Green Notes Earth Day special edition: County sets ambitious new greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and commits to reducing plastic waste

green notes

Board action aims to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050

On Tuesday, the county board updated the county's goals to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with an interim goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030.

Graphic that says acting boldly on climate change, new goal: net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050

These emission reduction goals apply to both the geographic area of the county and county operations. These goals are more ambitious than the State of Minnesota’s goals and position Hennepin County as a leader on addressing climate change in the upper Midwest.

The county’s goals are based on the global consensus from scientists working with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and aligns with the goals of the Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change, aimed at rapidly reducing greenhouse gases to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change.

Timeline toward board adoption of the Climate Action Plan

The board is close to finalizing the first Hennepin County Climate Action Plan that outlines the path forward to meeting these ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

In addition to providing a framework for how the county will pursue initiatives to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the plan defines strategies to adapt to the changing climate to ensure a more equitable and resilient Hennepin County.

The plan will be considered by the board in committee meetings on Tuesday, April 27, and brought forward for final adoption in the following board meeting on Tuesday, May 4. Learn more about the timeline, how to watch the meetings, and ways to provide feedback.

Other related actions

Director of Climate and Resiliency position established

The board also established a new director position of Climate and Resiliency in recognition of the board’s commitment to climate action. A director level position is critical to implement and integrate the countywide framework laid out in the Climate Action Plan.

Paired with prioritizing disparity reduction, this individual will operationalize the plan. The Climate and Resiliency director will work across Hennepin County departments and with external partners to develop and monitor metrics to ensure mutual accountability. This position will also convene partners to further pursue collaborations for greater impact and raise a collective voice for climate policy to drive behavior and systems change.

Earth Day resolution affirms county’s commitment to environmental education, community engagement, and partnerships

Two women naturalists looking at bugs in a jar with two students

In recognition of Earth Day 2021, the board adopted a resolution recognizing that environmental education, community engagement, and partnerships are critical to meeting the county’s goals and fulfilling its mission.

The national focus of Earth Day 2021 is taking climate action, and the county’s development of a climate action plan makes environmental education, community engagement, and collective action more important than ever. Some of the most important actions we can take on climate change include increasing public discourse by talking more about the issue and finding ways to take collective and civic action. The county also recognizes that the impacts of the climate crisis, like other environmental justice issues, are not experienced equally, since those who contribute least to the problem are the most impacted.

Residents of an apartment complex providing feedback on the design of a landscaping project

The county resolves to foster community-centered partnerships, support community-based solutions, and engage the public in how we design and deliver our programs to empower residents to individually and collectively take action to protect the environment and create healthier and stronger communities. The county is also committed to prioritizing environmental education and engagement with youth, Black, Indigenous, communities of color and other underserved and historically marginalized communities in order to reduce disparities and advance environmental justice.

County joins U.S. Plastics Pact

Graphic showing the stakeholders that contribute to the U.S. Plastics Pact

The board approved joining the U.S. Plastics Pact to build on county efforts to support residents and businesses who want to take action on plastic waste and pollution. The collaboration of corporations, nonprofit organizations, and government will bring the necessary stakeholders together to develop solutions and implement coordinated initiatives.

The goal of this work is to ensure that plastics never become waste by eliminating the plastics we do not need, innovating to ensure that the plastics we do need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable, and circulating all the plastic items we use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.

More than one-third of plastics are used for packaging, including food packaging, grocery bags, and straws. Plastics are common due to their low cost, durability, and versatility. Their use has increased twenty-fold since the 1960s and, without action, will continue to increase.

The county is pursuing this initiative because it supports the transition to zero waste faster and helps to achieve the goals outlined in the county’s solid waste management master plan. Reducing plastic waste will also contribute towards the county meeting its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

Take action: Join the Zero Waste Challenge

Be a zero-waste leader by creating a team and encouraging others to join you

One action that residents can take right now to reduce waste and the impacts of the goods we buy and use is to join the Zero Waste Challenge. The online Zero Waste Challenge runs May 1 to 31, and participants can start or join a team to take the challenge along with their family, friends, neighbors, or colleagues.

Graphic that says avoid waste, declutter, recycle more, join the Zero Waste Challenge


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 the waste and clutter in your life, and provide support and motivation along the way.

Join the challenge now, and see the resources section for tips on getting started and creating a team as well as promotional materials to help you spread the word.

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