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Archive for November, 2012

Expand the Choir, Find Common Ground

November 30th, 2012

In the thirty (plus) years since I left college I have worn many hats; field biologist, National Park Service ranger, laboratory director, community organizer, lobbyist, regulator, and environmental consultant.  My friend Phil Hunsicker suggests that this indicates that I can’t keep a job, but I prefer to think of my career path as a study in how one gets things done – which activities or strategies are most likely to lead to lasting protection or improvement of the environment.

I still strongly believe that there is an essential role for the government, and that strong regulation and enforcement are essential for protection of public health and natural resources.  However, I have also learned that harnessing the self-interest and creativity of the private sector can often lead to more innovative solutions (and more comprehensive adoption) of effective policy while avoiding the antagonism associated with many public debates in our past.

Environmental Initiative is a high functioning nonprofit organization, but it is also represents a “place” where thoughtful and respectful conversations can occur, and creative ideas matured to lead to better, faster, and sometimes more cost effective environmental programs.  I was recruited to participate in Environmental Initiative by a leading mentor in the conservation community, but I have likely learned more from my friends in the “regulated community.”

Too often conservationists “preach to the choir,” but if our goal is sustainable economic development (good jobs) and a safe, vibrant ecosystem than we need to expand the choir, reach across the aisle, find the areas that we can agree on and inform public policy with ideas that work.  By supporting Environmental Initiative you are supporting ideas, conversations, projects, and sound policies. Please join me in making sure these conservations continue to lead to outcomes that matter.


A note from Environmental Initiative:
Our current and past Board of Directors (including Don Hickman) generously donated $10,000.00 in matching funds for Environmental Initiative’s year end fundraising efforts. We only need 29 more contributions to unlock this generous match. We hope you will consider supporting us with a tax-deductible year end gift. Make your contribution today:

Don Hickman


Environmental Initiative Board of Directors

Taking Action to Prevent Waste: Lessons from Hennepin County Volunteers (and the Lorax)

November 26th, 2012

Research has shown that no matter how compelling, information alone doesn’t lead to behavior change. Sure, sometimes the information lands in front of someone at just the right moment and a new behavior is adopted, but more often than not, it takes much more.

Hennepin County’s Master Recycler/Composter program attempts to bridge the gap between awareness and action by providing training to residents who then share the information (and their passion for waste reduction and recycling) with neighbors, friends, family and co-workers. The personal connection is key to motivating behavior change.



Hennepin County Environmental Services

Giving Thanks

November 21st, 2012

We throw the words “thankful,” “grateful” and “appreciation” around a lot this time of year – not only as the holidays begin but also in the season of year-end fundraising appeals. I realize that I’ve used those three words over and over again this month as I’ve signed fundraising letters and thank you notes by the hundred. After all of that, it’s possible the power of those words could wear thin. It’s possible my cramping hand and blurring mind could lose hold of the real meaning of those words.

Nothing could be farther from the truth for me. As I signed all of those request letters and as I send out thank you notes for each donation coming in, I am struck over and over again by how much support there is for this organization, for its mission and for its board and staff. If that sounds trite, then my words are failing to express the depth of my appreciation, my gratefulness and my thankfulness. (more…)

Mike Harley


Executive Director

Why I Give

November 15th, 2012

There is something about autumn that always makes me reflect back on the year that is rapidly slipping away and the things that remain to be done.  One of those things is taking stock of my charitable giving for the year to make sure I followed through on all of my original good intentions.

There are a few organizations I try to support, even when my own wallet is feeling thin, because they have certain characteristics important to me.  These are the organizations that have missions that align with my personal values and interests, are well managed so I know my investment will be wisely spent, and that operate with a high level of intellectual honesty and integrity.  It’s surprising how many organizations fail to meet those three criteria, and while I can respect differences on the first point (even my loving wife disagrees with me sometimes), the other two seem rather fundamental.  Fortunately, Environmental Initiative solidly rings all three bells. (more…)

Terry Coss


Environmental Initiative Board of Directors

Business & Environment Session Recap: Closing the Loop

November 8th, 2012

Whether through cradle-to-cradle design, zero waste commitments, or simply trying to toss out a little less each week, Minnesota companies continue to seek new ways to reduce their waste, and maybe save some money and make their processes more efficient in the meantime. This was the focus of our recent event, “Closing the Loop: Managing Downstream Waste,” the third and final session of the 2012 Business & Environment Series.

Over sixty individuals including sustainability practitioners, facilities managers, and communications experts from Minnesota businesses, state, county, and city governments, nonprofits, and educational institutions, came together at Medtronic World Headquarters in Fridley to discuss why downstream waste matters, what the challenges are to managing it, and how we can find solutions.


Georgia Rubenstein


Senior Manager, Sustainability Program
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