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Posts Tagged ‘Collaboration’

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

Sitting Down with an Emerging Leader: Eliza Clark

May 10th, 2017

In honor of our 25th anniversary, we’re taking the time to honor those who’ve been essential and influential in Minnesota’s environmental community. In addition to celebrating outstanding projects, we’re also recognizing the leaders that have helped us get to this point, and those that will continue to improve our community.

Eliza Clark is the Director of Sustainability and Environmental at Andersen Corporation and this year’s Emerging Leader Award recipient. In her role, she’s responsible for developing and advancing programs that measurably reduce environmental impacts across the company’s value chain.

Eliza Clark (pictured right) and Andersen sustainability team members

However, she also believes that there are some problems organizations can’t solve by themselves, which has led her to seek groundbreaking solutions. Known for reaching outside of her organization’s four walls, she has also served as a founding member of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition, acting Vice Chair of Super Bowl LII’s Sustainability Committee, an Environmental Initiative board member, and co-founder of the Sustainability Practitioner’s Roundtable. You can read more about her here »

As part of the festivities, I got to sit down with Eliza and talk about her career, her team, and her advice for those currently working on environmental issues.

SITTING DOWN WITH ELIZA CLARK

What excites you about the environmental community, sector, or movement in Minnesota?

One thing that I’m excited about right now is that we are starting to work across all sectors. We haven’t always had the best cross-sector, public-private dialogue or cross pollination, and I think that sometimes causes misunderstandings. Working with a diverse set of businesses, government entities, NGOs and academics really could be the “secret sauce” to solving our most complex problems.

In the private sector, though, organizations committed to sustainability have been meeting, sharing, and collaborating on work and best practices for many years. We have a really robust network of people that genuinely like each other and are willing to be very honest about challenges. I think it’s fun to see all of us come together and be more action-oriented, which really was the genesis of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition. We have a strong foundation of people helping each other and working together, and now poignantly understand that there are problems that we can’t solve as individual organizations. I think that nexus of energy and influence is really powerful.

I also think that there is actually a lot of optimism right now. It was a very difficult election season with a lot of negativity and divisiveness, but in the end, we all feel like there are some important economic factors that are driving things like better access to renewable energy or more energy-efficient technology for manufacturing. It feels like we’re on the cusp of being able to do some transformational things.

What does partnership or collaboration mean to you? Why is it necessary?

I think collaboration is really the reason I want to get up in the morning and do the work that I do! All day every day, I’m basically trying to convince people to change the way they do things, often making their lives harder. I think the primary reason that it’s fun—because it is fun—is that I get to build relationships and work through challenges collaboratively. I think a core part of the human experience is that nothing feels better than solving a tough problem or achieving some kind of landmark that you really had to struggle to get to. A lot of my work is like that. Once you get to the mountain with a group of people, it feels that much more rewarding. I’m really grateful for the work that I get to do within my company and outside of it.

Partnership and consensus isn’t always easy. What lessons have you learned so far?

What I’ve learned at this point in my career is that collaborative problem solving is not all about making everybody happy. Truly difficult environmental problems have tradeoffs, and so that depth and intersection is incredibly challenging to “solve.”

My style of partnering has really changed to not just go directly to a solution, which is tempting, and instead to spend more time on the front-end. I work with stakeholders to understand the history of the problem and why people want something to be a certain way, and then taking that heart and those passions to have an open and candid dialogue with all parties about what they might lose or gain by making big choices.

Notably, I’m not positioning that process as having one, perfect solution. How most of those problems are solved is through compromise and through an honest assessment of tradeoffs. We have to collaboratively agree on accepting or not accepting those conditions.

What successes are you most proud of in your career?

I was very proud to help my company declare its first set of public sustainability goals and to announce its signing of the Ceres Climate Declaration. I’m also very proud to have led Andersen to sign up to up to 19 megawatts of community solar subscriptions, which is a pretty significant amount of renewable energy. That feels very meaningful to me at a national level.

But honestly, for me, it’s the journey and not the various outcomes. I’m just proud of the work that my team and my peers do every day because most of it is not glamorous—it’s just chugging through it! Making sure things get done and then measuring what’s happening… it’s more just the fact that we remain committed to the mission and the environment, and that we want to keep going together.

What advice would you give your peers working in the environmental sector? What advice do you give to young women working on environmental issues?

Generally, I think we all need to do a better job of understanding social, financial, and human implications of potential projects and really how human behavior affects what we’re trying to achieve. We need to have that holistic understanding of the problem and then identify key working partners and other leaders that can help advance solutions.

Speaking about young women, sometimes we aren’t bold enough. I think sometimes we decide ahead of time what we can and cannot achieve. I recently spoke at the Women in Green Power Breakfast (a program by the U.S Green Building Council) and my primary message was to ‘fail forward.’ We have a lot of capacity within us, and if you know your stuff and the broader implications of what you’re advocating for, then don’t be afraid to be a champion regardless of our role in the hierarchy.

Damian Goebel

POSTED BY:

Communications Director

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

Rice Creek Commons is Common Sense— Meet the Natural Resource Winners

April 25th, 2017

The Natural Resources category award is given to collaborative efforts that implement sustainable solutions to preserve, protect, or restore Minnesota’s land, water, biological diversity, and other natural resources.

In the land of 10,000 lakes, you can see why recognizing efforts to restore waterways and landscapes is so important.

Ramsey County, the City of Arden Hills, Wenck Associates, Inc. and many other partners are currently working to restore a piece of polluted land that has been around since World War II: The Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant.

AMMUNITION PLANT TO  VIBRANT COMMUNITY

 

 

Four years ago, Ramsey County purchased a contaminated parcel of land in Arden Hills with the goal of making it a community asset. The land once held the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, built to manufacture small arms ammunition during World War II, and had sat dormant for nearly four decades. Partnering with the City of Arden Hills, the county began redeveloping the brownfield into a livable space for homes and businesses.

Over a 32-month period, existing buildings were demolished, and the soil was remediated to residential standards. We removed hazardous waste and recycled or reused materials like concrete and asphalt. This past summer, the county collaborated with the Rice Creek Watershed District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to transform Rice Creek, which runs through the site, back to its original, meandering path and stabilize it with surrounding trees and plants.

With the site demolished and soil restored to residential standards, infrastructure construction is set to begin this year. Soon Rice Creek Commons (named after the site’s stream) will be a walkable, vibrant commercial and residential development, creating economic and social opportunity for Arden Hills and the region.

FROM THE PROJECT PARTNERS

“When the county purchased the land, it was the largest superfund site in Minnesota. The large cost and difficulty associated with cleaning up the site had discouraged previous developers for many years. Because the property presented unique challenges, the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners recognized the land would probably stay polluted and empty for many more years unless they took action.

The project is also unique in that Ramsey County is a fully developed county. With few opportunities to grow and increase the area’s tax base, developments like Rice Creek Commons present an important opportunity for economic development.” – Heather Worthington, Deputy County Manager

“I’m proud that this project respects the history of the site and what was there before. Redeveloping the area is about honoring its past and making it a safe, economic engine once again.” – Heather Worthington, Deputy County Manager

Read the Pioneer Press piece: A cheer for Rice Creek Commons »

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

Mike Robertson: Critical Collaborator Award Recipient

April 4th, 2017

The Critical Collaborator award recognizes an individual over the age of 50 who has utilized partnership and collaboration to achieve positive and lasting environmental outcomes.

Mike Robertson has been part of nearly every major environmental policy decision in Minnesota for the last 30 years. Though he’s retired now from his time as an Environmental Lobbyist and Attorney for various public and private sector clients, he’s one of the founding members and minds behind Clean Air Minnesota and the Clean Water Legacy Act. You can read more about his professional career on our recipients page

Join us in honoring Mike at the 25th Anniversary Environmental Initiative Awards on May 25, 2017. Purchase your seats or tables here » 

We have two Critical Collaborator recipients this year, and I got to sit down with them both and talk about their career, passions, and get their advice for those currently working on environmental issues.

SITTING DOWN WITH MIKE ROBERTSON

What excites you about the environmental community, sector, or movement in Minnesota?

I think it’s the tradition that we started to build through Environmental Initiative of collaboration. It’s really the vehicle to make things happen, and that is what excited me about working with Environmental Initiative and being a leader in that group.

There are always going to be specific issues where there is conflict on the environment—an example would be the future of mining in Minnesota. For the most part, though, I think collaboration is possible and successful if the various groups are working together and the work that we’ve done at Environmental Initiative has given me confidence that, going forward, this tradition that we’ve built can work for the future.

You’re one of the founding members of Clean Air Minnesota—as well as one of the minds that shaped the effort. What made you go to bat for this group?

Clean Air Minnesota was really important because in the evaluation of the state’s air quality problems, the data showed that 75% of air pollution was coming from non-point sources. In other words, all the industries had permits for their point-source air issues, and followed those for the most part, and still we were concerned about meeting the ozone standard and other air quality standards.

Part of the federal law is that if the state is not in compliance, then it’s the point source permit holders (the industries) who may be penalized for that. Because pollution was coming from smaller non-smoke stack pollution, there’s no way that Minnesota could maintain or improve air quality without having a collaborative process. Local governments, business, and the environmental community needed to try to take some voluntary actions to maintain the status of our air quality.

Partnership and consensus isn’t always easy. What was your most difficult collaborative endeavor (or problem)?

One was very successful, and the other was much less so.

The most successful was the Clean Water Legacy Project where we formed a group which worked on creating a framework for addressing the state’s water quality issues, and then finding a source of funding. It took several years to figure this out, with all these interests, and they are still working together on it. It was a very successful process, and the legislature agreed with the legislation and eventually found a method to fund and provide resources to the state agencies and local governments. It’s an effort that will go on for many, many years and I think it’s a tremendous success.

The one that was more difficult was the Environmental Initiative stakeholder process on chemical regulation. The federal government, under the Toxic Substances Control Act, regulates hazardous substances. That law needed work for a long time, and Congress was not able to do it, and there were efforts for the state regulation of chemicals—so we brought the stakeholders together.

It was a very interesting process, but there was not significant consensus that came out of it. One thing that did occur after the fact was that Congress eventually did pass amendments to the Toxic Substance Control Act which are now being implemented and hopefully the situation will improve.

As you look at these issues over time, one factor of success is getting the timing right. At the time in which we were working on the chemical issue, the timing wasn’t exactly right. With air and water quality, everybody moved together.

What advice would you give those currently working in the environmental sector?

My advice would be that environmental professionals and volunteers need to get to know each other. Everybody kind of works in a different environment, representing different interests. One of the things that I’ve discovered over the years is that people need to get together and get to know each other and get to know the issues that are of concern to them. Even though you may not be working at the top level of policymaking, even if you’re an engineer working on a permit, or you’re a volunteer working in your community—all the folks affecting the issue need to get together and talk. It doesn’t need to be done regarding a specific issue, and just the professional relationships that can develop and can be helpful later when folks are in a situation of conflict.

Your favorite Environmental Initiative memory… (serious, funny, impactful… your choice!)

The memory that I have is being a member of Environmental Initiative’s board of directors back in 2003. We brought this question of creating a collaborative process on water quality (The Clean Water Legacy Project) to the board, and there was a lot of concern about that at the time. Environmental Initiative had been focusing on a lot on dialogue and bringing people together to talk about the issues, and now we were talking about something very different, which was actually trying to find solutions in an elaborate process. It hadn’t been tried before at the organization.

I remember the board meeting where that decision was made. The board eventually came around and made the decision that, ‘Yes, we need to go forward.’ I think that changed Environmental Initiative from that day forward. We worked on The Clean Water Legacy Project for three or four years, it was successful, and it developed the organization’s experience in how to collaborate. It was the genesis of the collaborative effort in Minnesota, and it worked. The air quality process (Clean Air Minnesota) went from there, the solid waste collaboration, the chemical dialogue—so there are huge successes that came out of that first collaborative endeavor in 2003.


A note from Environmental Initiative
In honor of our 25th Anniversary, we’re taking the time to acknowledge those who’ve been essential and influential in Minnesota’s environmental community. In addition to celebrating outstanding projects, we’re also recognizing the leaders that have helped us get to this point, and those that will continue to improve our community.

Damian Goebel

POSTED BY:

Communications Director

Ron Nargang: Critical Collaborator Award Recipient

April 4th, 2017

Ron Nargang is one of two recipients of the Critical Collaborator award, recognizing an individual over the age of 50 who has used partnership and collaboration to achieve positive and lasting environmental outcomes. At the time of his retirement, Ron Nargang was the State Director for the Minnesota Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), but he’s also held high level positions at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

He also has extensive experience in the formulation, passage, and implementation of public policy initiatives, playing a key role in the Reinvest In Minnesota Program, Wetlands Conservation Act, and Groundwater Protection Act. You can read more about his professional career on our awards page. We hope you join us in honoring Ron at the 25th Anniversary Environmental Initiative Awards ceremony on Thursday, May 25. Purchase your tables and/or seats today »

We have two Critical Collaborator recipients this year, and I got to sit down with them both and talk about their career, passions, and get their advice for those currently working on environmental issues.

SITTING DOWN WITH RON NARGANG

Where do you see the most opportunity for collaborative action on the environment in Minnesota?

This has got to be a difficult time for anyone in the trenches doing this work right now, particularly those trying to do things collaboratively.

I guess I would be inclined to say, in this environment, to look at things that are very provable by science so that you can get truth on the table. Focus on things that are compelling—like any issues related to public health or to water. I certainly think water continues to be an issue that people understand and have a pure concern about because it’s so inherently essential to all of us and everything we do. I’d be looking for something like that that doesn’t have as much gray area associated with it like some of the other environmental issues do.

You’ve been involved with Environmental Initiative for a long time, and your legacy has shaped the way we work and what we value. What made you invest so much of your time into this organization?

I’ve operated on a collaborative basis my whole career, and it was kind of refreshing to find an organization that really built their entire purpose around collaboration and cooperation between parties that are often adversarial. The business community and environmental community, and regulators. I think Environmental Initiative is unique in that respect. There may be a lot of other organizations that have warm fuzzy words built into their mission and philosophies, but I just think that Environmental Initiative distinguishes itself by being totally committed to collaboration. It’s refreshing and proved to be quite successful. It was easy.

What success are you most proud of in your career? Why? 

It would be really tough for me to answer anything but the Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge for a whole lot of reasons. It was a tremendous resource management opportunity but it happened to be set in the middle of a place that was hard for conservation—politically. It was intimidating from a cost standpoint because you just didn’t have an individual that was standing there with a deep enough pocket to say, “We’ll take this thing on.” It took some creative approaches to generate operating dollars and restoration money and while still recovering costs so that organizations could put money back into other projects.

During the Bush Administration, this was the only National Wildlife Refuge created administratively— I think Congress may have created a couple of small ones. Getting done with that and being able to sit down with county commissioners, local farmers, environmentalists, agency staff… having everybody feeling good about something like that… and using it as an economic development opportunity for the whole area… that one feels really good to me. Read more about Glacial Ridge here »

What advice would you give those currently working in the environmental sector? 

Train for endurance. I think it’s going to be a bumpy ride. This is not unusual—we’ve seen ebb and flow on environmental issues all through the last few decades. We’ve seen high points with the passage of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, and we’ve seen low points. I think it’s going to be a rough patch for a while. I think the best advice is to keep the faith, cling to the science, and present it as the truth. Keep selling that— that we need to deal with truth on these issues and not let emotions and hearsay dictate what happens.

Your favorite Environmental Initiative memory…

As I thought about it, it’s not one specific event but it’s something that I always watched for and marveled at while doing stakeholder processes. It was to see the emergence of who the leaders were going to be in each one of those processes because every single time, when you’ve got a successful one, it’s because out of the group around that table, somebody steps up and moves the rest. It’s a powerful moment to watch that happen in a group, and I never could predict who might be the one, but it was always such a joy to watch it happen. You could literally see in a matter of moments a transformation in a process and suddenly you’re headed down a different road.

A good example would be the Mercury Reduction Project. It was rough, and the industries weren’t too anxious, particularly the mining industry. But, Xcel Energy stepped up and they laid out what they were going to commit— and then demanded that others do the same. You had to kind of wonder, have they got the gravitas to pull this off? But the way it was presented, the people presenting it, the tension in the room… it was successful. That was the turning point in that process.

There’s always that sort of profound moment that happens, and as I thought back on it, those were the things that tickled me! You knew you had a good one when it happened, and you were going to get a good outcome.


A note from Environmental Initiative
In honor of our 25th Anniversary, we’re taking the time to acknowledge those who’ve been essential and influential in Minnesota’s environmental community. In addition to celebrating outstanding projects, we’re also recognizing the leaders that have helped us get to this point, and those that will continue to improve our community.

Damian Goebel

POSTED BY:

Communications Director

Collaborator Shout Out: Marian Bender

January 9th, 2017

As you may have heard, my last day at Environmental Initiative is just a week or so away. My husband and I are moving to Sydney, Australia to travel, work, and experience life in another part of the world. It’s bittersweet to leave an organization that aligns so strongly with my values and that has such a tremendous network of smart, dedicated people.

In my last post for Environmental Initiative, I have the great joy of sharing a little bit about a woman who has been, and continues to be, instrumental in Environmental Initiative’s success: Marian Bender.

Marian has dedicated her career to the environment and to protecting water quality. She served as the Executive Director of Minnesota Waters, a statewide non-profit that was dedicated to engaging citizens in protecting Minnesota’s lakes and rivers. In the early 2000s, Marian also worked as the Development Director and Interim Executive Director of Friends of the River in Sacramento, California. Marian is currently the Executive Director at EcoLandscape California, an organization educating and advocating for ecologically responsible landscapes.

Bender1

Bender2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are just a few reasons why Marian has been so important to Environmental Initiative’s success (She’s been one of my professional role models and mentors, too):

Facilitator Extraordinaire

Marian facilitated the Parks and Trails Legacy Funding Project, which I managed in 2012. We were charged with helping a group of leading parks and trails professionals (8 men, and 1 woman) reach an agreement on how to divide constitutionally dedicated funds for the state’s parks and trails. Marian facilitated six high-stakes meetings with this group of self-proclaimed “alpha dogs.” I greatly admired her ability to ask the right questions, make adjustments on the fly, and remind the group of their shared goals. Without her leadership on this project, I’m not sure if we would have reached an agreement. The Legacy Bill was passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Dayton in May 2013 with the spirit of the group’s six-year agreement reflected in the legislation.

Fundraising and Communications Coach

When Marian joined Environmental Initiative’s Board of Directors in 2011, I was relatively new in my role as Development Director. At the time, the organization was interested in growing the number of individuals who supported Environmental Initiative financially. Marian helped me develop a year-end fundraising strategy. Thanks to her leadership, we were able to grow the number of individual donors by large amounts over time. Marian helped provide the foundation to strategies we still use today.

Dedicated Long Distance Member

Despite now living in northern California, Marian continues to support Environmental Initiative’s work financially. And, she keeps increasing her contributions each year. This long-distance support means the world to us because the support we receive from members allows us to respond to emerging challenges, continue to develop our staff, and so much more.

A special thank you to Marian, and to everyone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with over the past ten years at Environmental Initiative. It’s been an amazing ride!

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.

Emily Franklin

POSTED BY:

Director of Communications

Your Support is Needed, Now More Than Ever

December 22nd, 2016

How many times have you heard that phrase during the waning weeks of 2016?

I’ve written and said it myself hundreds of times since election day. As true as it is, and for so many worthy causes, it becomes hard for any of us to remain open to all that is asked of us during this season of mass solicitation. The onslaught of sincere and compelling requests begins on Give to the Max Day and doesn’t let up until the new year arrives.

Nevertheless, we know Minnesotans are exceptionally generous and we dig deep to support good causes and essential services, even when we have given greatly already. We are fortunate the giving of meaningful gifts is so deeply embedded in our culture, and it makes a lot of great work possible here that can happen only here, or at least that must happen here first.

The radical generosity of Minnesotans is a norm in any year, but we also know this year is different for many of us. We know many Minnesotans feel discouraged by the state of politics in our country and are struggling with despair about our collective prospects for a cleaner environment, a stronger economy, and a more equitable society. It has become harder and harder for many of us to hold fast to the conviction that we can come together across differences to solve our shared problems.

“Better together” can be a tough sell these days, but that’s exactly what I have found myself having to do the past several weeks. I’ve talked to hundreds of individuals since election day, representing a wide range of political viewpoints and interests. So many of those conversations have gone to dark places, but only a few have stuck there.

The overwhelming response of our friends and partners has been one of resolve and renewed commitment to the values that are so Minnesotan and with which we describe Environmental Initiative’s work – better together, open exchange, stewardship, outcome-focused, and solutions driven. Many of you have told us the outcomes of this election cycle do not change the increasingly clear realities of what is required of responsible businesses, creative nonprofits, and dedicated government agencies, let alone the individuals who champion environmental solutions and the triple bottom line.

 

 

Starting on the morning of November 9, I heard over and over again that the shifting of political winds changes nothing about existing corporate sustainability commitments, nor the fundamental need for Minnesotans to find common ground and work collaboratively toward shared solutions through policy change. Many have spoken passionately to the fact that the only option for continued progress is in the engagement of diverse stakeholders, and especially in the partnership of sustainability leading businesses with the most creative and effective of our public servants.

I’ve been awestruck by how many of you have said yes to an additional contribution, often giving just what we ask, and sometimes even exceeding our request. Even when an additional financial contribution is not possible, I’ve had energizing conversations about opportunities for new projects and other important work to be done. Generally, I’ve interrupted your day to ask for your personal support in the form of individual membership, and I would understand if people were a little prickly or disinterested. On the contrary, the response is almost universally warm and understanding, and even appreciative. It reminds me that we are part of a community that is committed to working together and knows what is required to make that possible.

Mike.EOY1I’m grateful for all of your support, including your financial contributions at this important moment in Environmental Initiative’s work. As many of you know, any contribution between now and year-end will be matched dollar for dollar, so that the impact of your gift will be doubled. We still have $15,000 left to raise by year-end (that’s halfway!), so that we will have the resources required to rise to the challenge of this moment when our work is more critical than ever before.

I hope that you will be able to help us meet our goal and make it possible for Environmental Initiative to step up to the challenge of helping Minnesotans be better together when so much of our politics and culture would have us moving in the opposite direction.

The answer to what I mean when I say “now more than ever” is simple – now more than ever we need to remember that we are better together, and now more than ever we need to invest in the partnerships and relationships to put better together to work for a stronger Minnesota.

Mike Harley

POSTED BY:

Executive Director

Meet Great River Energy: Member of the Month

July 5th, 2016

Great River Energy is a not-for-profit cooperative which provides wholesale electric service to 28 distribution cooperatives located in Minnesota. Those member cooperatives distribute electricity to approximately 665,000 families, farms and businesses. With $4 billion in assets, Great River Energy is the second largest electric power supplier in Minnesota, and one of the largest generation and transmission cooperatives in the United States.

Great River Energy takes great pride in conducting our business with a high concern for the environment.

We are committed to conserving resources through environmental stewardship, pollution prevention, waste minimization, recycling and reuse. This dedication is demonstrated by the inclusion of environmental sustainability in our mission.

As a cooperative, Great River Energy holds commitment to community in high regard. One of the ways we do that is through re-establishing native habitat.

We are excited to be announcing a new project!HQ prairie solar.jpg

Together with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the city of Elk River, Great River Energy will be converting nine acres into pollinator prairie habitat at its Elk River campus off U.S. Highway 10. With more than 27,000 cars driving by daily, this well-traveled area is perfect for educating the traveling public about the importance of pollinator friendly, prairie plantings.

Past native prairie projects

Great River Energy, for the last decade, has invested in over 200 acres of re-established native prairie.  Some of Great River Energy’s native prairie projects include:

  • Establishing native prairie along transmission lines outside of Savage, Minn., and in the city of Ramsey, Minn., both with park systems.
  • Planting pollinator friendly habitat along Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center’s solar array and in their interpretive center in fall 2015.
  • Incorporating pollinator prairie as part of the landscape architecture at Great River Energy’s headquarters building in Maple Grove, Minn.
  • Restoring more than 120 acres of prairie near Lakefield Junction Station, Pleasant Valley Peaking Station, Cambridge Peaking Plant, and near Great River Energy’s New Prague office.

More resources

For more information about the Elk River pollinator project, visit greatriverenergy.com/elkriverbees.

For more information and links to resources about native plantings, visit greatriverenergy.com/pollinators.

Great River Energy has had a long-term commitment to Environmental Initiative. We have been a member of the Convener Partnership Circle for some time, and this year marked our ninth year as a presenting sponsor of the Environmental Initiative Awards program held each May. Great River Energy is a proud supporter of Environmental Initiative.

Mary Jo Roth

POSTED BY:

Manager, Environmental Services at Great River Energy
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