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Archive for March, 2016

Will We See You At The Women’s Breakfast?

March 29th, 2016

Three Wind Turbines on Grassy Hill, Summer Evening

Okay, ladies! This post is for you. I’m really excited to share that Environmental Initiative will be at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy’s Women’s Breakfast this April. This event educates more than 200 women annually on some of the key environmental issues facing Minnesotans. Plus, it’s just a really great crowd of smart, accomplished, professional women from all walks of life – community, business, academia, philanthropy, government, and nonprofits.

(Full disclosure, I’m serving on the planning committee for the MCEA Women’s Breakfast, which has been a lot of fun). The deadline to register is April 15, 2016 and you can get your tickets online.

Here are the details:

United We Change: What the Paris Climate Summit Means for Minnesota
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

University of Saint Thomas – Wolfe Alumni Hall
Saint Paul, MN

$35 for Individual
$125 for Table of 4
$250 for Table of 8

A dynamic and diverse panel of female leaders will discuss their experiences at the Paris Climate Summit and what the historic international agreement means to them and for Minnesota.

Kristen Poppleton, Moderator
Director of Education, Climate Generation

Ellen Anderson
Executive Director, University of Minnesota Energy Transitions Lab

Leigh Currie
Energy Program Director, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Representative Melissa Hortman
DFL District 36B, Minnesota House of Representatives

Roopali Phadke
Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Macalester College

I’ll be joined at this event by Environmental Initiative staff Ellen Gibson, Meleah Houseknecht, Andrea Robbins, Dani Schurter, and Sacha Seymour-Anderson. Be sure to pop over to our table and say hi at the event!


The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy is a nonprofit organization using law, science, and research to protect Minnesota’s natural resources, wildlife, and the health of its people. MCEA was involved in the founding of Environmental Initiative and has been a longtime partner in our work throughout the organization’s history.

Emily Franklin


Director of Communications

MPCA Offers Grants to Small Businesses to Reduce Emissions

March 23rd, 2016

Are you a small business with less than 100 employees?

Are you interested in reducing the use of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs)?

Have you thought about improving air quality at your business, but the price tag holds you back?

Well, if you answered yes to these questions you may be eligible for a grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Grant applications are being accepted through May 11, 2016 and will pay up to $50,000 for projects to reduce use of VOC-containing chemicals, or to put in lower-emitting equipment.


Auto body shops and manufacturers converting to powder coating are two examples of businesses that have taken advantage of this program, but VOCs are emitted from many industrial and commercial processes. The familiar smells from coatings, inks, solvents, gasoline and other everyday products are VOCs and they can be harmful to our health.

Reducing VOCs helps save businesses money on disposal and permitting fees and means less exposure and better health for employees. But, don’t take my word for it – you can hear directly from a small business owner who participated in this program by watching this short video:


In the meantime, grant applications are due on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Contact me at eric.david@state.mn.us or 651-757-2218 with questions or to learn more or visit the website at www.pca.state.mn.us/voc.

Also don’t forget that the City of Minneapolis Green Business Cost Share program is accepting applications now until April 22. Eligible businesses include dry cleaners interested in switching from a harmful chemical called Perchloroethylene (Perc) to alternative solvents, auto body shops who want to use water-based paint, or a variety of other innovative ways to reduce air pollution.

You can find more information by contacting Patrick Hanlon at Patrick.Hanlon@minneapolismn.gov or 612-673-2319 or visiting http://www.minneapolismn.gov/environment/green/index.htm.

Eric David


Program Manager, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

And the 2016 Environmental Initiative Awards Finalists Are…

March 21st, 2016

FB-ProfileEarlier this week a panel of independent judges from business, government, and nonprofit organizations met to discuss project nominations from all over the state. After some great conversation and tough deliberations, they selected three finalist projects in each category (and one winner). Congratulations to this year’s outstanding projects and partnerships selected as finalists:


Judges: Pakou Hang, Hmong American Farmers Association; Eric Oines, Project for Pride in Living



Judges: Mark Lundgren, MSA Professional Services; Bill Poppert, Technology North; Katie Swor, Wenck Associates



Judges: Melissa Chelminiak, Aveda; Mary Oldham, University of Minnesota; Quinn Swanson, Happy Dancing Turtle



Judges: Yolanda Cotterall, Latino Economic Development Center; Hedi Moussavi, General Mills



Judges: Megan Dobratz, Native Sustainability; Brett Emmons, Emmons & Olivier Resources, Inc.; Brian Ross, Great Plains Institute



Judges: Angie Bourdaghs, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; Samantha McKeough, HealthPartners; Leo Raudys, Call2Recycle


Thanks to the judges who shared their time with us and for Medtronic for hosting our judging event. We are grateful for Medtronic’s long-standing support of the judging event and as a sponsor of the Environmental Initiative Awards.

Don’t miss the opportunity to join more than 450 environmental leaders for networking, dinner, and a celebration of Minnesota’s most innovative and collaborative success stories of the year. The celebration is on Thursday, May 26. Register now for full tables (seating 10) and individual seats. Don’t miss the early bird pricing through Friday, April 15!

Andrea Robbins


Director, Engagement and Systems

The Life and Breath Report: 3 Things I Learned

March 9th, 2016

When I was considering making the switch from my previous work on environmental communications, waste and recycling to Clean Air Minnesota’s focus on air quality, my biggest motivator was air quality’s substantial and direct impact on the health of our communities. Air quality shapes our health and quality of life with every breath we take.

The recently released Life and Breath: How air pollution affects public health in the Twin Cities, puts an exclamation point on that statement by quantifying the real impact of air quality on human health in the Twin Cities.air and health report cover

What Surprised Me

While I’ve experienced the burning lungs and watery eyes that accompany a poor air quality day, the scale of the impact is literally breathtaking. Life and Breath estimates that air pollution was a significant contributor to roughly 2,000 deaths, 400 hospitalizations and 600 emergency room visits every year. These impacts fall disproportionately on the sick, the elderly, children with asthma, and disadvantaged communities that tend to be predisposed to respiratory and cardiac illness. Here are a couple of comparisons to put that in perspective:

  • If it were classified as its own category, poor air quality would be the sixth leading contributor to premature death, behind unintentional injury and ahead of Alzheimers disease.
  • In a single year, poor air quality contributes to more early deaths in the Twin Cities than car accidents caused over the last five years statewide.

The good news is that the problem is recognized and quantified, and Clean Air Minnesota partners spanning industry, government, and nonprofits have spent the last 15 years implementing innovative, voluntary emissions reduction projects to keep our state’s air worth breathing.

What we’re doing

As the convener of Clean Air Minnesota, Environmental Initiative has been fostering a dialogue and implementing projects to measurably improve air quality on the ground. From reducing diesel emissions through Project Green Fleet to business emission reduction projects and an upcoming wood stove changeout program, Environmental Initiative and Clean Air Minnesota’s partners continue to work hard every day to reduce emissions and improve quality of life in Minnesota.

What you can do

Want to join us in improving our state’s air quality? Consider a few of the easy actions below:

Be Air Aware: Be informed about our air quality. Download the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Minnesota Air app or sign up for air quality alert e-mails.

Take Action: There are many things we can do in our daily lives to reduce our air pollution impacts. Take one small action to help air quality every week.

Spread the Word: Tell your family, friends, and colleagues about what air quality means to you and what you are doing to help. Encourage your workplace to become an Air Aware Employer to multiply your impact.

While the impacts of air pollution on human health are significant, Environmental Initiative and our Clean Air Minnesota partners are taking a uniquely Minnesotan approach to considerably improve our air quality. With your help, there is a bright future for our state’s air.

Mikey Weitekamp


Senior Project Manager, Environmental Initiative

Better Together for Bees

March 7th, 2016

On February 12, 2016, Environmental Initiative hosted a Pollinator Summit at the Wellstone Neighborhood House on behalf of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. While we are still in the midst of digesting the massive amounts of input and information that came out of the summit, I want to reflect a bit on the experience and what it meant to live out Environmental Initiative’s values of “Open Exchange” and “Better Together” in the context of designing and organizing this event.pollinator summit participants

Research (and the headlines) reveal our pollinators are threatened. We know if we don’t do something soon, we risk losing many of our domesticated bees and entire species of wild pollinators. Participants at the summit heard from experts about the many different stresses pollinators face – from pesticide use, to habitat loss, to parasites, and a changing climate.

Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith set the stage for us at the beginning of the summit by channeling John Lennon and singing for us (!) a rallying cry “All we are saying, is give bees a chance!” And that was the goal of the summit — to gather real, meaningful ideas from the community that could be implemented by state government to support our wild and domesticated pollinators. The community grabbed this opportunity with both hands. Instead of the 100 or so attendees we initially planned for, we ended up with more than 200 registered participants!


We had one of the most diverse communities gathered that I have seen in my time at Environmental Initiative. Farmers, lobbyists, hobby beekeepers, landscape architects, activists, academics, legislators, and local government all had a seat at the table. Environmental Initiative’s job was to make sure we designed and executed an event that gave every participant a voice.

So, that’s what we did. We designed a summit that forced participants to engage with others. We placed an emphasis on small group discussions and deliberately organized discussion groups to have a set of diverse stakeholders at each table. We also asked each group to report out up to three broadly supported ideas for action, which we then posted on the wall for all other groups to react to.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t disagreement. Of course there was. Not all of the ideas we generated at the summit will be able to be implemented, but some might. The point is we created a space where folks could talk with, rather than past, each other about all of the ways we could improve the outlook for our pollinators.

We’re in the process of reviewing all of the input generated at the summit and preparing a summary for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Thank you to everyone who took the time to participate in this important conversation. Watch the blog and your email in the coming weeks for the summary of what we heard. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture will be reviewing all of the input from the summit to help inform their strategies for pollinator protection.

While it remains to be seen what ideas get adopted and put into practice, I walked out of the summit knowing that by living up to our values of “Better Together” and “Open Exchange”, my colleagues and I at Environmental Initiative did the best we could to give our insect pollinators a chance.

Greg Bohrer


Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment Program

Member of the Month: Dorsey & Whitney LLP

March 1st, 2016

As former Director and Board Chair of Environmental Initiative, I am pleased to support Environmental Initiative and its mission. Dorsey & Whitney is delighted to be highlighted as the March member of the month.

Dorsey is a proud member of Environmental Initiative’s Sustainer Partnership Circle. For the past few years, Dorsey has also been a sponsor of the Policy Forum Series, which has allowed us to support our community’s discussion of important environmental issues like fuel transport, community recycling, groundwater and materials management, and clean air.Andy Brown moderating policy forum event

Dorsey is committed to serving clients in the clean technology and agricultural industries and helping their businesses succeed. Two of Dorsey’s six industry groups focus on areas related to the Environmental Initiative’s work: Energy and Food & Agribusiness.

With significant experience and knowledge in key energy sectors, including clean technology, power, and renewables, Dorsey represents clients in major compliance, litigation, administrative, enforcement, insurance and legislative matters relating to environmental, land use and resources laws. We help clients resolve their most difficult environmental challenges by creating a team with the right legal knowledge, industry understanding, business acumen and experience to meet their needs.

Dorsey’s Environmental and Energy attorneys regularly contribute to thought leadership and provide our clients with up-to-date information to ensure they are always ahead of the ever changing regulatory and environmental landscape.

Dorsey is proud to take a step beyond serving environmentally-focused clients and educating clients on changing environmental policies, by supporting the Environmental Initiative.

We thank Environmental Initiative for its tireless dedication to a stronger Minnesota.


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. 8108 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Andy Brown


Partner, Co-Chair of the Energy Group and Chair of the Regulatory Affairs Group, Dorsey & Whitney LLP
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