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The Triple Bottom Line in Action: Meet the Sustainable Business Winners

May 3rd, 2017

Private-sector leadership on environmental issues is a valuable, often over-looked complement to public policy. The Sustainable Business award recognizes such leaders for their sustainable practices and sector-based solutions as they benefit our environment and our economy.

The winners in this category contribute to environmental stewardship, economic benefit, and competitive advantage. However, Better Futures Minnesota, multiple cities and counties, and many more partners take it a step further to create a thriving community.

PROMOTING DECONSTRUCTION & REUSE

 

 

When a house is torn down or buildings are renovated, there’s a good chance those materials are in a landfill. In fact, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) estimates that more than 80% of construction and demolition waste was landfilled 2013. It’s a surprising figure, right?

Don’t worry— there’s good news. Better Futures Minnesota, ReUSE Minnesota, government agencies, local governments, and so many more partners came together to try and bring that percentage down. They do so by sustainably deconstructing buildings and promoting reuse of materials.

The results of this partnership are, in some ways, immeasurable. In 2016 alone, Better Futures and partners diverted over 1570 tons of waste that would have otherwise ended up in landfills. Additionally, not only has this project has a positive impact on the amount of waste in landfills, but it’s also decreased emissions from those landfills. Last year, Better Futures estimated that they avoided 750 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

But those are the hard numbers. What really makes this project unique is its dedication to the triple bottom line. Better Futures works to provide deconstruction jobs, training, and resources to men who have had a history of incarceration, homelessness, poverty, and untreated mental and physical health challenges.

Overall, this is a unique public-private partnership, where multiple organizations worked together to find an alternative way to remove structures and reduce the amount of construction and demolition waste in our landfills. The diversity of the partnerships is extremely innovative, bringing together stakeholders from the city, county, state, and more in a coordinated effort to grow deconstruction and reuse and increase public awareness of the sustainable alternative.

FROM BETTER FUTURES MINNESOTA

“In just two years of consistently gathering research, we’ve been able to quantify the environmental impact of deconstruction—reusing and recycling building materials—compared to the common practice of demolishing a building and sending the materials to a landfill. The results are phenomenal. Reduction of greenhouse gases, creation of jobs, and a boost to the local economy are all benefits from this new and innovative technique.” –Thomas Adams, Better Futures Minnesota President and CEO

“Better Futures Minnesota worked to address workplace shortage and the underrepresentation of people of color in the workforce by giving men, predominately African American, the skills and certification they need to work and be successful in a new, green economy. We are extremely proud of how this project benefits Minnesota’s environment, the men we serve, and our communities.” –Thomas Adams, Better Futures Minnesota President and CEO

CELEBRATE THIS EFFORT

Join us on Thursday, May 25 to congratulate and celebrate these project partners, their positive environmental outcomes, and the lasting benefit of collaboration. To shake things up, we’re also honoring three individuals in honor of our 25th anniversary, so it’s sure to be a night of reflection and festivities for Minnesota’s environmental community. Purchase your tickets or tables here »

 


A note from Environmental Initiative:
In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th Anniversary, four organizational and two individual awards will be presented on May 25, 2017 at the Nicollet Island Pavilion. Get your tickets before they’re gone »

Damian Goebel

POSTED BY:

Communications Director

In the Air: December News

December 27th, 2016

Welcome to this month’s installment of Environmental Initiative’s new blog series focused on the environmental, economic, and health effects of air pollution. Think of this series as an easy way to keep up on the latest local and global air quality stories.

Here are the headlines and reporting that caught our attention this month – including an air quality success from the City of Minneapolis Green Business Cost Share Program and why reducing soot emissions could be a quick win for the climate:

school bus tail pipesFinance & Commerce
Minneapolis helps businesses cut pollution »

The Guardian
Why cutting soot emissions is ‘fastest solution’ to slowing Arctic ice melt »

Time
Beijing’s Air Pollution is Frightening. This video shows how bad it gets »

The Economic Times
How much does air pollution cost in India? 3 percent of its GDP. »

Spot a story worth sharing? Leave a comment below or send me a note and we’ll consider it for a future post.

Photo credit: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency 

Bill Droessler

POSTED BY:

Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning

Emission Reduction Successes and New Study Build Support for Ongoing Efforts to Improve Minnesota’s Air Quality

July 16th, 2015

As we complete preparations for the next phase of Clean Air Minnesota – the state’s ongoing public and private partnership on air quality, this is a good time to take stock of our recent accomplishments. At the June Clean Air Minnesota meeting, each of the project teams presented their activities and associated emissions reductions, education gains, and plans for the future.

Air Alert Education and Outreach Team

  • Launched BeAirAware website which is a resource for residents, communities, and businesses concerned about how air quality affects health.
  • Increased the number of people and organizations receiving air pollution health alerts on poor air quality days.

Gas Can Exchange Team

  • Exchanged 1,500 spill-proof gas cans in Washington and Ramsey Counties.
  • Established a successful model exchange and education program, bringing in hundreds of first-time visitors, which increases public awareness of air quality and health.

Mobile Source Team

  • Completed all eligible school bus retrofits and supported another 21 heavy-duty diesel engine improvement projects.
  • Updating plans for additional diesel fleet recruitment and collecting and analyzing fleet survey information for future emission reduction projects.

Community Forestry Team

  • Hennepin County installed a gravel-bed nursery to provide replacement trees for ones soon to be destroyed by emerald ash borer; a cost effective way for the county to replace trees on county property.
  • Successful LCCMR grant proposal to build volunteer base and maintain trees.
  • Completed health impact assessment related to community forestry issues and legislative funding proposals were introduced; all of which helps promote the many values of large-scale community forestry efforts.

Wood Smoke Team

  • Education activities to raise awareness on the health effects of woodsmoke and smarter ways to burn wood through the Minnesota State Fair Eco-Experience and American Lung Association in Minnesota’s recent public outreach efforts.
  • A Minnesota Power supported wood stove change-out project for Northeast Minnesota is in final preparation stages.

Area Source Team

  • The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and City of Minneapolis programs achieved multiple tons of emission reductions and both programs are hoping to expand in 2016. Read more »
  • Outreach, education, and funding efforts continued through Environmental Initiative and the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program.

(more…)

Bill Droessler

POSTED BY:

Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning

Businesses Partner With State and Local Government to Reduce Emissions

July 2nd, 2015

Is there something in the air? Thanks to the work of several local businesses, the answer is actually, “less pollution!” The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and City of Minneapolis both have grant programs in place to help businesses voluntarily reduce emissions from their operations. And, rightly so, these businesses and government agencies are getting some well-deserved recognition for their work.

Earlier this week, Congressman Keith Ellison visited Ramin Hakimi and his staff at Oscar Auto Body in Minneapolis. A few of our staff participated in the visit as part of our role connecting business-owners like Ramin to the state and local resources available to reduce emissions. By installing a new paint booth that uses less toxic waterborne paint, emissions have been reduced at Oscar Auto Body by 600-700 pounds per year.

In addition to Congressman Ellison’s visit to Oscar Auto Body, a few other stories about air quality, volatile organic compounds, and emissions reductions efforts have popped up recently:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to release more stringent standards for ground level ozone this coming October. We want to see programs like these continue and expand. As a larger percentage of Minnesota’s air pollution comes from smaller and more dispersed sources, voluntary projects like these are really important. Regardless of where we end up under the new standards, projects like this are part of the solution to the air quality challenges our region faces.

If you’re interested in helping us think through ways to help increase the number of businesses who get access to the resources they need to improve air quality and reduce negative health impacts, contact Bill Droessler at 612-334-3388 ext. 105.

Emily Franklin

POSTED BY:

Director of Communications

Area Source Emissions and VOCs: Smaller, Dispersed Sources of Pollution

June 12th, 2015

What can I say about area source emissions, or VOCs, that hasn’t been said already? Probably a lot, because DSC02882webmany people don’t know what the heck I’m talking about…

Long story short, area source emissions are smaller and more dispersed. They aren’t regulated like “point sources” (think smokestacks). VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are an example of area source emissions that contribute to ground-level ozone.

Why is that bad? Well, for one, breathing ozone has been described as “sunburn on the lungs.” If that isn’t enough, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is lowering ground-level ozone standards this fall. Minnesota is very close to violating these new standards, which, if we do, would mean a host of new restrictions required by our federal friends. Regardless of where the standards are set, there’s a benefit to reducing emissions proactively and voluntarily — cleaner air means healthier air — it’s really that simple.

So, where do area source emissions like VOCs come from?

VOCs are emitted from a variety of sectors including auto body shops, manufacturing, printing, and dry cleaners, among others. Basically, anything involving solvents, lubricants, or hydraulics, as examples. If you get a whiff of something that smells like spray paint, it’s probably a VOC.

So, what can we do about it?

Enter stage left: your friendly nonprofit, Environmental Initiative.

(more…)

Bjorn Olson

POSTED BY:

Senior Environmental Project Associate

Environmental Initiative Named Local Public Health Hero

April 10th, 2015

The City of Minneapolis recently named Environmental Initiative a “Local Public Health Hero.” How cool is that? This award was presented by the Minneapolis Health Department as part of their National Public Health Week “Healthy Where You Are” effort. The ceremony waspublic health award ceremony held on Thursday, April 9th in the City Hall Rotunda and recognized “Heroes” who are helping the Health Department achieve their goals for a healthier and more livable city. Environmental Initiative won for our contribution to “a Healthy Environment” in Minneapolis.

Gretchen Musicant, Minneapolis Commissioner of Health, presented the award and highlighted our programs creating partnership opportunities for the City, specifically Clean Air Minnesota, Project Green Fleet, and our work with the Minneapolis Green Business Matching Grant Program. Patrick Hanlon, Environmental Initiatives Manager with the City of Minneapolis, nominated us for the award and gave a special nod to our own Bjorn Olson for “tirelessly meeting with business owners . . . to help the business to ease the burden of making changes that clean the air.”

This is an especially rewarding recognition because while our efforts were largely driven to maximize emission reductions, underlying it all we value the associated health benefits. And, it is nice to get a pat on the back. Executive Director Mike Harley pointed out in accepting the award, that we can only do our work successfully when there are willing partners like the City of Minneapolis seeking common ground and solutions to complex, difficult environmental challenges. (more…)

Bill Droessler

POSTED BY:

Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning

Asthma and Air Quality in North Minneapolis

February 6th, 2015

I’m thrilled to share that Environmental Initiative has been invited to participate in an upcoming forum on health and the environment with Congressman Keith Ellison.event flier

EVENT DETAILS
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Shiloh Temple
1201 West Broadway Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55411

We know air pollution, from fine particles to ozone forming chemicals, have an adverse impact on our health and quality of life. More research in recent years has shown that poor air quality is linked to asthma and other negative health impacts.

The compounding issues that lead to high asthma rates are complicated, but we also know the adverse impacts of air pollution are not shared equally. One study found that 8% of childhood asthma cases in Los Angeles were a result of living within 250 feet to major roadways.

I will be speaking about actions Clean Air Minnesota partners are taking to voluntarily address poor air quality as part of a panel discussion on the causes of asthma and what our community is doing to address the issue. Other panelists include:

  • Assistant Commissioner David Thornton, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  • Shirlynn LaChapelle, Minnesota Black Nurses Association
  • Dan Huff, City of Minneapolis Health Department
  • Karen Monahan, Sierra Club

I hope you can participate in this important conversation. The event is free and open to all who wish to attend. Feel free to contact me to learn more, or call Congressman Keith Ellison’s office at 612-522-1212.

Gena Gerard

POSTED BY:

Director, Clean Air Program

Businesses Reducing Air Pollution in Minneapolis

November 6th, 2014

The City of Minneapolis has been leading an effort to partner with local businesses to voluntarily reduce air pollution in the city through our Green Business Matching Grant Program. The program invests grant dollars in businesses who reduce pollution in Minneapolis creating a healthier place to live, work, and play. Matching grants are available for dry cleaners, vehicle repair, service, and maintenance, and other innovative green solutions. Here are a few common questions (and my answers) about the program, what we’ve accomplished, and what we hope to do next.

Minneapolis Green Business LogoWhat is the Minneapolis Green Business Matching Grant Program?
The Green Business Matching Grant Program is a win-win approach to air quality where the City invests alongside businesses for cleaner business practices. Like all of us, business owners want to make healthy decisions for themselves, their workers, and their communities. The goal is to incentivize business owners who are on the fence about making substantial investments in their business that will improve worker health, community air quality, as well as regional air quality. We work with dry cleaners, automotive shops, and any other business with a way to clean the air.

How does the program work? What are the benefits to businesses? To air quality? To the city?
The City of Minneapolis provides 1/3 of the financial investment for the business. The benefit to the business is that they can provide safer alternatives for their workers, customers, and neighborhoods at a reduced cost. Typically, this involves new and more efficient equipment for the business as well. The business can feel proud of its stewardship in the community and the City of Minneapolis can feel proud to have businesses making real and quantifiable changes in the city. A true win-win situation. (more…)

Patrick Hanlon

POSTED BY:

Environmental Initiatives Manager, City of Minneapolis

Weekly Wrap-Up – 9/27/13

September 27th, 2013

Environmental Initiative’s next policy forum, The Future of Minnesota’s Electric Utilities, will focus on the future business models for utilities given changes in the landscape – from increasing energy efficiency to smaller, more dispersed sources of energy such as solar and wind. State and local energy experts will be featured and it should be a really interesting conversation. Given the forum topic, here are few things that grabbed my attention this week:

  1. What’s the largest misconception people in the U.S. have about renewable energy? (The Wall Street Journal)
  2. 2040: The City of Minneapolis establishes its energy vision. (City of Minneapolis)
  3. Installed solar power capacity outpaces wind energy for the first time. (Fuel Fix)
  4. World climate scientists embrace an upper limit for emissions. (The New York Times)
  5. If you add more solar and wind power to the energy grid, what happens? (The Washington Post)

Registration for the event will remain open until Friday October 25th. The event is from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and is $30 for members and $60 for nonmembers. We hope you’ll join us!

Emily Franklin

POSTED BY:

Director of Communications

If You Build It, Will They Come? – Transit Oriented Development in the Twin Cities

July 3rd, 2012

Just because you build it does not mean they will come. That was perhaps the primary insight echoed this past Monday at the Wilder Center by a stellar set of speakers at the first event in our 2012 Policy Forum Series. The speakers represented a range of both public and private stakeholder groups, all of whom play a role in development along our region’s transit lines.

The key question the speakers addressed was, “What do we need to do – as a region and as individual organizations – to ensure a strong return on investment (ROI) in transit?” Their answers ranged from more support for stable, long-term funding; to cultivating greater acceptance of dense development; to finding entirely new language to talk about the benefits of communities that are walkable and accessible to job centers (i.e. dropping the wonky term “transit oriented development,” or “TOD”).

It is clear that in the last decade our region has made incredible progress in developing a robust transit network and catching up with other, similar-sized urban areas. But, we also have a long way to go to engage all communities, explore the relationship between transportation options and economic development, and develop a strong, cohesive vision for the kind of region that we all want to live in. (more…)

Meleah Houseknecht

POSTED BY:

Associate Director, Environmental Policy
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