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Member of the Month: Best Buy

April 3rd, 2017

At Best Buy, we are thrilled to be Environmental Initiative’s member of the month. As Environmental Initiative celebrates 25 years, I want to reflect on the organization’s impact both on Best Buy as well as the greater Twin Cities community.

 

When Best Buy began our sustainability journey a decade ago, Environmental Initiative was one of the first organizations we sought out to help guide our strategy and have continued to be a trusted resource in the years since.

I see Environmental Initiative as the convener of environmental thought leaders in Minnesota. The team has built a solid network of organizations who seek to drive sustainability forward. We are part of a unique community, with 16 Fortune 500 companies in the metro area, yet a close-knit group of individuals. Perhaps it’s our Midwest values-driven organizations, but there is a small-town feeling within our sustainability community. I can pick up the phone and call my environmental counterparts at any organization in town, thanks in part to the network Environmental Initiative helped build.

Not only does Environmental Initiative connect large companies, but also brings together smaller companies, academics and government agencies, facilitating conversations on topics that affect all of us, like smart transportation, sustainable consumption and renewable energy. I appreciate the variety of programming, which engages members of my team at all levels. From the case studies presented at the Business and Environment Series, to the more specialized Sustainability Practitioners Roundtable to the advocacy-focused Policy Forums, I see a common thread of collaboration and problem-solving throughout.

 

I’m excited about the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition, an Environmental Initiative-led partnership of 30 businesses working together to advance the circular economy. One aspect of the work focuses on renewable energy, a topic Best Buy is deeply connected with, as 12 percent of our 45 percent carbon reduction goal is dedicated to renewables. By facilitating an open discussion with energy providers, Environmental Initiative has helped advance green tariff design that aligns with the energy and carbon reduction goals of our respective companies.

Congratulations Environmental Initiative, on 25 years of convening, educating, advocating for the environment. We are proud to be on this journey with you.

Alexis Ludwig-Vogen

POSTED BY:

Director, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, Best Buy

Pollinator Policy Forum: What’s the Buzz?

December 18th, 2014

If you have been paying attention to news channels for the past decade, you may have heard about the severe decline in honeybeesbee populations. Recently, these trends have gained the attention of many bee fans to collaborate for a solution. Governmental departments, academics at the University of Minnesota, and environmental organizations chose to focus on discussing creating habitats for Minnesota’s pollinators at Environmental Initiative’s recent policy forum. But what you might not see (as I didn’t) before attending the meeting was, “What do bees have to do with me individually?”

When I was a kid, honeybees were the source for sweet condiments on my chicken tenders after a hard day’s work at soccer practice. As it turns out, bees serve my zesty taste buds and nutrition more than I imagined. According to Marla Spivak, a leading bee researcher at the University of Minnesota, bees directly or indirectly provide for the bounties of our fruits and vegetables. Not only that, the ‘lil buggers pollinate about $15 billion worth of agricultural crops that sustain our nation’s appetite and economy.

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Tess Ergen

POSTED BY:

Student, University of Minnesota

Environmental Initiative’s 2013 Year in Review

December 27th, 2013

Happy New Year from all of us here at Environmental Initiative! 2013 has been an exciting year for us and we can’t wait to continue to work with our current partners, and forge new collaborations, in 2014. Before we hit the ground running next year (next week!), join me in looking back at this top-ten list of Environmental Initiative’s 2013 highlights.

1. Our Clean Air Minnesota partners announced twenty-four recommendations to reduce emissions, protect public health, and keep Minnesota’s air clean. Now, this statewide partnership of leaders from businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations is entering a new phase of work together – collectively reviewing, prioritizing, and discussing how to implement these recommendations.

2. Halfway through Governor Dayton’s first term in office, we brought state agency leaders together at our 2013 Commissioners Forum to discuss their environmental priorities and perspectives. Leaders from the Board of Water & Soil Resources, Metropolitan Council, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and Minnesota Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health, Natural Resources, and Transportation offered ideas and heard from audience members on water quality, climate change, and more. We were pleased to hear lots of talk about the importance of collaboration – with so many agencies working on environmental issues, our speakers agreed that aligning goals and programs across agencies and departments was key to driving greater impact.

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Georgia Rubenstein

POSTED BY:

Senior Manager, Sustainability Program

Your Groundwater Questions, Answered.

December 23rd, 2013

Thank you to everyone who attended our December 17th policy forum Seizing Opportunities for Integration in Groundwater Management. Attendees learned about and discussed emerging strategies and plans for integrating groundwater management across state and local agencies and how these strategies may inform future planning and permitting decisions.

The audience had a lot of great questions – so many in fact, that we did not have time during the event to answer them all.  I asked our speakers to respond to some of we were unable to answer at the event.

Here are their responses:

What link is there between strategies in the Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan (NFMP) and the Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP)?

Dan Stoddard, Minnesota Department of Agriculture:

The Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan was developed independently of, and without consideration for, the Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program.

The concept of certainty, protection from future regulations, for MAWQCP certified growers would apply to any new rules developed under the NFMP during the period of certification.  This means that if the Minnesota Department of Agriculture was to develop new rules under the NFMP we would assume that certified growers are meeting all required water quality goals and would write into the new rule that certified growers are exempt or considered to be in compliance with the rule during the period of certification.  This is reasonable since the requirements to adopt best management practices to become certified should meet or exceed the requirements in the new rule.

One of the goals of the revised NFMP is to work with local growers to consider changing land management practices in targeted areas to address local concerns with elevated nitrate in the groundwater.  Therefore we would still want to work with MAWQCP certified growers and involve them on the local advisory team and any other local activities.  Since these growers have demonstrated leadership by participating in the MAWQC program, we would seek them out as potential leaders in local response efforts. (more…)

Andrea Robbins

POSTED BY:

Director, Engagement and Systems

Fast Away The Old Year Passes…

December 20th, 2013

It’s hard to believe we’re in the final weeks of 2013 and another year is about to pass us by. I guess that saying, “Time flies, when you’re having fun,” is definitely true for me. This past year has been full of exciting accomplishments and most importantly, partners new and old. One of the best things about my job is the talented and interesting people I get to meet and interact with as we work to protect and restore Minnesota’s environment through collaboration. Here are a few of the high points for me from the past year:

  • Stakeholders reaching consensus on twenty-four recommendations to improve air quality. I’m thrilled about the momentum and energy as we begin to collectively discuss how to implement these ideas.
  • Our sustainability programming continues to expand into new areas. This year, business leaders have been working together to come up with ways to reduce waste through our Waste Reduction Collaborative. It’s wonderful see these ideas being turned into action.
  • We had the most successful year of event programing in the organization’s history. Our Environmental Initiative Awards, Business & Environment Series and Policy Forum Series drew record attendance. This work is central to our mission and we hope you enjoyed the chance to network and learn from one another at our events this year.
  • We’ve secured funding for Project Green Fleet in order to retrofit the last of Minnesota’s school buses with pollution control equipment thanks to a contribution from Flint Hills Resources. I look forward to our staff completing this work and focusing next on reducing emissions from construction fleets and other diesel vehicles in the coming years.

All of this work would not be possible without you. To that end, our current and past Board of Directors have set up an incredible $10,000 matching fund so donors and friends like you can double your impact. We’ve got less than $1,000 to raise to meet our goals. For those who have become individual members, you have my deepest thanks. If you have not yet joined our circle of members, we would love to have you. Individual membership rates start at just $30, are tax deductible and directly support our efforts to find common ground for Minnesota’s environment. Become a member or renew your membership here »

It may sound a little cliché, but as I sign thank you letter after thank you letter, I can’t help but feel grateful for all of the support you show this organization year after year. On behalf of all of the staff at Environmental Initiative, thank you, happy holidays, and best wishes for a wonderful 2014!

Mike Harley

POSTED BY:

Executive Director

The Future of Minnesota’s Electric Utilities: The Sequel

November 13th, 2013

Environmental Initiative’s recent policy forum on “The Future of Minnesota’s Electric Utilities” drew a block-buster crowd—you would have thought they were giving away free beer. Especially for a topic as potentially dry and esoteric as the future of electric utilities, one would have expected a much smaller crowd and the deafening sound of crickets. But the meeting room overlooking the iconic Como Zoo was packed and humming with conversation.

Timing is everything, and the electricity industry in this country (and elsewhere in the world) is undergoing seismic changes that deserve the kind of attention they got at Environmental Initiative’s recent forum. Indeed, for anyone working in (or just interested in) the energy sector, it’s impossible to escape talking about what the utility of the future might look like and how it might evolve. It is the right conversation to be having. (more…)

Our Thoughts: 2013 Commissioners Forum

April 18th, 2013

Why would Environmental Initiative hold the first policy forum of the year the day after a spring snow storm?

Besides the fact that we’re all hardy Minnesotans who secretly enjoy the unusual weather, we find ourselves at a unique time. We’re halfway through Governor Mark Dayton’s first term and changes in legislature can sometimes shift priorities and possibilities for state agencies. Added to this, Minnesota has state agency leaders who have stepped into new roles to coalesce with the establisheAttendees at the 2013 Commissioners Forumd leaders.

With all this in mind, Environmental Initiative wanted to gather state agency leaders to provide the community with a unique opportunity to have a conversation about their priorities and opinions on the environmental issues that matter to Minnesotans.

Leaders from the Board of Water & Soil Resources, Metropolitan Council, Minnesota Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health, Natural Resources, Transportation, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency discussed their priorities during two panel discussions last Friday. While there was a lot of good discussion, some common themes emerged throughout the morning including concerns about water quality and quantity, climate change, collaboration, and Minnesota’s Environmental Congress. (more…)

Eric David

POSTED BY:

Program Manager, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Policy Forum Recap: 2013 Legislative Preview

January 2nd, 2013

On Thursday, December 20, a bipartisan group of legislators along with a crowd of over 200 members of Minnesota’s environmental community gathered in downtown Saint Paul for our annual Legislative Preview Policy Forum. Each year, the event gives an audience from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors the chance to hear from Minnesota lawmakers about their environmental priorities for the coming legislative session.

A short presentation from Minnesota Management and Budget’s John Pollard and Michelle Mitchell highlighted future budget uncertainties the state will have to contend with this year. They also reminded us of the relatively tiny share of funding that is allocated to environment, energy, and natural resources (0.7 % of general fund spending, and 3.2% of total state spending).

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Georgia Rubenstein

POSTED BY:

Senior Manager, Sustainability Program

Our 2012 Top 10: The Year in Review

December 27th, 2012

Happy new year, from all of us here at Environmental Initiative! Another year has flown by. Things are quiet at the office this week and we’re taking a breather to look back on 2012 — reflecting on the projects we’ve been a part of, the many partners we’ve worked with, and the successes we’ve achieved, together, for Minnesota’s environment. We’ve got plenty in store for an even more exciting 2013 but before we tell you more, join us in our reflection and embark with us on a journey back through 2012. Here, with no further ado, is our second annual Year in Review Top Ten List. Be sure to check out the slideshow too!

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Georgia Rubenstein

POSTED BY:

Senior Manager, Sustainability Program

Policy Forum Recap: Managing Minnesota’s Groundwater Supply

December 5th, 2012

The news of Minnesota’s ongoing drought and the recently filed lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) over low water levels in White Bear Lake was fresh in the minds of 130 attendees at last week’s policy forum, “Minnesota’s Groundwater Supply: Policy Challenges and Opportunities.”

As we heard last Thursday, some parts of the state are already seeing groundwater shortages, and the problem is likely to worsen in the absence of new approaches to governance, allocation, and consumption. The need for better data about our state’s groundwater supplies, and for more proactive, holistic management – instead of the current practice of issuing long-term permits on an individual basis, without allowing for potential new or changing information about supply – were some of the primary topics of discussion.

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Georgia Rubenstein

POSTED BY:

Senior Manager, Sustainability Program
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