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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

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 joins Field to Market

August 8th, 2017

In the spirit of community-building and shared learning, Environmental Initiative and the Field Stewards program have joined Field to Market®: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture as part of the Field Stewards program. We’re excited to share this partnership with you!

If you’re not familiar, Field to Market is a leading, collaborative effort across the entire agricultural supply chain to define, measure and advance the sustainability of food, fiber and fuel production across the United States. In other words, their impact is far-reaching and hits on multiple issue areas.

As a full and active member in Field to Market, Environmental Initiative will work together with grower organizations, academia, conservation groups, public sector partners and industry to help to catalyze opportunities for improvement in productivity, environmental quality and human well-being across the agricultural value chain. This membership allows Field Stewards to explore new opportunities, relationships and ways to share knowledge. It’s just the kind of cross-sector work we like to be part of.

“I’m pleased to welcome Environmental Initiative, and the Field Stewards program, to join Field to Market as members of the Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. We are excited to bring on board a new partner who is already engaged in rewarding farmers who maintain a high level of environmental protection on their farms,” said Rod Snyder, President of Field to Market.

Complementary Approaches

Environmental Initiative’s Field Stewards Program is the perfect complementary approach to Field to Market’s efforts. Field to Market members work toward sustainable agriculture by setting goals for continuous improvement in sustainability and productivity at the farm level.

Field Stewards, on the other hand, sets a standard for water quality protection on farms. Field Steward’s approach of supporting farmer leaders who reach and maintain a high level of water quality protection on their farms demonstrates that conservation and environmental protection can be valuable— both in the marketplace, but also in terms of soil health, productivity and profitability.

Both approaches, continuous improvement and a threshold standard, work toward getting more farmers engaged in conservation, in precision nutrient management and crop diversity.

“Environmental Initiative, and the entire Field Stewards partnership, is excited to join Field to Market and collaborate in helping American farmers become more productive, more sustainable and able to feed an increasingly populous planet,” said Mike Harley, Executive Director of Environmental Initiative.

For more information about Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, please visit www.fieldtomarket.org

Greg Bohrer

POSTED BY:

Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment Program

Meet Flint Hills Resources

August 1st, 2017

Congratulations to Environmental Initiative on celebrating 25 years of bringing partners together to help solve environmental problems. We are excited to be one of those partners for more than a dozen years! As a founding sponsor of Project Green Fleet, a collaborative effort with Environmental Initiative to install pollution control equipment in thousands of Minnesota school buses, heavy-duty trucks and other diesel vehicles, we couldn’t be more proud of the positive impact this program has made in our communities.

This award-winning, voluntary program has taken off and has some pretty impressive accomplishments, including:

  • Installing pollution control equipment on 3,200 school buses
  • Retrofitting, repowering or upgrading more than 1,300 heavy-duty diesel engines, including trucks, transit buses, trains, and construction equipment
  • Reducing emissions the equivalent of removing 750,000 cars from the road annually

 

 

Not only is Flint Hills Resources proud to partner on Project Green Fleet, but we are also a member of Clean Air Minnesota, a group of businesses, units of government and environmental organizations convened by Environmental Initiative to develop a set of strategies to clean up the air through proactive, voluntary approaches.

As a refinery that has reduced total onsite emissions in 11 of the last 15 years, and whose emissions per barrel are approximately 19% lower than other U.S. refineries, we are continuously working to improve our environmental performance.

Thank you, Environmental Initiative, for bringing stakeholders together to work toward voluntary solutions for a cleaner environment. Flint Hills Resources values your work and is honored to have a seat at the table.


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:

Community Relations Director, Flint Hills Resources

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