Clean Air Minnesota earns spot as finalist for Harvard’s Roy Family Award

Graphic for the Clean Air Minnesota, administered by Environmental Initiative, displaying the text 'Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership, 2024 Finalist'. Surrounding the text are images depicting environmental concerns and initiatives: a line of cars emitting exhaust, a yellow construction vehicle moving dirt, a person in protective gear spraying a car, a pile of chopped wood, and a group of people having a meeting in a conference room.

Clean Air Minnesota has been named one of five finalists for the 2024 Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership, presented by the Environment and Natural Resources Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School. The award, presented every two years since 2003, honors an outstanding cross-sector partnership project that enhances environmental quality through novel and innovative approaches.

For more than twenty years, Environmental Initiative has facilitated Clean Air Minnesota, a diverse coalition of leaders from business, government, health, communities, and nonprofits that aims to enhance the air quality by reducing emissions of and exposure to air pollutants. Partners voluntarily collaborate to reduce fine particulate matter and ground-level ozone with a focus on smaller, unregulated sources like vehicles, small businesses, and wood smoke. They also prioritize emission reduction strategies, raise funds, implement projects, and track pollution reduction outcomes.

“No one in Minnesota has to do any of this. We currently meet federal air quality standards,” said Bill Droessler, senior partnership director at Environmental Initiative. “But the partners around the table have continued to invest in clean air and reducing pollution, regardless of where the standards are set. This voluntary, collaborative, and sustained effort is nationally unique,” he added.

Through Clean Air Minnesota, Environmental Initiative has raised over $15 million, to retrofit, upgrade, or replace more than 4,700 diesel vehicles in five states, and to reduce fine particulate matter by 36 tons annually. From 2021 to 2023, other Clean Air Minnesota projects working with small businesses, mobile sources, and wood smoke emissions reduction efforts have reduced 81 tons of volatile organic compounds and 23 tons of NOx.

The Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership provides positive incentives for governments, companies, and organizations worldwide to push the boundaries of creativity and take risks that result in significant changes that benefit the environment.

Finalist selection is based on criteria assessing the partnerships’ innovation, effectiveness, significance, and transferability. The selection committee will choose one winner later this summer and the award will be presented at a ceremony at Harvard Kennedy School in the fall.