Green Notes September: Funding available for natural resources projects and extending a thanks to all of our volunteers

green notes

Get funding for natural resources projects: apply for a Good Steward grant

Placing the floating islands for Winchester Pond

Turn your environmental ideas into reality with support from a Natural Resources Good Steward Grant. Funding is available for projects that improve water quality, enhance natural areas, and promote environmental stewardship to the community.

Typical projects include:

  • Rain gardens
  • Stream bank stabilization
  • Native vegetation restoration

Grants have also supported unique ideas, such as a group of neighbors in Bloomington who worked together to improve the water quality of Winchester Pond with experimental floating islands. Watch a video to learn more about this project.

Grant applications are being accepted now through Tuesday, November 5. Learn more and apply.

If you have questions or need assistance with the application, contact Jim Kujawa at

Screenshot of Winchester Pond video

Thanks to all of our volunteers!

The recent Hennepin County Environment and Energy Volunteer Appreciation Event provided an opportunity to recognize the hard work and commitment of all of our volunteers and celebrate how they contribute to the success of our programs. About 80 people attended the event at Theodore Wirth Park Pavilion that featured a wetland walk to learn about water quality monitoring and protections, a tree seedling giveaway, and fix-it opportunities. Volunteers were recognized for their impressive contributions to the following programs.

Wetland Health Evaluation Program

WHEP volunteers in a wetland

Wetland Health Evaluation Program volunteers wade into wetlands to collect macroinvertebrates, or small spineless organisms, and identify vegetation. Since macroinvertebrates and vegetation are influenced by physical and chemical properties of wetlands and some species are more tolerant of poor water quality than others, this data provides insights into the health of our wetlands. The data is used by cities and watersheds. In 2019, 167 volunteers contributed more than 1,000 hours monitoring 29 sites.

Fix-It Clinics

Fix-It Clinic volunteers

Volunteers skilled in soldering, electronics repair, electrical repair, sewing, wood working and general tinkering help residents troubleshoot and repair broken household items. With volunteers providing about 1,400 hours of essential support each year, Fix-It Clinics have kept nearly 40,000 pounds of household goods out of the trash since the program started in 2012.

Master Recycler/Composters

Master Recycler/Composter volunteers

Volunteers with a passion for the 3Rs are trained on waste prevention, recycling and composting through an extensive six week course that features industry experts and field trips to local waste processing and recycling facilities. Once training is complete, participants commit to volunteer 30 hours. Volunteer activities include staffing booths at events and designing and implementing waste reduction and recycling projects. There are now 522 trained Master Recycler/Composter volunteers who have reached more than 577,000 people.

Tree stewards

Hiawatha tree planting

Tree stewards take a class to learn the basics of tree biology, tree planting, watering, pruning, and tree health through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on, outdoor field experience. Volunteers then have opportunities to help plant and care for trees with the county and partnering organizations.

Tree steward volunteers helped plant more than 100 trees along Hiawatha Avenue and have conducted outreach to raise awareness about emerald ash borer.

Making Hiawatha Avenue more pollinator friendly with biochar and bee lawns

Hiawatha Avenue bee lawn installation

Installation of a pollinator-friendly landscape that will require less maintenance than conventional turf grass is underway on Hiawatha Avenue in Minneapolis. As part of ongoing efforts to improve the landscape along the Hiawatha corridor, Hennepin County is working in collaboration with the City of Minneapolis on a pilot project that involves establishing a bee lawn in the median between 42nd Street and 46th Street.

The project began with the excavation of some of the existing soils in the median to create shallow drainage swales that will capture and infiltrate surface water. A mixture of compost and biochar were then incorporated to add nutrients to the soil and loosen the compacted soil to improve water infiltration.

Compost is a nutrient-rich soil additive created from the controlled decomposition of yard waste, food scraps, and other organic materials. Biochar is a carbon-rich charcoal created by superheating wood or other biomass in a low-oxygen kiln. Biochar is gaining popularity as a soil additive and a potential way to sequester carbon.

Bee lawn up close

After the soil was amended, a bee lawn seed mixture of specialized perennial grasses and flowering plants was spread. Once established, the bee lawn will provide an attractive food source for pollinators throughout the growing season. Over the next two years, the effectiveness of the soil improvements and bee lawn planting will be monitored to determine if this approach could be used in other locations in Minneapolis and throughout Hennepin County.

This project was partially funded through the Minnesota Department of Transportation Community Roadside Landscape Partnership Grant Program.

For more information, contact Robb Luckow at

Environmental cleanup grant applications due November 4

Hennepin County Environmental Response Fund grants assist with the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated sites where the added cost of environment cleanup is a barrier to site improvement. Projects supported by these grants provide a variety of community benefits, including the creation of affordable or moderately priced housing, economic development, green space, and infrastructure improvements.

Applications for the fall 2019 application round are due by 3 p.m. on November 4. Staff is available to answer questions and offer resources. Contact

In the News

Tips for recycling better

Hennepin County recycling specialist Ben Knudson was recently interviewed on WCCO radio about the current state of recycling and how we can be better recyclers. Some tips and insights he shared include:

  • Your recyclables are getting recycled. Most recycling in Minnesota is sold locally or regionally, and there is a demand for recycled materials as companies are increasingly incorporating them into new items.
  • It’s important to recycle the right things. Don’t put plastic bags in your recycling. Don’t bag recyclables – place them loose in your cart. Keep electronics and batteries out of your recycling cart – these can damage equipment at recycling facilities and even cause fires.
  • The number on the bottom of plastic items tells you what type of plastic it is but not whether the items is recyclable. A general rule of thumb: plastics #1, 2, and 5 that are a plastic bottle, jug, cup, or container are recyclable.
  • Focus on reducing single-use plastics. For example, refill a reusable bottle rather than using a single-use plastic bottle.

Listen to the entire conversation starting at 15:30 into the recording.


Fix-It Clinics

Repairing an item at a Fix-It Clinic

Get household items fixed for free and learn valuable repair skills at an upcoming Fix-It Clinic. Fix-It Clinics are an opportunity to 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 repair your items.

A recent article on Route Fifty about the national growth in fix-it clinics highlight how Hennepin County’s Fix-It Clinics have remained popular over the years. Each month, approximately 40 volunteers help troubleshoot repairs for 60 to 100 people. Over the lifespan of the program, volunteers have fixed more than 5,800 items, with vacuum cleaners and lamps being the most common, and diverted nearly 40,000 pounds of waste from the trash.

Teaching people how to make repairs is a key element of every Fix-It Clinic. It’s empowering, fun, and helps people realize they could repair other things when they break at home.

Upcoming clinics are scheduled for:

  • Sunday, October 13 from noon to 4 p.m. at North Regional Library in Minneapolis 
  • Saturday, November 9 from noon to 4 p.m. at Excelsior United Methodist Church
  • Saturday, December 14 from noon to 4 p.m. at Maple Grove Community Center

Join Litter Be Gone: Minneapolis’ citywide litter cleanup

Group of litter be gone volunteers

Volunteer with family and friends to pick up litter in your neighborhood during cleanups happening throughout Minneapolis from October 3 through 12. Residents, businesses, and community groups can help keep their streets clean and prevent litter from ending up in storm drains and waterways. Find out how to get involved.

Lunchbox and lessen: Free zero waste lesson from Clean Water Action

Tuesday, October 29 from noon to 1 p.m. at 330 2nd Ave S in downtown Minneapolis

Bring your lunch and join Clean Water Action for a free lesson about zero waste from a panel of experts. This lesson is being offered as part of Clean Water Action’s environmental education grant from Hennepin County. All attendees will receive a stainless steel straw. Learn more and RSVP.

Green Tip: This fall, protect our water by adopting a drain

Woman getting ready to clean storm drain

When leaves fall in your street, they wash into storm drains that flow directly into the nearest lake or river. This can feed unwanted algae growth next summer.

This fall, do something to stop the pollution: adopt a storm drain! It takes 15 minutes, twice a month, to adopt a storm drain.

Head over to to find adoptable drains near you. Then follow these steps to get started:

  1. Get your cleaning gear together. Some supplies you might need include a broom, rake, trash grabber, gloves, an orange cone and/or safety vest, snow shovel or dustpan, and a pail or yard waste bag (a rolling pail would be deluxe if you have one).
  2. Clean the surface of the storm drain grate and the area around it. Never remove the grate or otherwise attempt to clean inside the catch basin. If the drain seems to be plugged or have any problems, contact city staff so they can send workers to address the issue.
  3. Safety first. Wear gloves to protect your hands and be careful when picking up leaves and trash. You might want to use a trash grabber to collect debris. Consider wearing bright or reflective clothing. Do not stand or crouch on busy streets.
  4. Separate and dispose of the waste. Sort the waste you collect into the appropriate bins: recyclables (glass and plastic bottles, cans), yard waste (leaves, grass clippings, sticks, and sediment), and trash. Sediment collected in the spring is not compostable as it contains chemical residue from deicers used over the winter. Put it in the trash.
  5. Help calculate our collective impact. Remember to report when you clean your storm drain and how much waste you collect at

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