Minnesota

The Bold North

These Minnesota changemakers are part of the problem-solving capital of the new economy. They define what it means to forge north.

The Urgency To Go Tree Free, with Zoë Levin, Bim Bam Boo

Zoë Levin, Bim Bam Boo Trees Should Capture Carbon, Not Crap We know the problems with carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions: Climate change, rising sea levels, flooding, droughts, wildfires, ocean acidification, climate refugees, political instability, and a lot more. We know that it’s important to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and the oceans. We can do that by reducing the production of CO2. We can also do that by capturing CO2 in carbon sinks. In the US, forests store 14% of our annual CO2 emissions. Trees are a valuable, and powerful carbon sink. And yet, in the United States, 27,000 trees are flushed down the toilet every day…

Read More

A Former Oil Executive Transforms Waste to Energy, with Dave Goebel, enVerde

Dave Goebel, CEO and Founder, enVerde LLC enVerde converts organic waste into sustainable clean energy. The Office for Technology Commercialization (OTC) is the office at the University of Minnesota whose mission is to facilitate the transfer of technology to licensees. This allows for the development of new products and services that benefit the public good. It also fosters economic growth and generates revenue. Since 2006, the University has spun out 170 startup companies. But there is a challenge. Technology transfer is not simple. For a venture to be successful, it must be desirable (the market wants it), feasible (an organization can produce a market solution), and viable (the cost structure…

Read More

When Sustainability Isn’t Enough, with Mary Jane Melendez, General Mills

Mary Jane Melendez, Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer for General Mills; and President of the General Mills Foundation. General Mills is blending regeneration and philanthropy to create impact. How do you feed a hungry world without destroying the planet? And, how do you do so in a way that is just and equitable? Agriculture and forestry activities generate 24% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The world population will reach 9.7 billion in 2050. And, a growing middle class in emerging countries is straining our global food supply. Mary Jane Melendez is Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer for General Mills. She also serves as President of the General Mills…

Read More

Comfortable, Efficient, and Healthy Buildings, with Deepinder Singh, 75F

Optimizing building energy efficiency can be complicated and expensive. According to Deepinder Singh, it doesn’t have to be. The world has more than 230 billion square meters of building space with another 65 billion square meters coming online in the next decade. Buildings account for 6% of global greenhouse gasses. With the ongoing global pandemic, the CDC has developed guidelines that encourage more fresh air circulation. The goal is to maintain lower viral load in the work atmosphere. Those guidelines could increase energy consumption. Improving energy efficiency could make a significant dent in climate change. It Started with His Daughter Deepinder Singh is a computer network engineer by training. He…

Read More

Healing is in the Environment, with Robert Blake, Solar Bear

Solar Bear is a Native American owned solar installation company. Robert Blake of Solar Bear has a habit of mashing up two problems and coming up with a solution. His driving philosophy is “healing is in the environment.” Solar Bear is a Native American owned solar installation company. They train people on the Red Lake Indian Reservation to install solar power. “If we can do this in Red Lake, we can bring this out to other tribal nations,” Robert explains. “We’re going to see that solar energy can solve a human health crisis. On Native Nations and reservations, there is a high poverty rate, alcohol addiction, and drug addiction. What…

Read More

Confronting Environmental Change in the Midwest, with Janet McCabe, Environmental Resilience Institute

The Environmental Resilience Institute helps midwestern communities understand and prepare for environmental change. There’s something powerful about understanding how a global trend impacts your local community. For example, it’s one thing to hear about world hunger. It’s another to hear about hunger in your state. But there’s a different feeling when you realize that there’s a hungry kid in your neighborhood. As Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” It’s the same thing with climate change. You’ve probably heard about the global climate crisis. And, when your state is mentioned, you might pay attention. But, when you notice the impact on the health and wellbeing of your local community, well,…

Read More

Jessica Hellmann, Geofinancial Analytics and the Institute on the Environment

If you could invent a post-pandemic world, what world would you create? I hear people talking about the desire to return to “normal.” However, normal was unsustainable. Before the pandemic, there was another crisis, an environmental crisis. A crisis in our food systems, our energy systems, our clean water systems, and our unequal economic systems. Coronavirus did not break our systems. It revealed how broken our systems already are. There is a saying, “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” That is why, when faced with intractable problems like COVID-19 or the climate crisis, I like to talk to thought leaders. On the other…

Read More

Cohort Opportunity at Lunar Startups, with Amanda Heyman and Danielle Steer

Lunar Startups creates opportunities and access for underestimated entrepreneurs. The deadline to apply to Cohort 2 is January 13. Danielle Steer, Managing Director of Lunar Startups, describes the events leading to the formation of their organization as a “serendipitous perfect storm.” In 2017, the Knight Foundation became interested in supporting underrepresented, underserved entrepreneurs, such as women, people of color, and LGBTQ entrepreneurs. Around this same period, the late Glen Nelson bequeathed a gift to help American Public Media to invest in the future of journalism. This led to the launch of the Glen Nelson Center. Also, around this same time, Ecolab moved their global headquarters, leaving their former building vacant….

Read More

Social Entrepreneur Live, Part 4 with Caroline Karanja, 26 Letters

26 Letters helps organizations put data and action behind their equity initiatives. A recruiter for a Fortune 500 company once told me, “Minnesota is one of the hardest places to recruit people to. It’s also one of the hardest places to recruit people from.” Once people experience Minnesota, it’s hard to leave. And no wonder. Nineteen Fortune 500 companies call Minnesota home. The startup scene is strong. The annual Twin Cities Startup Week attracts thousands of people. Look at almost any ranking of states and cities, and you’ll find Minnesota near the top. The Trust for Public Land ranked Minneapolis first in large city park systems. And in second place,…

Read More

The Power of Telling Your Secret, with Aneela Idnani Kumar, HabitAware

HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet to help manage Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs). For 20 years, Aneela Idnani Kumar had a secret. She spent her life in shame and embarrassment. One day, unexpectedly, her secret came to light. This moment transformed her life, and in the process, helped thousands of others. Aneela grew up in a somewhat atypical Indian American household. “My parents came to this country in the 1970s with $500 and one suitcase. They made their way to upper middle class. My mom broke away from tradition as a dentist with her professional practice. In contrast, my father worked primarily from a home office and was in charge…

Read More