Green Notes December: Taking action on climate change, aquatic invasive species prevention grants available, 2019 highlights and looking ahead with 2020 resolutions

green notes

Taking action on climate change

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges the county faces because of its significant environmental, societal, and economic impacts on both a global and local level.

In 2019, the county assessed the impact of climate change to Hennepin County and developed a coordinated resilience and adaptation planning process. In 2020, the county will develop a climate action plan with initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strategies to adapt to our change climate. 

Priorities for the plan include:

  • Ensuring we are prepared to deliver services in times of disruption and shocks
  • Protecting people, especially vulnerable populations, without worsening racial disparities 
  • Protecting our buildings, roads, other infrastructure and natural resources
  • Pursuing emissions reductions that align with core county functions and existing priorities

The county leads in many areas that offer the most effective ways to respond to climate change, such as protecting vulnerable people, investing in transit, conserving energy use in our buildings, and protecting our tree canopy.  

The county’s success in responding to climate change relies on the ability to work collaboratively with partners and engage residents. The county will connect with other leaders in Minnesota and nationally to foster long-term planning and policy efforts and leverage resources. We also want to understand how county residents want to be engaged in the planning process and promote actions we can all take now to reduce our carbon footprint.

Learn more about the county’s process for creating the climate action plan or contact Brian Shekleton at or 612-348-0349.

Grants available to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species

Volunteer monitoring for aquatic invasive species

Local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, institutions, and businesses in Hennepin County can apply now for funding to implement projects that prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS).

Grant funding can be used to address pathways of AIS introduction, provide education, promote behavior change, implement early detection and rapid response efforts, and other ideas that prevent the spread of AIS.

Changes to grant funding guidelines

Hennepin County has received funding from the State of Minnesota since 2014 to implement plans to stop the introduction or limit the spread of AIS. County staff recently engaged more than 60 stakeholders in evaluating the county’s AIS prevention programs, guidelines, and funding options.

The following adjustments were made to the county’s AIS prevention aid guidelines to direct the use of funds received 2020 through 2025:

  • Updating the goals to reflect the Hennepin County Natural Resources Strategic Plan.
  • Defining the county’s best practices for public water access design.
  • Encouraging enforcement partners to increase randomization and unpredictability. 
  • Allocating funding by categories to ensure the program is comprehensive.
  • Funding core program functions – enforcement at public water accesses and public access redesign projects – outside of the grant process to help partners with long-term planning and streamline administrative tasks involved with public access redesigns.

Applications for this round of grants are due by January 23, 2020. Learn more and apply.

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

Natural resources grant supports first “Eco-Mosque” in the Twin Cities

Masjid-An-Nur mosque

Hennepin County was recently awarded $75,000 from the Metropolitan Council on behalf of the Masjid An-Nur Mosque. Accepting and disbursing this grant will facilitate water quality projects at Masjid An-Nur and support the first “Eco-Mosque” in the Twin Cities.

The mosque is situated at a low point on the property and has experienced flooding in one of the main entrances due to heavy rains in the past few years. The Masjid An-Nur stormwater project that will begin with the installation of 10 rain gardens will provide many benefits to residents. These include aiding in stormwater management, protecting and improving water quality, and providing the neighborhood a green gathering space.

The county is contributing $50,000 to this project through a Natural Resources Opportunity Grant and the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization is assisting with a $60,000 Action Grant. Learn more about the project.

Looking back: Our 2019 highlights

In collaboration with our residents, businesses, and partners, we made some great progress this year in our work to protect the environment. Here are some of our highlights from 2019.

Awarded grants for environmental projects

Providing grants is an important way that we collaborate with and empower communities, increase capacity for our partners, and support innovative and customized projects to protect the environment.

Metro Blooms pollinator planting group

In 2019, we awarded grants for:

  • Contaminated lands cleanup: 13 grants were awarded for asbestos and lead-based paint abatement, vapor mitigation, and contaminated soil assessment and cleanup.
  • Environmental education: 16 grants were awarded to organizations to engage their audiences in learning about the environment and taking action to be environmental stewards.
  • Business recycling: more than 90 grants were awarded to businesses, organizations, and institutions to prevent waste, improve recycling, and start organics recycling.
  • Tree canopy improvements: 40 grants were awarded to cities, nonprofit organizations, schools, and affordable housing properties to plant trees to combat threats from invasive species and disease, increase the diversity and resiliency of the tree canopy, and educate the public.
  • Natural resources protection: 11 grants were awarded for practices that improve natural resources and protect water, such as installing rain gardens, planting native vegetation, controlling erosion, improving stormwater ponds, and restoring streams, wetlands and woodlands.
  • Aquatic invasive species prevention: 10 grants were awarded for projects that prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species by training volunteers to look for infestations, expanding inspections and outreach at public accesses, installing boat cleaning stations, and funding research and education.
  • Recycling and waste reduction in schools: 11 grants were awarded to start or improve recycling and organics recycling and encourage waste prevention in schools.

Supported businesses in complying with new recycling requirements

Chef putting food into organics recycling container

New recycling requirements go into effect January 1, 2020, requiring that businesses have adequate recycling services and label recycling containers properly and businesses that generate large quantities of food waste implement food recycling.

To help businesses comply, the county notified businesses about the new requirements, developed training materials and how-to-comply guides for recycling and organics recycling, created a central access point for businesses to connect with a recycling specialist ( or 612-543-9298), set up an online form to request technical assistance or a site visit, and established new guidelines for business recycling grants that prioritize waste prevention and food waste recycling. The county also awarded grants to business associations to conduct outreach to improve commercial recycling.

Enhanced our tree canopy

Tree planting in Champlin

Trees and forests provide many benefits, including improving the health of ourselves and our communities. Our forestry efforts focus on increasing the diversity and resiliency of the county’s urban forest, addressing disparities in the tree canopy, and combating the threat of tree pests and disease.

This year, we planted more than 1,200 new trees along county roads, at libraries, and at county facilities. We hosted several community planting events, offered two tree steward training classes, and planted trees at parks, schools, and affordable housing properties in collaboration with grantees. We highlighted unique tree species that we are planting to increase the diversity of our tree canopy, and we developed new materials to help residents decide how to manage ash trees from the threat of emerald ash borer.

Focused on waste prevention

Zero Waste Challenge children participants showing off low-waste grocery shopping

With personalized support, households participating in the Zero Waste Challenge reduced the amount of waste generated per person per day by almost one third and increased the average diversion rate (or materials going to recycling or composting rather than in the trash) to 64%, a big increase from 44% at the beginning of the challenge.

Participants called the challenge eye-opening and a conversation-starter, and said it both educated them and pushed them into action. Some actions that helped them be successful included starting organics recycling or backyard composting, improving their recycling, eliminating disposables, getting off of junk mail lists, cutting back on online purchase, avoiding packaging waste, preventing food waste, making their own products, and getting involved in their communities.

Fix-It Clinic participant and volunteer

We continued to teach valuable repair skills and build community at monthly Fix-It Clinics. Each clinic involves about 40 volunteers helping 60 to 100 people troubleshoot and repair their items. We continue to be successful at fixing about 75 percent of the items that are brought in.

We shared tips to fight food waste at the farmers market. With our kitchen display, people learned how to store fresh foods to make them last.

Educated about recycling with Recycle Smart and Recyclo

Recycle Smart keep plastic bags out of your recycling cart graphic

The best thing you can do to support recycling is to make sure you know what can be recycled and keep stuff that isn’t accepted out. The Recycle Smart campaign, a yearlong effort developed in partnership with Minneapolis and St. Paul, focused on important items to keep out of your recycling cart, such as plastic bags, large plastic items, and random metal items. We also celebrated America Recycles Day by focusing on what you can recycle and why it’s important.

Recyclo display

For the younger generation, we taught kids about the value of recycling with our environmental education display that rotated through Hennepin County libraries. The display and accompanying activity book (PDF) follow the story of Recyclo, a superhero who teaches youth about the power of recycling all while fending off villains like the evil Lord Waste-A-Ton and Garbage Giant.

Helped residents get started with organics recycling

Organics recycling starter kits

Opportunities for residents to participate in organics recycling programs continue to expand. Robbinsdale started offering curbside organics recycling service and St. Anthony opened an organics recycling drop-off. To help residents get started with organics recycling, we distributed starter kits at farmers markets in Bloomington, Richfield, and Hopkins – all cities that have recently opened organics recycling drop-off sites. To increase signup and participation in more established programs, we also provided grants to community groups in Minneapolis to conduct outreach on organics recycling.

Expanded our reach with the help of dedicated volunteers

WHEP volunteers

Each year, volunteers make impressive contributions to the success of our programs:

  • Wetland Health Evaluation Program volunteers wade into wetlands to collect data on the health of those important ecosystems. In 2019, 167 volunteers contributed more than 1,000 hours monitoring 29 sites.
  • Fix-It Clinic volunteers 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 attend a six-week course on waste prevention, recycling and composting then commit to volunteering 30 hours educating the public and designing waste reduction and recycling projects. There are now 522 trained Master Recycler/Composter volunteers who have reached more than 577,000 people.
  • Tree stewards take a class to learn the basics of tree biology and tree care then help plant and care for trees with the county and partnering organizations.
  • Master Water Stewards are trained and certified community leaders that implement projects to prevent water pollution and educate community members to conserve and protect our waterways. We supported our second cohort of Master Water Stewards this year.

Ensured proper disposal of hazardous waste and problem materials

About 130,000 visitors came to our drop-off facilities or collection events to get rid electronics, appliances, and household hazardous wastes in 2019. We also answered questions on more than 20,000 phones calls and provided disposal information online to more than 300,000 users.

We license over 5,300 businesses to ensure they are properly managing hazardous waste to protect the environment, and we conducted more than 640 compliance inspections this year. Hennepin County inspectors also helped investigate the case against Luminaire Technologies, Inc. that resulted in the company and its owners being fined and sentenced to probation or prison time for a fraud scheme involving the improper disposal of toxic chemicals.

Green Tip: Looking ahead – choose what you will do to protect the environment in 2020

The new year brings a time for renewal and resolutions. When asked what they will do to protect the environment in 2020, staff at Hennepin Environment and Energy contributed a variety of ideas.

Getting an energy audit, biking to work, wasting less food, buying in bulk, planting a pollinator, eating less meat, planting trees, signing up for solar share for household electricity, installing a rain barrel, composting organics - there are so many actions you can take!

Environment and energy staff resolutions for 2020


Setting and sharing your goals is a good first step in making change. To be successful in setting resolutions for the environment that you can actually keep, we recommend:

  • Being realistic: Choose something that is impactful but fits within your lifestyle.
  • Being specific: Rather than “reduce” or “use less,” choose a specific action like avoiding single-serving snack packaging or buying in bulk.
  • Measuring your progress: Set a time where you will check in to see how you are doing or milestones you need to reach along the way to achieving your goals.
  • Don’t give up: It takes a while to establish new habits, so you will likely encounter setbacks along the way. Stay focused on your goal and be flexible in changing your approach if need be.

Learn more about these tips and stay tuned to Green Notes in the coming year. We will be sharing tips and resources to take action to prevent waste, avoid wasted food, take action on climate change, protect water and pollinators, and much more.

Wishing you a happy and sustainable new year!

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