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Putting a CAAP on Air Pollution (Now in St. Paul)

March 7th, 2017

The Clean Air Assistance Project (CAAP) has officially completed its first emissions reduction project!

As part of Clean Air Minnesota’s efforts to improve the state’s air quality, Environmental Initiative is working with our partners and local businesses to make proactive and voluntary improvements that benefit the environment, human health, and help our local economy transition toward a clean and efficient future. CAAP is part of the Area Source Team within Clean Air Minnesota that helps smaller, more localized sources of pollution reduce their emissions. Our first project was with Raymond Auto Body Shop in St. Paul.

Smog, smells, and solvents

Raymond Auto Body has been painting cars in St. Paul for over 60 years. Historically, paints used in auto body shops are usually made from solvents. What are solvents? They usually come with names like “n-butyl acetate,” “xylene,” or “2-methoxy-1-methylethyl acetate.” Rolls right off the tongue, right? Basically, it’s the stuff that makes that spray paint smell.

Solvents evaporate faster than water, shortening the drying time needed to finish painting cars. Unfortunately, they’re also harmful to the environment and human health. These solvents are also called VOCs: Volatile Organic Compounds. When these VOCs are released into the air, they mix with other pollutants and cause ground-level ozone, also known as smog. Smog is bad. How bad? Breathing in smog has been described as the equivalent of “sunburn on your lungs.” So basically, solvent VOCs mix with other compounds in the air to make smog, which isn’t great.

But good news! The project with Raymond Auto Body switched their solvent-based paint to a water-based paint. This is a relatively new technology, but one that many states in violation of federal air quality standards are required to make. It does take a little more effort to make sure the paint booth has enough clean and dry air moving fast enough to make that water evaporate quickly (especially on a hot and humid summer day). This means that switching to waterborne paint usually requires upgrading the air blowers in the booth.

Raymond Auto Body—Exciting for 3 Reasons

This particular project is a real humdinger.

For starters, it’s exciting to get the first CAAP project under the belt! We’ve worked to promote and utilize other programs before (like the Minneapolis Green Business Cost Share Program and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) Small Business Environmental Assistance Program), but this was the first one Environmental Initiative took from start to finish using our own funding.

Second, it’s a big project! What we’ve historically seen from similar conversion projects are VOC reductions ranging from 45 – 65%! We’ll know more when the numbers come in for 2017, but for a shop like Raymond, we’re conservatively looking at tons of emissions reductions.

Third, this project is emblematic of what we’re trying to do with our air work. According to the MPCA’s Life and Breath Report, negative health impacts of air pollution fall disproportionately on lower-income residents and people of color, as well as the elderly, children, and those predisposed to respiratory illness. Raymond Auto Body is right off Lexington and W. Pierce Butler Route, a location the Metropolitan Council identified as an area of concentrated poverty. It’s also located in a corridor that has historically been affected by heavy industrial use. In short, these emission are being eliminated where Minnesotans feel the effects of air pollution more acutely.

Get Involved

While we’re celebrating this project and CAAP’s successful rollout, the last thing we want to do is rest on our heels. In fact, we’re already chasing down our next auto body project in St. Paul and looking for additional opportunities in the Metro. Know of any? Give us a call or e-mail and see if we can bring a similar success to your neck of the woods.

The Clean Air Assistance Program is made possible through generous contributions and support from our partners, 3M and Western Refining.

Bjorn Olson


Senior Environmental Project Associate

Member of the Month: 3M

October 1st, 2015

Thank you to Environmental Initiative for highlighting 3M as the Member of the Month for October.  3M enjoys a strong relationship with 3MEnvironmental Initiative, including sponsorship of the Environmental Initiative Awards and financial support for Clean Air Minnesota.  The two projects highlight Environmental Initiative’s collaborative approach to problem solving.  3M shares their commitment to collaboration, as we partner with our customers and communities to meet our shared goals.

Building on 3M’s long-standing leadership in environmental stewardship and commitment to customer-inspired innovation, we are focusing our company sustainability strategy on overcoming the global challenges that serve as barriers to improving every life. This means addressing challenges like energy availability and security, raw material scarcity, human health and safety, and education and development, while keeping our vision for growth in mind.

One example of our commitment is the 3M Pulp and Paper Sourcing Policy.  3M does not own forest land ourselves (we are downstream users of paper and pulp), but we developed our Policy to set standards of excellence for our suppliers and their suppliers.  The 3M Pulp and Paper Sourcing Policy, finalized in 2015, is designed to assure that the virgin wood fiber used in our paper-based products and packaging comes from sources that protect forests and respect the rights of workers and people who live in or may depend on forests for their livelihood.  3M uses materials that, if made from virgin fiber, must be traceable to the forest source and must be harvested legally. We expect that our suppliers will work to assure and verify that these virgin fibers are also harvested in a manner that is protective of high carbon stock forests, high conservation values, and workers’ and indigenous peoples’ rights.

With $30 billion in sales, 3M employs 88,000 people worldwide and has operations in more than 70 countries.  For more information, visit www.3M.com or follow @3MNewsroom on Twitter.


A note from Environmental Initiative:
Each month, we feature information about one of our members on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Seymour-Anderson anytime at 651-308-4950 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Chris Nelson


Environmental Permitting Manager, 3M Environmental Operations

Accelerating Air Quality Improvements in Minnesota

January 15th, 2015

Minnesota’s air quality is good, compared to many areas in the United States and around the world.  Our air is cleaner thanks to many factors, including Clean Air Act requirements, voluntary initiatives to reduce pollution, and even our geography and weather.  However, federal air quality standards continue to tighten and our current air quality may not meet future standards, as recently described by Environmental Initiative’s Bill Droessler.

If our air quality does not meet federal standards, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will designate areas of the state to be in “non-attainment” with those standards.  A non-attainment designation brings new rules, requirements, and restrictions. Many Minnesota drivers remember vehicle emissions testing; that program was driven by successful efforts to meet federal air standards. Future air quality requirements will likely focus on sources of soot, chemical usage, and fuel burning.

As a global manufacturer of products across many sectors of the economy, 3M has direct experience in many non-attainment areas in the United States. We often see tighter requirements on emissions from fuel burning, bans or restrictions on products, and more regulations for industrial processes. In California, we even needed to get a permit for a site cafeteria’s hamburger grill. (more…)

Chris Nelson


Environmental Permitting Manager, 3M Environmental Operations

3M: August Member of the Month

August 1st, 2014

It is a pleasure for 3M to be highlighted as Environmental Initiative’s member of the month for August. 3M has been an active and strong supporter of Environmental Initiative since its formation. 3M’s long history of proactively addressing
environSustainability at 3Mmental issues and driving towards sustainability in all we do makes this partnership with Environmental Initiative so appropriate. Our commitment to sustainability closely connects with the organization’s mantra of building collaborative relationships to address environmental issues. It is this collaboration between a wide range of groups with differing opinions and objectives, working together to find common ground that has personally driven my desire to be involved in Environmental Initiative.

The network of Environmental Initiative’s event programming, dialogue projects, and action efforts provide opportunities for participation at many levels. Paul Narog, Manager, 3M Environmental Operations said, “3M is pleased to be the Environmental Initiative Awards sponsor for the new Community Action Award category and also be a major financial sponsor of the Clean Air Minnesota project.” Narog added “Environmental Initiative does a great job engaging across the full spectrum of the environmental community to improve environmental outcomes. The collaborative approach has been very effective and we are proud to be a part of it.”

Looking ahead, 3M seeks to expand our partnership with Environmental Initiative by continuing to seek out new opportunities to participate in fostering this collaborative approach in resolving our environmental challenges. 3M captures the spark of new ideas and transforms them into thousands of ingenious products. Our culture of creative collaboration inspires a never-ending stream of powerful technologies that make life better. 3M is the innovation company that never stops inventing. With $30 billion in sales, 3M employs 88,000 people worldwide and has operations in more than 70 countries.  For more information, visit www.3M.com or follow @3MNews on Twitter.


A note from Environmental Initiative:
Dan Schmid is 3M’s International Environmental Manager and member of Environmental Initiative’s Board of Directors. Each month, we feature information about one of our members here on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Casillas anytime at 612-334-3388 ext. 101 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Dan Schmid


3M International Environmental Manager

Swapping Supply Chain Stories: Business and Environment Session Recap

August 24th, 2011

Last Thursday, around 60 people gathered at Renewal by Andersen’s manufacturing facility in Cottage Grove – in a bright, window-filled room, of course – to discuss motivations and strategies for greening their supply chains.

This session was the second in our 2011 Business and Environment Series. The three events in this year’s series are designed to provide tools to help diverse professionals more effectively plan, implement and lead sustainability programs in their organizations. It’s clear that looking beyond internal initiatives to the sustainability of your products throughout their entire lifecycle – and greening your supply chain – brings greater opportunity for environmental benefit and cost-savings. However, greening your supply chain isn’t always easy. It requires navigating a complex network of suppliers and customers, managing multiple information requests, tracking lots of new data, and prioritizing and communicating in new ways. (more…)

Ellen Gibson


Senior Program Director

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