It’s hard to believe it’s already the time of year where we’re getting ready to celebrate the 2018 Environmental Initiative Awards. For those that don’t know, our awards program recognizes innovative, impactful, and partnership-driven achievements in the environmental community.
But I’m sure you just want to know who the winners are already! Without further ado, I’m so happy to announce the 2018 Environmental Initiative Award winners. Purchase your tickets or tables for the celebration »This year, we will celebrate five project awards and two leadership awards.
Courageous Innovators: Demetria Fuller & Adam Pruitt, Co-Founders, BrightSide Produce
Demetria (Deedee) Fuller and Adam Pruitt co-founded BrightSide Produce, one of the nation’s only financially sustainable business for distributing fresh fruits and vegetables to small stores in underserved urban neighborhoods. When Fuller and Pruitt were 16 years old (in 2014), they were upset with the lack of healthy items in their neighborhood stores in north Minneapolis. They worked with their mentors at two local non-profits (Project Sweetie Pie, Community Table Co-op) and the Minneapolis Health Department to diagnose the problem. BrightSide now delivers fruits and vegetables to 24 stores in north and south Minneapolis, providing store owners with a distribution option that is unavailable elsewhere in the Twin Cities or in any other metropolitan area in the United States. In 2017, BrightSide established a second operation in San Diego, California in collaboration with San Diego State University. Fuller and Pruitt have helped forge the various partnerships involved in this operation: between youth and university students, between store owners and the delivery team, and between the university and the community.
Critical Collaborator: Ellen Anderson, Executive Director, University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab
Ellen Anderson has a consistent track-record of bringing people together. These achievements result from her service in the Minnesota Senate, her leadership at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, and her current position as a policy researcher and analyst at the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. As a Minnesota Senator (1993-2011), Anderson built respectful relationships with those holding differing opinions and built numerous bipartisan coalitions. As a result of her bipartisanship, Anderson passed landmark legislation in the Next Generation Energy Act and the Renewable Energy Standard. In 2013, when Anderson worked for Minnesota’s Environmental Quality Board, she organized the Environmental Congress. In that role, she made sure youth played a powerful part by supporting an inclusive, youth-led gathering that involved hundreds of students called the Next Generation Youth Environmental Congress. Summarizing her career of renewable energy and environmental leadership, one of Anderson’s long-time colleagues and a distinguished energy leader, Executive Director of Fresh Energy Michael Noble, says: “No single public sector leader has had more influence on Minnesota’s success as a clean energy leader than Ellen Anderson.”
Energy & Climate: Community Solar for Community Action (CS4CA)
Community Solar for Community Action (CS4CA) is a community-based solar project that aims to develop place-based low-income community solar assets that are owned by the community to proactively alleviate reliance on Federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) energy assistance by integrating renewable energy into energy assistance programs to more fully meet the needs of low-income community members. The CS4CA can be replicated with Community Action Partnerships across the country. This project utilizes partnerships between the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL), multiple utility companies, local governments, including the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and foundations, such as McKnight and Headwaters. This project aims to tackle the systemic problem of energy poverty by equipping communities with clean renewable and reliable energy stability while reducing carbon emissions and democratizing access to solar in low-wealth communities.
Honorable Mention: Moving Winona County Forward
Environmental Innovation: Dave Larsen American Indian Tour
The Dave Larsen American Indian Immersion Experience is a semester-long college class that includes an annual five-day tour for American Indian high school and college students of American Indian nations throughout Minnesota that teaches environmental stewardship and activism from an Indigenous perspective. The goal of this project is to create learning environments that are respectful of cultural practices in order to enhance Indigenous voices and visibility in the environmental movement and educational system. This project partners across six high schools, the University of Minnesota, and several tribal nations and colleges, including the Lower Sioux Community and Fond du Lac Nation and Tribal College, to facilitate hands-on experiences with leading Indigenous educators and create cross-institutional and community collaboration for student success.
Honorable Mention: HomeFree
Rural Vitality: Root River Field to Stream Partnership
The Root River Field to Stream Partnership (RRFSP) is a water monitoring project located in southeast Minnesota that combines data collection, strong personal relationships, and conservation action. Administered by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, this project conducted intensive surface and groundwater monitoring in order to determine the effectiveness of agricultural conservation practices. By working closely with water conservation districts and farmers, a total of 90 grass waterways spanning more than 65,000 feet have been installed in high priority areas. Thirteen new water and sediment control basins and catchment ponds we also installed, and nearly 200 acres of cover crops have been planted— among other outcomes. These results were achieved through close and careful coordination with local farmers. The RRFSP’s 98 percent participation rate is a result of dedicated staff, concerted effort to help farmers with applications, continual follow-up, and a carefully built trust and relationship.
Honorable Mention: Southeast Minnesota Wastewater Initiative
Sustainable Leadership: Large Employer: Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN
Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN focuses on driving on-farm improvements, protecting natural resources and helping to ensure the health and productivity of every acre for every farmer. To do this, Land O’Lakes works with farmers and ag realtors to identify customized approaches best suited for each farm. Agriculture retailers, long- trusted advisors to farmers, are trained by SUSTAIN staff in specialized practices, products and cutting-edge technology that provide holistic farm insights and advance system-wide on-farm conservation. Also part of the project, Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN assists farmers with becoming certified in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) by engaging and educating farmers on benefits, acting as advisors in grant processes, and harnessing existing data collection capabilities. The joining of regulatory bodies, private sector interests, and farmer perspectives to create jointly implemented stewardship solutions is groundbreaking. Trust and alignment of priorities amongst the partners were crucial to the success of the project.
Honorable Mention: U.S. Bank Stadium Zero Waste Implementation
Sustainable Leadership: Small Employer: Liberty Apartments & Townhomes
In partnership with Intuitive Investments, Liberty Investment Partners, Steven Scott Management, Tanek Architects, Momentum Design Group, Great Western Bank, the St. Paul Port Authority and TruNorth Solar, The Liberty was developed as a sustainable solar community. The project is comprised of a 136kw PV System for the Apartment Building, a 20kw PV System for the Community Clubhouse to run the pool pumps, as well as 55 individual PV systems to power each Townhome unit. These systems will remarkably lower the total electrical bills for the entire property while making a meaningful difference in our future energy recipe. Further, installing the PV systems as part of a sustainable project portfolio at inception, the installation and labor costs are greatly reduced, in contrast to retroactively adapting the electric system to clean energy years later. Making solar energy an integral part of community development in the Twin Cities Metro Area is leading-edge and not commonly available for rental apartment living. Residents of Liberty will be consuming clean energy from day one offsetting 5,518 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over 25 years.
Honorable Mention: Murphy: Sustainable Leader in Logistics
CELEBRATE THESE WINNERS ON MAY 23