Green Notes: Take the food waste survey, updates on the Climate Action Plan, grants available, and getting started going plastic-free

green notes

What do you need to reduce food waste?

Take our survey to share what would help you waste less food

We love food, which is why most of us hate seeing it go to waste. By taking steps to reduce food waste, you can ensure the money you spend on your food and the energy, land, and water it takes to grow it and get it to you doesn’t go to waste. Reducing food waste is also one of the most important actions we can take to address climate change.

Help Hennepin County understand more about food waste so we can work together to reduce it! Take the 5 minute survey to provide insights into how you interact with food – from shopping, storage, cooking, and finally disposal – and how the county can support you in preventing food waste. Your responses will be used to create better resources that help residents reduce food waste.

Take the food waste survey graphic


This survey is open to all Hennepin County residents, with a special focus on getting responses from people living in multifamily housing. So if you live in an apartment building, please share this with your neighbors or ask your property manager to distribute it!

The survey is open until March 1. Take the food waste survey now.

Updates on the development of the county’s climate action plan

Hennepin County is developing a Climate Action Plan with initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strategies to adapt to our changing climate.

Findings from the first phase of public engagement

The first phase of community engagement was conducted in fall 2020. In this phase, the county learned from community members about climate change impacts, shared values, and climate actions. The county also received feedback on the county’s approach to developing the plan, priorities for an impactful climate response, and foundational strategies for climate action. This phase included:

Key findings

In reviewing the engagement findings, three key findings rose to the top of our analysis and were shared with county commissioners to consider in their review of the county’s climate action goals and strategies:

  • Set ambitious goals and provide bold leadership
  • Climate change is intersectional with racial disparities
  • Focus on systems change, not individual choice

How the findings are being used

The feedback will help guide the plan development, public engagement efforts, and education efforts on climate action. These summaries have been shared with county commissioners, county administrators, and climate team leads. Staff have reviewed the findings and are refining the plan’s goals and strategies based on the feedback received.

Read about the key findings and implications in the latest Climate Action Update.

Next steps and timeline toward approval of the Climate Action Plan

County staff are now connecting with county commissioners to discuss the key findings, review plan strategies, and seek guidance on the next steps of public engagement. Staff are working toward the following timeline to seek board adoption of the plan:

  • February 2021: Make draft plan available for public comment and announce online and virtual feedback opportunities
  • March 2021: Summarize findings from engagement efforts and make final edits to the plan
  • April 2021: Board takes up formal adoption of climate plan, which will include a final public comment process

Sign up for climate action updates to learn about upcoming feedback opportunities

Become a Master Recycler/Composter

Master Recycler/Composter volunteer at recycling bin

Applications are being accepted for the spring Master Recycler/Composter course.

Join fellow waste reduction enthusiasts and become an advocate for reducing and recycling in your community. Learn about waste prevention, recycling and composting from industry experts during the six-week online course, then volunteer 30 hours in your community implementing waste reduction and recycling projects.

The spring class is being held online on Wednesday evenings in February and March. Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, February 3. Learn more and apply.

Grants for environmental projects

Hennepin County offers a variety of grant programs that help our residents and partners implement projects that protect the environment. See the environmental grants factsheet (PDF) to learn about grants for recycling and waste prevention, to protect and restore land and water, and to promote environmental stewardship. The following grant programs are accepting applications now.

Recycling bin and compostable bag grants for small businesses and nonprofit organizations

Business recycling bin setup with trash, recycling, and organics

The county is providing free resources and assistance for small businesses, nonprofit organizations, and multifamily properties to start or improve recycling and organics recycling. Applicants may select up to $3,000 worth of containers and compostable bags from the county's product list. Review the 2021 business recycling bin and compostable bag grant guidelines (PDF) for details. Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis until November 15 as funding remains. Learn more and apply.

Grants to improve recycling and reduce waste at schools

Girl putting recycling into waste station in school cafeteria

Grants are available to public and private, K-12 schools to start or improve programs to reduce waste and keep recycling and organic materials like food and non-recyclable paper out of the trash.

Grant funding can be used to purchase equipment and supplies, including recycling and organics recycling containers, sorting stations, reusable food service ware, bulk condiment dispensers, organics hauling, and compostable bags.

New this year: Funding can be used for dishwashers and hand dryers to reduce waste from single use products. $50,000 in grant funding is reserved for grant activities that prevent or reduce waste. Review the school recycling grant guidelines (PDF) for details on eligible expenses.

Applications for grants of up to $50,000 are due by 4 p.m. on Thursday, February 25. Applications under $15,000 will be accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year as funds remain. Visit the school recycling web page to learn more and apply.

Deconstruction grants for property owners and developers

Reuse and recycle building materials from remodeling and construction projects

Contractor deconstructing a roof

To help divert waste from landfills, Hennepin County has grants available for property owners and developers to deconstruct residential buildings to salvage building materials rather than demolish them. In 2021, deconstruction grants are available to projects in all cities in Hennepin County.

Since the program launched in February 2020, 17 projects have received funding to help offset the added time and labor costs associated with deconstruction. In a deconstruction project, a building is taken apart, mostly by hand, and materials are sorted for efficient recycling and reuse. Commonly salvaged building materials include old growth lumber, doors, flooring, cabinets, and fixtures.

Deconstruction prevents usable materials from going to the landfill, makes building materials available to the community, provides jobs, and supports local reuse retailers.

Up to $5,000 is available per project. Projects must meet grant eligibility requirements. Hennepin County staff are available to determine project specifications and eligibility and answer questions about deconstruction. Applications are accepted at any time. Learn more and apply online.

Environmental Response Fund grants for assessment and cleanup of contaminated properties

The Environmental Response Fund, which offers grants for the assessment and cleanup of contaminated sites in Hennepin County, will offer a spring funding round. Applications will be accepted starting in March and will be due May 1.

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

Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians' apartment project support by ERF in Minneapolis

Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians’ Mino bimaadiziwin site, a mixed-use apartment building in Minneapolis, received a fall 2017 Environmental Response Fund grant for demolition and abatement.

Prior to applying for an Environmental Response Fund grant, contact to discuss your project and funding needs. Learn more at

In the News

Twin Cities landfills seek to expand capacity

Landfills in the Twin Cities are seeking to expand capacity for first time in about 20 years, as explained in a recent article in the Star Tribune.

How waste is managed

Chart showing how waste much waste is managed by recycling, organics, landfills, and waste-to-energy

About one-third of waste, which includes everything disposed of as recycling, organics, and trash, in the metro area is sent to landfills. The proportion sent to landfills increased sharply in 2019 when a facility in Elk River that burned trash to produce energy closed.

Landfilling is the state’s least preferred disposal option for waste. Burning garbage to recover energy, as the county does at the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC), is the preferred disposal method for waste that cannot be recycled or composted.

Waste-to-energy is preferred over landfilling because it generates energy, recovers metal for recycling, has better pollution controls and fewer emissions, and supports more jobs. Watch a video to learn how HERC works (YouTube).

Focusing on waste prevention and minimizing landfilling

Woman with screwdriver repairing a toaster oven

Waste prevention – or taking steps to not create waste in the first place – is the best option. The county supports many waste prevention programs, including by offering staff assistance and funding to businesses, nonprofit organizations, multifamily properties and schools and by offering programs like Choose to Reuse, Zero Waste Challenge, Fix-It Clinics, and Master Recycler/Composter training for residents.

Advocating for changes to the waste management system is the most effective way to influence large-scale changes. The county is supporting efforts at the state level to expand capacity to process organic waste, develop additional recycling markets, and pass producer responsibility measures that hold manufacturers accountable for improving design to minimize materials used, increase durability, and ensure items are repairable as well as to be responsible for disposing of the products they create.

Details about waste management in Hennepin County is included in the 2019 Recycling Progress Report.

Green Tip: Getting started on going plastic-free

In January and February, more than 500 people are focusing on reducing their use of plastics with the Plastic-Free Challenge. But with plastics having so many uses, how is it possible to go plastic free?

A lot of the growth in plastic use since the 1970s has come in the form of packaging and single-use plastics. Since these plastics are used for a short period of time and then thrown out, they are a big part of the increasing amount of plastic waste. This makes single-use plastics a good place to focus when trying to reduce plastic use.

Make simple swaps

Woman putting carrot into reusable produce bag

A good place to start is by making some simple swaps. Bring your own bags to the grocery store, including for produce, to avoid plastic bags. Purchase clothing made from natural fibers – synthetic fibers like polyester are made from plastic. Opt for alternatives to dryer sheets for your laundry.

Plastic-free bathroom products

When you head out, be prepared by bringing a reusable water bottle or mug and packing snacks in reusable containers or pouches. When you run out of things like plastic wrap, wax paper, and plastic baggies, replace then with reusable options. Invest in alternatives for products used in your personal care routine – metal razors, compostable floss, bamboo toothbrushes, and toothpaste tablets are just a few options.

Change how you shop

Getting items from bulk bin using a reusable container

How we buy things has a big impact on the amount of plastic waste we ultimately need to dispose of. At the grocery store, look for options to purchase unpackaged produce and learn how to use the bulk bins, especially where you can bring your own reusable containers. Try making your own of items that commonly come in plastic packaging, such as popcorn, yogurt, and condiments, and plan a garden so you can grow your own food in the summer and fall.

Shopping for used goods helps to reduce the demand for new plastic products and will usually cut down on plastic packaging. Look for options to share rather than owning items, including with tool and toy libraries and by connecting with neighbors.

Be prepared

Lunch in reusable metal containers and reusable snack bags

Planning ahead can go a long way toward preventing unwanted plastic waste. Prepare a zero waste kit that includes cloth napkins and reusable utensils, containers, and cups to grab when you head out to avoid disposable to-go containers. Pack lunches and snacks in reusable containers when you’ll be on-the-go for a while. When ordering takeout, specify that you don’t need disposable utensils, straws, and condiment packets.

Educate yourself and share your story

Two women having conversation

Learning about the problem of plastic waste and your personal plastic footprint – or the plastic waste you create – will help you take further action. You can greatly expand your impact by talking to others you know about why you care about this issue and what actions you are taking, involving your family and friends, and advocating for changes where you can.

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