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Archive for June, 2015

Reducing “Junk Mail”: Our Lessons Learned

June 22nd, 2015

About a year ago, in an effort to be more “environmental” at the office, I decided to take on a little pet project of my own – reducing JUNK MAIL. I know, I know, those two little words are cringe worthy, which means it’s worth tackling, right?

Whether at home or at the office, we are all inundated with unwanted mail. And although it’s hard to resist the temptation to simply throw it all junk mailin the recycling bin, it’s totally worth it once your mailbox is filled with mail you actually enjoy receiving (besides bills, of course).

Today, as I celebrate removing Environmental Initiative from 100 different direct mail lists, here are a few tips I learned along the way.

  • Keep a log of who sent the mail, who it’s addressed to, and the date you requested removal. It can take a few months to process so it’s good to keep track of your efforts.
  • Be persistent. Sometimes it takes multiple emails or phone calls but the satisfaction is worth it in the end, trust me.
  • Although it might not have been “junk” at one time, be sure to request removal of all former employees.
  • If you receive several copies of the same mailing, request to receive only one to circulate around the office.
  • Think about what your organization is sending. Are there ways to consolidate or eliminate the materials you mail?
  • And finally, celebrate your waste reduction successes with your colleagues!

Reducing unwanted mail is just one example of the things we’re doing at Environmental Initiative to keep our office green. To learn more about other ways businesses are reducing waste, check out information about our Waste Reduction Collaborative or contact me anytime.


Dani Schurter


Project Manager

Area Source Emissions and VOCs: Smaller, Dispersed Sources of Pollution

June 12th, 2015

What can I say about area source emissions, or VOCs, that hasn’t been said already? Probably a lot, because DSC02882webmany people don’t know what the heck I’m talking about…

Long story short, area source emissions are smaller and more dispersed. They aren’t regulated like “point sources” (think smokestacks). VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are an example of area source emissions that contribute to ground-level ozone.

Why is that bad? Well, for one, breathing ozone has been described as “sunburn on the lungs.” If that isn’t enough, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is lowering ground-level ozone standards this fall. Minnesota is very close to violating these new standards, which, if we do, would mean a host of new restrictions required by our federal friends. Regardless of where the standards are set, there’s a benefit to reducing emissions proactively and voluntarily — cleaner air means healthier air — it’s really that simple.

So, where do area source emissions like VOCs come from?

VOCs are emitted from a variety of sectors including auto body shops, manufacturing, printing, and dry cleaners, among others. Basically, anything involving solvents, lubricants, or hydraulics, as examples. If you get a whiff of something that smells like spray paint, it’s probably a VOC.

So, what can we do about it?

Enter stage left: your friendly nonprofit, Environmental Initiative.


Bjorn Olson


Senior Environmental Project Associate

Signs Simplify Recycling at Work

June 2nd, 2015

I am thrilled to share with you a project that Rethink Recycling has been working on for several months. The idea for this project came about at a Waste Reduction Collaborative meeting last year. My colleague, Trudy Richter, attended the meeting and heard from businesses their frustration with the inconsistent and varied trash and recycling signage they see across the Twin Cities. Businesses were often confused as to what goes in each bin at different locations. Businesses also wondered what existing signage they should use at their own business, especially if they had sites across the metro. Thus, the idea for consistent, regional waste signage was born.

I’m happy to announce that we can take the mystery out of what goes in the bin with the new sign resources at RethinkRecycling.com. This recycling signagenew, regional waste signage is simple, easy and free! The signs make it easy to see where each item goes. They’re color-coded and include common images making it easier to recognize what’s recyclable, organics (food for animals or commercial composting), or trash.

Signage is more important than ever, as businesses across the metro will need to comply with a new law starting January 1, 2016. Commercial building owners who contract for four cubic yards or more per week of solid waste (ie. trash) collection must recycle at least three types of materials, such as paper, glass, plastic, metal and organics. As businesses work to comply with the new law, signage resources will make it easier than ever for employees and customer to sort recyclables.

To get signs for use in your workplace or business, go to RethinkRecycling.com/signs. Select pre-designed, full-color signs or customize your own. Download. Print. Post. Done!

Once you’ve downloaded signage or customized your own, here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Create sorting areas by placing recycling, organics and trash containers side by side in areas where waste is generated and there is heavy traffic
  • Post your signs at eye level to help ensure they will be seen
  • Place labels on the front, sides and lid of the containers
  • Hang posters on the wall above a container, on an easel at eye level behind the container, or from the ceiling over the container

For more tips on how to start or grow a business recycling program to maximize those neatly labeled bins, see the Business Recycling Guide at RethinkRecycling.com.

Amy Ulbricht


Commercial Waste Management Specialist, Anoka County; Business Communications Staff, RethinkRecycling.com

Member of the Month: Pictura Graphics

June 1st, 2015

Pictura was a proud host for Environmental Initiative’s Waste Reduction Collaborative meeting and is our June member of the pictura logomonth. 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.

“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 6 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 event. Thank you to Pictura for all that you have done to support our work.

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

Sacha Seymour-Anderson


Development Director
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