And the 2019 Award Winners Are…

  • March 21, 2019
  • |
  • Mike Harley

To most people, spring signals: melting snow, warming temperatures and blooming flowers. To me, though, it means the Environmental Initiative Awards are coming.

Each year, Environmental Initiative honors people and projects focusing not only on environmental outcomes and impact, but also the processes through which they achieve them. We prioritize collaborative, equitable work in the Awards because we know environmental challenges have disproportionate impacts across the state. We want to elevate projects and people who are working to not only address environmental challenges, but also to create holistic solutions that promote economic and community vitality.

That’s why I’m especially proud to announce the winners this year — I believe they signal not only Environmental Initiative’s commitment to centering people and being more equitable in our work, but also a larger shift in the environmental community to prioritize equity and innovation. Our judges were excited to see projects that looked at environmental challenges with fresh eyes in order to create unique solutions. I hope you’re just as excited to learn more about this year’s honorees. So, without further ado, the 2019 Environmental Initiative Award winners:

Courageous Innovator — Dania Marin-Gavilan

Presented by Aveda

Dania Marin-Gavilan is a co-founder of Voices for Environmental Justice. In her work for Voices for Environmental Justice, she has collaborated with others to create a major and minor in Environmental Justice at the University of Minnesota. In addition, she has led the group as it integrates the community into its work on campus and vice versa, planning dialogues and working with the co-creation team for the Upper Harbor Terminal.

Courageous Innovator Nominees: Jeremiah Ellison, Nick Knighton, Analyah Schlaeger Dos Santos, Minnesota Youth Leaders (MN Can’t Wait)

Critical Collaborator — J. Drake Hamilton

Presented by Dorsey and Whitney

J. Drake Hamilton is the Science Policy Director at Fresh Energy, where her work spans across clean energy, climate risk mitigation and sustainability. Her commitment to science drives her to work with others to be ambitious and collaborative in their work, as well as her own. Her communication skills also equip her to effectively share information she finds and include others in decision-making processes in order to reach agreement and build solutions.

Critical Collaborator Nominees: Michael Chaney and Catherine Fleming, Denise Flood, John Linc Stine, Eran Sandquist

Energy and Climate — CU Green Clean Energy Lending Platform

Presented by Stoel Rives

CU Green is a partnership of the Minnesota Credit Union Network that provides a variety of homeowner and small business loans to be used for clean energy projects, such as the installation of home solar projects and the implementation of energy efficiency projects. CU Green has created this platform to make clean energy more accessible to Minnesotans by offering a variety of services and loans, such as below-market-rate residential solar loans and educational resources.

Honorable Mention: City of Mankato Energy Savings Project

Environmental Innovation — Three Rivers Climate Conversations

Presented by 3M

The Three Rivers Climate Conversations are a partnership between Three Rivers Park District and Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy. The series provides an opportunity for park locations in the Three Rivers district to discuss climate science, share the effects of climate change on daily life and host local experts in workshops to develop innovative solutions. The Three Rivers Climate Conversations are designed to invite learning and conversation about climate change in a local environment.

Honorable Mention: Shingle Creek Biochar Filters Project

Rural Vitality — Poplar River Management Board

Presented by Houston Engineering

Poplar River Management Board partners with community groups and local, state and federal partners to address water quality in the Poplar River on Minnesota’s North Shore. The project seeks to reduce erosion on the river’s shores which, in turn, reduces the sediment released into the river. As a result of this work, the Poplar River has been removed from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s “impaired waters” list.

Honorable Mention: Youth Convening Minnesota

Sustainable Leadership: Large Employer — Minnesota State University­–Mankato Energy Savings and Sustainability

Presented by Wenck

Minnesota State University–Mankato is the second largest campus in Minnesota, and serves over 15,000 students. The University designed and implemented a Sustainability Plan to reduce the carbon footprint and improve energy efficiency across campus. Through a series of projects, including lighting retrofits and replacement of boiler controls, the University has reduced its carbon footprint and operating costs.

Honorable Mention: Sustainability at Renewal by Andersen

Sustainable Leadership: Small Employer — Rural Grocery Stores: Energy and Access

Presented by Barr Engineering

Bonnie’s Hometown Grocery is a small business owned and operated by Bonnie Carlson in Clinton, Minnesota. With the support of the Clinton Community, Bonnie has invested in infrastructure to save energy and provide food access to vulnerable people in a rural food desert. Moreover, Bonnie’s partnered with Big Stone Garlic, the University of Minnesota, Russ Davis Wholesale and Mason Brothers Wholesale to build efficient and sustainable supply chains using existing rural infrastructure.

Honorable Mention: Preferred Hauler Deal


Join Environmental Initiative and a community of people who are personally and professionally invested in environmental work to honor these forward-thinking individuals and projects, as well as celebrate the lasting impact of collaboration.