally occurring and human-created gas, but on the ground level, it can be highly toxic. Learn more »


Air Pollution a Risk Factor for Diabetes, Say Researchers

A new study suggests air pollution exposure in a place of residence can increase the risk of developing insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic state. As science advances, we discover more about how air pollution affects us, and federal air regulations can become more stringent as a result. Read the study »

Bill Droessler

POSTED BY:

Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning

Partnership to Watch: Ceres, WWF, and the AgWater Challenge

October 28th, 2016

Food companies face a range of social and environmental challenges. Global freshwater supplies are increasingly at risk for scarcity and pollution. Consumers are also demanding more information, transparency, and sustainability from companies who produce our food.

Environmental Initiative is working to address these challenges and trends through Field Stewards – an innovative program that provides financial incentives to farmers who implement best practices to protect water quality. But, we aren’t the only ones who are using the power of partnership to achieve better environmental and business results.

The AgWater Challenge

Ceres and WWF launched the AgWater Challenge, a collaborative initiative to advance water stewardship and sustainable food sourcing solutions in the food and beverage sector. This sector alone uses more than 70 percent of the world’s freshwater supply, largely for growing the food we eat. The AgWater Challenge aims to inspire the world’s most influential food and beverage companies to:

  • Reduce the water impacts associated with key agricultural commodities (like corn and soy)
  • Implement locally-relevant strategies to mitigate water quality concerns and water scarcity risks in agricultural sourcing areas
  • Support and incentivize farmers and other agricultural producers to strengthen water stewardship

Minnesota Companies Recognized

Minnesota-based General Mills and Hormel, along with five other companies representing $123 billion in net annual revenue, are currently being recognized for their participation in the challenge.

AgWater Challenge

Hormel is a multi-national manufacturer and marketer of consumer-branded food and meat products, specializing in processing and marketing pork and turkey. The Austin, MN-based company has committed to develop a sustainable agriculture policy, assess water quality and water quantity challenges in priority sourcing areas, and establish time-bound goals aimed at improving water quality in high water risk regions. Learn more about Hormel’s commitment here.

General Mills was recognized for their ongoing efforts across all five stewardship activities.

Congratulations to Ceres, WWF, Hormel, General Mills and all of the AgWater Challenge partners. It’s inspiring to see collaboration in action for our shared water resources.

Greg Bohrer

POSTED BY:

Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment Program

Three Tips for Successful Sustainability Storytelling

October 20th, 2016

When it comes to sustainability, there is a lot to communicate. And you’re dealing with multiple audiences. And those audiences have different needs. And the stories and information are often complex or loaded with acronyms and jargon.

If you’re charged with communicating your business or organization’s sustainability efforts, how do you make sure your stories reach the right people, with the right message, at the right time? How do you make sure your stories are compelling and engaging?

Last week we spent some time unpacking these questions and getting to the heart of what makes great stories at our Business & Environment session, Sustainability Storytelling: Going Beyond the Report.

Here are the three things I took away:


Visuals Matter

Our first speaker, Arlene Birt with Background Stories, kicked off the session talking about what makes a good sustainability story and how visuals can help your messages stick. Did you know a whopping sixty-five percent of the population are visual learners? The right visuals can help communicate context, convey emotion, and make complex data sets more easily digestible. Check out Arlene’s presentation or her TEDx talk on visualizing sustainability.

Measure in Dinosaurs

Mel Meegan, Director of Marketing at Peace Coffee spent some time during the session sharing some of Peace Coffee’s success stories. Did you know Peace Coffee delivers their coffee by bike and their bike couriers haul the weight equivalent of five dinosaurs per year? That is crazy! Measuring in dinosaurs might not be your metric, but it’s a great example of how you can make numbers immediately relatable to your audiences. View Mel’s presentation »

Use Your Barriers and Your FailuresBES2.2016

Kate Lilja Lohnes with Lilja Communications facilitated a storytelling workshop during the final hour of the session. She also spoke about how to use barriers to your advantage. It can be easy to gloss over the “what went wrong” parts of a story to get right to the great outcome. But, that old cliché of failure being our greatest teacher is true. Let your audiences know where you tried, failed, and then tried again. This is the interesting stuff!

Missed the session? You can check out all of the presentations on our website.

Emily Franklin

POSTED BY:

Director of Communications

Meet Andersen Corporation: Member of the Month

October 11th, 2016

YellowstoneOct15

Paintbrush: employee dormitory located near Old Faithful – first LEED Platinum building in the National Park Service.

At Andersen, our values define us – they speak to our past and guide our future. They are the foundation of what makes us Andersen. Our value of Corporate Citizenship ensures we continue our longstanding commitment to leadership in environmental stewardship and to make a positive impact in the communities in which we live and work. It is the reason we’ve supported Environmental Initiative for over two decades.

It is also the reason we have partnered with Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone captured our attention nearly a decade ago with their quest to become the greenest national park and Andersen joined that effort, sharing our expertise in energy efficiency and providing in-kind windows and doors for key projects in the park.  It has been a remarkable journey and a wonderful way to live one of our key values. Andersen’s involvement during the past several years, as well future green building plans within the park, is detailed here.

Or, see firsthand and hear from our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jay Lund about the steps we are taking to reduce our environmental footprint and increase our positive impact across our value chain as he speaks from Yellowstone National Park – Preserving the View: 2015 Corporate Sustainability Report.

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Each month, we feature information about one of our members on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Seymour-Anderson anytime at 612-334-3388 ext. 8108 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Annie Perkins

POSTED BY:

Sustainability Analyst at Andersen Corporation

Meet Maddie Norgaard: Circular Economy Research Assistant

October 11th, 2016

Environmental Initiative has always been an organization deeply rooted in partnerships that work collaboratively to strategize around complex environmental problems. It’s one reason why we convened the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition (MNSGC), a business led effort focusing on the advancement of the circular economy.

To better shape MNSGC actions, the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE) and other member organizations are working with a graduate student to research practical, circular economy applications. Her research will influence the direction and project goals and how MNSGC will function within the Midwest.

So, without further delay… Meet Maddie Norgaard! Maddie

Maddie is a first-year student pursing a Master of science, technology, and environmental policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Maddie currently holds a B.A. in environmental studies from the College of Saint Benedict.

In summer 2016, Maddie participated in Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy in Chicago where she was inspired by lessons in circular economy, industrial ecology and systems thinking. She is eager to explore these concepts further and help MNSGC discover opportunities for collective action.

Her work will help coalition partners advance the next frontier of corporate sustainability through the circular economy. Maddie will be working closely with Environmental Initiative as well as member organizations to conduct her research. We’re excited to have her, and we’re eager to get started! Learn more about Maddie »

Rachel Dupree

POSTED BY:

Communications Associate
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