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Archive for August, 2014

Auditing Waste at the Minnesota State Fair

August 27th, 2014

A few of our staff (myself included) participated in a recent waste audit at the Minnesota State Fair with Megan Dobratz of Native Sustainability and Mark Apfelbacher of Made. After the sort, I sat down with Megan to learn more about the process and the goals of the effort. My interview with her is below.

What is a waste audit?WasteSort1.JPG
A waste audit, or a waste sort, is pretty much what it sounds like. We are taking a look at what is being thrown away at the fair and recording what we find. More specifically, we are working with the Minnesota State Fair to determine what percentage of compostable materials is contained in the white garbage barrels on the grounds of the fair.

Prior to the waste audit, we gathered data from the fairs waste haulers, to get a general idea of what their current diversion rates are (how much waste is recycling, compost, or trash).

How does the process work?
Audits can be different, depending on what your goal is. We are focusing on the possibility of changing the white barrels from trash containers to compost containers – recycling of organic waste. For this process, we are inspecting individual bags of garbage. We start by weighing and recording each bag to establish a baseline. Then, the fun begins. Bags of waste are dumped onto a large tarp and sorted into three piles: recyclable materials, compostable materials, and items that have to be landfilled. The materials are then re-bagged by pile (compost is put into compostable bags), weighed, and recorded. Special sorting of Minnesota State Fair branded cups is also part of this sort (this is the one product the fair requires vendors to purchase through them).

We’re reviewing the waste over the course of three days at the fair.

Are there any interesting things you observed following your first day of sorting?
You always go into to a sort with some assumption of what you’ll find. There were certainly a few interesting items – like a sad torn teddy bear. The surprise is part of the fun! We saw a few particular vendor’s food service containers that continued to show up – but that’s what we wanted – to be able to identify the back-of-house opportunities for change that would bring us closer to our goal of zero-waste.

What do you hope to achieve as a result of the audit?
The data we’re collecting will be used to determine the percentage and types of non-compostable waste in the stream. The audit also helps informs bin size, type and location placement, and how those can be tweaked to reach the highest diversion rate possible.

The fair is doing a great job already. They have extensive systems in place to recycle a variety of materials (plastic, glass, cardboard, metals scraps, etc), as well as compost corncobs. However, the main goal is to get the State Fair to zero waste, which is diverting at least 90% of the waste produced from the landfill. We’re hoping to be able to prove the potential to compost the entire waste barrel, which could save the Minnesota State Fair more than $50,000 a year, and keep tons of organics out of the landfill. In addition to the cost savings and environmental benefit, converting to zero waste at such a large event creates a huge opportunity to educate Minnesotans about ways to reduce waste.

What are the first steps for a company if they’re looking into organics recycling?

Start with the information available – contact your waste hauler or property manager and start paying attention to what you are contributing to the waste stream. The best first step is source reduction and conservation. From there, find a professional to help you through the process!
We need to get waste out from behind the building; to pay more attention to what we’re producing and where it’s going.

Emily Franklin


Director of Communications

With school buses complete, Project Green Fleet aims to help construction fleets reduce diesel emissions

August 14th, 2014

This past August we celebrated the completion of retrofitting Minnesota’s school bus fleet with pollution control equipment at a press conference at the Science Museum. We also announced our plans for the future — working with construction companies to reduce emissions from large, off-road diesel vehicles like loaders, cranes, and bulldozers. A big thanks to the MinnesProject Green Fleet partners in front of school busota Pollution Control Agency, Flint Hills Resources, and the Associated General Contractors of Minnesota for participating in the event and for partnering with us on this important project.

Below are links to the media coverage we received as well as the press release so you can learn a little more about what we’re up to:

Bring Me the News
August 29, 2014
Minnesota ahead of the curve (again) on air quality »

Finance & Commerce
August 19, 2014
Making construction equipment run cleaner »

CBS Local – WCCO
August 14, 2014
Program makes greener school buses via retrofitting »

Star Tribune
August 14, 2014
Project Green Fleet passes school
bus test »

Minnesota Public Radio
August 14, 2014
‘Green Fleet’ says all old Minnesota school buses running cleaner »


Emily Franklin


Director of Communications

3M: August Member of the Month

August 1st, 2014

It is a pleasure for 3M to be highlighted as Environmental Initiative’s member of the month for August. 3M has been an active and strong supporter of Environmental Initiative since its formation. 3M’s long history of proactively addressing
environSustainability at 3Mmental issues and driving towards sustainability in all we do makes this partnership with Environmental Initiative so appropriate. Our commitment to sustainability closely connects with the organization’s mantra of building collaborative relationships to address environmental issues. It is this collaboration between a wide range of groups with differing opinions and objectives, working together to find common ground that has personally driven my desire to be involved in Environmental Initiative.

The network of Environmental Initiative’s event programming, dialogue projects, and action efforts provide opportunities for participation at many levels. Paul Narog, Manager, 3M Environmental Operations said, “3M is pleased to be the Environmental Initiative Awards sponsor for the new Community Action Award category and also be a major financial sponsor of the Clean Air Minnesota project.” Narog added “Environmental Initiative does a great job engaging across the full spectrum of the environmental community to improve environmental outcomes. The collaborative approach has been very effective and we are proud to be a part of it.”

Looking ahead, 3M seeks to expand our partnership with Environmental Initiative by continuing to seek out new opportunities to participate in fostering this collaborative approach in resolving our environmental challenges. 3M captures the spark of new ideas and transforms them into thousands of ingenious products. Our culture of creative collaboration inspires a never-ending stream of powerful technologies that make life better. 3M is the innovation company that never stops inventing. With $30 billion in sales, 3M employs 88,000 people worldwide and has operations in more than 70 countries.  For more information, visit www.3M.com or follow @3MNews on Twitter.


A note from Environmental Initiative:
Dan Schmid is 3M’s International Environmental Manager and member of Environmental Initiative’s Board of Directors. Each month, we feature information about one of our members here on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Casillas anytime at 612-334-3388 ext. 101 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Dan Schmid


3M International Environmental Manager
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