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2011: Year in Review

December 23rd, 2011

Phew! Where did the year go? 2011 has been a great year for us here at Environmental Initiative – we’ve been busy and have had a great time working with our partners on all kinds of projects.

Before we jump right into 2012, we’re taking some time to look back on what we’ve done over the past year.  In the spirit of the ubiquitous end-of-year top ten lists, here’s our own 2011 top ten countdown, complete with a slideshow!

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Georgia Rubenstein

POSTED BY:

Senior Manager, Sustainability Program

High Performance Homes = Low Bills for Homeowners

December 16th, 2011

From the Environmental Initiative team: We have a rich history working in partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Through our former Resources for Redevelopment program, we collaborated with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity to help redevelop and clean-up contaminated sites in Minneapolis and St. Paul so homes could be built on cleaned up sites. Environmental Initiative and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity also worked together to improve the sustainability of Habitat’s homes throughout their entire life cycle through a pilot green build in Crystal, MN. Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity continues to build green. Learn more: http://www.tchabitat.org/green/home.

We were so excited to learn about the East Central Minnesota affiliate’s efforts to build energy-efficienct, environmentally responsible and affordable homes, we had to share it with you!

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Roxy Helmeid

POSTED BY:

Communications VISTA, Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota

Support Environmental Initiative, Support Solutions

December 7th, 2011

I learned early in my legal career that I am not well-suited to be a litigator.  Frankly, I learned I’m not all that fond of lawyers.  We’re a generally disagreeable lot, prone to argument and confrontation – not a lot of fun to hang around with.

Even though I’m as game as the next person to argue politics or religion, I am professionally predisposed to finding common ground and solving problems.  I can be a strong advocate when necessary, but I believe we all are better off when we can find a result that works for everybody – or at least leaves everybody equally unhappy. (more…)

POSTED BY:

Attorney, Bloomberg & Podpeskar LLP and Environmental Initiative Board Member

Why I Give

November 30th, 2011

Having spent a big chunk of my career in the environmental arena – from policy-making to policy implementation to helping clients figure out how to adhere to policies – I am convinced of one thing:

There is no black and white. There is no one perfect resolution to most of the intractable challenges we face trying to balance environmental protection and the various demands of society.

I believe the best solutions – the ones that achieve the elusive balance between protecting our precious natural resources and providing economic opportunity – are reached only after people with various perspectives have shared their thoughts with each other, after each person has truly listened to understand and appreciate views different from their own. (more…)

Ann Glumac

POSTED BY:

Principal, Glumac Executive Enterprise & Environmental Initiative Board Member

A Big Day for Giving

November 15th, 2011

It is a big fundraising week in Minnesota. Give to the Max Day kicks off this Wednesday, November 16th and many nonprofit organizations are in the midst of year-end fundraising efforts. Yes, your email boxes will flood with all kinds of ‘Give to the Max’ day messages as organizations work to raise money to support their work. You might be thinking, ‘Make it stop! How many more emails about this will I get?!?!’

Email flooding aside, what happens in Minnesota on this day is nothing short of remarkable. Last year, more than 40,000 people raised over $10 million for thousands of Minnesota nonprofits through GiveMN.org on Give to the Max Day. That’s amazing!

Nonprofit organizations play an important role in our communities. We deliver essential services, protect our natural resources, enrich our neighborhoods, and improve our quality of life. In addition to the dollars that fund nonprofit programs, organizations also need flexible, unrestricted resources to thrive. (more…)

Emily Franklin

POSTED BY:

Director of Communications

Clean Water on a Heart and Soul Level: Policy Forum Recap

November 11th, 2011

A group of nearly 100 water quality experts and stakeholders joined the conversation this past Monday for our third policy forum of the year, “Working Together to Achieve Healthy Waters” at St. Cloud State University.

One thing that jumped out at me right away was the energy in the room as people arrived. It felt like a meeting of old friends. The engagement of people in the room on the “heart and soul level” for clean water that our friend and panelist Craig Lieser pointed out was certainly evident throughout the day in the energy and engagement of participants.

For those of you that could not make it out to the event, I want to share some takeaways and summary points that our excellent moderator Louis Smith kindly recapped at the end of the day. Here, in no particular order, were some of the key points from the day:

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Mark Lundgren

POSTED BY:

Director of Environmental Projects

Practicing Product Stewardship: Business & Environment Session Recap

November 3rd, 2011

Last Tuesday, about 70 business leaders, sustainability practitioners, representatives from nonprofits and local and state government, and others joined Environmental Initiative for the third and final session of our 2011 Business & Environment Series. We were lucky to be hosted at Best Buy Co, Inc. headquarters – which we learned is the largest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certified corporate office, the biggest composter in Minnesota, AND houses the busiest Caribou Coffee!

Besides the sustainability features of their corporate campus, Best Buy has worked hard to become a leader in electronics recycling, pledging to collect one billion pounds of used electronics (or e-waste) over the next five years – and making their location ideal to discuss the topic of last week’s Business & Environment Session, product stewardship.

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Georgia Rubenstein

POSTED BY:

Senior Manager, Sustainability Program

Policy Forum Preview: Working Together to Achieve Healthy Waters

October 26th, 2011

Imagine if you will, a loon’s call over a cold, crisp lake in the north woods, the familiar sound of a canoe paddle hitting the water, the hum of a boat motor, the laughter of children playing on the beach, the sound of a fish breaking the water at dawn.  All the sounds we love about Minnesota’s water resources.

Everyone can agree that we want clean water in Minnesota.  But how do we get there in the most effective, economical way?  How do we make water quality improvements at scales large enough to impact water quality goals?  What is working well right now in Minnesota?

Minnesota.  Water.  Collaboration.

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Mark Lundgren

POSTED BY:

Director of Environmental Projects

Supply Chain Standards Bring Clarity, Focus for Companies

October 13th, 2011

It’s safe to say that the majority of supply chain professionals did not enter the field to become environmental decision makers.  Yet more and more they are the lynchpin of sustainability strategies in leading companies.

Still, the question arises – why would a company want to add environment to the existing safety, quality, reliability, and cost issues they already manage in their supply chains?

Like with other business metrics, the numbers tell part of the story:

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Holly Lahd

POSTED BY:

Graduate Research Fellow, University of Minnesota Northstar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise

Chemicals Policy 101: What You Need to Know

October 4th, 2011

“Chemistry is everywhere.” My college offered an undergraduate course with this title, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that I fully understood how true this statement is. Each of us encounters hundreds of chemical compounds every day. Whether in the air we breathe, soaps we use, plastics we handle, or even the water we drink – chemistry is essential and inescapable.

In the United States, chemicals in commerce are regulated under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA – pronounced “TOSCA”), which was passed into law in 1976 and has not been updated since. TSCA gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to maintain an inventory of chemicals in commerce, regulate unreasonable risk from toxic chemicals, and disclose certain health and safety information. Of the approximately 85,000 chemical substances on the TSCA inventory, only five have been actively regulated by EPA in the 35 years since TSCA’s enactment. Of course, not all chemicals are harmful. Many chemicals have been extensively tested and are shown to be safe. Still, there is wide acknowledgment that TSCA is not as effective as it could be at protecting the public from dangerous chemicals. The need to reform TSCA appears on the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) High Risk List and the EPA has released a set of principles for TSCA reform and a suite of activities to strengthen its chemical management program activities in the meantime.

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Ellen Gibson

POSTED BY:

Senior Director, Projects & Programs
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