Environmental Initiative - Home

Archive for 2014

Pollinator Policy Forum: What’s the Buzz?

December 18th, 2014

If you have been paying attention to news channels for the past decade, you may have heard about the severe decline in honeybeesbee populations. Recently, these trends have gained the attention of many bee fans to collaborate for a solution. Governmental departments, academics at the University of Minnesota, and environmental organizations chose to focus on discussing creating habitats for Minnesota’s pollinators at Environmental Initiative’s recent policy forum. But what you might not see (as I didn’t) before attending the meeting was, “What do bees have to do with me individually?”

When I was a kid, honeybees were the source for sweet condiments on my chicken tenders after a hard day’s work at soccer practice. As it turns out, bees serve my zesty taste buds and nutrition more than I imagined. According to Marla Spivak, a leading bee researcher at the University of Minnesota, bees directly or indirectly provide for the bounties of our fruits and vegetables. Not only that, the ‘lil buggers pollinate about $15 billion worth of agricultural crops that sustain our nation’s appetite and economy.


Tess Ergen


Student, University of Minnesota

Environmental Initiative Staff Tour the ‘HERC’

December 10th, 2014

When Pete Swenson at Tennant Company invited us to join members of their operations team on a tour of the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center, I could barely type “YES!” fast enough. After working on the Waste Reduction Collaborative project for the past 10 months, an opportunity to see first hand where our community’s waste goes was definitely on the top of my list.

The HERC – Hennepin Energy Recovery Center – is a refuse-fired electric generating facility. Meaning, this is Group photo of staff in hard hatswhere 35% percent of Hennepin County’s waste – both residential and commercial – is burned as fuel to generate electricity. You’ve probably seen it without realizing as it’s located adjacent to Target Field.

As Pete mentioned in his initial email, the experience was definitely “eye-opening.” As I stood above the pit, the location where trash haulers dump their day’s collection, I tried to grasp the magnitude of waste that our society generates. But after watching truck after truck unload, and scoop after scoop of waste being added to the boilers, it wasn’t hard to understand.

Besides being saddened and overwhelmed by the extreme volume of waste, I stood there and reflected on what I could do to help the problem. I decided to pledge to think more critically, and encourage others to as well, about what we are throwing away. Instead of mindlessly tossing our trash into the bin (I’m guilty too), let’s actually pay attention.

For example, did you know that the HERC still receives tires, appliances, electronics, and aluminum cans on a daily basis? All of these items cause tremendous problems at HERC. At the same time, they all have reputable, mainstream recycling options available. Let’s be mindful and use them!

We also learned that wet, organic material doesn’t mix well with the boiler. What if we helped out the HERC and got our organics out of the waste stream? I encourage you to talk with your local county to explore options for organics collection in your area.

And finally, if you have a group that could use an “eye-opener” sign-up to take a tour of HERC. I promise it will be worth your time.

Dani Schurter


Project Manager

Member of the Month: Dorsey & Whitney LLP

December 2nd, 2014

As former Director and Board Chair of Environmental Initiative, I am pleased to support Environmental Initiative and its mission. Dorsey & Whitney is thrilled to be highlighted as the organization’s member of the month.

The Dorsey firm is a proud member of Environmental Initiative’s Sustainer Partnership Circle. For the past few years, Dorsey has also been a sponsor of the Policy Forum Series, which has allowed us to support our community’s discussion of important environmental issues like fuel transport, community recycling, groundwater and materials management, and clean air.

Dorsey’s mission statement pledges loyalty and support to our clients, our communities, and our colleagues. Our clients benefit from the knowledge we gain through Environmental Initiative’s programming, knowledge that allows us to provide insightful and relevant legal and business advice on environmental issues. Our community benefits from the organization’s collaborative and open dialogue regarding sustainability and our colleagues benefit from the opportunities Environmental Initiative offers to participate in an important policy conversation.

We thank Environmental Initiative for its tireless dedication to a stronger Minnesota.


A note from Environmental Initiative:
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. 101 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Andy Brown


Partner, Co-Chair of the Energy Group and Chair of the Regulatory Affairs Group, Dorsey & Whitney LLP

Join the Discussion: Safe and Economic Transportation of Bakken Crude Oil Through Minnesota

November 25th, 2014

Bakken shale oil production has reached 1 million barrels per day, up from 200,000 in 2009 and is forecasted to be 1.6 million by 2017. Today, approximately 70% of Bakken shale oil is transported via railcars and each week over 50 million gallons of oil travel through densely populated regions, including the Twin Cities. As the train derailment in Casselton, North Dakota last December demonstrates, the emergency response system needs additional resources to address rail accidents.  The proposed Sandpiper pipeline route will travel through vulnerable and largely inaccessible Minnesota wetlands. However, it will reduce the rail car transportation and result in billions of dollars in infrastructure investments.

Given these challenges, how do we safely transport Bakken shale oil through Minnesota to refineries on the East and Gulf coasts? Join the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce – Upper Midwest Chapter for an event that brings global, national, regional and local experts together to discuss risk management practices as well as the economic impacts of the Bakken oil boom to the State and the business community.

December 4, 2014

9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (registration and refreshments begin at 8:00 a.m.)

Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Cowles Auditorium – University of Minnesota
301 19th Ave South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Parking and Directions »

Registration is $35, or $15 for students. Pre-registration is encouraged, but you may also register the day of the event. Register here »


Ole Koppang


Vice President, National Banking Division - Bank of the West

Minnesota meets on the verge of EPA’s new air quality standards

November 18th, 2014

As you may have read in the news, or some of our more recent blog posts, the federal air quality standards for ozone are expected to become more stringent when they are released in December. Last week a group of more than 100 leaders came together to learn more about the standards and discuss ways Minnesota can continue National ambient air quality standards for ground level ozone at 60 ppbto innovate collaboratively to reduce air pollution.

We were fortunate to be joined by Doug Aburano from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who talked a bit about how the health-based air quality standards that are set by the agency. He also shared a series of maps depicting various scenarios for the state depending on where the standards are set. As you can see from the map, (the one here depicts a scenario where the standard is set at 60 parts per billion) some areas will be more impacted by the changing federal standards than others. The standards are expected to be released on December 1, but will not be finalized until next October. The agency will not designate non-attainment areas (areas that violate the standard) until 2017. (more…)

Emily Franklin


Director of Communications

Reflections from the Net Impact Conference

November 11th, 2014

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Net Impact Conference – a forum for students and professionals to come together to tackle the world’s toughest social and environmental problems. As a board member of NetNet Impact Conference Logo Impact Minneapolis, I’ve been gearing up for the conference since March. Although it came and went by in the blink of an eye, here are the top three things I took away:

Community. As I prepared for the conference, I envisioned myself moving from breakout to breakout, networking at the expo, and being inspired by the keynotes. What I wasn’t expecting was the true sense of community that surrounded me. From the very first keynote all the way to the closing party, you could feel the rich community around you. I felt the community presence most when I volunteered to help 3M put on a service activity. Over 100 people came together over 2 days during lunch to assemble 250 solar-powered lamps to send to families in Africa without reliable access to electricity. All I can say is the experience was truly heartwarming.

Leadership. Let’s just say I was blown away by our future leaders. As 60% off the conference attendees are undergraduate or graduate students, I had the pleasure of rubbing elbows with these extremely passionate and well-educated (future) leaders. There is no doubt in my mind that the next generation of environmentalists is ready to tackle the challenges ahead of us face on.

Leading by example. After working on the Waste Reduction Collaborative for almost a year, you could say waste is always on my mind. I was so impressed to not only see the Minneapolis Convention Center collecting organics for compost but also seeing their extremely robust collection system. I never saw a lone garbage can the entire time! I know it may seem small, but I applaud our regions efforts to lead by example. Knowing the community that surrounded me, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who noticed our efforts.

Did you attend the Net Impact conference? What did you take away from the event? Send me an email or leave a comment here. If you missed it, you can catch the keynote and some of the session presentations on Net Impact’s website.

I hope to see you at next year’s conference.

Dani Schurter


Project Manager

Businesses Reducing Air Pollution in Minneapolis

November 6th, 2014

The City of Minneapolis has been leading an effort to partner with local businesses to voluntarily reduce air pollution in the city through our Green Business Matching Grant Program. The program invests grant dollars in businesses who reduce pollution in Minneapolis creating a healthier place to live, work, and play. Matching grants are available for dry cleaners, vehicle repair, service, and maintenance, and other innovative green solutions. Here are a few common questions (and my answers) about the program, what we’ve accomplished, and what we hope to do next.

Minneapolis Green Business LogoWhat is the Minneapolis Green Business Matching Grant Program?
The Green Business Matching Grant Program is a win-win approach to air quality where the City invests alongside businesses for cleaner business practices. Like all of us, business owners want to make healthy decisions for themselves, their workers, and their communities. The goal is to incentivize business owners who are on the fence about making substantial investments in their business that will improve worker health, community air quality, as well as regional air quality. We work with dry cleaners, automotive shops, and any other business with a way to clean the air.

How does the program work? What are the benefits to businesses? To air quality? To the city?
The City of Minneapolis provides 1/3 of the financial investment for the business. The benefit to the business is that they can provide safer alternatives for their workers, customers, and neighborhoods at a reduced cost. Typically, this involves new and more efficient equipment for the business as well. The business can feel proud of its stewardship in the community and the City of Minneapolis can feel proud to have businesses making real and quantifiable changes in the city. A true win-win situation. (more…)

Patrick Hanlon


Environmental Initiatives Manager, City of Minneapolis

Member of the Month: Best Buy

November 5th, 2014

At Best Buy, we believe sustainability must be an essential element of everything we do. It’s good for our business, it’s good for our customers, and it’s good for the environment.

That’s why we are pleased to support Environmental Initiative, which brings together other like-minded Minnesota organizations and individuals. And we are honored to be featured as Environmental Initiative’s member of the month.

Best Buy has been involved with Environmental Initiative for more than 10 years. We greatly appreciate the invaluable feedback and network of environmental thought leaders that continue to help our company as we strive to do more.

We believe that engaging with diverse stakeholders is crucial for any forward-looking company that hopes to contribute to solving relevant, real-world problems. Environmental Initiative supports that by bringing together industry peers and hosting events where best practices are shared and common challenges are addressed.

Best Buy has made exciting progress in our sustainability efforts, recently celebrating a significant milestone in our e-waste recycling program. We have collected more than 1 billion pounds of consumer electronics and large appliances from customers at our 1,400 U.S. retail stores since the program launched five years ago, and we have committed to an ambitious new goal to collect an additional 2 billion pounds by 2020.

We are proud of those efforts and our support of Environmental Initiative. We look forward to continuing to collaborate on environmental issues that affect the communities in which we live and work.


Best Buy Co., Inc. is the world’s largest consumer electronics retailer, offering advice, service and convenience – at competitive prices – to the consumers who visit its websites and stores more than 1.5 billion times each year. In the United States, more than 70 percent of Americans are within 15 minutes of a Best Buy store. Additionally, the company operates businesses in Canada, China, and Mexico. Altogether, Best Buy employs more than 140,000 people and earns annual revenues of more than $40 billion. Best Buy is proud of the work we do every day to create a thriving business while contributing to the common good.

For more information, visit www.Corporate.BestBuy.com/Sustainability or follow @BBYNews on Twitter.

Alexis Ludwig-Vogen


Director, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, Best Buy

Shop for a Cause on November 4th

October 28th, 2014

It’s hard to believe the holiday season is nearly upon us – and with that comes the need to find a perfect gift or two. The Minnesota Environmental Fund has partnered with Ten Thousand Villages in Saint Paul agaiMEF_logo_webn this year so you can pick up that special gift for your host, hostess, family member or friend.

Join me on November 4th for the upcoming shopping event to benefit the Minnesota Environmental Fund at Ten Thousand Villages gift store. From 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 4, you can shop for a great cause: the Minnesota Environmental Fund. The more you shop, the more money is donated to support Minnesota’s environmental organizations!

  • For evening’s sales of $0-$300: 10% of sales will be donated
  • For sales of $301-$500: 15% of sales will be donated
  • For sales of $500+: 20% of sales will be donated

If you can’t make it on the 4th, pre-shop at Ten Thousand Villages. Staff will hold your items and run your credit card information during the event and items can be picked up when it’s convenient for you. I hope to see you there!

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

Cordelia Pierson


Executive Director, Minnesota Environmental Fund

Federal Air Quality Standards: Is it Déjà Vu All Over Again?

October 21st, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is scheduled to release its decision on new standards for ground-level ozone, or smog, by early December. This release has been rescheduled multiple times over many years. Heck, I’ve even written at least twice about these standards. As Yogi Berra said, this is like déjà vu all over again.

Initially, the Bush Administration tightened slightly the smog standard in March 2008. Lawsuits followed because that final standard was outside of the range and less stringent than the level recommended by the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson described this standard as “legally indefensible.” Fast-forward to this year and CASAC has again recommended more a stringent standard. The EPA has made its recommendation, which is currently being reviewed by all the appropriate agencies and the White House. By Court order, the final decision will be made public by December 1, 2014. And, regardless of where the standard is set more lawsuits are likely to follow. I am leaving out lots of interesting and juicy legal and procedural elements (well, interesting to me anyway), but you get the picture. (more…)

Bill Droessler


Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning
Environmental Initiative - Home