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Archive for October, 2017

A Tale of Two Years: inside Clean Air Minnesota

October 13th, 2017

The Clean Air Minnesota partnership wrapped up another successful two years—and what an eventful two years it’s been! This dynamic group of over 25 business, government, and nonprofit organizations— co-chaired by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy— has been pushing the envelope on air quality improvement across the state. As the partnership prepares to reconvene in the fall, it is an exciting time to look back and see all that was accomplished over the last two years.

A Focus on Opportunity

Clean Air Minnesota’s work from 2015-2017 focused on the disbursed, everyday sources that make up over ¾ of Minnesota’s air pollution pie (worst pie ever!) These pollutants, which come from sources like wood smoke, small businesses, cars, trucks, and off-road equipment, are addressed by the engines of the partnership, the Mobile Source, Area Source, and Wood Smoke Project Teams. The Clean Air Minnesota Work Group and Core Team provided resources, knowledge, and support to the project teams, all driving towards Clean Air Minnesota’s goal of reducing air pollution 10% from 2011 levels.

Thanks a Million!

Between expansions in existing projects and the launch of new projects, Clean Air Minnesota’s impact is growing on multiple fronts. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s diesel grants have expanded, Environmental Initiative launched the largest wood-burning appliance change-out program in Minnesota, the City of Minneapolis has expanded its nationally award-winning green business cost-share program, and a number of other partners are advancing direct emission-reduction projects. And these expansions show up in the numbers.

In fact, combining the work of all of the partners, Clean Air Minnesota has directly reduced particulate matter equivalent to taking over a million cars off the road every year.

New Projects on the Horizon

This phase of Clean Air Minnesota also saw the launch of a number of new and innovative projects working to reduce emissions in new sectors, from new sources, in new ways. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has launched a pilot project replacing parts washers at auto repair shops, proving incredibly cost-effective reductions of Volatile Organic Compounds, a key component of smog.

With support from Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Flint Hills Resources, Environmental Initiative also launched a pilot project repairing emission control systems on cars owned by folks with lower incomes. This project goes beyond the emissions to addressing economic security by helping to ensure that folks have safe, reliable transportation to get to work.

With the launch of Project Stove Swap, Clean Air Minnesota’s emissions reduction impacts are spreading into a new sector and bringing in some great new friends in the north. Every new project area is an exciting opportunity for new partners to work together on new sources of air pollution. Conversations with these partners that started in Clean Air Minnesota were the catalyst for the recent, successful Clean Air Collaborative event in Grand Rapids.

Let’s Talk About It

Clean Air Minnesota’s communications capacity expanded greatly from 2015-2017. From the development of a Clean Air Minnesota brand to the mapping of member impacts, Clean Air Minnesota partners got the word out about their good work. Running the numbers, Clean Air Minnesota communications efforts led to over 500,000 in-person impressions, over 20,000 online impressions, and at least 14 earned media stories about the various projects. Telling the stories of the good work of the partnership helps to bring in new partners while raising awareness of Minnesota’s air quality issues.

What’s Ahead?

As the leaves start to change and the cool breezes blow out of the north, Clean Air Minnesota will be coming back together to continue and expand its important work. The next phase will continue the momentum while bringing in partners in new geographic areas and working to increase a focus on health equity in our work.

Interested in joining the partnership? Sign up for our e-mails and contact me at mweitekamp@en-in.org.

Mikey Weitekamp

POSTED BY:

Senior Project Manager, Environmental Initiative

Supporting Great Stories with Minnesota Environmental Fund

October 12th, 2017

As a communications professional, I’m a sucker for a good story. Lucky for me, I work at an organization that is constantly telling great stories— from our work to clean up Minnesota’s older diesel engines to forming farmer-company partnerships to so many other things.

But I also know that other environmental nonprofits in Minnesota have amazing stories too! Environmental Initiative is one of 19 members of the Minnesota Environmental Fund (MEF), which helps people volunteer and give at work to protect, conserve, and restore Minnesota’s environment. At our last membership meeting, I got to hear about how MEF positively impacts the 19 member organizations it supports and how each organization is helping Minnesota’s environment through its own unique projects. Here are some of my takeaways:

Protecting a Mississippi River Park
In early August, the River Heights Park in Inver Grove Heights was in danger of being sold and redeveloped, but Friends of the Mississippi River, along with its neighbors and partners, stepped up to defend the land. The park, which is part of the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area as well as the Mississippi River Flyway, has been preserved thanks to their hard work.

Nurturing Future Leaders
In the St. Cloud area, Wilderness Inquiry took dozens of sixth graders to Lake Sagatagan, where they went canoeing and learned about Minnesota history from a “floating classroom.” Wilderness Inquiry staff shared stories about the voyageurs and children learned about fur traders, and became more comfortable on the water and in the wilderness.  Paddling in a huge canoe is a great way to practice teamwork and leadership!

Restoring nature for clean water and wildlife
Along the Mississippi River, Audubon Minnesota is restoring floodplain forests to improve water quality and habitat for wildlife, both for nesting and migrating.  Now, bald eagles are thriving, and Audubon and its partners are shaping solutions to sustain healthy wildlife– and people– for generations to come.

Support great stories with Minnesota Environmental Fund

Each of MEF’s members has amazing stories from its work to preserve our land, water, air, and wildlife.

Through MEF and with workplace giving, it’s easy to support all of these great stories, including what’s happening at Environmental Initiative!

Does your employer offer giving and volunteering at work? MEF is currently offered to employees in over 100 Minnesota workplaces – including Environmental Initiative! MEF connects more than 200,000 employees with their communities. Employees love to help out, and MEF makes that possible– supporting so many great stories of caring for our environment!

Find out about how you can contribute through workplace giving today by contacting Cordelia Pierson or by visiting www.mnenvirofund.org.  Choose to help the environment.  It adds up!

Rachel Dupree

POSTED BY:

Communications Associate

Leading the region to a clean energy economy

October 10th, 2017

Corporate demand for renewable energy is one of the key drivers in renewables growth in the United States. According to a recent Deloitte Resources 2017 Study, “What’s clear is that the train has left the station: Renewable energy is vital for corporations, and corporate procurement now rivals policy as a driver of growth in the sector.”

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition (MNSGC) is getting on board, leading the region to a clean energy economy. Coalition members are working together to find the best opportunities to collectively add more renewable energy to our existing systems. The group has identified aggregating renewable energy purchasing as a tangible way to demonstrate the demand for renewables in Minnesota.

In partnership with national experts, World Resources Institute and Rocky Mountain Institute, coalition members are planning a series of trainings with the goal of identifying and pursuing utility-based and non-utility renewable energy, both individually and collectively.

After months of planning, the Coalition kicked off this effort by hosting a webinar with WRI. This opportunity set a foundation of common understanding of best practices for corporate renewable energy procurement and introduced Coalition members to the factors unique to the Minnesota landscape.

Next, the Coalition will host Renewables Purchasing: Corporate Leadership through Clean Energy, a day-long event on the renewable energy procurement options available for the private sector in Minnesota. Through facilitated conversations, participants and organizations will:

  • Explore all the options available to Minnesota companies to procure renewable energy in the state of Minnesota (utility and non-utility)
  • Provide feedback on utilities’ renewable energy purchasing options and identify ways to improve future offerings
  • Identify which procurement options attendees want to pursue beyond this event— aggregated and individual— and have the opportunity to further engage, act on, and/or develop those options

The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition is on the cutting edge of the corporate renewable purchasing trend. The landscape has grown exponentially in the last 5 years. The Coalition’s pursuit of renewables purchasing, especially the potential for aggregating demand, showcases true regional leadership and our commitment to 100% renewables in Minnesota, and ultimately, a circular economy.

Stephanie Weir

POSTED BY:

Project Manager

Celebrate Energy Innovation with Great Plains Institute

October 5th, 2017

Environmental Initiative has a long history of convening professionals in the energy and clean energy sectors, so we’re excited to tell you about an upcoming event in our community on renewables and energy innovation.

Great Plains Institute (GPI) is hosting their annual Energy Innovation Celebration on October 11 at the Landmark Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota. GPI has been a valued partner of ours in a lot of different ways—through the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition and helping us plan countless Policy Forums. We’re excited that they also embrace our shared values of Courageous Innovation and Better Together within the energy sector.

October 11, 2017
11:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Landmark Center, St. Paul, MN

 

The event will include a variety of activities, panelists, and topics surrounding city commitment to clean energy and private-sector roles. An agenda, speakers list, and other details about the event can be found on GPI’s website.

Environmental Initiative will be there, and we hope to see you there, too!

Mike Harley

POSTED BY:

Executive Director

Field Stewards in the Fast Lane

October 3rd, 2017

Last week, the Field Stewards program launched what we are calling the “Field Stewards Roadshow”– a series of meetings around the state with small and medium-sized food companies and conservation leaders.

We believe that the Field Stewards model can have a greater impact than what we previously thought, so we want to widen our net to include not only large companies like Pilgrim’s Pride, but also smaller and mid-size food companies who are maybe just starting their sustainability journey. In short, Field Stewards can help a lot of businesses with a variety of crops beyond just corn and soybeans.

Learning from these companies is also a big part of the Roadshow. We want to know about the successes and challenges each organization has faced in their sustainability efforts, and how Field Stewards can help businesses reach new consumer and market segments concerned about sustainability.

FIRST DAY ON THE ROAD

Our first stop was an informative one– a meeting with Mike Lorentz of Lorentz Meats, a meat processor based in Cannon Falls, Minnesota and a leader in sustainably raised, humanely slaughtered beef. It is probably the only processor in the country to have a Wendell Berry quote up on the wall greeting visitors, and was one of the first to begin to think holistically about their product.

From there, we went to Northfield and met with the Cannon River Watershed Partnership, discussing some of the interesting work they are doing to engage food companies in the watershed in helping to disseminate information about cover crops to farmers growing peas and other specialty crops– improving water quality while building a more resilient supply chain.

Finally, we ended our day in Winona with the Whitewater River Watershed Project. As the first in Minnesota to form a farmer-led council to address water quality issues, this area was also one of the pilot areas in the state for the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program— the basis for Field Stewards certification in Minnesota.

This was a successful first trip, and I look forward to getting out to Greater Minnesota again to learn how companies and conservation groups are incentivizing sustainability on agricultural lands.

If you have any questions, want more information on Field Stewards, or want us to come speak to your business, feel free to send me an email at gbohrer@en-in.org or call me at 612-334-3388 ext. 8112.

Greg Bohrer

POSTED BY:

Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment Program

Meet Waste Management, our Member of the Month

October 2nd, 2017

Waste Management (WM) has a long tradition of investment in the communities that we serve. Our presence in the community is visible and starts with our drivers and the connection that they make with our customers every day and continues with the significant contributions that our company makes to a variety of causes.

Although WM is an environmental services company, our contributions and community relations efforts go well beyond the environmental scope of our business. Our involvement in the community is big and small, ranging from having a WM truck visit a cancer-stricken child on his birthday to contributing millions of dollars to the Red Cross to assist with Hurricane Harvey. Giving back is firmly entrenched in the WM culture and it is our belief that partnering with the communities that we serve will create a brighter future for all.

A Partner for Cleaner Air & Collective Learning

At home in Minnesota, WM began working more closely with the Environmental Initiative in 2002 and through the Clean Air Minnesota program, we pioneered the use of DPF filters on our trucks to reduce truck emissions. This was a step in the right direction for air quality in the metro area that ultimately led our company to invest in Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) trucks— a nationwide effort to switch from diesel to CNG that began in 2008 and continues today. CNG fueling station installation and investment in a CNG fleet have reduced greenhouse gas emissions significantly for our company and for the communities that we serve.

As a past Environmental Initiative Board member, I enjoyed various roles: from advising the organization on their Business and Environment Series to reviewing their various programs to giving direction on stakeholder group convenings. These events that engage multiple parties in discussions related to the environment are like “old home week,” because they provide a great opportunity to network with people that I have connected with over the years, but also to meet newcomers to the environmental field.

One of my fondest memories with Environmental Initiative was a matching contribution that Waste Management made to the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity for the first green building home in the Twin Cities. WM used the building of this home in Crystal as an opportunity for a team building exercise for our Area’s leadership team. WM gained employee engagement through our hands-on work by helping other volunteers build this home, and the reward of giving back to a family in need was impactful. It was fun and a learning experience at the same time! WM also got to attend the open house for the future owners which was very gratifying.I have been with WM for over 15 years, and never have our volunteer efforts and community partnerships been a more important part of our culture.  We will continue to support Environmental Initiative because we believe it is an organization that has served a crucial role in efforts to improve the communities in which we all live and work.

I have been with WM for more than 15 years, and our volunteer efforts and community partnerships have never been a more important part of our culture than they are now. We will continue to support Environmental Initiative because we believe they have served a crucial role in efforts to improve the communities in which we all live and work.

Congratulations to Mike Harley on his upcoming 20-year anniversary with the organization! You have a lot to be proud of and we appreciate all that you have done.


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.

POSTED BY:

Government Affairs, Waste Management
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