Congratulations to the winners and finalists of the 2015 Environmental Initiative Awards. Learn more about them below.

2015 partnership of the year

Manston Slough Restoration
Manston Slough is a more than 2,500-acre shallow wetland complex, located in Wilkin County, Minnesota, in the Red River Basin. Ditch construction in the 1800s converted 75% of the wetland basin to cropland. State agencies, federal agencies, a nonprofit organization, and more than 33 private landowners collaborated over many years to restore the Manston Slough wetland and surrounding area. The entire project area encompasses over 7,000 acres providing countless hunting and recreational opportunities for the general public.

Community Action


Morris Engaged: Planning and Action for Climate Resilience
Morris Engaged is a community-based program incorporating education, deliberation, and citizen-led planning and action to enhance community resilience in the face of climate change. Project outcomes include increased climate change awareness and engagement of Morris community members, plans for community solar and renewable energy integration, as well as changes to Morris Area High School curriculum to include more information on local climate change, and student involvement in community activities. 


Hennepin County Master Recycler/Composter Program
The Hennepin County Master Recycler/Composter program trains participants in waste prevention, recycling, and composting through a six-week course. The effort is designed to give participants the skills they need to conduct outreach and implement waste diversion programs in their communities. Since the program launched in 2011, 292 people have completed the training, spending more than 3,300 volunteer hours, and reaching more than 80,000 people through various events and projects.

University District Pack and Give Back
Each year, due to the high turnover at rental properties in neighborhoods near the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus, the semester move-in, move-out time period results in large amounts of waste. This program engaged students, long-term residents, university staff, and city and county agencies in developing a response to the problem. As a result of this collaboration nearly 60,000 pounds of reusable materials were diverted from the waste stream in 2013.

Energy and Climate


Project Standing Sun
Project Standing Sun is an effort of the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance that provides low-income families, whom otherwise would not be able to afford the upfront cost of solar technologies, the opportunity to utilize a renewable source of heat or electricity. Over the past 14 months, Project Standing Sun has increased access to clean and affordable heating and electricity for 61 low-income households across 4 states, which is projected to offset more than 70 metric tons of carbon annually.


Clean Energy and Economic Development Initiative
Senior leaders from the Minnesota Departments of Employment and Economic Development, Commerce, Agriculture, and the Environmental Quality Board formed a team of public and private sector industry leaders to quantify the businesses, employment, wages, and investments directly engaged in the state’s clean energy economy. This partnership has established a baseline of job and wage data to support development and advancement of clean energy and economic development policies in Minnesota. 

Minnesota B3/SB 2030 Programs and Tools
Buildings, Benchmarks, and Beyond (B3) and Sustainable Buildings 2030 (SB 2030) programs provide actionable metrics to address the environmental impact of building energy and resource use. Over 250 new construction and renovation projects have utilized the B3 guidelines. More than 70 projects enrolled in SB 2030 have been designed to achieve operational energy savings of approximately 490 million kBtus per year, the equivalent of taking 10,000 cars off the road. Program success in the public sector has inspired interest in evaluating expansion of the program to all renovations and new construction in the state.

Environmental Education


Master Water Stewards
The Master Water Stewards program recruits, educates, and certifies community leaders who work to increase water infiltration on private properties and educate neighbors about practices that reduce runoff. By the end of 2015 there will be nearly 100 certified Master Water Stewards within the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District. Current certified stewards have installed rain gardens, rain barrels, cisterns, and permeable driveways infiltrating 887,230 gallons of water annually and removing 2.28 pounds of phosphorus and 407 pounds of Total Suspended Solids.


Hennepin County Green Partners Program
Hennepin County collaborates with community organizations to engage the public in overcoming barriers to take action to protect the environment. The goal of the program is to expand the County’s environmental education efforts by supporting organizations that have established relationships with their audiences. Since the program’s creation in 2012, the County has awarded more than $632,000 to 68 projects supporting early childhood education, park districts, nonprofits, youth groups, and new immigrant audiences.

Making 3Rs Childs Play in Scott County
Scott County, CLIMB theater, and local school districts are using theatre to teach environmental stewardship, change student attitudes and behavior, and enlist students to influence family waste reduction. Through plays and other programs, more than 12,000 students and 500 adults are reached each school year. CLIMB has presented environmental education to Scott County students for more than 10 years, and the project is ongoing. During this time, municipal solid waste generation has fallen from 1.54 tons per capita to 0.85 tons per capita in the county.

Food Stewardship


Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program
The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program is a voluntary approach for producers and agricultural landowners to become certified through a whole-farm evaluation that assesses the operation’s risk to water quality and management of that risk. There are currently 31 certified farms that represent 12,861 acres. More than 80 new conservation practices that protect Minnesota’s waters from nonpoint source pollution have been implemented. The goal is to deliver certification services to all agricultural producers in the state within five years.


Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council
The Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council works to increase access to quality food, address hunger and food insecurity, influence policy, and ensure an environmentally sustainable and socially just food system. The food council fosters city-community partnerships and serves as a platform for collaborative action. Outcomes have included making more than 30 city lots available for community gardens, removing barriers to beekeeping in the city, and increasing the availability of healthy food in all Minneapolis stores that accept federal food assistance.

Phosphrous Reduction by Cover Crop
The Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative, Barr Engineering, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency worked together to create procedures and mechanisms for the translation of spring cover crop plantings to phosphorous permit credits. As a result of the program, more than 16,000 pounds of phosphorous is kept out of the Minnesota River each year. The process was one of the first of its kind in the country and the project is referenced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in their how-to manual for developing pollutant trading programs.

Natural Resources


Manston Slough Restoration
Manston Slough is a more than 2,500-acre shallow wetland complex, located in Wilkin County, Minnesota, in the Red River Basin. Ditch construction in the 1800s converted 75% of the wetland basin to cropland. State agencies, federal agencies, a nonprofit organization, and more than 33 private landowners collaborated over many years to restore the Manston Slough wetland and surrounding area. The entire project area encompasses over 7,000 acres providing countless hunting and recreational opportunities for the general public.


Empire Wastewater Treatment Plant - Natural Resource Sustainability
Metropolitan Council Environmental Services owns and operates the Empire Wastewater Treatment Plant located on a 400-acre property on the Vermillion River in Dakota County. Project partners collaborated to stabilize 1,200 feet of severely eroded streambank, installed “lunker boxes” within the stream to provide trout habitat, restored a 50-acre wet meadow wetland, removed all invasive buckthorn vegetation from the floodplain, and enhanced species and plant diversity in a 34-acre grassland. 

Sax-Zim Bog Conservation and Restoration
Sax-Zim Bog is one of the largest peatlands in Minnesota and one of the most important birding sites in North America. More than 240 bird species can be found in the vast area of tamarack and aspen, located about an hour northwest of Duluth. Until recently, this special habitat was unprotected, vulnerable to privately held mineral rights, timber harvesting, and ditching. In a first of its kind, largest-in-Minnesota land exchange, more than 22,000 acres of the most threatened areas of Sax-Zim Bog have been conserved. 

Sustainable Business


Tiny Diner
Tiny Diner is a Minneapolis Powderhorn neighborhood restaurant with a dedicated-structure solar array covered patio surrounded by permaculture-designed gardens. Through the solar array, watershed friendly landscaping, and gardens, the thriving business demonstrates a variety of things people can do environmentally on a smaller scale. The business also operates a production garden and community space where classes are taught on watersheds, bees, landscaping, composting, and more. 


Science Museum of Minnesota: Project No Waste
The Science Museum of Minnesota has achieved two ambitious sustainability milestones through its Project No Waste. In 2014, the museum’s recycling rate reached 75% from a base of 18% at the onset of the project. In February 2015, the museum completed an innovative advanced heat recovery retrofit of its facility that is projected to reduce the museum’s total annual energy consumption by 40%, saving more than $200,000 annually that can be redirected towards the museum’s educational and scientific mission.

Sustainability Hat Trick
Xcel Energy Center, home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, and Saint Paul RiverCentre have transformed waste operations from 15% annual recycling to 60%, worked with the City of Saint Paul and other partners to install two solar energy arrays at the complex, upgraded over 2,000 lights to more efficient technology, and implemented a comprehensive green purchasing program. In 2014, the facility was awarded LEED-Existing Buildings, Green Globes, and APEX/ASTM, making it the first complex in the world to receive these three certifications.

Past Finalists and Winners

2015 Awards Finalists and Winners »

2014 Awards Finalists and Winners »

2013 Awards Finalists and Winners »

2012 Awards Finalists and Winners »

2011 Awards Finalists and Winners »

2010 Awards Finalists and Winners »

2009 Awards Finalists and Winners »


Awards Home »

2016 Awards Finalists »

About the Awards »

Award Categories »

Awards Guidelines & Eligibility »

Awards Judging »

Awards Sponsorships »

Presenting Sponsors

Environmental Lay Group

Great River Energy

Reception sponsor

25th Anniversary Sponsors


Community Action

Critical Collaborator

Stoel Rives LLP

Emerging Leader


Energy and Climate

The Weidt Group

Natural Resources

Sustainable Business

Supporting Sponsors

Minnesota Power

partner SPONSORs

In-kind sponsors


CliftonLarsonAllen LLP

Consulate General of Canada

Rochester Public Utilities

Associate Sponsors

Bremer Bank
G & K Services
Nova Consulting
Smith Partners