Rochester Public Utilities | Blog

Individuals and Organizations to be recognized for Environmental Achievements in the Community

ROCHESTER, MN – Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) and the Olmsted County Environmental Commission announce the recipients of the 2015 Environmental Achievement Awards. The recipients will be recognized at an awards banquet on January 21 at the Rochester Golf and Country Club. The awards honor individuals, organizations, schools and businesses that have made a significant contribution in 2015 towards environmental quality in any of the following categories: renewable efforts, conservation, energy, water, agriculture, education, and other.


The 2015 recipients are:


Ivan and Mary Idso

With the support of community volunteers, Ivan and Mary Idso organized and facilitated Rochester’s inaugural Earthfest Celebration, a nine day event that ran from April 18-26, 2015. The celebration included educational sessions at Assisi Heights, Quarry Hill Nature Center, Cascade Meadow Wetlands & Environmental Science Center, and Olmsted County and City of Rochester Parks. The final day of the Earthfest Celebration included a climate march through Rochester, and a free Eco Fair at the Mayo Civic Center. The event drew many people from varying backgrounds and called attention to numerous environmental causes.


Zumbro Valley Bassmasters

There are currently thirty-five active members in Zumbro Valley Bassmasters (ZVBM), which has been an organized fishing club in Rochester since the early 1980s. ZVBM’s mission is to provide Rochester’s youth a chance to experience the outdoors and instill in them a lifelong love of fishing. ZVBM events provide opportunities for families to share quality time, while participating in one of our nation’s favorite pastimes.

This year marked the 4th annual youth fishing event for ZVBM. Members from the club host this event to educate youth on a variety of angling topics. The kids are shown how to properly remove a hook and release a fish. Habitat conservation was also emphasized during the event.


Leslie Hall

When Leslie is not chairing the Extension Master Gardener Dyers Garden at the Olmsted County History Center, she can be found working on her own yard, which she has restored with native plants. Native plants help retain water and prevent soil erosion; they also clean our surface water by filtering out pollutants. Another portion of Leslie’s yard is dedicated to plants that can be used to dye textiles.

Leslie has been a Certified Extension Master Gardener for nine years. She spends much of her time teaching classes on how to use botanicals for dyeing textiles, and why it is important. By using botanicals, Leslie gets all the color she needs to dye fabrics without the chemical waste.


Rochester Alternative Learning Center

Students at the Rochester Alternative Learning Center (ALC) have busy schedules. Some hold family responsibilities well beyond that of a normal teenager, many work part-time jobs, and all have coursework to prepare for. In spite of their obligations, ALC students make time to give back to the environment. This past summer, a group of students participated in a collaborative project that involved bagging Olmsted County compost, and selling it at the People’s Food Cooperative in Rochester. This undertaking served as a pilot project for a local nonprofit’s (Growing Home – Olmsted County) vision of establishing a sustainable urban farm.

ALC students also create their own compost with the school’s kitchen waste, and excess food scraps from the Channel One Regional Food Bank. This compost is used to supplement the school’s garden, which in turn is used to teach students about nutrition. Students have also spent time assisting the Southeastern Minnesota Water Analysis Laboratory in testing water at multiple locations on the Zumbro River.


Silver Lake Foods

Silver Lake Foods is committed to energy efficiency. They were the first store in Rochester to replace their existing open reach cooler cases with a new technology called the “No Energy Door”. This technology uses less lighting than conventional cases and eliminates the need for heaters that control condensate on the glass doors. They also installed electronic commutated motors that reduce the energy load for evaporator fans. Additionally, the entire store has switched to LED lighting. In total, these upgrades have reduced the store’s energy consumption by approximately 212,000 kWh annually.


Bruce Frutiger

Mention Mr. Frutiger to former students from Century High School, and you’ll find he was likely a big influence on their environmental ethics and love of nature. Bruce has worked to involve students in a variety of projects:

  • Conservation activities at the Olmsted County Fair
  • The Envirothon
  • Glacier Stops Here
  • Earthfest
  • Collecting winter water samples for nitrogen testing
  • Stream studies data collection for the Department of Natural Resources and Smallmouth Bass Alliance

He is a board member and active volunteer for the Zumbro Watershed Partnership, and Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center.


Ray Schmitz

As a longtime Rochester area environmental activist, Ray Schmitz has been involved in many local and regional organizations:

  • Environmental Commission
  • Zumbro Watershed Partnership, currentboardmember
  • Sierra Club
  • EagleBluff EnvironmentalLearning Center, currentboardmember
  • SoutheastMinnesota Clean Energy ResourceTeam, currentsteeringcommitteemember
  • Rochester Energy Commission, vice chair
  • Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, current board member
  • Rochester Earthfest Eco Fair planning committee


For more information on energy conservation or the Environmental Achievement Awards visit


About Rochester Public Utilities

As the municipal utility of Rochester, Minn., for more than 110 years, RPU provides high-quality and reliable electricity to over 49,000 customers. Water customers number more than 37,000. RPU continually investigates innovative technologies to help customers realize the best value from the services they receive. Current initiatives include fuel cell research, wind power, and photovoltaic offerings.