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Archive for November, 2015

Grateful on #GivingTuesday

November 30th, 2015

I’ve been with this organization for nine years. Seriously. How did that happen? Ultimately, I came (and stayed) because I believe in the work Environmental Initiative is trying to do. The world can be a crazy complicated place and the environmental problems we face, and are trying to address, are just as thorny.

Like it or not we’ve all had a hand in creating the environmental problems affecting the world. You can’t remove the link be2015-11-12 12.22.01tween our natural resources and the economy. You can’t remove the connection between our environment and our communities and our health. So isn’t it up to all of us to work together with all of these connections and complexities in mind – to come up with feasible solutions? This is what Environmental Initiative is all about.

I’m extremely grateful for the individuals and organizations that support Environmental Initiative financially. Over the past year, you’ve made work like this possible. You’ve also supported and helped make possible a few of the things I’m most proud of during my time with the organization:

Funding for Parks & Trails
I don’t think I’ve ever sweat bullets as seriously as I did during the final meeting of our Parks & Trails Legacy Funding work group. Leaders reached an agreement on how to fairly divide constitutionally dedicated funds for Minnesota parks and trails across the state in the final moments of our final meeting together. Whew! I’m so proud of managing that project and for having the privilege to work with such a dedicated, smart group of people.

Project Green Fleet
Did you know I was once a school bus retrofit sales-lady? One of my first jobs at this organization was to hop on the phone and convince school districts across the state they should give us access to their school buses so certified equipment manufacturers could install pollution control equipment to reduce emissions. Nearly 5,000 engines later we’re still at it. And, now I have the extremely fun job of helping to tell those stories. Did you know our latest project was a 38 year-old tugboat? Insane!

Environmental Initiative Awards

The very first project I managed at Environmental Initiative was the Environmental Initiative Awards. Honestly? What could be more fun than this? We get to hear about environmental success stories from across the state and recognize them at a HUGE party each May. One of the best parts of being attached to Environmental Initiative is this event. (Mark your calendars, the 2016 party is on May 26th).

Not only am I (still) on staff, I’m also an individual member. I support Environmental Initiative financially because our way of bringing people together to find common ground and solutions that can work for everyone – it’s the way we should be trying to solve more of our problems. If you agree, we could use your support!

Between now & December 31, 2015 we’re trying to raise $15,000 from individuals like you. We’ve got about $9,000 to raise to meet our goal. There are two easy ways to donate and either way your contribution will be matched by our current and past board of directors:

I hope you will join me and invest in this work by becoming an individual member. To those of you who already are? THANK YOU for supporting Environmental Initiative’s efforts to work together to solve problems.

Emily Franklin


Director of Communications

Support Ongoing Sustainability Leadership

November 24th, 2015

Environmental Initiative is an incredible organization that provides so much for our state and the region. Now, I might be a little biased being an employee of the organization, but that bias doesn’t alter the real impact Environmental Initiative has in our community. While I’ve only been on staff for a few months, my recognition of Environmental Initiative as a leader, especially in the space of business sustainability, has been present for years. With all the avenues for businesses to engage – through events, collaborative projects, and so much more – Environmental Initiative truly is a major convener of Minnesota’s business community around environmental sustainability.

In a state that is so fortunate to have a wide range of private businesses, public entities, nonprofits, institutions, and Sam Hanson Minnesota lakeindividuals that are all interested in addressing our shared environmental challenges, it is crucial for Environmental Initiative to convene these interests and help catalyze the changes that we collectively know are important. We’re so proud to be a part of the sustainability community in Minnesota.

Environmental Initiative’s leadership, and the corresponding impact that it makes in our community, is what has drawn my interest to the organization for many years. It’s also the reason that I am so excited to be a part of the team. I am thrilled to be able to work with such a wide variety of stakeholders on improving the environmental sustainability of our region.

If you share my enthusiasm, join me in supporting the work of Environmental Initiative. Our current and past board of directors have contributed $15,000 to help us raise another $15,000 from individuals between now and December 31st. Annual or recurring monthly membership contributions will be matched dollar for dollar. We still have about $9,000 to raise to meet our goals.

I’m an individual member and I hope you will be too!

Sam Hanson


Director, Sustainability Program

From the Executive Director: Why Environmental Initiative?

November 10th, 2015

“Why are you still there?”

I’ll admit that I find this question jarring every time someone asks me. It’s not that it offends me, but it does take me off guard. I will also admit once I get past my surprise, the question reliably prompts some of the best conversations I get to have about why Environmental Initiative is important to me and important to the world.

MEI-MikeHarley.pho.jpgI’ve been doing this job for 19 years, and I can say without hesitation that I enjoy it even more today than when I first came back from India in 1996 to become Executive Director. I love this job and this organization. I love the commitment we make to human potential and power of community. I love our unfailing hopefulness that we will be better together than on our own, and I love being associated with the remarkable outcomes that we achieve. I pour my heart and soul into this organization, and I feel grateful for the opportunity to do it.

For me, this job is a labor of love, and the work of Environmental Initiative is exactly what this world needs as we strive for a healthier environment, a more equitable society and a more sustainable economy. Who would walk away from that? Not me, and I know that’s also true for the growing list of individuals who invest in this organization with their time, their talent and their money.

Each year at this time, I have the great fun of reconnecting with past board members, to both catch up and to ask for their renewed financial support of the organization. Some of these individuals “graduated” from the board as long as 15 years ago, and yet, they enthusiastically say yes when I ask them to contribute once again to the matching fund that our current and past board members create for our year-end individual giving campaign. (Our goal is to raise $15,000 from individuals between now and the end of the year – which will be matched dollar for dollar by our current and past board).

Past board members mostly talk to me about their appreciation for the work of the organization. They marvel at the impact we’ve had, while bemoaning the divided discourse that too often prevents society from making progress on our toughest problems, and then tell us to keep at it no matter how hard it gets. This is real vision and real commitment and it is no wonder that they continue to support us so generously.

And every so often when I get asked that pesky question, “Why are you still here?” It takes me a moment to recover from my surprise, and then I have a great conversation that almost always ends in an increased financial commitment to Environmental Initiative. I hope that you will do the same, and step up your support as we launch our 2015 year-end individual member campaign today.

Our current and past board of directors have contributed $15,000 to help us raise another $15,000 from individuals like you. There are three ways to give:

  • $5,000 – Dollar for dollar match for any gift scheduled or made on Give to the Max Day
  • $5,000 – Dollar for dollar match for annual membership contributions
  • $5,000 – Dollar for dollar match for monthly membership contributions

So, whether you join in the Give to the Max day donating fun, make an annual membership contribution, or give to Environmental Initiative monthly – your gift will be matched.

We’re only as strong as the individuals who invest in us and we cannot do our work without you. Thanks for all you do to make our work possible.

Mike Harley


Executive Director

Most Twin Cities Businesses Now Required to Recycle

November 4th, 2015

By January 1, 2016, owners of commercial property in the seven-county metro area will need to make sure their buildings have recycling services along with garbage collection. The new law (Minn. Stat. 115A.151) applies to most commercial buildings that have service for 4 cubic yards (or more) of trash per week, and requires that a minimum of three material types be collected for recycling. Recyclables could include, but are not limited to paper, plastic, glass, metal, and organics (food scraps and compostable paper). Depending on the type of business you operate, there may also be opportunities to recycle more unique materials such as textiles. Many businesses also have a good amount of clean plastic film from packaging and shipping that can be collected. Knowing the type of materials your business discards will help determine which items will make the most sense to recycle; you may have opportunities that you never expected!

recycling bins

Even if the law does not apply to your commercial property, it provides an opportunity for all businesses to increase their recycling. Unlike many other aspects of running a business where spending is examined regularly, businesses frequently set up their disposal services and then rarely think about it again. However, with a 17 percent state tax on garbage (recycling is not taxed), and sometimes an even higher fee assessed by the local county, trashing recyclables can be expensive. Minnesotans spend a good deal of money throwing away recyclable material every year, but they have great potential value to the economy – recycling directly and indirectly supports nearly 37,000 jobs, and the materials have a value of over $250 million. In addition, many businesses are finding it is good for business to recycle – many customers want to know that the companies they support are committed to sustainable practices in their operations.

Implementing a successful recycling program can take work. Some businesses may need to make changes to accommodate recycling bins in the layout of their workplace, as well as on their docks. Similarly, helping staff learn how to properly participate in the program is essential to success, so you will need to set up a quality training program. Many cities and counties offer assistance to business owners, sometimes in the form of financial support to set up new or improved collection systems. There are also several local resources for signage and education, including the Recycling Association of Minnesota and Rethink Recycling. All of these resources, and more, can be found on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Commercial Recycling page. Additional questions? Contact Emily Barker or 651- 757-2030.

Emily Barker


Organics and Recycling Specialist, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Member of the Month: Barr Engineering Co.

November 2nd, 2015

Barr Engineering Co. is honored to be Environmental Initiative’s member of the month. We’re proud to support Environmental Initiative’s efforts to promote collaboration and interaction as well as to serve as a catalyst for turning thoughts into actions and discussions into environmental solutions.

barrlogo web

We’ve been involved in Clean Air Minnesota, the state’s public and private partnership convened by Environmental Initiative to voluntarily reduce air pollution, for years. As a member of this partnership, we provide technical expertise and work with others from industry, government agencies, and environmental organizations to craft solutions to improve air quality. Barr Engineering Co. has also been a supporter of the annual Environmental Initiative Awards program.

For nearly half a century, Barr has been providing engineering and environmental consulting services to clients in the power, mining, and fuels industries, natural resource management organizations, government agencies, and others with complex problems. We know that working together is hard work—and we are proud to sponsor this program that rewards individuals and organizations for partnering to solve problems.

We appreciate the opportunities we’ve had through nearly two decades of involvement with Environmental Initiative to work with a diverse group of members and address environmental issues we all care deeply about.


A note from Environmental Initiative:
Mike Hansel is a Vice President and Senior Chemical Engineer at Barr Engineering as well as member of Environmental Initiative’s Board of Directors. Each month, we feature information about one of our members on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Seymour-Anderson anytime at 651-308-4950 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Mike Hansel


Vice President, Senior Chemical Engineer - Barr Engineering
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