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The past, present and future of environmental leaders

May 16th, 2017

So you may have heard… but Environmental Initiative turns 25 this year. What you may not have heard is that we’re using our anniversary to bring together leaders in our community not only at the Awards, but also in a series of gatherings.

We’re calling these get-togethers “Champions Gatherings,” and we’re having several 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 second of five champions gatherings last week that focused on celebrating the nominees from the Emerging Leader and Critical Collaborator categories for the 25th Anniversary Environmental Initiative Awards.

If you have been involved with Environmental Initiative for a while or have ever been to the Awards, you know we have never honored individual leaders at this event. We always focus on the collaboration of the projects. But what all those nominated projects have in common is people! So, we thought our 25th anniversary should celebrate some of the great people in our community that are making this work happen.

We had more than 30 nominees for the two categories, but we knew that not all the nominees knew each other. We certainly didn’t know all of them! We thought: what better way to get them all to come together ad learn from each other than by having a happy hour in our office?

At the celebration, nominees and staff got to know each other and congratulate one another on their amazing work. It was amazing to see the inter-generational connections that were made in the room between environmental veterans and those maybe just starting out.

We hope everyone who attended had a great time, made new connections, and felt celebrated. We want to thank all the nominees for the work they have done and will continue to do. Minnesota’s environmental would not be where it is today if it were not for all the work you have done.

A note from Environmental Initiative:
We still have three more gatherings this year. If you are interested in attending or learning more about these events, please contact me at sseymour@en-in.org.

Sacha Seymour-Anderson


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.




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.


“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 »


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

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


Executive Director

Greg Bohrer Selected to Participate in the Minnesota Agricultural & Rural Leadership Program

November 14th, 2016

We are proud to share that Greg Bohrer, Senior Manager of Agriculture & Environment at Environmental Initiative was one of thirty individuals selected to participate in the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership Program. Two thirds of participants are agricultural producers and the other third are people involved in agribusiness or rural leadership positions.

GregAs a member of Class IX, Greg will participate in a dynamic two-year educational experience featuring several in-state seminars, a six-day national study seminar, and a 10- to 14-day international study seminar. The current cohort meets starting next week through April 2018.

“I am really looking forward to the program, said Greg Bohrer – Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment, “This is a tremendous opportunity to get to know other emerging leaders in agriculture and rural Minnesota and to develop my own leadership skills and understanding of agricultural issues. I am excited to start diving into it and am grateful to have been selected.”

Program curriculum covers a range of topics including leadership development, rural industry and trade, natural resources, and diversity. The goal of the program is to help rural and agricultural leaders develop the necessary skills to maximize their impact across local, state, and international arenas.

Congratulations to Greg and to his fellow Minnesota Agricultural & Rural Leadership Program participants. Meet Class IX »

Ellen Gibson


Senior Program Director

Support Ongoing Sustainability Leadership

November 24th, 2015

Environmental Initiative is an incredible organization that provides so much for our state and the region. Now, I might be a little biased being an employee of the organization, but that bias doesn’t alter the real impact Environmental Initiative has in our community. While I’ve only been on staff for a few months, my recognition of Environmental Initiative as a leader, especially in the space of business sustainability, has been present for years. With all the avenues for businesses to engage – through events, collaborative projects, and so much more – Environmental Initiative truly is a major convener of Minnesota’s business community around environmental sustainability.

In a state that is so fortunate to have a wide range of private businesses, public entities, nonprofits, institutions, and Sam Hanson Minnesota lakeindividuals that are all interested in addressing our shared environmental challenges, it is crucial for Environmental Initiative to convene these interests and help catalyze the changes that we collectively know are important. We’re so proud to be a part of the sustainability community in Minnesota.

Environmental Initiative’s leadership, and the corresponding impact that it makes in our community, is what has drawn my interest to the organization for many years. It’s also the reason that I am so excited to be a part of the team. I am thrilled to be able to work with such a wide variety of stakeholders on improving the environmental sustainability of our region.

If you share my enthusiasm, join me in supporting the work of Environmental Initiative. Our current and past board of directors have contributed $15,000 to help us raise another $15,000 from individuals between now and December 31st. Annual or recurring monthly membership contributions will be matched dollar for dollar. We still have about $9,000 to raise to meet our goals.

I’m an individual member and I hope you will be too!

Sam Hanson


Director, Sustainability Program

Reflections from the Net Impact Conference

November 11th, 2014

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Net Impact Conference – a forum for students and professionals to come together to tackle the world’s toughest social and environmental problems. As a board member of NetNet Impact Conference Logo Impact Minneapolis, I’ve been gearing up for the conference since March. Although it came and went by in the blink of an eye, here are the top three things I took away:

Community. As I prepared for the conference, I envisioned myself moving from breakout to breakout, networking at the expo, and being inspired by the keynotes. What I wasn’t expecting was the true sense of community that surrounded me. From the very first keynote all the way to the closing party, you could feel the rich community around you. I felt the community presence most when I volunteered to help 3M put on a service activity. Over 100 people came together over 2 days during lunch to assemble 250 solar-powered lamps to send to families in Africa without reliable access to electricity. All I can say is the experience was truly heartwarming.

Leadership. Let’s just say I was blown away by our future leaders. As 60% off the conference attendees are undergraduate or graduate students, I had the pleasure of rubbing elbows with these extremely passionate and well-educated (future) leaders. There is no doubt in my mind that the next generation of environmentalists is ready to tackle the challenges ahead of us face on.

Leading by example. After working on the Waste Reduction Collaborative for almost a year, you could say waste is always on my mind. I was so impressed to not only see the Minneapolis Convention Center collecting organics for compost but also seeing their extremely robust collection system. I never saw a lone garbage can the entire time! I know it may seem small, but I applaud our regions efforts to lead by example. Knowing the community that surrounded me, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who noticed our efforts.

Did you attend the Net Impact conference? What did you take away from the event? Send me an email or leave a comment here. If you missed it, you can catch the keynote and some of the session presentations on Net Impact’s website.

I hope to see you at next year’s conference.

Dani Schurter


Project Manager

Minnesota Environmental Fund Announces Cordelia Pierson as New Executive Director

July 10th, 2014

As many of you know, Environmental Initiative is one of more than twenty local environmental nonprofit organizations that belong to the Minnesota Environmental Fund. We’ve been a member since 2004 and have directly benefited from Minnesota Environmental Fund’s efforts to provide education and a vital payroll giving choice to employees who wish to support environmental causes through workplace giving campaigns. It’s amazing what a few dollars per paycheck can do to help Environmental Initiative realize our mission.

I’m proud to announce  Cordelia Pierson has recently been named Minnesota Environmental Fund’s new executive director. She succeedsExecutive Director, Cordelia Pierson Ed Marek who led the organization for more than a decade. I had the opportunity to be directly involved in the hiring process for this extremely important position. I worked with a handful of other leaders from Minnesota Environmental Fund’s member organizations to support the search over the past several months. This experience was a strong reminder for me about the importance of Environmental Initiative’s involvement in the Minnesota Environmental Fund and with our fellow environmental organizations more broadly.

Cordelia brings more than twenty years of nonprofit and financial management experience to the organization as a former nonprofit executive director, board president, and program director. Most recently, Cordelia served as the executive director for the newly established, Minneapolis Riverfront Partnership, where she led fundraising, organizational development, and riverfront land protection and revitalization efforts. I’m so impressed with Cordelia’s passion and dedication to Minnesota, to our special places, and our natural resources. She understands and greatly appreciates the importance of place and the need to build relationships with companies, organizations, and employees who are willing to invest financially to make our communities healthy and beautiful places to live.

I hope you will join me in welcoming Cordelia to the Minnesota Environmental Fund!


Mike Harley


Executive Director

Weekly Wrap-Up: Emerging Research

April 18th, 2014

Over the past few weeks, a series of new research endeavors and published studies have caught our eye. Here’s the latest so you can be informed and armed with interesting things to share at your holiday tables this weekend:

  1. Graphic: New study out of the University of Minnesota reveals that people of color live in neighborhoods with more air pollution than whites. (Star Tribune)
  2. What are Ultra Fine Particles and why is the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency measuring them? (KARE 11)
  3. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources received over 50,000 public comments on the PolyMet mining project. How on earth are they processing all of the input? (MinnPost)
  4. The seven most important findings from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Climate Science Report (Mashable).
  5. New survey reveals governments are failing to lead on sustainability. (GreenBiz)
Emily Franklin


Director of Communications

Weekly Wrap-Up – 8/23/13

August 23rd, 2013

We’re gearing up for our second Business & Environment Session of the year, Setting Goals That Matter: A Sustainability Toolkit.

As more companies and organizations work to reduce the environmental impact of their operations while maintaining their bottom lines, the web is bursting with resources on sustainability leadership, reporting, and more. Hopefully, this post helps you sort through the sustainability fire hose and provides you with something valuable or thought provoking to consider in your work.

  1. 8 ways to create the sustainability job of your dreams. (CSRwire)
  2. Stereotyping: Do young people value sustainability above all else? (The Guardian)
  3. Only 10% of  S&P 100 companies have incorporated sustainability into their bonus structures. Should executive compensation be linked to sustainability performance? (EDF + Business)
  4. Study finds that employees expect to be engaged with their company’s sustainability strategy as well as educated on how to be more sustainable in their day-to-day lives. (GreenBiz.com)
  5. Sustainability reporting has become more common, but what’s really makes it “good?” (TriplePundit)

Are you craving more? Get connected to emerging and experienced sustainability professionals through our Business & Environment Series LinkedIn Group.


Emily Franklin


Director of Communications

Sustainability Leadership: What’s the Secret?

August 22nd, 2013

It’s tempting to think there’s a silver bullet for integrating sustainability into the core of your company. If I just get this degree in environmental sciences… if I just get this GRI reporting down pat… if I can just get our suppliers to do what I ask!… These might be appealing thoughts to someone trying to land a great job in sustainability, or to a senior leader working to improve his or her company’s environmental and social impact. There has to be a secret to this… right?

Not so fast, explained George Basile of Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability in “The Secrets of Sustainable Leadership,” a recent webcast from GreenBiz moderated by sustainable business expert Joel Makower. Many companies today are stuck in a sustainability rut – attempting to use “business as usual” leadership skills to achieve extraordinary sustainability results. To truly embed sustainability in our organizations, we need to apply new tools and ways of thinking. Effective sustainability leadership requires a sizable skillset, including systems thinking and the ability to translate information from IT to HR to shareholders in a language each understands (or as Weber Shandwick’s Cindy Drucker called it – the ability to act as “Chief Translation Officer”). Leaders also need the ability to take numbers and turn them into a compelling story, and the capacity to inspire transformational change. (more…)

Georgia Rubenstein


Senior Manager, Sustainability Program
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