Green Notes: Celebrate Arbor Day, sign up for the online Zero Waste Challenge, and go green during your next home improvement project

green notes

Celebrating Arbor Day

Recognizing the climate-fighting power of trees

Man and dog standing next to big cottonwood tree

Today, Friday, April 30, is Arbor Day! This Arbor Day, we’re celebrating the important role that trees play in fighting climate change and getting to net zero carbon emissions.

Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and store carbon in their wood. The older the tree, the more climate benefits it provides. The shade from trees also reduces the need for cooling in buildings, which reduces carbon dioxide and other pollutants from power plants.

Calculate the benefits of trees near you

Cover of the tree identification guide

Calculate the benefits of trees near you using the tree benefits calculator.

To calculate the benefits, first identify the tree species. Our neighborhood tree bingo (pdf) and tree identification guide (PDF) are available to help figure it out!

Man measuring tree with a measuring tape at chest height

Then, measure the tree by wrapping a measuring tape or string around the tree about 4.5 feet off the ground (about chest height) to get the circumference. Divide the circumference by 3.14 to get the diameter. Learn how to measure big trees by watching this short video from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Additional Arbor Day resources

Check out these additional resources to celebrate Arbor Day and the climate-fighting benefits of trees:

  • Learn about champion trees, which are the biggest documented living species of a tree in a certain area. There are several Minnesota champion trees in Hennepin County!
  • As the climate in Minnesota shifts, it is important to plant trees that will thrive in the future. Planting a diversity of trees will make our communities more resilient to climate change. Learn more about trees and a changing climate (PDF) from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
  • Get tips for keeping mature trees safe and healthy by protecting root zones, incorporating tree protection into construction projects, and treating some tree species to protect against pests and disease.

Start new low-waste habits by joining the online 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.

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

How it works

The online Zero Waste Challenge runs May 1 to 31. Sign up now, or if you have participated in past challenges, log in and join the 2021 challenge.

Steps to take once you sign up:

  • Create your profile and add a profile picture and mission statement.
  • Join or start a team and encourage family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues to take the challenge with you. See the resources section for tips on leading a team (PDF) and promoting the challenge (DOCX) to others.
  • Browse the categories and actions, check off the actions you already take, and reflect on what actions would be most impactful for you.
  • Commit to actions by selecting up to five one-time actions and five daily actions to work on during the four-week challenge.
  • Get started with weekly Focus Areas. Each Focus Area will include five actions that represent some of the best ways to get started on that topic. We’ll send email updates that dig into a different Focus Area each week during the challenge and provide additional resources and information to help you take action.
  • Log in regularly once the challenge starts to report what actions you take, see the impact of your actions add up, encourage your team members, and interact with others in the feed.

Healthy Tree Canopy grants available

Two volunteers planting trees in a park next to a lake

Hennepin County has healthy tree canopy grants available for tree plantings, ash tree removals, tree inventories, outreach and more. Grants are available to cities, affordable housing properties, schools, and nonprofit organizations.

Applications are due by 3 p.m. on Thursday, June 10. Learn more and apply.

For more information, feedback on your project ideas, or help with your application, contact the Hennepin County forestry team at

Climate Action Plan up for board adoption on May 4

Hennepin County’s first Climate Action Plan will be brought forward for final adoption by the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, May 4.

The Climate Action Plan (PDF) outlines the path forward to meeting the county’s new goals of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with an interim goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030. The plan also defines strategies to prioritize disparity reduction and adapt to the changing climate in ways that ensure a more equitable and resilient Hennepin County.

You can participate in Open Forum ahead of the board meeting on Tuesday, May 4. Learn more about the public participation process at board meetings.

Community Forestry Strategic Plan establishes goals to protect and diversify the county’s tree canopy

Cover of the community forestry strategic plan

The Hennepin County Community Forestry Strategic Plan (PDF) is now available. The plan defines goals and objectives that the county’s forestry program will pursue in the next five years to protect the county’s tree canopy and increase the benefits that trees provide.

The plan includes more than 50 strategies to achieve the following goals:

  • Plant, diversify, and maintain trees throughout Hennepin County
  • Increase the resiliency of Hennepin County’s community forest
  • Build organizational capacity to support, value, and maintain trees
  • Educate and engage residents to become stewards of the community forest

Together, the strategies outlined in this plan will build stronger internal and external partnerships, get more people involved in caring for trees, and increase awareness of the values of trees. They will also establish effective forestry policies, better prepare communities for current and future threats to trees, ensure trees are used to reduce disparities and respond to climate change, and capture success stories that inspire further action. 

Developing the plan

The strategic plan was developed using a participatory planning process that incorporated feedback from both internal and external partners. This included county staff whose work impacts the tree canopy along with representatives of forestry and public works programs in Hennepin County cities, past recipients of Heathy Tree Canopy grants, state and regional governmental agencies involved in natural resource management, the University of Minnesota, and local nonprofits involved in green space management and education.

Implementing the plan

Hennepin County foresters are beginning to implement strategies identified in the plan as they carry out their 2021 work plan. The plan will be submitted to the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners for formal adoption along with the updated Natural Resources Strategic Plan next year.

Hennepin County foresters are interested in discussing partnership opportunities that help meet the goals of the strategic plan. Connect with them by emailing

Community garden plots available

Community garden plot

Interested in growing your own food this summer? Hennepin County has converted several tax-forfeit properties into community garden spaces. All Hennepin County residents are invited to apply for a community garden plot.

Creating and preserving affordable agricultural space for every scale of local food production – including urban farming – increasing access to local, nutritious food, and using county properties to increase green space and expand green infrastructure are strategies in the county’s Climate Action Plan. Learn more about the plots available and apply for community garden space.

Clean up brush and yard waste without burning to prevent wildfires

Hennepin County under spring burning restrictions

Drought conditions across Minnesota have created the potential for an active and damaging spring wildfire season. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have put many counties, including Hennepin County, under burning restrictions this spring. Before doing any burning this spring, you need to check with your city and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to see if there are any burning restrictions or burning bans.

Open burning of brush and other debris is the leading cause of wildfires, so property owners are always urged to be fire safe to help prevent wildfires. Preferred, burn-free options for spring brush and yard cleanup include composting, chipping, or taking brush to a yard waste site.

If you are going to burn, check with your city and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to see if any burn restrictions or bans are in place. If there are no restrictions, you should always practice fire safety. One practice is establishing a water line, which is a swath of land saturated with water to act as a fire break in case the wind shifts. This will help prevent the fire from spreading to other areas.

Reminder: Apply for environmental education grants by May 6

Man behind a table at an event with resources about recycling

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. 

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

In the News

Hennepin County uses new technology to improve severe weather alerts

Hennepin County Emergency Management is emerging as a national leader in embracing new technologies in order to keep residents safe and help communities be better prepared for severe weather in a changing climate. The county has installed highly sensitive monitoring sites, called Mesonets, that measure site-specific conditions. The county is also investing in sophisticated software that will allow sirens to be sounded in certain parts of a city for a specific threat.

The county’s severe weather monitoring has improved warnings in coordination with the National Weather Service and helped operations at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Enhancing public safety and improving preparedness for climate impacts, such as severe weather events, is a major objective in the county’s Climate Action Plan. Read more in the Star Tribune.

Cities begin adding organics recycling

Man scraping food scraps from cutting board into organics bin

Multiple cities are working on updating their ordinances to require organics recycling ahead of Hennepin County’s requirements that all cities offer organics recycling goes into effect January 1, 2022. Brooklyn Park, New Hope, and Plymouth have all recently voted on changes or are working on adding organics recycling service. Learn more on CCX media.


Free backyard composting webinars

Hand holding bucket of food scraps being placed in compost bin

Start recycling your food scraps and yard waste into compost — right in your own backyard. Hennepin County is offering free online webinars to help you get started.

Learn how to set up your compost pile, which materials you can compost, how to get the mix right, and more at an upcoming webinar:

  • Thursday, May 13 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 19 from noon to 1 p.m.
  • Tuesday, May 25 from 5 to 6 p.m.

The is no charge to sign up, but space is limited, and registration is required. 

Minneapolis garden tool swaps

Graphic promoting Minneapolis garden tool swaps with bucket of garden tools

Saturday, May 8 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Hold onto your unwanted garden equipment during your spring cleaning and bring usable items to an upcoming garden swap. Minneapolis Solid Waste & Recycling and community partners are holding their first ever citywide swap event of garden tools and plant-related equipment. Learn about locations, guidelines, and materials accepted.

Household hazardous waste collection event in Minnetonka

Hennepin County holds community collection events for county residents to safely and properly dispose of unwanted garden and household hazardous wastes. The first event of 2021 is being held Friday, May 7 and Saturday, May 8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Minnetonka Public Works. Find health and safety guidelines and a list of acceptable materials at

Green Tip: Go green during your next home improvement project

Whether you are planning to remodel a kitchen or bathroom this summer or refurbish an old piece of furniture, there are plenty of opportunities to go green and reduce your impact on the environment during home improvement projects. Here are some questions to ask yourself and resources to look into to put your remodeling project on a greener path.

Think about the materials you are using

Man holding light fixture in a building material reuse warehouse

Start by assessing what materials are involved in your project.

  • Could the materials you need to get rid of have a second life in another project? Consider donating, selling, or giving away items to extend their life and keep usable materials out of landfills.
  • Could you source materials for your next project that are salvaged or reused? Items such as cabinets, light fixtures, lumber, hardware, paint, and more are available for sale at local reuse retailers. Buying reused building materials closes the loop on the reuse system and sends a message that salvaged products are valued.

See a list of building material reuse organizations in the Twin Cities. Contact the organization directly to find out what types of materials they accept and sell.

Consider deconstruction to increase reuse and recycling

Living room with flooring that has been removed

Are you salvaging, reusing, and recycling as much as you can? For larger remodeling projects, consider using deconstruction and sending materials to a recycling processing facility.

In a deconstruction project, building materials are taken apart mostly by hand and materials are sorted into categories for efficient reuse and recycling. Commonly reused materials from remodeling projects include bathroom vanities and sinks, cabinetry, plumbing fixtures, solid wood doors, wood flooring, and more.

Hennepin County offers deconstruction grants of up to $5,000 for remodeling and full building removal projects that are larger than 500 square feet on residential properties built before 1970. 

Some buildings materials that can’t be salvaged for reuse can still be recycled at a construction and demolition processing facility. These facilities recycle materials such as asphalt, metals, and wood. Learn more about recycling building materials.

Connect with community organizations for inspiration and expertise.

Bedroom that has been recently remodeled
  • Looking for project inspiration? Spend an afternoon checking out materials available at building material reuse organizations such as Architectural Antiques, Bauer Brothers Salvage, Better Futures Minnesota, and Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores. 
  • Do you really need to own tools you don’t use frequently? The Minnesota Tool Library offers tool and equipment rentals – from ladders to power washers – as an alternative to buying new. They also offer a workshop space and classes for project tips and advice. 
  • Looking to freshen up an older home? Rethos: Places Reimaged offers a variety of resources in preserving old homes and has two upcoming classes on repairing old windows and doors. Find out more and sign up here.

For more information about going green on your home improvement projects, contact Olivia Cashman at

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