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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

And the 2016 Environmental Initiative Awards Finalists Are…

March 21st, 2016

FB-ProfileEarlier this week a panel of independent judges from business, government, and nonprofit organizations met to discuss project nominations from all over the state. After some great conversation and tough deliberations, they selected three finalist projects in each category (and one winner). Congratulations to this year’s outstanding projects and partnerships selected as finalists:

COMMUNITY ACTION

Judges: Pakou Hang, Hmong American Farmers Association; Eric Oines, Project for Pride in Living

 

ENERGY AND CLIMATE

Judges: Mark Lundgren, MSA Professional Services; Bill Poppert, Technology North; Katie Swor, Wenck Associates

 

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION

Judges: Melissa Chelminiak, Aveda; Mary Oldham, University of Minnesota; Quinn Swanson, Happy Dancing Turtle

 

FOOD STEWARDSHIP

Judges: Yolanda Cotterall, Latino Economic Development Center; Hedi Moussavi, General Mills

 

NATURAL RESOURCES

Judges: Megan Dobratz, Native Sustainability; Brett Emmons, Emmons & Olivier Resources, Inc.; Brian Ross, Great Plains Institute

 

SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS

Judges: Angie Bourdaghs, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; Samantha McKeough, HealthPartners; Leo Raudys, Call2Recycle

 

Thanks to the judges who shared their time with us and for Medtronic for hosting our judging event. We are grateful for Medtronic’s long-standing support of the judging event and as a sponsor of the Environmental Initiative Awards.

Don’t miss the opportunity to join more than 450 environmental leaders for networking, dinner, and a celebration of Minnesota’s most innovative and collaborative success stories of the year. The celebration is on Thursday, May 26. Register now for full tables (seating 10) and individual seats. Don’t miss the early bird pricing through Friday, April 15!

Andrea Robbins

POSTED BY:

Director, Engagement and Systems

Working Together With Honor, Humility, and Humor

December 16th, 2015

An old coach taught us to compete and conduct ourselves with honor, humility, and humor. I don’t know whether or not that was original, but it resonated and stuck with me. My time and work at Environmental Initiative strike the same chord as that coach’s lesson. I’ve stayed with, and came back to, Environmental Initiative because our mission, our approach, and our partners fit that lesson equally well.

With diverse partners as dedicated as we are, we do hard, meaningful work. Many times in the air quality world, what we do is the first time it’s been done in Minnesota. At the same time, there is always that Environmental Initiative flavor – we rarely do anythProject Green Fleet partners on the Becky Sue tugboating like everyone else. Our projects and events are always uniquely crafted and implemented. In fact, we just successfully pitched a project that involved telling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that every other time they’ve done this type of project it was wrong. Well, not wrong necessarily, but that we could do it better with a different model. But, of course, our message was conveyed with humility.

We typically do our work well and with minimal fanfare. Our projects have garnered regional and national awards, but we did the work to reach the outcomes. The recognition follows the effort and the results.

Most of my time these days is spent working on Clean Air Minnesota, a partnership between business, government, and nonprofit leaders that has been working to reduce emissions voluntarily since 2003. Some of you might not know, but Clean Air Minnesota was originally expected to be around for only a few years. Thankfully, we had some staying power and a proven worth based upon consistently achieving valuable outcomes. With our partners, we have also kept our eyes on the horizon – always looking to maintain this successful and mutually beneficial public/private partnership. Along with always demonstrating meaningful results, this is fundamental to our success.

Another one of my favorite things about this job is the diversity of partners with whom we get to work. It is refreshing that we can be concerned first and foremost with results and not get caught up in the self-imposed limitations around descriptions and positions that plague so much of our society today. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to work cooperatively, simultaneously, and constructively for the common good with all of our partners. And, especially with the leadership of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. That is a broad spectrum of wisdom and knowledge upon which to draw. And for that, I am thankful.

If you share some of these values, join me in supporting Environmental Initiative with a financial contribution. Our current and past board of directors have contributed $15,000 to help us raise another $15,000 from individuals like you between now and December 31st. Annual or recurring monthly membership contributions will be matched dollar for dollar.

Bill Droessler

POSTED BY:

Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning

Three Tips for Better Meetings

October 12th, 2015

IMG_9474smallMeetings are part of work life and volunteer life – day in and day out. In a quick scan using the Google machine, the amount of time Americans spend in meetings was staggering – ranging from 35% – 50% depending on job title. At the same time, a whopping 63% of meetings happen without a pre-planned agenda. Yikes!

Meetings, gatherings, small group discussions, one-on-ones – all of this is in the DNA at Environmental Initiative. We’re conveners, all the time. Recently, our staff had the opportunity to take a pause for a 3-hour mini-crash course in the Art of Convening with Craig Neal and Rachel Harris of Heartland. Here are the three things I took away from the training in the hopes that we can make meetings a bright spot, rather than something to dread (or an opportunity to multi-task):

Start Inside
The idea of starting with yourself is especially important if you’re leading a conversation, meeting, or other engagement. I’ve found this aspect of the Art of Convening extremely helpful – especially as I stepped in to facilitate a series of meetings with the seven Clean Water Fund agencies during our work on the Clean Water Roadmap in 2014.

It might feel a little “hippy-dippy,” but taking some time to ground yourself, consider who you are, and how you want to be in relationship with others is powerful. Before you step in to lead a meeting, take some time to think about these two questions:

  • What are the core nonnegotiable values that guide your life and work?
  • How do I aspire to be in relationship with others?

Had I not done this internal work ahead of Clean Water Roadmap meetings, I would have been an anxious, less confident convener.

“String the Beads”
Another trick we’ve picked up from our friends at Heartland, known as “stringing the beads,” is a wonderful way to begin a meeting or conversation and ensure you hear all of the voices around the table. This is a great way to handle introductions during meetings, because it gets people thinking and engaged early on. It’s also pretty easy. Ask your meeting participants to share their name and answer a question. The question can be meeting relevant, such as “What does success look like?” or “What do you hope to accomplish in this meeting?” Or, you can go deeper – asking people about their identity, what matters to them, or significant events going on in their lives outside of work. Either way, “stringing the beads” can set the tone for your meeting in a very powerful way.

Set Context
Nothing is quite as bad as sitting in a meeting and wondering to yourself, “What is the point of this? I don’t know what we’re trying to do here.” This drives me especially insane, and for whatever reason I’m getting less patient about directionless meetings as I get older.

Setting context is another tip that doesn’t take much time, but is easily forgotten. At the start of your meeting (as well as when you make the invitation to the meeting ahead of time), make sure everyone understands the form, function, and purpose of the gathering. Have you answered the questions, “What are we here to do together? What is the goal of this meeting?”

Don’t assume everyone remembers why the meeting is happening. Take two minutes to remind everyone involved why they’re together and you’ll save yourself from blank stares and awkward silence.

What tips or tricks do you have for better meetings? Share your thoughts with a comment, or contact me anytime. And be sure to check out Heartland’s website for more information about the Art of Convening and other leadership programming.

Emily Franklin

POSTED BY:

Director of Communications

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.

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Bill Droessler

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Senior Director of Strategic Project Planning
Environmental Initiative - Home