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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

Sustainability Snapshot: The Metropolitan Airports Commission

July 26th, 2017

Every quarter, the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition holds meetings with more than 30 members to discuss updates, our three focus areas (renewable energy, clean water, and organics), and ultimately how we’re working toward a circular economy through sustainability.

Working toward a “circular economy” is still a wonky concept to many folks, but something that’s a little easier to wrap our heads around are on-the-ground sustainability efforts by our members. Together, we’re working to combine these efforts, and the minds behind them, to make transformative results possible. In other words, no one business alone can transform the way we see waste, water, or energy.

Each business and organization in the Coalition is simply building on their existing sustainability efforts by working together to create a cumulative impact.

In our last meeting, we got to know what one of our members, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), is currently doing in their sustainability operations—and what they bring to the table for collective action. Walking through the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), we all got to know the ways the MAC is saving water, promoting local business, and meeting customer needs.

SUSTAINABILITY AT MSP

Restroom Retrofits

The MAC is in the process of redesigning all MSP restrooms with the environment and patrons in mind. The estimated water savings from the restrooms redesigned to date is approximately seven million gallons per year! Bathrooms also incorporate LED lighting, but use daylighting when possible.

The MAC has also taken measures to increase accessibility to those with disabilities, such as speaker and thermal cues when a restroom is closed for cleaning. They’ve also added four lactation rooms, one nursing room with one under construction, and service animal and pet relief rooms at MSP.

Local and Sustainable Businesses

The MAC features a variety of local and sustainable businesses within the airport, furthering their sustainability goals. Below are just a few of them.

  • Open Book: A collaboration between the Loft Literary Center, Milkweed Editions, and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, this local non-profit offers MSP travelers an ever-changing selection of the latest books, as well as an eclectic assortment of gifts and artwork.
  • LoLo: This locally-owned, locally-operated restaurant in MSP changes 40% of its menu with change in seasons, and serves locally-sourced food and drink.
  • Angel Food Bakery and Doughnut Bar: The MAC sets goals for bringing in Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprises; this woman-owned bakery is one such business, serving amazing items made from locally-sourced ingredients
  • Hammer Made: This specialty men’s shop offers distinctive, limited-run shirts and accessories by a local designer. The limited runs reduce fabric use, and any extra fabric is used as shirt trim or made into boxer shorts.
  • Stone Arch: With a concept developed by a local Minneapolis team, Stone Arch offers numerous kinds of local craft beer in partnership with the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild

Organics

All concessionaires at MSP– in Terminal 1-Lindbergh and Terminal 2-Humphrey– participate in the MAC’s MSP back-of-house organics composting program. The MAC was able to divert and compost 354 tons of organics in 2016 through partnership with MSP concessionaires. In addition, 91.4 tons of used cooking oil was recycled, and 1,520 tons of other material were recycled or diverted in 2016.

You can learn more about the MAC and MSP’s sustainability efforts by reading their 2016 sustainability report, available here »

Sam Hanson

POSTED BY:

Director, Sustainability Program

Minnesota Power: A Champion of Regional Success

July 20th, 2017

As we head out into these bright summer mornings, many of our thoughts turn north—toward cabins, lakes, forests, fishing, boats and hammocks. Much of my work at Environmental Initiative takes place in northern Minnesota, so as my thoughts go north, I am also grateful for those who champion clean air in that part of the state, like Minnesota Power.

Minnesota Power is a founding member of Clean Air Minnesota and its support has been critical to not only our air work as a whole, but Project Stove Swap and Project Green Fleet  specifically.

A PARTNER FROM THE BEGINNING

"Schoo Bus"At the beginning of Project Green Fleet, Minnesota Power was one of our first partners to help us work with a private school bus fleet. Right after the project was announced, Mike Cashin and Margaret Hodnik, now retired, of Minnesota Power offered their offices and arranged meetings with bus companies. Again and again, Mike and his colleagues were willing and eager to put their influence to work in support of the project to reduce bus emissions.

That local connection was key. After a meeting with Voyageur Bus Co. arranged by Minnesota Power, we got to work retrofitting buses in the Duluth area that summer, starting with the Voyageur fleet– the first private fleet to work with us. It would not have happened had our friends at Minnesota Power not been willing to take a risk and stick their necks out on our behalf.

TODAY: PROMOTING ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN NORTHERN MINNESOTA

Fast forward to today, and Minnesota Power’s steadfast, open-minded support continues. For years, partners in Clean Air Minnesota have known that wood stove swap-outs are a highly cost-effective means to reduce a variety of air pollutants. The only barrier has been a lack of funding to run a large-scale project in Minnesota. While these projects have taken place in many other states, they tend to be relatively short-term efforts that fade once the initial funds are expended.

Minnesota Power worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice to improve the way wood stove change-out programs could work, mirroring a long-term, public-private model. Minnesota Power worked with us to suggest that these programs could have more impact if they were constructed to run a bit longer and focus more on community building, thus providing an opportunity to leverage additional public and private resources to do even more work.

With Minnesota Power’s help, we convinced the federal agencies to take a chance on our model, now a full-scale wood stove change-out effort called Project Stove Swap. I’ve been spending quite a bit of my time on this for the last year and a half and the results have been promising, from the well-covered launch to the preliminary results. In just four months of running at scale, the project has already reduced more than 10 tons of particulate matter annually, the equivalent of taking over 180,000 cars off of the road every year.

THANK YOU

We wouldn’t have seen any of these results without Mike Cashin, Josh Goutermont, Nancy Norr, Randi Nyholm and others at Minnesota Power who were willing to listen to our ideas and stick with us in talking to agencies. Undoubtedly, this made their lives more complicated. But the reward for their commitment and their company’s support is a project that will produce economic, health and environmental benefits for years to come.


A note from Environmental Initiative:

In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th anniversary, members of our staff will take turns throughout the year highlighting the organization’s most influential and effective collaborators. We want to say thank you to the amazing people who help us achieve all we do.

Mikey Weitekamp

POSTED BY:

Senior Project Manager, Environmental Initiative

Member of the Month: CenterPoint Energy

July 6th, 2017

CenterPoint Energy is honored to be the July featured member of the month. We value our membership with Environmental Initiative and the important message it promotes about collaborating to improve the environment. CenterPoint Energy is passionate about contributing to a cleaner environment. We work to increase energy efficiency to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and lower energy costs for our customers through our Conservation Improvement Program offerings. Our company has operated in Minnesota for more than 150 years, providing safe, reliable natural gas and related services. CenterPoint Energy currently serves over 840,000 customers in more than 300 communities.

CenterPoint Energy has been offering conservation programs for nearly 30 years. We work with residential, commercial, and industrial customers to help them upgrade equipment, improve building envelopes, pursue efficient building designs and change customer behavior to reduce natural gas usage.

CenterPoint Energy’s conservation program energy savings surpassed the company’s savings goal last year by nearly 30 percent. In 2016, 2,006,014 dekatherms (dth) of natural gas was saved, the equivalent of removing about 23,185 passenger vehicles from the road for one year. The company’s energy conservation efforts have been highly successful and continue to exceed our energy conservation goals. These efforts not only improve the environment, but also provide a valuable service to our customers, allowing them to reduce their energy bills.

The success of our conservation program is due largely to a number of strategic partnerships with other utilities, cities, business associations, and non-profit organizations. “More people working collaboratively towards a similar goal is a great way to maximize potential.” said CenterPoint Energy director of energy efficiency, Todd Berreman.

One example of collaboration that helps make our conservation program successful is the Clean Energy Partnership (CEP), a one-of-a-kind collaboration between CenterPoint Energy, the City of Minneapolis and Xcel Energy. This partnership between the City and its electric and natural gas utility providers was established to help Minneapolis reach its goals for greenhouse gas emissions reductions and increase participation and energy savings through utility conservation programs in the City. In 2016, the CEP was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the unique and cutting edge collaborative approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

CenterPoint Energy looks forward to many more years of membership with Environmental Initiative as we collaborate to achieve a cleaner environment.


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.

Brad Tutunjian

POSTED BY:

Vice President of Gas Operations, CenterPoint Energy

Tannie Eshenaur: Collaborative Champion for Environmental Health

June 28th, 2017

There are many ways to define a champion. As someone who primarily follows and supports policy development and implementation, to me the most important “champions” in the environmental community are those leaders who share our organizational values. Particularly, the approach to decision making with the belief that we are better together— that diverse perspectives create stronger, lasting solutions for our environment.

In my years working with public-sector leaders across the full spectrum of “environmental” issues, there is a small group of individuals who stand out as true believers in that approach. Tannie Eshenaur is one of those individuals, and she came immediately to mind as a champion—through example—of someone who works each day to develop collaborative solutions to Minnesota’s environmental problems.

TANNIE ESHENAUR, ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL

Tannie grew up in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh and came to Minnesota to attend college. Following graduate school, she and her family lived for 13 years in Ethiopia, where Tannie provided health education about water and sanitation as part of a village water supply project and later taught the national language, Amharic, to new expatriates. Tannie came to the Minnesota Department of Health in 2001 and worked in the Site Assessment and Consultation Unit, specializing in risk communication for communities affected by environmental exposures to hazardous substances. Tannie currently works as Planning Director for Drinking Water Protection.

WHY PARTNERSHIP AND COLLABORATION MATTER, IN HER OWN WORDS:

Why do you believe that taking a collaborative approach to problem solving is important or valuable?
During our 13 years in community development in Ethiopia, we quickly learned that our technical expertise was not enough. The villagers had unique insight into their situations and social structures that was essential to the success and sustainability of our work. At first learning through them seemed to slow down our work – lots of cups of coffee and long conversations – but knowing their culture, dreams, and challenges helped us work together with them to create water supplies that fit their unique situations. The ultimate test was when we had to evacuate due to war for a year. When we returned, we discovered that the villagers had protected their water supplies when the government troops fled and then again when the rebels came through. In most parts of the country, development projects were destroyed in the struggle. Genuine collaboration means that all participants own the solutions; while there is give and take, each participant’s investment in the process increases their continuing commitment to the success of that work.

Here in Minnesota, we have a rich history and strong values that support a collaborative approach to problem solving, but we don’t always automatically draw on those strengths. No one perspective is enough to create durable, acceptable solutions that will endure into our shared future.

Why is it important to “hear all voices” when making decisions, particularly in the field of environmental health?
Environmental Health falls at the intersection of public health and environmental protection. That means that there are many, many different goals, missions, science disciplines, skills, and strengths at the table. Our goal is to create the conditions in which communities can be healthy. That means all sectors are appropriate for us to engage in; anywhere there is water, air, soil, food, or the built environment – we are engaged.

How did you first become involved with (or aware of) Environmental Initiative?
Even though Minnesota is my home, so many years spent in Ethiopia meant I was essentially a “newcomer” when I started working in Environmental Health here. Environmental Initiative’s forums were a great classroom for me to learn about the various partners engaged in issues and the many perspectives they bring to solving our environmental health challenges.

Environmental Initiative structures their forums so that key leaders and scientists are brought together with the environmental community for learning and discussion. I can be brought up to speed on an issue or concern in a morning or an afternoon. And, Environmental Initiative is careful to include time for networking, so in the same morning or afternoon, I can connect with current or future partners for collaboration. There’s also often national speakers or legislators that I would not otherwise be able to hear from.

In your opinion, what is the most important environmental issue that we should be seeking collaborative solutions to in Minnesota? Why?
Well, of course I’m going to point to Minnesota’s drinking water! We are rich in water and have an outstanding record of compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act – better than 99% year in and year out. But that very success can sabotage our future if we continue to take safe drinking water for granted. We should look to our Midwest neighbor states, learn from them, and take steps now to address the challenges they’ve faced. We need to ask the question, “Could this happen here?” Think of Des Moines and nitrate, Charleston and contaminant spills, Toledo and harmful algal blooms, and Flint’s infrastructure challenges. At MDH we are working hard to protect our drinking water sources and prevent these threats from becoming our reality, but we can’t do it alone. Minnesota’s drinking water future depends on many partners in drinking water protection – cities, homeowners, businesses, farmers, local government, water operators and residential well owners – each has a part to play in ensuring safe and sufficient drinking water.


A note from Environmental Initiative:
In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th anniversary, members of our staff will take turns throughout the year highlighting the organization’s most influential and effective collaborators. We want to say thank you to the amazing people who help us achieve all we do.

Meleah Houseknecht

POSTED BY:

Director, Environmental Policy

Paris Withdrawal Won’t Stop Business Sustainability

June 27th, 2017

In the wake of the United States leaving the Paris Climate Agreements, many states, cities, and individual companies have taken pledges to continue sustainability efforts. In Minnesota, we’re lucky to have major companies and thought leaders stand firm in their commitment to environmental protection, including many members of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition.

In an effort to work toward a circular economy, environmental protection and stewardship must be a high priority. Several Coalition members have issued public statements and/or been in public support of the Paris Climate Agreements, demonstrating the leadership in our community on environmental issues.

The fact is, a commitment to the Paris Agreements, and more broadly our environment, is a smart business decision no matter your priorities.

STAYING GLOBALLY COMPETITIVE

One of the main reasons that companies and government entities are still following through with climate promises is to stay competitive. Cargill issued a statement reflecting their need to remain globally competitive, concluding that the Paris accords impact “trade, economic vitality, the state of our environment, and relationships amongst the world community.” Because of this, CEO David MacLennan said Cargill will not back away from efforts
to reduce climate change.

General Mills and several leading companies (Google, Walmart, Unilever, and more) echoed that sentiment with a letter to the President to express why the Paris Climate Agreements are important to their ability to compete globally: “the agreement ensures a more balanced global effort, reducing the risk of competitive imbalances for U.S. companies.”

INNOVATION & OPEN MARKETS

Part of being globally competitive is practicing innovation. The Paris Climate Agreements helped companies to innovate and create technologies that lower business costs. That new technology allows companies to enter new markets and keep markets open. Dow commented on how they will act in light of the executive decision, saying they will “continue to advocate for smart policies that enable the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that global markets stay open to American exports and innovation.”

Thomson Reuters also commented on the importance of climate innovation: “In short, having a sustainability strategy integrated into your business model is an efficiency, growth and innovation driver.”

COMMITTING TO CUSTOMERS

In addition to economic arguments, Xcel Energy made a more values-driven appeal. In an op-ed, Xcel’s CEO calls out the value of their customers, and responding to their interests in achieving a higher standard of environmental protection. As a result, Xcel is already on a “path to reduce carbon emissions by 45%
by 2021, well ahead of the U.S.-Paris commitment.”

Best Buy also highlighted what they’re doing in response to customer interests, saying, “Best Buy is focused on reducing our own carbon impact, and helping our customers use less energy as well… Collective action will result in a healthier world for generations to come.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

In the end, Minnesota businesses and corporations are dedicated to the environment for more than just regulatory reasons. Investing in environmental protection is a smart business decision. Even more than that, private-sector leaders see lessened environmental protections as harmful to their organizations and global markets as a whole.

These businesses, our state, and many others are still committed to action on the environment. It’s because of that leadership that we can still look forward to climate action for years to come.

Sam Hanson

POSTED BY:

Director, Sustainability Program

Four ways to support a quarter-century’s worth of work

June 19th, 2017

All I can say is “wow.” The amount of energy and support we’ve received in response to our 25th Anniversary has been humbling. Seeing the last quarter-century of our work to build community to solve environmental problems, many folks have been asking about ways they can contribute to our future successes.

And it’s a great question! We’re in the middle of our mid-year giving campaign with the goal of raising $25,000 by the end of June. We try to offer a variety of giving options so you can contribute in a way that makes sense for you.

MEMBERSHIP

Becoming an individual or organizational member is the most effective way to contribute—your dollars go a little longer and you get special benefits. You can choose the amount you give over the course of a year, and depending on the amount, we gift you anything from a feature on our blog to free tickets to our events.

ONE TIME DONATION

If you’re already a member, fantastic! Our giving campaign is until the end of June, and we’re trying to raise a little extra. Consider a membership renewal if you’ve lapsed or a one-time donation to support the next 25 years of our work. Your gift supports event programs, consensus-based solutions, and projects that protect our air, land and water. Give today »

Attendees at the 2013 Commissioners ForumATTEND OR SPONSOR AN EVENT

In addition to the annual Environmental Initiative Awards, we hold the Business & Environment Series three times a year and the Policy Forum series four times a year. Basically, you can get current information on environmental trends and challenges while also supporting our work. Consider attending or sponsoring the Business & Environment Series or the Policy Forums »

WORKPLACE GIVING

For those that want cross-organizational impact, Environmental Initiative is also part of the Minnesota Environmental Fund (MEF), a workplace giving option that supports 19 environmental groups throughout Minnesota. Does this sound like something your workplace would be interested in? Get more information here »

We know you’re committed to our work and mission, and we want to find the giving options that work for you, whatever the level. You can contact me at sseymour@environmental-initiative.org or at 612-334-3388 ext. 8108 for more information.

Sacha Seymour-Anderson

POSTED BY:

Development Director

Member of the Month: Wenck

June 5th, 2017

Wenck is excited and honored to be featured as Environmental Initiative’s member of the month for June, and it is our pleasure to congratulate Environmental Initiative on its 25th Anniversary. Having just celebrated 30 years in the business ourselves, we understand how meaningful a milestone like 25 years is.

Throughout the years, Wenck has and continues to make a significant investment sponsoring Environmental Initiative. Why? Because Environmental Initiative is about delivering positive outcomes through collaboration and partnership which directly resonates with our core values. Both Wenck and Environmental Initiative are outcome-oriented organizations which focus on providing solutions that benefit the environment, the organizations we serve, as well as the communities we serve in. This alignment of values and outcomes is significantly enhanced through the connectedness that Environmental Initiative fosters like no other.

Wenck is proud to be a sponsor of Environmental Initiative’s Policy Forum Series, the Business and Environment Series, as well as a founding member of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition.  All three platforms are rooted within Environmental Initiative, and together, and separately, help to educate, ideate, connect, and deliver positive and sustaining benefits to the region.

Congratulations again on 25 amazing years. On behalf of all of us at Wenck, we look forward to another 25 years of partnership, collaboration, and delivery of exceptional outcomes.


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.

Bill Brown

POSTED BY:

Vice President, Wenck

The past, present and future of environmental leaders

May 16th, 2017

So you may have heard… but Environmental Initiative turns 25 this year. What you may not have heard is that we’re using our anniversary to bring together leaders in our community not only at the Awards, but also in a series of gatherings.

We’re calling these get-togethers “Champions Gatherings,” and we’re having several of them this year to hear from folks like you about our work, your work and the environmental community.

The topics for these Champions Gatherings include:

  • The history of Environmental Initiative
  • A cross-generational conversation with Critical Collaborators and Emerging Leaders
  • Keeping Minnesota’s air clean: where we’ve been and where we’re going
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Environmental Initiative’s future work

CRITICAL COLLABORATORS AND EMERGING LEADERS

We had our second of five champions gatherings last week that focused on celebrating the nominees from the Emerging Leader and Critical Collaborator categories for the 25th Anniversary Environmental Initiative Awards.

If you have been involved with Environmental Initiative for a while or have ever been to the Awards, you know we have never honored individual leaders at this event. We always focus on the collaboration of the projects. But what all those nominated projects have in common is people! So, we thought our 25th anniversary should celebrate some of the great people in our community that are making this work happen.

We had more than 30 nominees for the two categories, but we knew that not all the nominees knew each other. We certainly didn’t know all of them! We thought: what better way to get them all to come together ad learn from each other than by having a happy hour in our office?

At the celebration, nominees and staff got to know each other and congratulate one another on their amazing work. It was amazing to see the inter-generational connections that were made in the room between environmental veterans and those maybe just starting out.

We hope everyone who attended had a great time, made new connections, and felt celebrated. We want to thank all the nominees for the work they have done and will continue to do. Minnesota’s environmental would not be where it is today if it were not for all the work you have done.


A note from Environmental Initiative:
We still have three more gatherings this year. If you are interested in attending or learning more about these events, please contact me at sseymour@en-in.org.

Sacha Seymour-Anderson

POSTED BY:

Development Director

Member of the Month: Dorsey & Whitney

May 11th, 2017

As a former Board Chair of Environmental Initiative, I am pleased to support Environmental Initiative and its mission, and am thrilled to see the organization thriving after 25 years. The Dorsey firm is a proud member of Environmental Initiative’s Sustainer Partnership Circle. For the past few years, Dorsey has also been a sponsor of the Policy Forum Series, which has allowed us to support our community’s discussion of important environmental issues like fuel transport, community recycling, groundwater and materials management, and clean air.

Dorsey’s mission statement pledges loyalty and support to our clients, our communities, and our colleagues. Our clients benefit from the knowledge we gain through Environmental Initiative’s programming, knowledge that allows us to provide insightful and relevant legal and business advice on environmental issues. Our community benefits from the organization’s collaborative and open dialogue regarding sustainability and our colleagues benefit from the opportunities Environmental Initiative offers to participate in an important policy conversation.

We thank Environmental Initiative for its tireless dedication to a stronger Minnesota.

 


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.

Andy Brown

POSTED BY:

Partner, Co-Chair of the Energy Group and Chair of the Regulatory Affairs Group, Dorsey & Whitney LLP
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