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Member of the Month: Best Buy

April 3rd, 2017

At Best Buy, we are thrilled to be Environmental Initiative’s member of the month. As Environmental Initiative celebrates 25 years, I want to reflect on the organization’s impact both on Best Buy as well as the greater Twin Cities community.


When Best Buy began our sustainability journey a decade ago, Environmental Initiative was one of the first organizations we sought out to help guide our strategy and have continued to be a trusted resource in the years since.

I see Environmental Initiative as the convener of environmental thought leaders in Minnesota. The team has built a solid network of organizations who seek to drive sustainability forward. We are part of a unique community, with 16 Fortune 500 companies in the metro area, yet a close-knit group of individuals. Perhaps it’s our Midwest values-driven organizations, but there is a small-town feeling within our sustainability community. I can pick up the phone and call my environmental counterparts at any organization in town, thanks in part to the network Environmental Initiative helped build.

Not only does Environmental Initiative connect large companies, but also brings together smaller companies, academics and government agencies, facilitating conversations on topics that affect all of us, like smart transportation, sustainable consumption and renewable energy. I appreciate the variety of programming, which engages members of my team at all levels. From the case studies presented at the Business and Environment Series, to the more specialized Sustainability Practitioners Roundtable to the advocacy-focused Policy Forums, I see a common thread of collaboration and problem-solving throughout.


I’m excited about the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition, an Environmental Initiative-led partnership of 30 businesses working together to advance the circular economy. One aspect of the work focuses on renewable energy, a topic Best Buy is deeply connected with, as 12 percent of our 45 percent carbon reduction goal is dedicated to renewables. By facilitating an open discussion with energy providers, Environmental Initiative has helped advance green tariff design that aligns with the energy and carbon reduction goals of our respective companies.

Congratulations Environmental Initiative, on 25 years of convening, educating, advocating for the environment. We are proud to be on this journey with you.

Alexis Ludwig-Vogen


Director, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, Best Buy

Member of the Month: Barr Engineering

March 1st, 2017

Barr Engineering Co. (Barr) is honored to be featured as Environmental Initiative’s member of the month for March. We’re excited to have this opportunity to reflect on our work with Environmental Initiative and what it means to us—and has meant to us— since the organization’s inception.

To start off with a little background on Barr, we are an employee-owned engineering and environmental consulting firm with nine offices across North America and over 700 employees. Our company was incorporated over 50 years ago in Minnesota, which is the location our headquarters as well. Some of Barr’s most active members, including Mike Hansel and Andy Polzin, have worked with Environmental Initiative since its earliest days, and they continue to help Barr maintain its commitment to Environmental Initiative’s goals.

Talking with Mike and Andy, you get a sense of how important Environmental Initiative has been to them, to Barr, and to our community of members. Andy recently reminisced about his involvement with Environmental Initiative when he was just starting out:

Interview: Andy Polzin—Vice President, Senior Environmental Consultant

“In the early days, Environmental Initiative had a reoccurring program called the Environmental Management Excellence Series. Representatives of industry, government, academia and young, impressionable consultants like me met three or four times a year and talked about the big regulatory topics. The Clean Air Act of 1990 (the Title V permit program) and implementation of the NPDES stormwater permitting program at the federal and state levels in 1992 were two of those big topics. We all learned together about these programs.

“In subsequent years, Environmental Initiative started getting out in front of new programs and set up forums to discuss issues like NESHAP attainment in the Twin Cities metro area and climate change. Nobody does partnerships and creates space for discussion around current issues quite like Environmental Initiative.”

Duluth Coffee Creek repairs project, winner of the 2016 Natural Resources Award

Andy also pointed out how Environmental Initiative membership has helped him maintain connections with others dedicated to addressing complex environmental problems.

“The annual Environmental Initiative Awards ceremony is the one event I make sure to attend every year. I see people there that I don’t get to see at any other time. It’s great to see the slate of award nominees and wonder at the partnerships that produce such impressive environmental results. Barr has been involved in many nominated partnerships over the years, and we feel fortunate to have been on a winning team in 2016 (in the Natural Resources category).”

Interview: Mike Hansel — Senior Chemical Engineer

Looking back over his decades of involvement, Mike Hansel focused on Environmental Initiative’s ability to bring together stakeholders and serve as a catalyst for action.

“Back in 2002 (or thereabouts) Environmental Initiative convened a Policy Forum on air quality. During a presentation by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, it was pretty clear that the Twin Cities were in danger of becoming a non-attainment area for ozone and fine particulate matter. During a break, the Chamber [of Commerce], the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, and Barr got together and concluded ‘this is a big deal!’ Out of that conversation grew Clean Air Minnesota, an Environmental Initiative-led coalition working to reduce air pollution that Barr has been involved with since inception.”

At Barr, we recognize that we’ve benefited greatly from our work with Environmental Initiative over the years. The people we’ve met and the conversations we’ve had have enabled us to develop lasting relationships. Through our membership and the opportunities for collaboration Environmental Initiative provides, we’re able to engage with the essential environmental issues of the day. We look forward to continuing our involvement and service.

Michelle Stockness


Senior Environmental Engineer, Barr Engineering

From the Executive Director: Where do we go from here?

February 13th, 2017

On February 6, 1992, Environmental Initiative was born. If you do the math, you most likely know that we’re celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, but what does that mean? How do you capture what we’ve learned from a quarter-century’s worth of work, and then make it better?

Luckily, I’ve stuck around this organization for a while, so I know the whole story! Environmental Initiative began when Brett Johnson and Dan Carr were inspired to gather decision makers from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to solve environmental issues together. Others, including our first Executive Director, Ciaran Mannion, and our founding board made up of leaders from Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Northern States Power, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, amongst others, were essential to turn that idea into reality. At the time, it felt revolutionary.

Since then, we’ve had a significant impact on Minnesota’s environment. We’re removing the air pollution equivalent of 750,000 cars from the road every year through Project Green Fleet and we helped set the stage for the passage of the Clean Water, Land & Legacy Amendment, amongst many other accomplishments.

Of course, we want to celebrate all the great work we’ve done together so far. You don’t turn 25 everyday after all. The annual Environmental Initiative Awards will be held on May 25, 2017, and we hope you will join us to honor the people and organizations working collaboratively to improve our environment and celebrate 25 years of our shared success.

We’ve been fortunate that, over the years, we’ve been able to bring together thousands of people for hundreds of conversations that have concerned all of our lives. Now is the time to celebrate our 25 years. But, in many ways, it feels like we’re just getting started.


Our 25th anniversary year will be an exciting one. It’s powerful to look back at what we’ve done and allow it to shape where we’re going. I wrote a year ago about why I’m still here after 20 years. All of that still holds true, and I look forward to pushing us to build even better collaborations and partnerships in the years ahead. We have a proven track record of bringing different sectors together, but to create truly lasting solutions that work for everyone, we need to be responsive to everyone’s views and concerns.

If you’ve ever heard me speak about this organization, you know I reference being “better together”— this is my way of saying that I don’t have all the answers. It’s really all of you, and the variety of perspectives you bring, that make us successful. We gather your passions, knowledge, and ideas to talk through and solve issues that affect us all.

But what good is “better together” if historically marginalized voices aren’t included in environmental solutions? We know that environmental problems disproportionately affect people of color, lower income individuals, and the elderly. This year and for years to come, we’re dedicating resources to better incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into our work and mission. This is not only something we want to do, but something we must do to ensure the long-term health and prosperity of Minnesota’s people, economy and environment.

I know that many of our friends, partners and members care deeply about addressing the disparities that affect Minnesotans. I would like to invite anyone interested in helping us find our way forward to reach out and call me. This is a journey we are excited to start this year and know it will carry us into our next 25 years.

Mike Harley


Executive Director

Member of the Month: 3M

February 1st, 2017

3M has a long history of partnership with Environmental Initiative, including financial support for Clean Air Minnesota programs and sponsorship of the Environmental Initiative Awards. As part of their 25th anniversary, the Environmental Initiative team asked that we look back over the last quarter-century and share a favorite partnership, project, or memory. It’s quite the assignment, but I’ll gladly share a more personal memory and 3M’s broader appreciation of Environmental Initiative’s role in the Minnesota ecosystem.

As a fresh engineering graduate from the University of Minnesota in the late 1990s, I was looking to work in the environmental field. I connected with Mike Harley, Environmental Initiative’s Executive Director, through a mutual friend. Mike made a positive impression of the approach he wanted to take with his—then young— organization.

Nearly 20 years later, Environmental Initiative continues the collaborative practices Mike described to me as a recent graduate, and enables our community to advance important environmental projects in Minnesota. More than any one project, Environmental Initiative’s push for ongoing dialogue, bridging differing opinions and looking for win-win solutions drives the engagement of 3M and individual 3Mers in the organization’s work. There are many organizations that may use collaborative approaches, but Environmental Initiative’s commitment to pragmatic engagement and problem solving is unique.

3M’s admiration for Environmental Initiative’s approach is due, in part, to the longstanding collaborative and purpose-driven culture of the company. 3Mers are encouraged to leverage our 46 technology platforms in unique ways to create new products to help solve our customer’s challenges, and the challenges facing our global community. Our Pollution Prevention Pays (3P) program is more than 40 years old, with more than 2 million tons of pollution prevented to date. Our company-wide greenhouse gas emissions decreased by nearly 70% between 2002 and 2015.

As a company rooted in scientific exploration, we continue to innovate in markets from abrasives to energy, applying our technological expertise to help solve some of the challenges that serve as barriers to the improvement of every life on the planet. Overcoming global challenges requires recognizing their interdependence: the importance of water access and its impact on health; energy and dependence on raw materials, etc. It also requires a deep commitment across the organization and collaboration with partners, customers and communities.

We appreciate the opportunity to continue to partner with Environmental Initiative and offer our congratulations for 25 years of successes.

Chris Nelson


Environmental Permitting Manager, 3M Environmental Operations

Meet Damian Goebel, Communications Director

January 17th, 2017

Hi, folks. I’m Damian Goebel, Environmental Initiative’s new Communications Director. I’m truly excited to start working on telling you about all of the great things we do.

Fun fact about me: I’m a pragmatist. Okay, that isn’t so fun, but it is one of the things that drew me to the work that Environmental Initiative is doing. One thing that excites me about this organization is their ability to find the collaborative sweet spot between decision makers and those who are being impacted by those decisions. From that sweet spot, Environmental Initiative and partners can create innovative, yet realistic, solutions to major issues facing Minnesota’s environment. Having worked in the private sector for almost 10 years, I understand the value of partnering with businesses to create win-win solutions on environmental policy, projects, and programs.

Most recently, I come from 8.5 years of working in the nonprofit field at St. Paul Smart Trips, focusing on transportation issues, largely around air quality in St. Paul. We worked from a similar collaboration-based perspective where I found the real power in cross-sector partnerships.

Looking back though, keeping our land, air, and water clean has always been an important issue to me. Whether it was countless camping trips with my parents, weeklong excursions to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, or making the conscious choice to drive less, I’ve been involved in environmental issues for almost all my life, whether I was aware or not.

But enough about me. I can’t wait to dig in and hear from you about why you care about the environment and our organization!

Damian Goebel


Communications Director

Thank you, thank you, thank you…

January 11th, 2017

Thank you to all of our very generous donors for their support during our year-end fundraising campaign. We could not continue to grow, solve problems collaboratively, and build relationships without supporters like you. Here is a shout out to everyone that donated:


Sacha Seymour-Anderson


Development Director

Greg Bohrer Selected to Participate in the Minnesota Agricultural & Rural Leadership Program

November 14th, 2016

We are proud to share that Greg Bohrer, Senior Manager of Agriculture & Environment at Environmental Initiative was one of thirty individuals selected to participate in the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership Program. Two thirds of participants are agricultural producers and the other third are people involved in agribusiness or rural leadership positions.

GregAs a member of Class IX, Greg will participate in a dynamic two-year educational experience featuring several in-state seminars, a six-day national study seminar, and a 10- to 14-day international study seminar. The current cohort meets starting next week through April 2018.

“I am really looking forward to the program, said Greg Bohrer – Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment, “This is a tremendous opportunity to get to know other emerging leaders in agriculture and rural Minnesota and to develop my own leadership skills and understanding of agricultural issues. I am excited to start diving into it and am grateful to have been selected.”

Program curriculum covers a range of topics including leadership development, rural industry and trade, natural resources, and diversity. The goal of the program is to help rural and agricultural leaders develop the necessary skills to maximize their impact across local, state, and international arenas.

Congratulations to Greg and to his fellow Minnesota Agricultural & Rural Leadership Program participants. Meet Class IX »

Ellen Gibson


Senior Director, Projects & Programs

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Rachel Dupree


Communications Associate

Watch for Minnesota Environmental Fund at Work

September 8th, 2016

I first heard about Minnesota Environmental Fund (MEF) while I was working at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2013. October was the start of the Community Fund Drive, an event where university departments and employees competed against each other to see who could donate the most in a short amount of time. MEF was one of the workplace giving options at the time, but that was all I knew.MEF_logo_web

Now that I’ve started working at Environmental Initiative, I know a lot more about MEF and workplace giving. Here are some of the highlights that I’ve learned about so far:

  • Giving to MEF is like giving to a bunch of different causes. Donations help support clean water, clean air, healthy food, natural lands and wildlife. The 21 member organizations—including Environmental Initiative—all work to protect Minnesota’s environment, and they all see a portion of each donation.
  • People can give at work, choosing to donate once or with each payroll check. It’s an easy process, and means you are supporting the environment all year long.
  • More than 100 companies, nonprofit organizations, cities, colleges and schools across Minnesota offer MEF as a payroll deduction option.
  • All of the money donated stays here in Minnesota and is used to protect Minnesota’s environment.

Sound interesting to you? Many workplaces hold fall campaigns to encourage employees to give, and MEF may be one of those giving options. You can view MEF’s Workplace Partners here, and be on the lookout for information from your employer. I know I’m happy Environmental Initiative offers me this choice!

You’ll likely see an email or flyer in your office with information on where and how to donate. Your workplace giving campaign is typically the time to sign up to give, either for a one-time gift or for continuous payroll deductions. You can choose to donate to specific member organizations within MEF or have your contribution dispersed to the entire group for a larger impact.

Some of you may have workplace giving, but not have MEF as an option. In this case, you will have the option to write in “Minnesota Environmental Fund.” If you want to do even more to support the environment in Minnesota, you can talk to your human resources or community relations department about setting up MEF as a payroll deduction option. Feel free to talk to MEF’s Executive Director Cordelia Pierson to work on setting that up.

We’re grateful to all who donate to MEF. Your contribution helps support Environmental Initiative’s work and the larger environmental community in Minnesota. Thank you!

Erin Niehoff


Project and Administrative Assistant

Meet Rachel Dupree, Communications Associate

August 11th, 2016

Hi, everyone!

My name is Rachel Dupree and I’m joining the Environmental Initiative team as a Communications Associate. I’m super excited to be part of the work that’s happening here!

RachelI’m a recent graduate of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, but I was born and raised in the greater Twin Cities area.  At Drake, I earned degrees in Public Relations and International Relations with a concentration in Global Public Health. I know that sounds like a weird combination—it is. If I could’ve majored in social justice, I would have, but here we are.

My environmental career started with a study abroad trip, actually. I spent a month in Ecuador my junior year, and while it was life changing in a lot of ways, it was also eye opening. After hiking for five days in the Amazon, myself and 15 other students toured the less awe-inspiring parts of the forest: the deforestation efforts and the indigenous farms impacted.  Meeting with community members from deep in the jungle and hearing their life experiences was sobering to say the least.

Those images lead me to the environmental sector. As an undergraduate, I worked for one of Iowa’s largest land and water conservation groups, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF). My main function was to spread awareness and convey the importance of conserving Iowa’s natural prairies, community trails, and threatened wildlife. Additionally, I was part of the communications team at the World Food Prize Foundation (WFP) in Des Moines, an organization most noted for awarding the “Nobel Peace Prize for agriculture” to those who tackle global food scarcity.

Now, I’m happily back in my home state and ready to continue my work in the environmental sector with a stellar organization. I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me!


Rachel Dupree


Communications Associate
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