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Archive for December, 2015

Working Together With Honor, Humility, and Humor

December 16th, 2015

An old coach taught us to compete and conduct ourselves with honor, humility, and humor. I don’t know whether or not that was original, but it resonated and stuck with me. My time and work at Environmental Initiative strike the same chord as that coach’s lesson. I’ve stayed with, and came back to, Environmental Initiative because our mission, our approach, and our partners fit that lesson equally well.

With diverse partners as dedicated as we are, we do hard, meaningful work. Many times in the air quality world, what we do is the first time it’s been done in Minnesota. At the same time, there is always that Environmental Initiative flavor – we rarely do anythProject Green Fleet partners on the Becky Sue tugboating like everyone else. Our projects and events are always uniquely crafted and implemented. In fact, we just successfully pitched a project that involved telling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that every other time they’ve done this type of project it was wrong. Well, not wrong necessarily, but that we could do it better with a different model. But, of course, our message was conveyed with humility.

We typically do our work well and with minimal fanfare. Our projects have garnered regional and national awards, but we did the work to reach the outcomes. The recognition follows the effort and the results.

Most of my time these days is spent working on Clean Air Minnesota, a partnership between business, government, and nonprofit leaders that has been working to reduce emissions voluntarily since 2003. Some of you might not know, but Clean Air Minnesota was originally expected to be around for only a few years. Thankfully, we had some staying power and a proven worth based upon consistently achieving valuable outcomes. With our partners, we have also kept our eyes on the horizon – always looking to maintain this successful and mutually beneficial public/private partnership. Along with always demonstrating meaningful results, this is fundamental to our success.

Another one of my favorite things about this job is the diversity of partners with whom we get to work. It is refreshing that we can be concerned first and foremost with results and not get caught up in the self-imposed limitations around descriptions and positions that plague so much of our society today. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to work cooperatively, simultaneously, and constructively for the common good with all of our partners. And, especially with the leadership of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. That is a broad spectrum of wisdom and knowledge upon which to draw. And for that, I am thankful.

If you share some of these values, join me in supporting Environmental Initiative with a financial contribution. Our current and past board of directors have contributed $15,000 to help us raise another $15,000 from individuals like you between now and December 31st. Annual or recurring monthly membership contributions will be matched dollar for dollar.

Bill Droessler


Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning

In it for the Money or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Self-Interest

December 10th, 2015

I’ve been working at Environmental Initiative for about a year and a half now, and I’m still as much a believer in the values and philosophy of this organization as I was on my first day.

I continue to believe, reinforced by experience, that lasting solutions are collaborative, not divisive. At the same time, I also believe people and organizations are fundamentally driven by self-interest. Self-interest is often conflated with selfishness, and is frequently cited as a barrier to progress. That’s a dark view of things, and it ignores the strong Minnesota tradition of collaboration, respect for the opinions and needs of others, and a willingness to forgo short-term selfishness for long term common gain.

The savviest politicians and the most effective leaders understand that leadership is largely about gathering people around a shared vision and motivating them to support it. However, you don’t get very far by asking folks to act directly against their own self-interest, instead, you have to find a way to harness that self-interest in the pursuit of the greater good.GregThankYouBlog

Environmental Initiative, its members, board, sponsors, and staff embody this kind of leadership. In our Clean Air program, a wide variety of organizations from both the public and private sectors collaborate to create and fund projects that reduce criteria air pollutants in order to keep us in compliance with federal standards. The self- interest that drives this work is that many of these organizations would face complicated, expensive regulatory efforts if we exceed those standards. In exchange, Minnesotans enjoy cleaner, healthier air.

In the Field Stewards project, we’ve partnered with GNP Company, the largest poultry producer in the Upper Midwest, to create a market system that will connect farmers engaged in a high level of water quality protection with food companies that will financially reward their efforts.

Here again we are capturing the self-interest of actors and using it to benefit the common good. Farmers benefit by receiving a financial support that is not dependent on the vagaries of the commodities market, land rental rates, or weather. GNP and other companies benefit by aligning themselves with the changing tastes of the food consumer, who are demanding more sustainable products. The public benefits through the protection of our natural resources, better water quality in our lakes and rivers, and a more sustainable food system for the future.

So, “in it for the money” may not be such a bad thing, especially when there are leaders who can recognize and harness such self-interest for efforts that everyone can benefit from. I’m proud to work in an organization that recognizes this and works to bring self-interested actors together in the pursuit of a better Minnesota.

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 like you between now and December 31st. Annual or recurring monthly membership contributions will be matched dollar for dollar. We still have about $8,000 to raise to meet our goals. If you’ve already donated, thank you so much for investing in our approach to solving environmental problems.

Greg Bohrer


Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment Program

Using Business as a Force for Good

December 8th, 2015

There are plenty of buzzwords flying around in sustainability conversations – cradle to cradle, carbon footprint, net positive, etc. It is an exciting time of new collaborations and great momentum regarding the role of business in tackling large environmental challenges, but what if while protecting the environment, we do even more?

At Tech Dump, we consider it a great honor and privilege to apply yet another buzzword – “triple bottom line.” We focus on people, planet, and profit, while refurbishing and recycling unwanted electronics for residents and businesses. In doing so, we also hope to invite other organizations to make an impact through their daily business operations.


People: Beyond our environmental impact, we focus on employability training for adults facing barriers to employment. We firmly believe that just as electronics are not disposable, people are not disposable. While the United States is home to 5% of the world’s population, we consume 25% of the world’s resources and incarcerate 25% of the world’s incarcerated people. Jobs are a small part of the solution. About 75% of our employees have spent time in the justice system, and we are a stepping stone for earning a reputation as a reliable worker allowing for an individual to successfully move on to a livable wage job after successfully completing 9-12 months of employment with us.

Planet: It is true that one man’s trash is another’s treasure. While a company may no longer believe a laptop meets their employee’s needs, it may still be a great system that we can refurbish and get back into use. For items that cannot be repaired and reused, we work with vetted vendors to process the components back to usable steel, plastic, silver, gold, etc. And we don’t just want a company to have to take our word for it; we pursued the R2 Certification, a voluntary third-party certification to make sure our practices meet high industry standards.film Dark Places streaming

Profit: No matter the tax structure of an organization as a for-profit or nonprofit, the organization must be financial sustainable to ensure important work continues. Previous mentalities of social impact only being possible in the nonprofit sector are long gone—the emergence of social enterprises has shown business principles can be applied to all sorts of structures. Establishing metrics to measure impact, not just our ability to cash flow, allows us to gauge the effectiveness of our efforts.

We recognize every organization is different, so here a few ways to apply triple bottom line thinking:

  • How can your current daily business activities increase your social and environmental impact?
  • When considering vendors, do you consider a broader social mission in your decision-making?
  • What partnerships could allow your organization to increase your impact?

There is no shortage of electronics recycling resources for your home and your business. We’re here to help, so drop me an email or leave a comment here with questions or to learn more.

A note from Environmental Initiative:
Tech Dump has been an invaluable partner on the Waste Reduction Collaborative. In September, we had the opportunity to tour the Golden Valley facility where we responsibly recycled our accumulating e-waste. Amanda LaGrange’s passion for her work was so inspiring during the tour, we wanted to share the Tech Dump story and the great work they’re doing. For more information on Tech Dump, visit www.TechDump.org.

Amanda LaGrange


CEO, Tech Dump

Project Green Fleet’s Video Debut

December 3rd, 2015

Project Green Fleet is a great story. A pilot scale effort to clean up a handful of school buses grows into a statewide campaign – with more than 4,600 cleaner diesel vehicles as a result. None of it would have happened without the hundreds of fleet owners, equipment manufacturers, installers, project funders – and of course a little creative risk-taking. But, don’t take my word for it…

Thanks to the generosity of Flint Hills Resources and the creativity of our friends at Goff Public, we’re thrilled to share this short video, which wonderfully captures the Project Green Fleet story – from where we’ve been to the new roads (and rivers) ahead.

I’m also excited to announce we’ll be working with Mathiowetz Construction over the next several weeks to replace a bulldozer. The replacement equipment is certified to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s highest emission standard – reducing fine particulate matter by 86% – or the equivalent of removing almost 500 cars from the road.

In addition to Environmental Initiative’s efforts, our partners at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) are now offering about $270,000 in federal grant funds to help diesel fleet owners retrofit or replace their old engines. Grant funds will pay for 25% – 50% of the total cost to retrofit or replace diesel equipment. The deadline to apply is January 7, 2016. Learn more & apply »

Project Green Fleet is just one of several voluntary emission reduction projects that have been designed and conceived by members of the Clean Air Minnesota partnership. This diverse coalition of public and private sector air quality leaders has committed to a 10% reduction in man-made sources of fine particulate matter and ground level ozone precursor emissions. This is a BIG goal that will require significant financial investment from both the public and private sectors. If you’re interested in supporting Project Green Fleet financially – through a corporate sponsorship or a grant, please contact me to learn more.

Stay tuned for more good air quality news to come – our work to reduce diesel emissions is far from over.

Bill Droessler


Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning
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