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Meet Maddie Norgaard

October 11th, 2016

Environmental Initiative has always been an organization deeply rooted in partnerships that work collaboratively to strategize around complex environmental problems. It’s one reason why we convened the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition (MNSGC), a business led effort focusing on the advancement of the circular economy.

To better shape MNSGC actions, the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE) and other member organizations are working with a graduate student to research practical, circular economy applications. Her research will influence the direction and project goals and how MNSGC will function within the Midwest.

So, without further delay… Meet Maddie Norgaard! Maddie

Maddie is a first-year student pursing a Master of science, technology, and environmental policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Maddie currently holds a B.A. in environmental studies from the College of Saint Benedict.

In summer 2016, Maddie participated in Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy in Chicago where she was inspired by lessons in circular economy, industrial ecology and systems thinking. She is eager to explore these concepts further and help MNSGC discover opportunities for collective action.

Her work will help coalition partners advance the next frontier of corporate sustainability through the circular economy. Maddie will be working closely with Environmental Initiative as well as member organizations to conduct her research. We’re excited to have her, and we’re eager to get started! Learn more about Maddie »

Rachel Dupree


Communications Associate

Meet Erin Niehoff, Project and Administrative Assistant

April 25th, 2016

Hi there! I’m Erin Niehoff, Environmental Initiative’s new Project & Administrative Assistant, and I’m thrilled to be joining this amazing team.

Growing up in Connecticut, my first job was in the fast food industry. Though our store collected plastics for recycling in our IMG_3104webfood preparation area, the customer space did not provide recycling bins. After I noticed customers tossing water and soda bottles in the trash, I asked the store’s owner if we could place a recycling container at the front of the store. He agreed, and soon our store was saving three large bags of bottles from going to the landfill every week.

I expanded my environmental focus when I left Connecticut to attend the University of Minnesota. I earned my B.S. in Geography, concentrating on environmental systems. After serving a year with the Minnesota Math Corps, tutoring 4th through 8th grade students in math at a Minneapolis school, I headed back to the University of Minnesota to continue my own education. In May 2015, I earned my Master of Science in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy, specifically focusing on water policy. During my time at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, I worked on research projects around water reuse for the Minnesota Department of Health and for a law firm in Minneapolis. After graduation, I completed a post-graduate fellowship at the Oregon Department of State Lands, where I reviewed part of their administrative rules governing the removal and fill of material from waters of the state, providing recommendations for improvement.

Now I am back in the great state of Minnesota and I am looking forward to supporting the needs of various projects and programs here at Environmental Initiative!

Erin Niehoff


Project Associate

Introducing Mikey Weitekamp – Senior Project Manager

February 15th, 2016

Hello! I’m Mikey Weitekamp, Environmental Initiative’s new Senior Project Manager. My primary focus will be on our clean air program, facilitating collaboration between residents, businesses, nonprofits, and government to reduce harmful air pollution.

My environmental roots go back to watching zebra mussels invade the Black and Mississippi River systems in southwestern Wisconsin. Being a nerdy kid with nothing better to do, I spent hours at a time diving for native clams to break off the zebra mussels. I didn’t know it at the time, but that interest would drive my personal and professional development.

I officially became a Minnesotan when I attended the University of Minnesota, earning dual degrees in Marketing and Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management, with a minor in Forestry. During my time in school, I worked on projects ranging from collaborative, economic modeling of Minnesota’s Forest Industries to hauling compost by bike. After graduation, I spent a summer doing construction and stonemasonry at the Steger Wilderness Center while helping Will develop a business plan framework for the facility’s ongoing construction and operations.

For the past four years, I worked on the Waste Wise program at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, where we built innovative partnerships with local counties and municipalities to help businesses save money by diverting millions of pounds of waste. Among other projects, I had the pleasure of working with the Saint Paul Saints to equip CHS Field with state-of-the art waste reduction, recycling and composting systems.

I’m incredibly excited to join the team here at Environmental Initiative, and am looking forward to collaborating on common-sense approaches to improve air quality in our great state.

Mikey Weitekamp


Senior Project Manager, Environmental Initiative

Introducing Brian Columbus – Business Manager

January 27th, 2016

My name is Brian Columbus and I’m a fresh addition to Environmental Initiative. As the new Business Manager, I’ll handle much of the “back office” work of finance and administration.

I’m a city kid with a love for the outdoors, which I guess comes from growing up in Chicago and having Lake Michigan practically outside my window. For literally decades, my family’s traditional vacations were trips up to a small lake in central Minnesota where we’d spend the week swimming, boating, and fishing. I’ve always been drawn to water and find I’m usually happiest when I’m in it, on it, or along side it. Since moving to Minneapolis—City of Lakes itself—I’ve further explored our state’s forests, waterways, and hiking trails, and fallen in love with our North Shore.

Several years ago my husband and I took a road trip to find that little lake in rural Aitkin County where so many of my childhood memories live. I hadn’t been there in over 25 years so, of course, it had changed but as I wandered on to the public dock, remembering the many times I’d leaped off to swim or stepped into a boat, I was overjoyed to discover the water was still absolutely crystal clear. Swarms of minnows and small fish were easily spotted swimming above the sandy bottom.

While my admiration for our natural resources had grown since moving here, it was at this moment when I had a personal and deeply felt realization about the health of our lakes, streams, and rivers. I wondered about the fragility of our watershed system, and what’s being done to maintain it.

And now I find myself here! I look forward to supporting the programs and projects that will help keep our environment healthy for future generations.

Brian Columbus


Business Manager, Environmental Initiative

Introducing Janiece Watts, Project and Administrative Assistant

April 14th, 2015

Hello! I am Janiece Watts, a Saint Paul native that has always had an admiration for the environment, so it is wonderful to have combined my passion with my position at the influential organization Environmental Initiative. As the new Project and Administrative Assistant, I am excited to work with a talented team of dedicated and brilliant individuals who like myself, shares the love for our natural world.

I became interested in environmental policy specifically as I moved through both work and school. At one of my first internships with the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, I learned a lot about environmental protection and project management and how common goals can be achieved through a collective effort of governmental agencies, environmental organizations, and all Minnesotans having a shared responsibility to our natural resources and future.

So, this led me to make sure this responsibility would continue to be shared. This brought about my foundation in community organizing around environmental justice, food security, and advocating on the many factors that impact poverty. Organizing is fundamental to solving complex problems and engages all people in the conversations that lead to action. I practiced this by organizing with the international nonprofit Oxfam leading the Minnesota chapter of Oxfam Minnesota Action Corps, and conducting outreach during the open enrollment period of MNsure, Minnesota’s state health insurance exchange.

I hope to bring my skills for organizing to this position so Environmental Initiative can carry on as a leader in creative and collaborative solutions working with all kinds of partners to keep our natural world flowing beautifully for generations to come.

Janiece Watts


Project and Administrative Assistant

2014 Ended With a Bang. What Will 2015 Bring?!

January 8th, 2015

From everyone here at Environmental Initiative, I would like to take a moment to say, THANK YOU! Thank you to everyone who invested in Environmental Initiative in 2014 and made us the successful organization that we are.

We had a year-end goal of raising $10,000 from individual donors between November 10 – December 31, which would unlock an additional $10,000 in matching funds from our current and past Board of Directors. Thanks to you, we blew our goal out of the water — including the $10,000 match, over $22,000 was raised!

We are so humbled by everyone’s support and this shows we truly are better together. Thank you again to all the individual investments that helped us surpass our goal:

Sacha Seymour-Anderson


Development Director

Introducting Greg Bohrer – Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment Program

July 14th, 2014

Hello everyone! I’m Greg Bohrer, the new Senior Manager for the Agriculture and Environment Program here at Environmental Initiative. I’m the lead on the Responsible Crop Certificate Program and other projects at the nexus of environment and agriculture.

I grew up in a farm family. My grandfather owned a feed store in rural Illinois, and one of my earliest memories is riding in my grandfather’s big truck to the local coop and watching the grain fill up the back of the truck with a golden wave. He also introduced me to the natural environment, taking me on long overnight canoe trips down the Rock River in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. From a young age, I appreciated the magic of watching a great blue heron take off and glide across the river, wing tips almost touching the water’s surface. Preserving that magic, and the natural environment that creates those moments of wonder, drives me in what I do.

At St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, I studied Environmental Studies and Political Science, focusing on how human interactions affect our natural environment and the policies that regulate that interface. I traveled to Australia to study their unique and delicate environments, scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef and traveling extensively on the continent’s east coast.

Prior to landing at Environmental Initiative, I worked in the U.S. Senate with a focus on energy, environmental, and agricultural policy.  I worked on issues as diverse as the Farm Bill, invasive carp, climate change, and coal ash regulation. I learned a great deal about how self-interest drives public policy and how to harness that self-interest to create policies that benefit both the economy and the environment.

At Environmental Initiative, I look forward to using my talents to bring people together and create relationships and outcomes that will improve the sustainability of our agricultural system while giving farmers the flexibility they need to feed a growing world population. I’m excited to be part of the talented and passionate team at Environmental Initiative and I look forward to working for an organization will such a strong reputation for success, innovation, and action.

Greg Bohrer


Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment Program

Introducing Bjorn Olson, Senior Environmental Project Associate

March 28th, 2014

Hi all. I’m Bjorn Olson, the new Senior Environmental Project Associate here at Environmental Initiative. I’ll be primarily working on the development of our various air quality efforts such as Project Green Fleet, Clean Air Minnesota, and other programs to reduce harmful air pollutants.

While my focus is on air, I was first exposed to an environmental ethic growing up on the Mississippi River. A river rat from the get-go, I explored the river in (and tumbling out of) a canoe, capitalizing on every opportunity to seek adventure, freedom, and dirt (principles which I still proudly adhere to). As I grew and ventured from rivers to Boundary Water lakes, my love of the physicality of the outdoors was complimented by the mental, emotional, and spiritual components we “environmentalists” value so dearly. Then college arrived and I immersed myself in Thoreau, Leopold, Abbey, Williams, and others who so eloquently articulated the intangible virtues of environmental experience and preservation. Subsequently, I found myself with a B.A. in English and unemployed; such are the rewards for romantic conservationists…

Unable to forsake my environmental roots, I pursued my M.S. in Natural Resource Science and Management at the good ol’ University of Minnesota. There, I studied the root of all environmental problems: humans. Specifically, I focused on the drivers and constraints to individual participation in conservation as well as assessing community capacity for natural resource management.

At Environmental Initiative, I look forward to using my skills and experiences to create collaborative and mutually beneficial relationships that protect and improve our environment. I’m pumped to be working with an organization that has such a prestigious history of leading environmental ingenuity and action. Most of all, I’m humbled to be a part of such a professional, talented, and dedicated team. As Abbey said, “The idea of wilderness needs no defense. It only needs more defenders.” Well, here I am.

Bjorn Olson


Senior Environmental Project Associate

Introducing Dani Schurter, Senior Environmental Project Associate

January 30th, 2014

My name is Dani Schurter and I’m thrilled to be the newest member of Environmental Initiative as the Senior Environmental Project Associate.

I first became intrigued with work in the environmental field in college, when I took a course about the human impact on land and wildlife. My desire to work towards a better future was cemented upon completing a paper on the conservation of the loggerhead sea turtle. I was hooked – they are just too cute!

As a Minnesota native, it was great to start my career creating healthy homes for Minnesotans.  Working as a program developer for Minnesota’s premier residential green building program, I worked with contractors, remodelers, architects and homeowners to create beautiful, sustainable houses that will be enjoyed for generations to come.

For the past two years, I enjoyed all the windy city had to offer while working at the Lincoln Park Zoo. As a planning manager, I worked to bring in new species, renovate exhibits and develop new programs to enhance the guest experience as we connected visitors to nature. I will miss my zoo friends – the playful polar bear, the beautiful giraffes and of course the king of the jungle, the lions – but I am grateful to return to the Twin Cities.

I am incredibly excited to join the Environmental Initiative team and work with businesses on sustainability.

Dani Schurter


Project Manager

A Big Thank You: 2013 End of the Year Giving

January 14th, 2014

I would like to take this time to thank you; all our members big and small, that made 2013 a great year.  Environmental Initiative crushed our individual membership campaign that ran from November 12 to December 31. We raised over $10,000 during this time period and were blown away by your generosity. I would also like to thank our current and past board of directors for making the $10,000 match available to help double individual members’ contributions.  Whether you donated $5 or $1,000, we could not do the work we do without your support.

Individual supporters that helped us achieve our $10,000 goal:


Sacha Seymour-Anderson


Development Director
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