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Archive for June, 2014

What’s New With the Waste Reduction Collaborative

June 13th, 2014

As we look ahead to a summer filled with continued outreach, education, and developing solutions to businesses’ most challenging waste problems, I’d like to reflect on the great work we’ve done so far with members of the Waste Reduction Collaborative.

At our first meeting of the year we welcomed Trudy Richter, with the Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board (SWMCB), to help decode waste hauler contracts and invoices. A commercial recycling study commissioned by SWMCB found that many businesses are not familiar with hauler contract terms, invoice components, or even the price difference between trash and recycling services. Trudy offered tangible takeaways to help businesses understand their contracts and work with their hauler to truly get services tailored to their particular business needs.

Taking a more innovative waste management approach, our May meeting focused on by-product synergy – a model in which one company’s waste can be used in a novel way as a resource or input for another company. The collaborative was led through a “Meet Your Match” exercise (think speed dating) to look for synergies between companies waste materials and inputs. Members left the meeting not only feeling energized to look at waste in a new light but also understanding the true power of collaborative solutions.

Although our large meetings focus mostly on dialogue, we are also working to bring real action to the Waste Reduction Collaborative. Drawing on the knowledge of our members, local county and state staff, and waste experts with the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program and Minnesota Waste Wise, we are working to develop and implement collaborative waste projects that alone may not feasible but together solve the problem. A few of our current action projects include: working with businesses in Golden Valley to create an organics collection route, developing a plan to bring compostable take-out ware to businesses in Saint Paul, and researching landfill-alternatives to Styrofoam and polyester.

We look forward to continuing helping Minnesota businesses work together on creative solutions to manage their waste.

If you are interested in learning more about this project, want to join the collaborative, or have a great idea for a waste project, please contact me.

Dani Schurter


Project Manager

Is It Time to Reinvent Corporate Sustainability Management?

June 11th, 2014

A note from Environmental Initiative: We are excited to welcome Mark McElroy to The Initiative as today’s guest blogger. Mark will discuss his context-based approach to sustainability metrics at our June 25th Business & Environment Session “Measuring Sustainability.” We’ll also hear from local companies Pictura Graphics, Mosaic Company, and GNP Company on their approach to sustainability measurement, and leave plenty of time for discussion and networking with an audience of over 100 cross-sector sustainability professionals. Don’t miss the conversation – register today!


Whether overtly expressed in these terms or not, every approach to sustainability management in business constitutes or adheres to a doctrine of some kind that can be identified as such. Doctrines such as Corporate Social Responsibility, Eco-efficiency and Shared Value provide distinct and often competing perspectives on (1) what sustainability is, and (2) how it should be measured, managed and reported.  As distinct doctrines, the principles they rely on differentiate them from one another.

Most of what passes for mainstream practice in business today, however, falls into a common cluster of doctrines (including the ones mentioned above) that can be thought of as incrementalist. A feature they have in common, that is, is the view that marginal (if not merely ostensible) changes in performance over time are sufficient for purposes of determining whether an organization’s social or environmental impacts are sustainable. Using less water this year than last, less energy, producing less waste, doing more community involvement, etc. all constitute positive performance per se and are interpreted as sustainable or more sustainable performance accordingly under the incrementalist doctrines.

Within the past fifteen years, however, a new doctrine has come along that is more literalist and anti-incrementalist in its orientation and which challenges the status quo. Known as Context-Based Sustainability, or CBS, this upstart of a doctrine takes the position that sustainability performance is more of a binary affair: impacts are either sustainable or unsustainable in the first instance, depending on how the impacts compare to norms, standards or thresholds for what they would have to be in order to be sustainable. A particular level of water consumption, for example, that falls above a sustainability threshold would be regarded as unsustainable no matter how much less it was than the year before.


Mark McElroy


Founder and Executive Director, Center for Sustainable Organizations

Weekly Wrap-Up: EPA Proposed Rules

June 6th, 2014

Earlier this week, the Obama Administration issued proposed rules to limit carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants; calling for 30 wind energypercent reductions from 2005 levels by the year 2030. Headlines ranged from “Health experts see benefits in push to cut pollution,” to “Texas attorney general plans to fight new EPA rule.” There has been widespread coverage of the announcement all week. Here are some of the best articles I’ve read on the issue so far:

  • How the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) power plant rules will actually work: step-by-step (Vox).
  • At home: Minnesota must reduce carbon emissions by 41% (Pioneer Press).
  • Editorial: Minnesota leads in carbon emission reductions (Star Tribune).
  • From the source: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s remarks from the Clean Power Plan announcement (U.S. EPA).
  • Why clean tech innovators should be celebrating the proposed climate pollution rule (GreenBiz).
  • Proposed carbon emission reductions: the costs and benefits by the numbers (Bloomberg).

Have you been following the news surrounding the EPA announcement? What have you been reading? Share with me here or shoot me a note anytime.

Emily Franklin


Director of Communications

Meet Our Members: Pictura Graphics

June 2nd, 2014

Pictura was our proud host for Environmental Initiative’s most recent Waste Reduction Collaborative meeting and is our June member of the month.  Pictura is a leader, both locally and nationally, in the wide-format printing and graphics industry.  The company has a strong focus in environmental business practices and business sustainability, evidenced by its leadership position with the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership.AwardsBannerBlog

“At Pictura, we have a considerable commitment not only to our sustainability, but the environmental impact of the printing industry,” said Paul Lilienthal, President. “Our emphasis is on a “cleaner, greener” manufacturing process.  Over the past 5 years, we have already invested in many manufacturing improvements from investments in printing equipment with lower VOC’s, implementation of recycling programs, to the utilization of substrates that have favorable environmental characteristics. Our team is the fundamental component of our sustainability.   We strive to create an engaging workplace where our employees are commended for their continued promotion of “green” initiatives, sponsor workplace safety, and reduction of both personal and business economic footprint.”

Pictura Graphics recently donated a series of banners and a backdrop from their sustainable product lines for our recent Environmental Initiative Awards. Thank you to Pictura for all that you have done to support Environmental Initiative.

A note from Environmental Initiative: Each month, we feature information about one of our members here on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact me anytime at 612-334-3388 ext. 101 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Photo credit: Megan Dobratz, studioTart.

Sacha Seymour-Anderson


Development Director
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