Green Notes March: Celebrate Earth Day by taking the Earth Action Challenge

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green notes

Celebrate Earth Day by taking the Earth Action Challenge

Earth Action Challenge I joined graphic

This year, to celebrate Earth Day (coming up on Monday, April 22), we invite you to participate in the Earth Action Challenge. Every day in the week leading up to Earth Day, we’ll focus on an action that you can take to protect the environment and connect you with resources to help you take that action.

During the week, we'll focus on recycling smarter, greening your spring cleaning, getting around in a sustainable way, ditching disposables, capturing rain water, cleaning up in our communities, getting outside, and making every day Earth Day.

Learn more about the actions we'll be focusing on and commit to participate. Then spread the word – we’ve got resources to help you encourage others to join.

Recycle smart – know what goes in your recycling cart

New campaign focuses on the most important items to keep out of your recycling cart

Recycle Smart graphic

Recycling has been in the news a lot lately due to shifts in markets and international policy changes. This has left many Minnesotans wondering what is happening to the recycling placed in their bins, and what they can do now to support recycling.

Keep recycling, but recycling the right stuff

First of all, know that your recycling is getting recycled. Recyclers in Minnesota send most of the material they collect to local and regional markets to be processed into new materials. Overall, Minnesotans are good recyclers. We have significantly lower contamination rates, or the amount of stuff placed in the recycling that can’t actually be recycled, than elsewhere in the country. And Minnesota state law prohibits materials separated and collected for recycling from being trashed.

The best thing you can do to support recycling is to make sure know what can be recycled and keep stuff that isn’t accepted out.

Look for the Recycle Smart campaign

To raise awareness about the importance of recycling the right stuff, Hennepin County is partnering with the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul on a new Recycle Smart campaign. The campaign will focus on important items to keep out of your recycling cart, such as plastic bags, large plastic items, and random metal items.

Learn more about what to recycle, and look for the campaign on Metro Transit ads and social media starting in April.

Defendants sentenced in fraud scheme involving Minnesota recycling company’s improper disposal of hazardous waste

Luminaire Environmental Technologies, Inc., located in Plymouth, and co-defendants John Miller and Joseph Miller have been sentenced for a $1 million fraud scheme related to improper disposal of hazardous waste.

About the case

In 2012, Hennepin County hazardous waste inspectors received an anonymous complaint that Luminaire, a national waste disposal company, was picking up ballasts containing toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and charging their customers a significant fee to recycle and properly dispose of them. Under direction of the owner and the manager, Luminaire employees removed or obscured labels to conceal the fact that some of the ballasts contained PCBs. Luminaire then sold the PCB-containing ballasts as scrap metal to metal recycling facilities. Luminaire falsely certified on shipping manifests that PCB-containing ballasts had been properly transported and received at its Plymouth facility.  As a result of the scheme, Luminaire fraudulently collected more than $1 million in fees and profits.

Company and co-defendants sentenced

Luminaire received a $10,000 fine and five years of probation with special conditions, including an environmental compliance plan. Luminaire owner John Miller received a 36 month prison sentence and $15,000 fine and was ordered to provide over $1 million in restitution to the victims in this case. Luminaire employee Joseph Miller received two years of probation and a $3,000 fine.

Role of Hennepin County hazardous waste inspectors in investigating the case

County inspectors performed the initial investigation by conducting interviews to help determine the scope of any fraudulent activities associated with Luminaire. County officials presented evidence to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), which then took the lead on the case. Hennepin County hazardous waste inspectors continued to help the U.S. EPA build their case by assisting in search warrants, analyzing records, collecting samples to test materials, interviewing customers, and creating reports. The Department of Justice acknowledged the important role that Hennepin County hazardous waste inspectors played in the successful resolution of this case.

About Hennepin County hazardous waste licensing

Ensuring that hazardous waste is properly managed and disposed helps protect human health and the environment. The county does this by licensing more than 5,000 businesses that generate hazardous waste and more than 30 facilities that collect, handle, or treat hazardous waste. Inspection staff also perform routine inspections, investigate complaints, prepare both routine and complex enforcement cases, and provide generator training opportunities.

Learn more in the Department of Justice news release. For more information, contact Mike Risse at or 612-348-5790.

Nation’s largest adopt-a-drain program launches in the Twin Cities

woman cleaning out storm drain

Residents in the metro area can help protect area lakes, rivers, and wetlands by adopting a local storm drain and committing to keep it clear of leaves, grass clippings, trash, and other debris through the changing seasons. The simple act of sweeping up around storm drains protects local lakes and rivers by preventing pollution from entering our shared waterways.

The program is coordinated by Clean Water MN, a coalition of local agencies and organizations that Hennepin County is a member of working together to inspire people to take action to protect water.

Sign up to adopt a storm drain at Simply create an account with your name and address to claim your storm drain. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll receive tips on how to clean up safely.

Grant opportunities and grants awarded

Applications for environmental education grants will be accepted starting April 1

Highpoint Center print making

Hennepin County provides funding and support to organizations to actively educate, engage and motivate residents to become environmental stewards and take action to protect the environment. Applications for the next round of environmental education grants will be accepted starting April 1.

Applications will be accepted in two groups: motivating environmental action with adults and promoting environmental stewardship with youth.

Information sessions will be held:

  • Online webinar: Tuesday, April 9 from 2 to 3 p.m. 
  • In-person: Tuesday, April 23 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, 2522 Marshall St NE in Minneapolis

For more information, contact Patience Caso at or 612-348-9352.

Grants awarded to prevent spread of aquatic invasive species

Taking aquatic vegetation off boat propeller

Hennepin County recently awarded ten grants totaling $176,000 for projects that will prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Organizations will use funding to train volunteers to find aquatic invasive species infestations early in lakes, expand inspections and outreach at public lake accesses, install boat cleaning stations, and fund research and education.

Grants will support projects on more than 20 lakes throughout the county, including Bde Maka Ska, Bryant Lake, Christmas Lake, Fish Lake, Lake Minnetonka, Lake Nokomis, Long Lake and Medicine Lake.

Learn about the grants awarded, and review the accomplishments of the 2018 grant recipients.

For more information, contact Tony Brough at or 612-348-4378.

Hennepin County receives Clean Water Fund grant to improve the health of Rush Creek

Hennepin County has accepted a $142,000 Clean Water Fund grant from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources to implement best management practices in the Rush Creek subwatershed. Staff will work with private landowners to install practices such as manure management, exclusion fencing for livestock, and grassed waterways and buffers for cropped fields. These practices will benefit water quality by preventing pollutants such as sediment and bacteria from reaching the creek.

Rush Creek is a 15,000 acre watershed that drains much of Corcoran and parts of Rogers and Greenfield. It is the largest tributary to Elm Creek, which eventually drains into the Mississippi River. Both Rush Creek and Elm Creek are listed as impaired for nutrients and E. coli by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

For more information, contact Kirsten Barta or 612-543-3373.

In the News

Tips for making the most of your spring cleaning visit to a Hennepin County drop-off facility

Drop-off facilities visit

Visiting a Hennepin County drop-off facility is a quick and easy way to safely dispose of and recycle a variety of household goods. The county has facilities in Brooklyn Park and Bloomington, and visitors are often in and out of the facilities in less than five minutes. Hennepin County Environment and Energy’s Christina Schmitt shared the following tips on Kare11 for maximizing your visit to the drop-off facility:

  • Create a box in your house labeled drop-off facilities to collect items throughout the year that need to be brought in, such as broken string lights and fluorescent light bulbs.
  • Bring along your clothing that isn’t in good enough condition to be donated – the county works with a vendor that recycles it into things like insulation and carpet padding.
  • While you’re decluttering, reflect on the things you buy and if you really need it. The less stuff you buy, the less you’ll have to get rid of later.
  • Visit the Free Product Center while you’re at the facility to see if you can reuse any of the paints, stains, and other items in your upcoming house or craft projects.
  • Not sure the best way to get rid of something? Check the Green Disposal Guide.


Earth Day and Arbor Day events

River litter cleanup

With both Earth Day and Arbor Day coming up in April, it’s a great time to get our in your community to learn about ways you can protect the environment or to give back by volunteering at a cleanup event. Once again, we’ve compiled a list of nearly 60 events happening throughout Hennepin County in April and May. See the map and list to find an event happening near you.

Visit the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center during Doors Open Minneapolis


Doors Open Minneapolis, coming up on May 18 and 19, is a weekend event that allows the public free, behind-the-scenes access to buildings in Minneapolis that are architecturally, culturally, or socially significant.

The Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) will be participating in Doors Open. HERC converts Minneapolis’ trash into energy that provides electricity to 25,000 homes and heat to Target Field and downtown buildings. Visitors can learn how HERC works, see the waste pit and trash trucks on a live video feed in the visitor center, and discover ideas to reduce waste.

Environmental education training: integrating behavior change into environmental education programs

Thursday, May 9 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Washburn Library

Learn how to plan programs around proven approaches to get your participants to change their actions. This will be a deep dive into barriers, strategies, and the journey of behavior change. Hear examples of how Hennepin County environmental education and outreach staff have been using the psychology of behavior change to meet environmental, program and outreach goals. Come ready to participate, learn, start to plan applications for your work, and have fun networking with others working in environmental education in the county. Learn more and RSVP.

Natural resources partnership forum featuring an interactive display on the Mississippi River

The next Hennepin Natural Resources Partnership Forum will be Tuesday, April 23 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Ridgedale Library.

The forum will feature a presentation on an interactive education display developed by Hamline University’s Center for Global Environmental Education that tells the story of culture and conservation on the Mississippi River from the headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico. Get an overview of the tool and see firsthand how easy it is to collect user data, then explore other ways this tool could be used. Learn more and RSVP.

Tree steward training

Saturday, April 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the City of Plymouth Maintenance Facility, 14900 23rd Ave N in Plymouth

Tree planting

Learn the basics of tree care and help take care of the urban forest in your community by becoming a tree steward. Volunteer tree stewards take a one-day class that covers the basics of tree biology, health, planting, watering, and pruning through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on, outdoor field experience. Volunteers will then have opportunities to practice their skills by helping with various tree planting and tree care projects in the community.

The class costs $25. No experience is needed, and all tools and safety equipment are provided. A light breakfast and lunch will be served. Learn more and sign up.

Presentation of the updated Hennepin County geologic atlas

Monday, April 22 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Ridgedale Library 

Hennepin County geologic atlas

The Minnesota Geological Survey (MGS) has recently published the new Hennepin County Geologic Atlas. The atlas includes details about the location and characteristics of subsurface features, especially those that influence groundwater flow and pollutant pathways.

This is the first updated to the atlas in 25 years and is the first time the data is available online.

The public presentation of the atlas will review the geologic resources of Hennepin County and showcase how the map can be used for emergency management and to answer questions about hazard risks.

Events to help with your spring cleaning

2019 hazardous waste collection events

Hennepin County hosts collection events across the county throughout the spring and fall to provide residents with a convenient option to get rid of household hazardous waste. A variety of items are accepted at collection events including paint, aerosols, cleaners, mercury thermostats, and much more.

There are six collection events scheduled in 2019. Each event is held on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. See the 2019 hazardous waste collection events flyer (PDF) the full list of dates, locations and materials accepted.

City cleanups

This spring, cities across Hennepin County are holding cleanup events to make spring cleaning more convenient. City cleanup events offer residents a chance to get rid of hard-to-dispose items such as old furniture, exercise equipment, appliances, electronics, and more.

Cities offer either curbside service or drop-off sites for your items. See if your city is holding a city clean-up event, and be sure to check with your city for details about what’s accepted and other guidelines.

Fix-It Clinics

Instead of tossing broken household items, get them repaired at a Fix-It Clinic! Bring in small household appliances, clothing, electronics, mobile devices and more and receive free guided assistance from volunteers with repair skills to disassemble, troubleshoot and fix their items.

Upcoming Fix-It Clinics are scheduled for:

  • Sunday, April 14 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Eden Prairie Senior Center, 8950 Eden Prairie Road, Eden Prairie
  • Saturday, May 11 from noon to 4 p.m. at The Works Museum, 9740 Grand Avenue South, Bloomington
  • Saturday, June 8 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Utepils Brewing Company, 225 Thomas Avenue North 700, Minneapolis

Spring yard care sales and workshops

This spring, discover a few of the local offerings and resources available to the Hennepin County community.

Hennepin County compost bin sales

Compost bin

Get started composting in your backyard! Pre-order a compost bin for pick up at a distribution event, scheduled for May 7 in Minneapolis, May 9 in Crystal, and June 6 in St. Louis Park. Or purchase a bin during regular facility hours at the Brooklyn Park drop-off facility, no pre-order required. There’s a backyard compost workshop in conjunction with the distribution event in Minneapolis on May 7. Learn more and pre-order a bin.

Recycling Association of Minnesota rain barrel sales

Rain barrel capturing rain water

Capture and reuse rain water by installing a rain barrel. The Recycling Association of Minnesota partners with cities, counties and watersheds to offer high quality, low cost, rain barrels made from recycled material. Rain barrels must be preordered for pick up at a distribution event. Find sale details and place an order.

Metro Blooms resilient yard workshops

Metro Blooms is hosting resilient yard workshops throughout the metro area this spring. Topics include raingarden installation, storm water management, and tree and flower recommendations. Participants get access to personalized landscape design assistance.

Green Tip: Avoid mad trash at this year's Final Four celebration

Orange cut like basketball

Basketball fans rejoice! Minnesota is again hosting a big sports finale. College basketball’s Final Four will be held in downtown Minneapolis in April. If you missed your chance to get tickets, no problem. We have the tips you need to host a zero waste Final Four party of your own.

  • Set up your recycling, trash and organics containers together and make sure they are well labeled to help guests get the right material into the correct container.
  • Pull out the real plates, utensils and napkins and treat your guests in style. While basketball-printed party supplies may be tempting, they cannot be recycled or composted.
  • Decorate with what you already have, like real basketballs and jerseys, instead of balloons or cutouts. You can also make edible basketball-themed decorations using oranges, carrots, bell peppers, red pepper hummus, or dips made from butternut squash or sweet potatoes.
  • For beverages, think in bulk instead of single-serve containers. With so many microbrewery options in the Twin Cities, it’s easy to purchase your beer and cider in growlers or kegs. Serve water, juice or soda in pitchers.

Spread the word by sharing our Choose to Reuse Final Four Celebration article.

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