Environmental Initiative - Home

Archive for July, 2016

Air Pollution Advisory: Five Things You Can Do

July 20th, 2016

With this week’s heat wave in full swing, forecasts for ground level ozone, or smog, are forecast to spike, peaking this Friday with an air quality index of 101, a level classified as “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.” The air quality levels have triggered the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to issue an air pollution advisory for the Twin Cities Metro and some outlying areas. While ozone is essential for life when it exists 10 to 30 miles above the earth’s surface in the stratosphere, ozone at ground level can best be compared to a sunburn on the lungs, causing irritation, triggering asthma, and contributing to reduced lung function over time.air alert map

Why does the spike coincide with the heat wave, you might ask? Ground level ozone, or smog, forms when Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) (pollutants from wood burning and internal combustion engines) react with volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) (what you smell when paint dries, when you fuel up, or when you have a bonfire) in the presence of heat and sunlight. With this week bringing an abundance of both heat and sunlight, the reactions that create smog will be running in high gear.

The good news is that there are some easy things that we can all do can do before or on air alert days to reduce  pollution and help us all breathe easier.

Reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips
Cars are a source of both VOCs and NOx, especially if they are in need of a tune-up. Consider avoiding single-occupancy trips by carpooling, taking public transit, or working from home on poor air quality days. Taking your car into the mechanic? Have them check to make sure your car’s pollution controls are running smoothly.

Avoid Burning Wood
Wood fires, both recreational and for heating purposes, are a substantial source of VOC’s, NOx, and particulate matter (another harmful pollutant). Skip the bonfire and go for a swim on air alert days.

Re-fuel after 6 p.m.
The smell of gasoline is actually the smell of volatile organic compounds that come out of your gas tank when you fill it up. By waiting to fuel up, you can avoid VOC emissions during the heat of the day when ozone formation is at its peak.

Postpone lawn/landscape maintenance
Small, two-stroke engines like those on most lawn equipment, can be a substantial source of both VOCs and NOx. In addition, cut grass itself emits VOCs. Consider holding off on mowing until the heat wave passes and save yourself a wicked sunburn.

Reduce/Defer use of Paints, Solvents, and other VOC-containing products
The volatile organic compounds in paints and solvents allow them to dry quickly and do their job, but they go into the atmosphere as they evaporate. Painting with a 105-degree heat index is no fun anyway, so consider holding off on that household project.

Have questions or want to learn more about what you can do to reduce your air pollution impact? Check on air quality forecasts on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s website and consider signing up for alert e-mails and downloading their mobile app.

Visit Environmental Initiative’s website to learn about what Clean Air Minnesota partners are doing on an ongoing basis to improve air quality and how you can help.

Air pollution advisory map credit:  Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Save

Save

Save

Mikey Weitekamp

POSTED BY:

Senior Project Manager, Environmental Initiative

A Big Mid-Year Campaign Thank You

July 12th, 2016

Thank you, thank you, thank you!  A BIG thank you goes out to the more than 85 individuals who donated to Environmental Initiative during our first ever mid-year individual donor campaign.  We raised $8,625 in just four weeks and we can’t wait to put these dollars to great use.2015-11-12 13.21.57

We really could not do our work without help from all the individuals listed below and everyone else who gives to Environmental Initiative throughout the year. On behalf of everyone here at Environmental Initiative, thank you all again and happy summer!

Thank you mid-year campaign donors:

DyAnn Andybur
Cindy Angerhofer
Emily Balogh
Marian Bender
Peter Berglund
Ginny Black
Patti Brown
Alison Byrant
Rick Carter
Mikel Cashin
Anne Clanton
David Crisman
Eric David
Megan Dobratz
Greg Downing
Kathryn Draeger
Chris Duffy
Brett Emmons
Judy Erickson
Joe Erjavec
Dick Fowler
Nick Franco
Emily Franklin
Robert Friend
Mark Friske
Denis Fuchs
Margaret George
Debbie Goettel
Bill Grant
Lloyd Grooms
Bill Hefner
Erin Heitkamp
Calder Hibbard
James Hietala
Heather Ilse
John Jaschke
Jan Joannides
Kevin Johnson
Jeremy Kalin
Sam Ketchum
Mark Kjolhaug
Tim Koehler
Stephen Korstad
Kirk Koudelka
Anne Kraft
Charley Kubler
Tony Kwilas
Tom Landwehr
Heidi Larson
Jeff Ledermann
Eric Lillyblad
Charlie Lippert
Judy Lissick
Lorrie Louder
Linda Meschke
Sally Mills
Tim Montgomery
Pat Mulloy
Chris Nelson
Lee Nelson
Terrylea Ness
Keith Newhouse
Rolf Nordstrom
Miluska Novota
Evelyn Oberdorfer
Douglas Owens-Pike
Kirk Pederson
Jeffrey Peterson
Sara Peterson
Andy Polzin
Tim Power
Raj Rajan
David Rapaport
Jake Reint
Mary Kay Ryan-Boehm
Chris Schoenherr
Karen Schultz
Doug Shoemaker
Shelley Shreffler
Al Singer
Christene Sirois Kron
John Stine
Maria Surma Manka
Pete Swenson
Leisa Thompson
Angus Vaughan
Donald Verbick
Judy Voigt
Wesli Waters
Jason Willett
Devin Zeller

 

Didn’t have a chance to donate in June? No worries. You can support us anytime with a gift of any size. Learn more about where your dollars go, or make a contribution here. Questions? Drop a comment here or send me an email anytime.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Sacha Seymour-Anderson

POSTED BY:

Development Director

MAWQCP: Protecting Agricultural Water Quality Through Certification and Collaboration

July 6th, 2016

All Minnesotans want access to clean water and all Minnesota farmers want clean water to be part of their legacy.

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is a new, voluntary, state-federal program that offers Minnesota’s farmers the chance to certify their legacy of stewardship and protect the Land of 10,000 Lakes’ greatest natural resource. After a brief pilot phase, MAWQCP went statewide in July 2015. Since then, the program has certified 198 farms and we just recently celebrated a 100,000-acre milestone for the program.

The program’s unique structure is crucial to its success. MAWQCP is delivered in partnership with Minnesota’s 89 Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) and it’s easy for farmers and landowners to navigate. Minnesota’s SWCDs are trusted partners and frequent collaborators among the state’s farmers. The process for getting certified is straightforward and personalized – all a farmer needs to do to get started is contact their local SWCD.family next to farmstead sign

There are four steps to the water quality certification process:

  • Assessment – a certification specialist conducts an assessment of a farm’s current risk to water quality on a field-by-field basis using an online tool;
  • Collaboration – the certification specialist meets with the farmer to go over the results of the baseline assessment and collaborates on a plan for mitigating any risks to water identified in the assessment;
  • Verification – the certification specialist conducts a field verification to ensure all risks to water quality have been treated, or that a plan is in place to address the risk;
  • Ongoing Support – the certification specialist and farmer stay in touch as the farmer continues to make improvements and changes.

The process is not one-size fits all. When risks to water quality are identified, farmers are eligible to receive priority technical and financial assistance to make the improvements that make the most sense, economically and environmentally, for their operation. Once they are certified, farmers and landowners receive regulatory certainty and are deemed to be in compliance with any new water quality laws or rules for 10 years.

Traditionally, conservation has been delivered in a piecemeal fashion with a farmer implementing one conservation practice at a time. While individual practices can provide real environmental benefits, they often don’t treat all the risks to water quality on a farm all at once. MAWQCP’s model of conservation delivery overcomes this shortfall. The program works in collaboration with farmers and addresses risks to water quality for every field and every crop on their operations. This field-by-field, crop-by-crop methodology allows small acts of conservation to aggregate quickly, creating meaningful water quality benefits for all Minnesotans.

To date, the program has generated more than 300 new conservation practices, from cover crops to improved nutrient management that are annually:

  • Stopping 7.7 million pounds of sediment from entering our waters,
  • Preventing more than 4,700 pounds of phosphorus from entering our lakes and streams, and
  • Keeping more than 10 million pounds of soil where it belongs, in Minnesota fields.

As more farmers learn about the program and become certified, its positive impact on Minnesota will continue to grow. MAWQCP will help ensure Minnesota’s farms and waters can prosper together, which is a legacy all Minnesotans can be proud of.

—————–
A note from Environmental Initiative:

We’ve partnered with MAWQCP through our Field Stewards program. Farmers who are certified through MAWQCP (currently only in Stearns County) are eligible to receive a per acre payment for their conservation practices by enrolling in Field Stewards. This partnership with MAWQCP avoids duplicate certification standards and ensures farmers are recognized and rewarded for their conservation efforts. Learn more about Field Stewards »

MAWQCP is a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Learn more about MAWQCP »

POSTED BY:

Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program Manager, Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Meet Great River Energy: Member of the Month

July 5th, 2016

Great River Energy is a not-for-profit cooperative which provides wholesale electric service to 28 distribution cooperatives located in Minnesota. Those member cooperatives distribute electricity to approximately 665,000 families, farms and businesses. With $4 billion in assets, Great River Energy is the second largest electric power supplier in Minnesota, and one of the largest generation and transmission cooperatives in the United States.

Great River Energy takes great pride in conducting our business with a high concern for the environment.

We are committed to conserving resources through environmental stewardship, pollution prevention, waste minimization, recycling and reuse. This dedication is demonstrated by the inclusion of environmental sustainability in our mission.

As a cooperative, Great River Energy holds commitment to community in high regard. One of the ways we do that is through re-establishing native habitat.

We are excited to be announcing a new project!HQ prairie solar.jpg

Together with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the city of Elk River, Great River Energy will be converting nine acres into pollinator prairie habitat at its Elk River campus off U.S. Highway 10. With more than 27,000 cars driving by daily, this well-traveled area is perfect for educating the traveling public about the importance of pollinator friendly, prairie plantings.

Past native prairie projects

Great River Energy, for the last decade, has invested in over 200 acres of re-established native prairie.  Some of Great River Energy’s native prairie projects include:

  • Establishing native prairie along transmission lines outside of Savage, Minn., and in the city of Ramsey, Minn., both with park systems.
  • Planting pollinator friendly habitat along Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center’s solar array and in their interpretive center in fall 2015.
  • Incorporating pollinator prairie as part of the landscape architecture at Great River Energy’s headquarters building in Maple Grove, Minn.
  • Restoring more than 120 acres of prairie near Lakefield Junction Station, Pleasant Valley Peaking Station, Cambridge Peaking Plant, and near Great River Energy’s New Prague office.

More resources

For more information about the Elk River pollinator project, visit greatriverenergy.com/elkriverbees.

For more information and links to resources about native plantings, visit greatriverenergy.com/pollinators.

Great River Energy has had a long-term commitment to Environmental Initiative. We have been a member of the Convener Partnership Circle for some time, and this year marked our ninth year as a presenting sponsor of the Environmental Initiative Awards program held each May. Great River Energy is a proud supporter of Environmental Initiative.

Mary Jo Roth

POSTED BY:

Manager, Environmental Services at Great River Energy
Environmental Initiative - Home