Green Notes: Funding for environmental projects, spring cleaning resources, online Zero Waste Challenge, and more

green notes

Funding available for environmental projects

Environmental education grants

Youth canoeing on a river

Funding is available to support organizations in educating and motivating residents to become environmental stewards and take environmentally friendly actions. Green Partners environmental education grants are available to nonprofit organizations, community groups, youth programs, schools, congregations, early childhood family education programs, and park districts.

Applications are being accepted until Thursday, May 6. Virtual information meetings will be held Tuesday, April 13 and Monday, April 19. Learn more and RSVP to an info meeting.

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

Contaminated land cleanup grants

Grants are available for the assessment and cleanup of contaminated sites where the added environmental costs hinder site improvements or redevelopment. Environmental Response Fund grants are available to cities, local public entities including economic development agencies and housing and redevelopment authorities, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit businesses.

Applications are being accepted until Monday, May 3. Prior to applying, contact to discuss your project and funding needs. 

Grants for deconstruction to salvage building materials

Framing being taken apart during deconstruction project

Funding is available for building projects that use deconstruction techniques instead of standard demolition to remove materials during the destruction, alteration, or renovation of a building. In a deconstruction project, a building is taken apart mostly by hand, and materials are sorted into categories for efficient recycling and reuse.

Property owners and developers can receive up to $5,000 to help offset the additional time and labor costs associated with deconstruction. Grants are available for demolition or renovation projects on residential properties up to 4 units that are 500 square feet or larger on structures built prior to 1970. Learn more and apply.

Grants to establish organics recycling drop-off sites

Woman putting organics into drop-off container

Funding is available for cities to establish organics recycling drop-off sites. Up to $15,000 is available for each drop-off site, and cities can receive funding for up to three sites.

Organics drop-off sites increase access to organics recycling for all residents, especially those living in multifamily properties without access to city service and those in cities that don’t offer service. Drop offs also raise awareness about the benefits of organics recycling and build interest in additional programs.

For more information, see the organics recycling drop-off funding guidelines (PDF) or contact Kaitlin Steinberg at or 612-492-1323.

Start new low-waste habits by joining the online Zero Waste Challenge

Sign up opens in mid-April for the challenge in May

Ever wonder how you create so much trash or end up with so much stuff in your home? Many people are interested in avoiding waste, decluttering, and recycling more but aren’t sure where to start.

Hennepin County’s Zero Waste Challenge will help you learn more, connect you with resources to help you reduce waste and declutter, and provide support and motivation along the way. The online Zero Waste Challenge runs May 1 to 31. You can sign up for the challenge starting in mid-April at

Get ready to slash your trash join the Zero Waste Challenge graphic


Join a team and get started with weekly focus areas

In this round of the challenge, you can start or join a team and take the challenge along with your family, friends, neighbors, or colleagues. If you’re not sure how to get started, the challenge features four weekly focus areas, each of which include five actions that represent some of the best ways to get started on that topic.

Get ready to slash your trash

Past Zero Waste Challenge participants have called the experience eye-opening and a conversation-starter. They said it both educated them and pushed them into action. Some even called it life changing! So, get ready to adopt new habits that help you become a more thoughtful consumer and live a lower waste lifestyle.

Spring cleaning means coming to a Hennepin County drop-off facility

Staff unloading car at drop-off facilities

It’s time to clean out your garage and basement and make a spring-cleaning trip to Hennepin County’s drop-off facilities. Please note, the facilities are open but with some limitations due to COVID-19.

Common spring-cleaning items accepted at the drop-off facilities

Many common household items, including chemicals, paints, recycling and problem materials, are accepted at the drop-off facilities, including:

  • Cardboard: Before you visit, remove all packaging material and flatten boxes (preferred size is 3’ x 3’ or smaller). When you arrive, you will unload your cardboard into the recycling bin.
  • Batteries: Place batteries in a clear plastic bag OR place clear tape on both the positive (+) and negative (-) terminals of batteries to prevent fires.
  • “Tanglers:” Items like plastic bags and string lights cause problems when put in your home recycling cart because they get tangled in machinery at recycling facilities. They can be recycled by bringing them to a drop-off facility.
  • Needles and sharps: Put these in a puncture-proof container and place it in the front seat of your car. Staff will guide you to where you can drop them off.

Guidelines and limitations on materials accepted due to COVID-19

  • No mattresses and no TVs or electronics that weigh more than 50 lbs.
  • Only select appliances accepted: microwaves, water coolers, sump pumps, garbage disposals, and dehumidifiers for $15 each. No other appliances accepted.
  • Face coverings that cover both the nose and mouth required. Masks are available if needed. Face shields alone are not enough.
  • Payment, if applicable, is being taken with credit card only (Visa, Discover, Mastercard). 
  • Staff have adjusted operations to maintain 6 feet of physical distancing and enhanced cleaning and disinfecting.

For hours, locations, guidelines, and a list of items accepted, visit Find disposal information for common household items on the Green Disposal Guide.

Ice out on Lake Minnetonka signals start to boating season

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in partnership with the Freshwater Society declared ice out for Lake Minnetonka on March 30. This is two weeks earlier than the average ice out, which falls around April 13, but more than two weeks later than the earliest recorded ice out on March 11, 1878.

Three people wearing life jackets on Lake Minnetonka with sign declaring ice out

The longstanding tradition of declaring ice out on Lake Minnetonka marks the official start to the boating season. Some tips and reminders for safely enjoying your time on the water:

  • Use caution when boating on Lake Minnetonka and other areas lakes as many navigational and safety buoys are not in place yet. County staff will soon begin installing more than 500 buoys on Lake Minnetonka, Lake Sarah, and Lake Independence.
  • Wear a life jacket and let someone know when you are heading out on the water. Water temperatures are still cold, and hypothermia can happen quickly in these conditions. Learn more about cold water safety.
  • Take steps to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species when moving boats or watercraft. Clean off all visible plants, insects, and animals; drain water-related equipment and remove drain plugs; and dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.

Grants awarded for natural resources protection

Aquatic invasive species prevention grants

Sailboat with artist made sails on Lake Minnetonka

The county recently awarded eight grants totaling $123,600 to prevent and slow the spread of aquatic invasive species. Some of the work these projects will accomplish include:

  • Conduct an early detection survey for Starry Stonewort on Lake Minnetonka and assess the goldfish population in the Lake Cornelia system in Edina.
  • Install signage at fishing piers, carry-in access sites, and small boat launches in the Bassett Creek watershed.
  • Observe boater behavior at public accesses and assess the impact of access redesigns.
  • Offer boater education and conduct randomized watercraft inspections throughout the county.
  • Redesign Grays Bay public access on Lake Minnetonka.
  • Use a HydroSweep device to keep water moving and prevent plants and animals from attaching to boats and trailers at the public access on Weaver Lake.
  • Work with artists to create five sails highlighting aquatic invasive species issues for Wayzata Sailing programming on Lake Minnetonka.

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

Natural resources protection grants

The county recently awarded 10 grants totaling $357,000 for projects that will improve water quality and protect and restore natural resources. Some of the work these projects will accomplish include:

  • Improve stormwater management and increase accessibility to green spaces in Brook Gardens, an affordable housing community in Brooklyn Park, and implement an innovative rainwater capture and reuse system at a new apartment complex in south Minneapolis.
  • Install permeable pavement in the parking lot of Children’s Dental Services in northeast Minneapolis.
  • Plant rain gardens at Back Channel Brewing adjacent to Lake Minnetonka in Spring Park, on a property near Meadow Lake in New Hope, and at University Baptist Church in Minneapolis.
  • Use practices that will reduce water pollution and improve water quality along Bassett Creek in Theodore Wirth Park, Hyland Lake in Bloomington, and Upper Twin Lake in Crystal.
  • Restore an oak woodland and savannah in the Cullen Nature Preserve in Minnetonka.

For more information, contact Karen Galles at or 612-348-2027.

In the News

Zebra mussels discovered in aquarium plants at Minnesota pet stores

Pet store disposal guidelines flyer

Invasive zebra mussels have been found on “moss balls,” which are sold at pet supply stores for use in aquariums, in many states throughout the U.S. including Minnesota. There is concern that zebra mussels released into a storm drain or flushed into a sewer could be introduced to nearby bodies of water, where they can quickly take over an ecosystem and disrupt the food chain, change the water chemistry, and clog water intake and drainage systems.

Fish and wildlife officials are reaching out to retailers and aquarium owners to provide proper disposal guidelines. A recent MPR story has disposal guidelines for aquarium owners, and pet store owners or employees can find instructions in our pet store disposal guidelines flyer (PDF).

Reusable to-go containers offer takeout without the waste

Reusable takeout containers filled with food from Forever Ware

Forever Ware, a new Minneapolis startup, is providing restaurant goers a way to support local businesses by getting takeout while avoiding the waste of disposable containers. Diners at participating businesses – there are currently four in Minneapolis – can get their takeout in reusable metal containers. The containers can be returned to any participating business. Forever Ware received a business waste prevention grant from Hennepin County to help get started. Read more in the Star Tribune.


Webinar: Bringing down the house – understanding deconstruction and salvage

Tuesday, April 13 from noon to 1 p.m.
Free for the general public ($15 for real estate agents to receive continuing education credits)

Join a 1-hour class to learn about construction and demolition waste and alternatives to standard demolition, such as deconstruction and building material salvage. The session will introduce real-life solutions to reduce waste of building materials and offer resources for connecting with local salvage organizations. The webinar, offered by Rethos, will feature Hennepin County construction and demolition waste specialist Olivia Cashman. Learn more and register.

2021 household hazardous waste collection events

Sign for hazardous waste collection event with truck dropping off materials in background

Hennepin County is holding six community collection events for county residents to safely and properly dispose of unwanted garden and household hazardous wastes in 2021.

Events will take place Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the following dates:

  • May 7 and 8 at Minnetonka Public Works
  • June 11 and 12 at the St. Louis Park Middle School
  • June 25 and 26 at Pillsbury Elementary School in Minneapolis
  • July 30 and 31 at Anthony Middle School in Minneapolis
  • August 13 and 14 at South High School in Minneapolis
  • September 17 and 18 at the Hennepin County Public Works Orono Shop

Before you go, find health and safety guidelines and a list of acceptable materials at

City cleanup events

Pickup truck loaded with furniture to drop off at city cleanup event

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 clean-up event, and be sure to check with your city for details about what’s accepted and other guidelines.

Green Tip: Love local! Tips for “ordering takeout” to support local reuse retailers

Man in mask handing a box to a woman in a car

Takeout and curbside pickup have become essential in the last year as a way to keep people fed, access the goods they need, and support local businesses. Getting takeout from local reuse retailers is a way to Love Local – a movement that supports local businesses and keeps money in the neighborhood.

By following these tips, it’s easy to “order takeout” from local reuse retailers:

  • Follow them: Connecting with local retailers on social media, website, and newsletters is a great way to learn about new arrivals and catch deals.
  • Contact them: When you see something online that you want, contact local reuse retailers by email or phone to ask about options for pick up.
  • Arrange the pickup: Once you place your order and pre-pay if you can, go pick up your items – many reuse retailers are offering curbside pickup.
  • Think about the journey: If you’re heading to a retailer that takes donations, make it a combo donation/shopping experience. Drop off the items you no longer need and pick up your new-to-you items at the same time.

Learn more about how to Love Local and sign up to Join the Circle.

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