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Have you met the Community Action category winners?

April 13th, 2017

The Community Action category award is given to partnerships that solve environmental challenges on a community scale—which can mean a lot of things. From grassroots efforts and utilizing volunteers, to policy initiatives that contribute to improved quality of life, this award recognizes those who come together.

The Metropolitan Council, the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team (CERTs), a slew of local governments, and many more project partners came together to produce solid environmental and economic outcomes—making them this year’s Community Action winner.

An Award-Winning Effort



The Governmental Solar Garden Collaborative is a joint effort by and for 31 local governments in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan region to procure solar garden subscriptions from a single Request for Proposals (RFP) process. The goal in getting these subscriptions is to offset the energy usage at public facilities.

The results? Twenty-four of the 31 participants said that they were moving to sign subscription agreements for a cumulative 33 megawatts of solar capacity. If you’re like me, you have no idea what this means.

Basically, most participating local governments are working to offset public facility energy use by signing up for a clean energy alternative. By doing so, these local governments have added a surprising figure of solar capacity to the state. To give you an idea of how meaningful 33 megawatts is, Minnesota generated a total of 35 megawatts for community solar subscriptions during the entirety of 2015.

Perhaps more importantly, this project highlights the power of partnership—and its lasting benefit. Because of this effort, the group is continuing conversations concerning additional collaborative purchasing for public building solar and electric vehicles for local government fleets.


“By working together and sharing resources, the partners could reduce costs, create opportunities for communities of all sizes, and make a larger impact than any organization could have had alone. The result will be the development of 33 megawatts of solar electricity– enough to power over 4,000 Minnesota homes for 25 years– and a significant reduction of government spending on energy in public facilities.” –Trevor Drake, Co-Director of the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team and Project Manager at Great Plains Institute.

“What will have long lasting impact is how public and private entities combined their knowledge, skills and expertise to generate subscriptions to 33 MW of solar development… This type of procurement for solar energy was a groundbreaking, innovative approach that has applied across the nation in only a few regions.” –Peter Lindstrom, Local Government Outreach Coordinator with the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) at the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension.

“I’m most proud of the willingness and determination of everyone involved to try something new. It’s easy to look back at something that was successful and be glad to have done it. It’s much more difficult, however, to move forward with something that seems like a good idea but might not succeed. Everyone involved in this project took a risk in joining the process and seeing it through. I’m proud that our region is made up of local governments and partners that are willing and determined to be innovative in the face of great challenges.” –Trevor Drake, Co-Director of the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team and Project Manager at Great Plains Institute.


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


Communications Director

Get to Know the Community Action Finalists

April 15th, 2016

To celebrate the successes of eighteen incredible environmental partnerships, I’ll be featuring the 2016 Environmental Initiative Awards finalists in a series of posts leading up to the event on Thursday, May 26.

Kicking it off this week are three innovative projects in the Community Action category. This category recognizes collaborations that utilize residents or volunteers to solve sustainability challenges on a community scale. This could include grassroots efforts in neighborhood revitalization or beautification efforts, alternative land use strategies, or policy initiatives that contribute to economic prosperity, environmental stewardship, and improved quality of life.

Frogtown Park and Farm

Frogtown Park and Farm started with a dream by four Frogtown residents interested in engaging the community on growing local food. A public-private partnership was formed to bring the dream to life, creating a 13-acre public park and farm in one of the most park-poor neighborhoods A bundled-up boy and girl stand in snow checking out frozen leaves under a tree at Wilder Park in St. Paul, MN. Formerly Wilder Foundation's campus, not yet a TPL project, Minnehaha Ave. W and N Victoria St.in the City of Saint Paul. The park now serves as hub for community gathering, recreation, and a connection to nourishing, healthy food grown right in the neighborhood.

“Not everyday you create a new neighborhood park in the City of Saint Paul,” says project partner Susan Schmidt with The Trust for Public Land. What inspires her is the community-based approach to creating an urban treasure that people truly love.

Read more about Frogtown Park and Farm’s goal to nourish, connect, and empower the community »

Sun Ray Nature-Smart Library

The newly renovated Sun Ray Library is changing the way the community thinks about literacy, environmental stewardship, and youth leadership by becoming a hub for nature learning and recreation. Quickly becoming a national model of success, the library transformed both its physical environment and programming to serve as a place for families and children to Sun Ray Nature-Smart Library - Blog
gather, learn, explore, and engage with nature. The library and surrounding Conway Park now boast family resources for nature engagement, a youth environmental leadership program, increased tree canopy, and a thriving pollinator garden.

Rebecca Ryan, library manager at Sun Ray Library says you often forgot the library was in a park before project renovations created a renewed connection to nature. “We are used to thinking of reading and learning as something we do inside. For people to start thinking about how we support working outside, and what that means, is an idea I’d like to see spread.”

Read more about the nature-based education and engagement activities of Sun Ray Nature-Smart Library »

Washburn Center for Children

What was once a vacant, distressed, and environmentally-challenged plot of land, was transformed into a new facility for the Washburn Center for Children, one of the state’s leading children’s mental health centers. Significant environmental Washburn Center for Children - Blogcleanup of the site, in combination with incorporating natural and therapeutic environmental elements into the building’s design, has created a safe, healing space for families in the community. The Washburn Center for Children has been designed, inside and out, to foster a child’s healing, quickly becoming an asset for the community.

One of the most impactful projects he’s worked on, project partner Imants Pone of Braun Intertec says, “The Washburn Center for Children has a significant impact on the future of our community, the City, and children in need.”

Read more about the healing natural design elements of Washburn Center for Children »

We hope you join us in honoring these projects at the 2016 Environmental Initiative Awards ceremony on Thursday, May 26. Purchase your tables and/or seats today. Tune in to next week’s post featuring three more outstanding finalists!

Andrea Robbins


Director, Engagement and Systems
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