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Environmental Initiative’s 2013 Year in Review

December 27th, 2013

Happy New Year from all of us here at Environmental Initiative! 2013 has been an exciting year for us and we can’t wait to continue to work with our current partners, and forge new collaborations, in 2014. Before we hit the ground running next year (next week!), join me in looking back at this top-ten list of Environmental Initiative’s 2013 highlights.

1. Our Clean Air Minnesota partners announced twenty-four recommendations to reduce emissions, protect public health, and keep Minnesota’s air clean. Now, this statewide partnership of leaders from businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations is entering a new phase of work together – collectively reviewing, prioritizing, and discussing how to implement these recommendations.

2. Halfway through Governor Dayton’s first term in office, we brought state agency leaders together at our 2013 Commissioners Forum to discuss their environmental priorities and perspectives. Leaders from the Board of Water & Soil Resources, Metropolitan Council, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and Minnesota Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health, Natural Resources, and Transportation offered ideas and heard from audience members on water quality, climate change, and more. We were pleased to hear lots of talk about the importance of collaboration – with so many agencies working on environmental issues, our speakers agreed that aligning goals and programs across agencies and departments was key to driving greater impact.


Georgia Rubenstein


Senior Manager, Sustainability Program

Your Groundwater Questions, Answered.

December 23rd, 2013

Thank you to everyone who attended our December 17th policy forum Seizing Opportunities for Integration in Groundwater Management. Attendees learned about and discussed emerging strategies and plans for integrating groundwater management across state and local agencies and how these strategies may inform future planning and permitting decisions.

The audience had a lot of great questions – so many in fact, that we did not have time during the event to answer them all.  I asked our speakers to respond to some of we were unable to answer at the event.

Here are their responses:

What link is there between strategies in the Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan (NFMP) and the Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP)?

Dan Stoddard, Minnesota Department of Agriculture:

The Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan was developed independently of, and without consideration for, the Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program.

The concept of certainty, protection from future regulations, for MAWQCP certified growers would apply to any new rules developed under the NFMP during the period of certification.  This means that if the Minnesota Department of Agriculture was to develop new rules under the NFMP we would assume that certified growers are meeting all required water quality goals and would write into the new rule that certified growers are exempt or considered to be in compliance with the rule during the period of certification.  This is reasonable since the requirements to adopt best management practices to become certified should meet or exceed the requirements in the new rule.

One of the goals of the revised NFMP is to work with local growers to consider changing land management practices in targeted areas to address local concerns with elevated nitrate in the groundwater.  Therefore we would still want to work with MAWQCP certified growers and involve them on the local advisory team and any other local activities.  Since these growers have demonstrated leadership by participating in the MAWQC program, we would seek them out as potential leaders in local response efforts. (more…)

Andrea Robbins


Director, Engagement and Systems

Fast Away The Old Year Passes…

December 20th, 2013

It’s hard to believe we’re in the final weeks of 2013 and another year is about to pass us by. I guess that saying, “Time flies, when you’re having fun,” is definitely true for me. This past year has been full of exciting accomplishments and most importantly, partners new and old. One of the best things about my job is the talented and interesting people I get to meet and interact with as we work to protect and restore Minnesota’s environment through collaboration. Here are a few of the high points for me from the past year:

  • Stakeholders reaching consensus on twenty-four recommendations to improve air quality. I’m thrilled about the momentum and energy as we begin to collectively discuss how to implement these ideas.
  • Our sustainability programming continues to expand into new areas. This year, business leaders have been working together to come up with ways to reduce waste through our Waste Reduction Collaborative. It’s wonderful see these ideas being turned into action.
  • We had the most successful year of event programing in the organization’s history. Our Environmental Initiative Awards, Business & Environment Series and Policy Forum Series drew record attendance. This work is central to our mission and we hope you enjoyed the chance to network and learn from one another at our events this year.
  • We’ve secured funding for Project Green Fleet in order to retrofit the last of Minnesota’s school buses with pollution control equipment thanks to a contribution from Flint Hills Resources. I look forward to our staff completing this work and focusing next on reducing emissions from construction fleets and other diesel vehicles in the coming years.

All of this work would not be possible without you. To that end, our current and past Board of Directors have set up an incredible $10,000 matching fund so donors and friends like you can double your impact. We’ve got less than $1,000 to raise to meet our goals. For those who have become individual members, you have my deepest thanks. If you have not yet joined our circle of members, we would love to have you. Individual membership rates start at just $30, are tax deductible and directly support our efforts to find common ground for Minnesota’s environment. Become a member or renew your membership here »

It may sound a little cliché, but as I sign thank you letter after thank you letter, I can’t help but feel grateful for all of the support you show this organization year after year. On behalf of all of the staff at Environmental Initiative, thank you, happy holidays, and best wishes for a wonderful 2014!

Mike Harley


Executive Director

Event recap: How Do You Tell Your Sustainability Story?

December 20th, 2013

On December 12th, representatives from businesses, nonprofits, government, and other interested groups gathered at Aveda Corporate Headquarters in Blaine for the final Business & Environment Session of 2013. This event was my first with Environmental Initiative; my initial impression was one of connections, both old and new – people catching up with professional connections built over time and others making new ones.

The topic was what can be a delicate balance: how do you manage expectations of both transparency and privacy when communicating about your organization’s sustainability efforts? The session included engaging speakers from business and industry, as well as facilitated tabletop conversations and informal networking.

First up was Stephanie Glazer from SASB (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization focused on developing industry-specific sustainability disclosure standards for publicly-traded companies in the US. SASB is meeting quarterly with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and hoping to gain the organization’s endorsement of the standards, similar to those set by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) for financial reporting on the Form 10-K. Ultimately, SASB aims to benefit both investors and the public by providing an avenue for companies to share the environmental, social, and governance issues that are most relevant – or material – to their industries. (You can read more about SASB here.) SASB is using a three-step process to develop their standards:



Master of Public Policy Candidate, University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Matching Gift Programs

December 11th, 2013

Did you know you can double – or even triple – the impact of your donation with a matching gift from your employer? Many employers offer a matching gift program as a benefit to their employees.

Employer matching gifts are a simple way to maximize your contribution to Environmental Initiative — providing more resources to build partnerships to Two deer in winterimprove Minnesota’s environment.

It’s easy to have your donation matched. Talk to your personnel or business office to see if your employer matches gifts to the environment.  Xcel Energy and Amerprise are just a few companies that we know match employee’s gifts to Environmental Initiative.

So, how does it work? Most companies ask you to complete and return a short form and may require Environmental Initiative’s tax identification number: 41-1718834.

If your employer does offer a matching gift, please send your completed form to:

Environmental Initiative
Attn:  Sacha Casillas
211 North First Street, Suite 250
Minneapolis, MN 55401

If you have any questions, please contact Sacha Casillas, Director of Membership and Development at 612-334-3388 ext. 101.

Happy Giving!

Sacha Seymour-Anderson


Development Director

Shop for Minnesota’s Environment on December 10th

December 5th, 2013

What are you doing on Tuesday, December 10th? I hope you will join the Minnesota Environmental Fund at Ten Thousand Villages in Saint Paul to get a little feel good holiday shopping done. Twenty percent of sales will help support more than twenty environmental and conservation organizations working to protect, conserve, and restore Minnesota’s environment. Here are the details:

What: Minnesota Environmental Fund Benefit Night

Where: Ten Thousand Villages
, 867 Grand Avenue, Saint Paul (map)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013, 5:00p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

You, your friends, family and co-workers

Because for every item purchased – and there are hundreds if not thousands of unique gifts for you and others in your life – 20% of the sale will benefit the Minnesota Environmental Fund.

A note from Environmental Initiative: We’re one of more than twenty member organizations receiving support through the Minnesota Environmental Fund’s workplace giving efforts. As the holiday season begins, we wanted to share this unique opportunity to support the Minnesota Environmental Fund through the purchase of sustainable, fair trade gifts.

Ed Marek


Executive Director, Minnesota Environmental Fund

The Future of Minnesota’s Electric Utilities: The Sequel

November 13th, 2013

Environmental Initiative’s recent policy forum on “The Future of Minnesota’s Electric Utilities” drew a block-buster crowd—you would have thought they were giving away free beer. Especially for a topic as potentially dry and esoteric as the future of electric utilities, one would have expected a much smaller crowd and the deafening sound of crickets. But the meeting room overlooking the iconic Como Zoo was packed and humming with conversation.

Timing is everything, and the electricity industry in this country (and elsewhere in the world) is undergoing seismic changes that deserve the kind of attention they got at Environmental Initiative’s recent forum. Indeed, for anyone working in (or just interested in) the energy sector, it’s impossible to escape talking about what the utility of the future might look like and how it might evolve. It is the right conversation to be having. (more…)

Doing Better, Together: The Waste Reduction Collaborative

November 1st, 2013

“We all do better when we all do better.” That’s a quote we like around here at Environmental Initiative – it sums up our partnership-based mission pretty well, and it’s also one that’s been on my mind lately as I’ve been working on the Waste Reduction Collaborative, one of the newer projects that’s part of our work with the Twin Cities sustainable business community.

The idea for the project was born from discussions with a group of our business partners, who recognized that they’re all working on reducing what they’re sending to a landfill – whether through purchasing less, reusing, or recycling more – and that many of them face common barriers to minimizing waste the way they’d like to. Smaller companies, especially, may have trouble aggregating enough of a certain material to get much value from recycling it, or difficulties starting up a new contract with a waste hauler if they’re not located on an existing route, or just not have the resources or know-how to invest in innovative solutions to help throw out less.


Georgia Rubenstein


Senior Manager, Sustainability Program

Weekly Wrap-Up – 10/18/13

October 18th, 2013

Environmental Initiative’s efforts to reduce air emissions are ongoing. As a result, we’re always keeping an eye on what’s happening here and around the world related to air quality. Here’s the latest:

  1. World Health Organization: Air pollution causes cancer (CNN).
  2. The Supreme Court agrees to hear landmark case challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, factories, and other stationary sources (Sustainable Industries).
  3. Beijing bans cars on poor air quality days. But, is it enough? (The Cristian Science Monitor)
  4. What’s that smell? The bees aren’t sure, thanks to diesel exhaust (Voice of America).
  5. Yikes! According to a recent MIT study, more Americans die from car pollution each year than die from car accidents (Quartz).



Emily Franklin


Director of Communications

Minnesota Department of Transportation Retrofits Over 200 Vehicles

October 15th, 2013

The calendar has now flipped to October, leaves are changing, and temperatures are falling across the state. What does that mean? Our old friend winter is coming and snow will soon be here! Are you ready for it?

We have all seen the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT) snowplows and dump trucks working across the state to clear roads during and after a winter snowfall. Did you know you can breathe a little easier knowing that all of MnDOT’s eligible vehicles have been retrofitted with a piece of equipment that reduces particulate matter emissions from the tailpipe by approximately 20-25%?

MnDOT TruckOver the past few years, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Environmental Initiative have partnered with MnDOT to retrofit 149 vehicles in the Twin Cities and 100 vehicles throughout Greater Minnesota. This is an amazing accomplishment and one that has a visible effect on pollution levels from these trucks.

“The MPCA is proud to have retrofitted 149 MnDOT trucks in the metropolitan area with emission control devices that reduce fine particulate pollution by 20%. It is even more rewarding to partner with Environmental Initiative’s Project Green Fleet, which has expanded this effort by retrofitting all of the MnDOT trucks outside of the metropolitan area. Together we’ve made a successful and comprehensive effort to retrofit MnDOT’s entire eligible fleet,” says Mark Sulzbach, Clean Diesel Specialist, at MPCA.

One of the aims of Project Green Fleet is to make it easy to partner with fleets like MnDOT to reduce emissions. Bob Ellingsworth, Fleet Manager at MnDOT notes, “Working with Project Green Fleet was seamless. They made it easy and convenient to get these vehicles retrofitted. We are very happy that we were able to lower our emissions around the entire state and keep Minnesota’s air clean.”

Environmental Initiative has reduced particulate matter emissions by 27 tons annually through Project Green Fleet. This is the equivalent of removing 425,000 cars from the road each year.

Eric David


Program Manager, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
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