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A walk down memory lane with Environmental Initiative

May 4th, 2017

We here at Environmental Initiative like to gather people—it’s what we do! And what better way to celebrate our 25th Anniversary then to host a series of gatherings bringing together some of our strongest advocates, past and present project partners, and maybe those just getting to know us?

We’re calling these get-togethers “Champions Gatherings,” and we’re having a series 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

We had our first gathering last Wednesday, bringing some of the Environmental Initiative founders back together to chat history and reconnect with one another.

The group shared why and how we were formed, which was very interesting because we learned not much has changed in 25 years. Well, we’ve changed, but maybe the art of collaboration hasn’t. Partnership and working together is hard, after all. Our community still butts heads all the time, so for us, we’re just as needed now as we were back then. Collaboration and bringing people together is why we were formed and what we still do today. We have not varied much from our founding values!

We also learned that our work is a slow process. Yes, we do get some immediate results, but the biggest impact we have had over the years is from people taking the ideas that we started in work groups or at events and continuing to expand them on their own. Some examples of this are having a sister organization in Wisconsin, other non-profits coming into existence because of our work, and cleaning up school buses and other diesel engines. The list goes on and on!

It was so great to hear about our founding and to see how proud our founders looked as they talked about the organization. I am so happy we could bring this group of people back together and I cannot wait to celebrate with them at the Environmental Initiative Awards celebration on May 25.

A big thank you to all the people that have made Environmental Initiative what it is today. We wouldn’t be here if it were not for all of you.

If you are interested in joining an upcoming gathering, shoot me a note at sseymour@en-in.org, and I would love to send you an invitation.

Sacha Seymour-Anderson

POSTED BY:

Development Director

The Fierce Allegiance of Clean Air Minnesota

February 27th, 2017

Once upon a time, a group of organizations faced daunting air quality challenges. In 2001, the Twin Cities area experienced its first smog alerts in more than 30 years and the region nearly exceeded federal air quality standards. Rather than seeing it as a conflict laden, zero-sum situation, these individuals and organizations seized the moment to engage in a constructive dialogue. In a single event, our partners came together, but not as adversaries. Instead, they engaged and brought their different perspectives, voices, and skills to the table to achieve a common goal.

The Beginning of Clean Air Minnesota

Recognizing and valuing the common good of voluntary, pro-active action, a number of new and long-time Environmental Initiative partners used this dialogue to create Clean Air Minnesota (CAM). Each organization had to overcome their own internal challenges to participate. Yet, each could see the greater value of collaborative engagement, so they pushed their comfort levels and stuck with it.

Together they identified cost-effective and environmentally-sound ways to reduce emissions, decrease exposure, protect public health, and avoid economic and societal costs of violating air quality standards. Everyone had a different reason for supporting the effort.

We talked a lot—especially in those early days. We had to reconcile and balance conflicts between various emission-reduction project options, the desired returns of health benefits, and the realities of economic costs. We had rural and metro disputes. We confronted differences over technologies, costs, and ease of implementation related to emission reductions derived.

All the while, everything had to be voluntary. Our region violated no federal requirements; no one had to do anything. Ultimately, our partners’ fierce allegiance to this public-private partnership delivered simultaneous health benefits, emissions reductions, and jobs.

Clean Air Champions—Then and Now

These first partners, Mike Robertson with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, Lee Paddock from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, David Thornton with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and Mike Hansel with Flint Hills Resources, each played their part and worked to their strengths for the good of the partnership. Each gave up some level of control, but gained more in their collective actions. This group was truly living our values of “courageous innovation” and working “better together.”

The fierce allegiance to collaboration by our partners led to Project Green Fleet and cleaning up every eligible school bus in Minnesota, dozens of heavy-duty diesel engines, and even a few trains and tow boats. More recently, we’ve launched Project Stove Swap, which is also a change-out project, only for wood-burning devices. We also have been able to run the Clean Air Assistance Project, which helps small and medium-sized businesses find economical ways to reduce emissions.

As with CAM’s founding, it’s time for some constructive collaboration and action. We need to face the challenges of this time, stand as a beacon, and get down to some old-fashioned Environmental Initiative-style project work. We need to step up our efforts and expand the impact of emission reduction activities.

We need a new set of champions with that same fierce commitment to our mutual, common cause. We need to recognize and accept the risks– and, equally value and reap the rewards of collaboration. In these uncertain times, we should all be doing everything we can to advance this still unique and valuable public-private partnership and realize our common goals of cleaner, healthier air, as well as the associated economic gains.

Who will model earlier CAM champions? Who will step forward to lead together today?


A note from Environmental Initiative:
In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th birthday, 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.

Bill Droessler

POSTED BY:

Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning
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