Recognizing community members, businesses, and organizations that make a significant contribution to environmental quality in Olmsted County is at the core of what the Environmental Achievement Awards stand for.
The awards were developed in 1992 to recognize individuals and groups that are making Olmsted County a more sustainable community through innovative programs and practices that demonstrate environmental leadership.
Categories available for nomination include climate change, conservation, education, energy, renewables, sustainable food production, water, and other.
To nominate an individual, family, youth, organization, farm, or business you can print off the standard nomination form or fill in the online nomination form and print off when completed.
Nominations for the 2019 awards are no longer being accepted. Please check back for timing of 2020 nomination submissions.
The 2018 Environmental Award Recipients
The Monarch butterfly is easy to spot with its wings of bright orange, black, and white polka dots. Every fall, these amazing creatures embark on a journey that extends over 2,000 miles, migrating from their home range in Canada and the United States to the forests of Central Mexico. More than just a pretty sight, these insects contribute to the environmental health of our planet by pollinating plants along the way. Unfortunately, populations have been in serious decline as a result of habitat loss and a changing climate.
Keith Anderson is trying to change that. One day in the spring of 2017, he saw a monarch lay an egg. With his curiosity piqued, he went looking for and found about a dozen monarch caterpillars. The next day, all of them were gone. This motivated him to begin raising the butterflies indoors. Since that day, Keith has raised over 1,000 butterflies from the eggs found in his yard alone. He has shared chrysalises with Quarry Hill Nature Center, the MN Master Naturalists, and local schools. His work is inspiring others in the community to raise and release butterflies of their own.
Lincoln K-8 Faculty Beekeepers
Honey bees are all-star pollinators. The U.S. Department of Agriculture claims that managed colonies add at least $15 billion of value to U.S. agriculture annually through increased yields and quality harvests. With the overall health of the species in question, faculty members at Lincoln K-8 District-Wide School found a way to introduce their students to these amazing insects.
In May of 2018, the school purchased a Flow™ Hive and built a foundation for it to sit on. This style of hive allows the students to see what’s going on inside the hive without disturbing it. The school worked with the Boy Scouts of America to locate the hive at the Gamehaven Council Headquarters. Doing so provided more space for the bees and ensured the hive wouldn’t get hit by an errant playground pass. Additionally, the University of Minnesota Extension was crucial to the project’s success in educating the teachers on how to properly care for the bees. The school’s hive will serve as an active learning opportunity for many classes to come, fostering an appreciation, rather than a fear of bees.
Curt Tvedt is a life-long learner with a passion for soil health. He has been incorporating conservation practices since he began farming decades ago, but as of 2015, Curt has learned that we can build soil back relatively quickly through no-tilling and cover cropping. For the past three years, Curt has planted soybeans into living rye in the spring and later crimped the rye to provide a mat of residue for the soybeans to grow through. This protects the soil from heavy rains and naturally suppresses weed growth. Eventually, he would like to increase his soil health to the point of not needing as many inputs (labor, fuel, fertilizer, etc.).
Curt has started peer-to-peer education groups to promote conservation farming. As a member of the Land Stewardship Project—an organization that promotes sustainable farming—he has hosted field-days to share his successes through presentations and demonstrations. Additionally, he has taken courses in microbiology to better understand processes that build organic matter back into the soil.
Sierra Student Coalition at UMR
The Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) at the University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR) believes that through teamwork and creative collaboration, citizens can contribute to scientific discovery and the advancement of a local policy designed to protect people and the environment. In March 2017, the SSC began collaborating with the following organizations to develop a community-driven air quality study:
- Rochester Sierra Club
- Rochester Energy Commission
- RNeighbors Association
- Zumbro Valley Medical Society
- Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
- Pediatric Asthma Epidemiology Research Unit
- Fresh Energy Board
- UMR Faculty and Staff
The Rochester Air Quality Feasibility Project was modeled after an air quality study conducted by faculty at the University of Iowa (UI). SSC students talked extensively with the creators of the UI study and took their experiences into account when deciding research methods, materials, and the study’s structure. With the help of volunteers, the SSC collected air samples at multiple locations across Rochester in August and December of 2017. In 2018, SSC students worked with local physicians to analyze the data.
The Rochester Air Quality Feasibility Project found that levels of particulate matter in the air can vary considerably across neighborhoods in Rochester. The study provided preliminary data that supports the addition of more air monitors in town.
“People protect what they love, they love what they understand, and they understand what they are taught.” These words from Jacques-Yves Cousteau stuck with De Cansler throughout her teaching career and beyond. For many years, De used monarch butterflies donated by the University of Minnesota Monarch Lab, as a focal organism in her middle school science classes. The students were able to literally watch science come to life as the butterflies progressed through their life cycle’s various stages. In 2006, she furthered her monarch expertise by spending a year-long sabbatical in the U of M’s Monarch Lab. The knowledge she gained through the experience proved especially valuable once the Monarch Lab stopped distributing eggs and larvae to classrooms in 2008.
De began breeding and raising her own monarchs. She retired from teaching in 2010, but her work with the butterflies continued. De has delivered countless eggs, larvae, and chrysalises to schools and organizations across Southeastern Minnesota at no charge. She has also shared her knowledge with teachers across the country. Thanks to her work, thousands of students have a better understanding of the natural world around them.
Homestead Trails Neighborhood Association
In 2010, the Homestead Trails Neighborhood Association worked with the Rochester Parks and Recreation Department to establish a policy that allowed residents to plant vegetable and flower gardens on parkland and/or public lands. Once permission was granted for their garden, the neighbors began work clearing a lot at the junction of King Court SE and Neville Court SE in Rochester. The site had previously been used as on old construction dump site and was filled with concrete slabs, broken asphalt, old pipes, and more. The neighborhood received multiple RNeighbors Project Grants to rent equipment heavy enough to remove the debris. Fresh dirt and compost were brought in to improve soil fertility which allowed the neighbors to begin plans of establishing a community garden.
An average of 35 neighbors help with the garden each year and an estimated 55 individuals have been involved in the work since the project began. With time, sweat, and patience, the Homestead Trails Neighborhood Association transformed this piece of land from a waste site into a thriving food source and gathering space.
- The lot’s soil fertility was restored.
- At least 25 homes now have access to fresh veggies four months of the year.
- Planting trees and restoring native grasses/flowers reduce stormwater runoff.
- Native flowers bloom around the garden and attract pollinators.
Andrew Pruett’s connection to Quarry Hill Nature Center goes back almost thirty years. At twelve years old, he would ride his bike to the Nature Center to help feed the animals. As a senior in high school, he cleared buckthorn from Quarry Hill Park’s oak savanna. These days, Andrew volunteers as a beekeeper and cares for the captive animals.
His passion for honey bees stemmed from his father, who kept bees and received subscriptions to the American Bee Journal—Andrew remembers reading copies cover to cover. Years later, his passion was reinforced by his future wife, an experienced beekeeper and former Wisconsin Honey Queen.
For the last eight years, Andrew has overseen bee care at Quarry Hill Nature Center. He feeds the bees, regularly checks on the queen, and monitors the overall health of the colony. Andrew also keeps three hives on his own property to supplement Quarry Hill’s hive if the population drops.
Since 2016, Andrew has helped care for the Nature Center’s captive animals. He has researched every animal in his care and readily shares his knowledge with the public. Andrew hopes his efforts will inspire the next generation to appreciate wildlife as much as he does.