2024 Environmental Initiative Awards in review

Each year, Environmental Initiative invites Minnesota community members to nominate a person or project creating positive change in our environment. Groups chosen by our team of volunteer judges are later recognized at the Environmental Initiative Awards.

In the past three decades, the Awards program has allowed us to uplift over 200 leaders from communities, business, government and environmental nonprofits. We are able to build a statewide network of collaborators committed to social equity and environmental health as changemakers share their stories over good food and drink.

This year’s winners were recognized on June 5 at Mosaic in Minneapolis. They represent a range of work, from rebuilding urban tree canopies to innovating solar integration.

Environmental Initiative is proud to celebrate the work that awardees are doing to create a more just, inclusive, and thriving world. Video stories for each category are linked below.

Critical Collaborator

Mary Lagarde, a member of the White Earth Nation, oversees a range of programs in family and youth services, culture and language, fitness and nutrition, elder support, workforce development, and native arts at the Minneapolis American Indian Center (MAIC). She recently led MAIC’s full renovation, which included a new solar/battery grid.

Watch Mary’s story →

Emerging Leader

Tessa Parks is a young beginning farmer of color working to transform the landscape in Southern Minnesota. On-farm, Tessa uses livestock to build soil health through regenerative practices like winter bale grazing, but she is also an active advocate for emerging farmers, organic agriculture, and civic engagement.

Watch Tessa’s story →

Community-led Collaboration

Great River Greening’s program—Cooling Minnesota Communities—is a tree planting initiative rooted in community-led collaboration, guided by community input, supported by a $10 million, five-year grant from the USDA’s Forest Service, and led by the experienced Greening staff.

Watch Cooling Minnesota Communities’ story →

Rural Vitality

The Soil Health Financial Assistance Program began as a pilot in 2023. Recognizing the gap in public funding for soil health equipment and the numerous community and environmental benefits that healthy soil provides, stakeholders came together to form a permanent grant program.

Watch the Soil Health Financial Assistance Program’s story →

Environmental Innovation

The Forest Assisted Migration Project (FAMP) is a multi-regional research and community engagement project to re-establish a resilient northern forest and bolster the regional economy. The project is meeting this vision through robust seed collection and growing and selling climate-adapted tree seeds.

Watch FAMP’s story →

Energy & Climate

Solar Farmland Access – Emerging Farmers seeks to increase land access for emerging, BIPOC, and immigrant farmers by utilizing spaces under and around solar farms. Initiated in 2023, it aims to create and implement best practices, as well as replicable guidance, for electric utilities, solar developers, and specialty crop and direct market farmers.

Watch Solar Farmland Access – Emerging Farmer’s story →

About the program

The Environmental Initiative Awards celebrates partnerships at the nexus of a healthy environment, a prosperous economy, and an equitable society. We work across differences to create space where people can openly exchange ideas and build solutions to complex environmental challenges through partnership. The Awards celebrates that spirit of collaboration.