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Archive for April, 2015

Earth Day Turns 45 (Plus Ways to Pitch In)

April 22nd, 2015

According to a recent article from Triple Pundit, 1 in 10 Americans participated in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Following Rachel Carson’s game-changing book Silent Spring and several major environmental disasters (a major oil spill and a river on fire), Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson had the idea for Earth Day, as an organizing event to bring environmental issues to thhepatica flowere nation’s political forefront.

On the first Earth Day, 20 million people collectively flooded the nation’s streets, parks, and university campuses to demonstrate and rally for conservation and environmental protection. Many credit Earth Day as the watershed event which helped lead to the passage of our major environmental laws and creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

While we’ve come a long way since the first Earth Day, its clear we still face major challenges. President Obama is speaking today in the Everglades about the threat of climate change. Debate is underway at the Minnesota Legislature about buffer strips to protect water quality. Links between poor air quality and negative health impacts continue to grow.

But, this isn’t meant to be a doom and gloom post! In the spirit of all of us having the ability to make a difference, here’s a few events, resources, & easy things you can do to pitch in for Earth Day:

Happy 45th Earth Day. How will you celebrate this year? What does Earth Day mean to you? Share in the comments below!

Emily Franklin


Director of Communications

Ramsey/Washington Gas Can Exchange

April 15th, 2015

Starting April 21, residents of Ramsey and Washington counties will be able to exchange their old portable gas can for a new, safer one. This limited-time program is free and part of a larger initiative to keep Minnesota’s air clean. It’s sponsored by the Ramsey/Washington County Resource Recovery Project in partnership with Clean Air Minnesota.no spill gas can

Conventional gas cans, like those used to fuel your lawn mower or boat, release vapors that pollute our air. Air pollution harms everyone, especially children and people with respiratory issues. Spills are common with conventional gas cans, allowing gasoline to contaminate our water. Newer gas cans, on the other hand, are designed to automatically seal after use and remain tightly closed. This simple design change can reduce pollution by up to 75 percent!

The counties’ free gas can exchange will take place at the following locations, while supplies last. You must bring in an old gas can in order to receive a new one. Limit one can per household.

Ramsey County Year-Round Household Hazardous Waste Collection Site
5 Empire Drive
Saint Paul, MN 55103
Tuesday – Friday 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Washington County Environmental Center
4039 Cottage Grove Drive
Woodbury, MN 55129
Tuesday 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

In addition to the gas can exchange, you can recycle gasoline, motor oil and filters, antifreeze, paint, aerosol cans and other types of household hazardous waste for free at these locations.

To learn more, contact Ramsey County at 651-633-EASY (3279) or Washington County at 651-430-6655.

Kaia Johnson


Health Educator, Saint Paul – Ramsey County Public Health

Introducing Janiece Watts, Project and Administrative Assistant

April 14th, 2015

Hello! I am Janiece Watts, a Saint Paul native that has always had an admiration for the environment, so it is wonderful to have combined my passion with my position at the influential organization Environmental Initiative. As the new Project and Administrative Assistant, I am excited to work with a talented team of dedicated and brilliant individuals who like myself, shares the love for our natural world.

I became interested in environmental policy specifically as I moved through both work and school. At one of my first internships with the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, I learned a lot about environmental protection and project management and how common goals can be achieved through a collective effort of governmental agencies, environmental organizations, and all Minnesotans having a shared responsibility to our natural resources and future.

So, this led me to make sure this responsibility would continue to be shared. This brought about my foundation in community organizing around environmental justice, food security, and advocating on the many factors that impact poverty. Organizing is fundamental to solving complex problems and engages all people in the conversations that lead to action. I practiced this by organizing with the international nonprofit Oxfam leading the Minnesota chapter of Oxfam Minnesota Action Corps, and conducting outreach during the open enrollment period of MNsure, Minnesota’s state health insurance exchange.

I hope to bring my skills for organizing to this position so Environmental Initiative can carry on as a leader in creative and collaborative solutions working with all kinds of partners to keep our natural world flowing beautifully for generations to come.

Janiece Watts


Project and Administrative Assistant

Helping Monarchs and Honeybees at Scale

April 13th, 2015

We worked for years to ensure Minnesota leads the way in the transition to a clean energy economy. Homegrown renewable energy has led to billions of dollars of private investment, millions of production taxes paid to local communities, and thousands of jobs created across Minnesota.

For years, Minnesota’s leadership in energy has revolved around our significant wind power across south western Minnesota. Now, as prices continue to drop dramatically, we’re in the beginning stages of an exciting solar expansion as well. Thousands of acres of ground mounted solar are set to be installed over the next several years, and that expansion presents a unique opportunity to not only produce homegrown energy, but also to support our water and food supply.

Andrew Zimmern.JPG

These solar arrays could easily support new habitat for monarch butterflies and honey bees — simply by planting pollinator friendly native grasses rather than layer gravel or dirt. Most developers are used to building solar farms in California and Arizona (desert ground cover). In most cases, shipping in gravel is more expensive than dense beds of deep-rooted pollinator plants. (more…)

Michael Noble


Executive Director, Fresh Energy

Environmental Initiative Named Local Public Health Hero

April 10th, 2015

The City of Minneapolis recently named Environmental Initiative a “Local Public Health Hero.” How cool is that? This award was presented by the Minneapolis Health Department as part of their National Public Health Week “Healthy Where You Are” effort. The ceremony waspublic health award ceremony held on Thursday, April 9th in the City Hall Rotunda and recognized “Heroes” who are helping the Health Department achieve their goals for a healthier and more livable city. Environmental Initiative won for our contribution to “a Healthy Environment” in Minneapolis.

Gretchen Musicant, Minneapolis Commissioner of Health, presented the award and highlighted our programs creating partnership opportunities for the City, specifically Clean Air Minnesota, Project Green Fleet, and our work with the Minneapolis Green Business Matching Grant Program. Patrick Hanlon, Environmental Initiatives Manager with the City of Minneapolis, nominated us for the award and gave a special nod to our own Bjorn Olson for “tirelessly meeting with business owners . . . to help the business to ease the burden of making changes that clean the air.”

This is an especially rewarding recognition because while our efforts were largely driven to maximize emission reductions, underlying it all we value the associated health benefits. And, it is nice to get a pat on the back. Executive Director Mike Harley pointed out in accepting the award, that we can only do our work successfully when there are willing partners like the City of Minneapolis seeking common ground and solutions to complex, difficult environmental challenges. (more…)

Bill Droessler


Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning

Great River Energy Sees Utility Role in PEV Advancement

April 1st, 2015

Great River Energy provides wholesale electricity to 28 member cooperatives across Minnesota. As a cooperative, we are motivated by listening to and providing services for our member-owners and their consumers. So when we noticed a growing interest in plug-in electric Great River Energy Logovehicles (PEVs), we decided to explore the technology and our potential role in that market.

What we discovered after our initial research efforts is the important role PEVs will play in increasing energy security, improving fuel economy, lowering consumers’ overall fuel costs and reducing emissions. We also believe that electric utilities play an intrinsic role in consumers’ consideration of PEVs as a personal transportation option. Fleet electrification may also prove beneficial for business and industry.

Benefits to members
We are already looking at ways to make it easier for consumers to drive electric vehicles, and currently offer rebates for residential charging stations that encourage off-peak or time-of-use vehicle charging. This strategy enables consumers to use more electricity during night-time hours when prices are typically lower and when the electricity is frequently produced from the region’s abundant wind resources.

We are also looking at what it takes to develop PEV charging infrastructure in greater Minnesota. We have two PEV chargers for public use at our Maple Grove headquarters with plans to install additional charging equipment in 2015, including a number of Level 1 charging ports for employees. Great River Energy is proud to have been accepted as a Department of Energy Workplace Challenge partner.

Stakeholder engagement, partnerships and research
We think it’s important to listen to a variety of stakeholders and are participating in Drive Electric Minnesota, a coalition of groups that work collaboratively to bring electric vehicles and plug-in charging infrastructure here. We also conducted a summit last year to learn more about PEVs from nonprofits, government and environmental groups, subject matter experts, electric engineers as well as PEV owners.

Next steps
Great River Energy anticipates going further down the paths of stakeholder engagement, research, demonstration, infrastructure pilots and partnerships in an effort to increase PEV market stimulation.

We believe we can provide utility leadership in educating our members and promoting PEVs as a realistic transportation option. We look forward to helping promote and develop a robust PEV market in Minnesota.

Learn more about Great River Energy and the cooperative difference at greatriverenergy.com.


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.

Gary Connett


Director, Demand Side Management and Member Services, Great River Energy
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