Environmental Initiative - Home

Archive for September, 2017

Our Journey to Shape a Circular Economy (So Far)

September 28th, 2017

About 18 months ago, Environmental Initiative and Minnesota’s business leaders began drawing up a new partnership. Along with sustainability experts in our state, we came to the conclusion that no one company can solve the environmental problems of today on their own. Huge issues, like Minnesota’s water quality or organic waste recycling, cannot be completely addressed by one company alone.

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition came out of that realization. The Coalition is a business-led initiative focused on collective action. The growing partnership started out with a huge goal: move from a linear, waste-generating economy to a circular, waste-transforming economy.

A year and a half later, the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition is a group of more than 30 members who’ve achieved a great deal to begin making impactful change.

Year one, and a little more

We officially launched the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition in June 2016 and were immediately noticed, with over 500,000 social media impressions and coverage in 12 local and national news outlets. We were even called out in the Harvard Business Review as one of the top 9 sustainability trends in 2016. By 2017, the number of coalition members has doubled to 32, including seven from the Fortune 500. The need and desire for this type of innovative partnership were apparent.In its first year, members worked together to develop the infrastructure to support such major undertakings, despite being composed of highly diverse organizations. Perhaps most importantly, we developed our first three focus areas – advancing clean energy, converting organic waste into valuable resources, and protecting or restoring the natural water cycle.

In its first year, members worked together to develop the infrastructure to support such major undertakings, despite being composed of highly diverse organizations. Perhaps most importantly, we developed our first three focus areas – advancing clean energy, converting organic waste into valuable resources, and protecting or restoring the natural water cycle.

Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition Meeting 8-17-16

100 percent renewable energy

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition recognized early on that a circular economy can only exist if it is powered by 100 percent renewable energy, which is why members selected clean energy as the initial priority for action.

Throughout 2017, we’ve been focused almost solely on how we can advance that goal. Currently, we’re working on building a roadmap for the state of Minnesota to follow and work toward 100 percent renewable energy. The Coalition is also planning a series of workshops for members to better understand renewable energy options available to them and how to work together to purchase renewable energy more efficiently.

Impacts on water

Our next area of work—which we’ve just begun scoping— will focus on the role Minnesota businesses can play in improving regional waterways, which are in many ways our most valuable natural resource. We can’t wait to be able to share more details with you in the coming months.

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition has made a lot of headway in the past 18 months in defining and shaping goals toward such a big outcome—a regional, circular economy. What makes it exciting is the way this work is taking shape. We’re beginning to see the true potential for a circular system. Through our work so far, we know our goal is possible and achievable—and will have a limitless impact.

Sam Hanson

POSTED BY:

Director, Sustainability Program

Meet Great River Energy, Member of the Month

September 6th, 2017

Great River Energy (GRE) has a long history with Environmental Initiative (remember when it was Minnesota Environmental Initiative?). One of our early connections was with Energy Alley, which provided a clearinghouse of environmental information for businesses and individuals.

Energy Alley was the first collaborative effort in Minnesota to advance renewable energy and efficiency in what is now known as the clean energy sector.

Over the years, GRE has continued to support Environmental Initiative’s work, and we congratulate this fine non-profit organization on 25 very successful years of bringing together stakeholders– businesses, NGOs, government, citizens– to work toward viable solutions to Minnesota’s environmental problems.

ORGANIZATIONAL PARTNER TO MULTIPLE PROJECTS

For many years GRE has been a premier sponsor of Environmental Initiative’s annual Environmental Initiative Awards event. This event brings together over 400 environmental leaders to celebrate and honor innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary environmental results through the power of partnership. GRE has also been a long-time sponsor of Environmental Initiative’s Legislative Preview, a Policy Forum event hosted each year. We are a member of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition which, led by members of the business community, has worked on initiatives including growth in renewable energy for electric end uses such as electric vehicles. Through this work and outside of it, GRE views Environmental Initiative as a stakeholder in the environmental community and seeks their input.

PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT AND DEDICATION

Personally, I’ve been involved with Environmental Initiative for more than 10 years and was honored to serve on the organization’s board for nine of those years. During that time, I was able to experience a closer view of the “inner workings” of Environmental Initiative. An organization’s most important asset is its employees, and Environmental Initiative is no exception. I have always been impressed with the quality and dedication of staff. Each brings a unique skill set and vibrant enthusiasm to their job. Professionally leading the organization and thoughtfully carrying out its mission is Executive Director Mike Harley, who is celebrating his 20-year anniversary with the organization next month. Through Mike’s leadership, relationships, commitment and energy, Environmental Initiative continues to evolve and remains a highly respected organization in our community.

So, happy 25th birthday, Environmental Initiative– and here’s to 25 more fantastic years of making positive change happen for the betterment of our environment and our citizens.


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.

Mary Jo Roth

POSTED BY:

Manager, Environmental Services at Great River Energy

Convening & Collaborating in Grand Rapids

September 5th, 2017

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: An environmentalist, a diesel vendor, and a public health worker are sitting around a table in Grand Rapids…

Despite being tantalizing close to another “Sven and Ole” knee-slapper, these were just a few of the participants that gathered on Tuesday, August 15 at our most recent event: the Clean Air Collaborative.

As many of you may know, our Clean Air program has been experiencing exponential growth in partners and projects that reduce air pollution emissions and invest in Minnesota’s economy. As bigger and better opportunities lie ahead, this was the perfect time to reconnect with partners and stakeholders in Greater Minnesota. As our last Northern Minnesota convening event was a Clean Air Minnesota meeting in Duluth in June of 2014, we were overdue for a visit!

Our goal was to reintroduce ourselves to the region and, most importantly, learn about Northern Minnesota’s priorities from Northern Minnesotans. With Blandin Foundation generously hosting and resources provided by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Flint Hills Resources, the event was a huge success. Representatives from private, public, tribal government and non-profit sectors were all in attendance having meaningful conversation.

Event Snapshot: Outcomes & Attendees

The event began with presentations of Clean Air Minnesota programs, projects and partners, but the real pay dirt came from the facilitated breakouts sessions that followed. Participants explored:

  • Cost-effective ways to use Volkswagen settlement dollars to better Minnesota’s environment, economy and public health
  • A possible logging truck project through Project Green Fleet’s clean diesel work
  • Actions to assist low-income residents in Northern Minnesota and on tribal lands access Project Stove Swap benefits
  • How to engage other professional associations and community organizations in air quality, energy, and other environmental work
  • Partnership opportunities that advance voluntary emission reductions and investment in Northern Minnesota

When the Itasca County Public Health Department is having lively discussions with the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association, you know you’re doing something right. Other organizations, agencies, businesses, and governments in attendance included:

  • American Lung Association
  • CAT Ziegler, Inc.
  • Fireplace Lifestyles, Inc.
  • Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
  • Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board
  • Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
  • Minnesota Logger Education Program
  • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  • Minnesota Power, an ALLETE Company
  • Northern Minnesota Builders Association
  • Nuss Trucking and Equipment
  • Red Lake Band of Chippewa
  • St. Louis County
  • And many more

As always, the hours fly by with such fantastic people and before we knew it, we were on our way. Though our time was short, it was extremely productive and just the beginning of our push to continue our work for the benefit of Minnesota’s environment and its people. If you’re interested in what we talked about, presentations or the agenda, all materials are posted on our website »

As the great Herb Brooks once said, “Great moments are born from great opportunities.” Here at Environmental Initiative, we look forward to making many great moments to come.

Bjorn Olson

POSTED BY:

Senior Environmental Project Associate
Environmental Initiative - Home