Green Notes: The community's priorities and concerns for protecting natural resources, mapping to a zero-waste future, and preparing for winter weather

green notes

Updating the Hennepin County Natural Resources Strategic Plan

What we learned during the first phase of community engagement

Hennepin County is in the process of updating the Natural Resources Strategic Plan, which will define our natural resources goals and strategies for the next 10 years.

The county recently wrapped up phase 1 of community engagement for the plan. This information gathering phase focused on creating awareness about the plan update process and understanding how the community wants to be engaged.

This phase also involved listening to what the community values about natural resources, learning about their priorities, and identifying emerging issues and concerns that should be considered in the plan.

Our approach to engagement in phase 1

During this phase of community engagement, county staff:

Man at event voting for natural resources priorities
  • Tabled at 10 community events where they interacted with about 1,200 attendees
  • Conducted an online survey that received 260 responses
  • Presented to 8 community groups, with more being scheduled
  • Created a website and email list to share updates about the plan and opportunities to provide feedback
  • Formed internal staff working groups to reflect on the existing plan and feedback from community engagement efforts

What we heard: themes from the community engagement feedback

People we heard from:

Girl swimming in lake
  • Value ensuring a healthy environment for future generations and protecting wildlife and nature.
  • Are most concerned about the impacts of climate change on natural resources and prioritize protecting water.
  • Want the county to protect and preserve natural areas, especially amid the pressures from development.
  • See the connection between the health of our natural resources, ourselves and our communities but called for more education to help people understand what natural resources are, what work the county does to protect natural resources, and what actions we can all take.
Residents of Autumn Ridge Apartments planting garden
  • Asked the county to foster long-term community engagement, invest in trust-building, provide learning and professional opportunities, and support work already being led by the community.
  • Called on the county to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, specifically to acknowledge how past decision-making has resulted in persistent racial inequities – especially among Indigenous people who were the first stewards of our natural resources – and ensure that eliminating disparities guides policies, programs, and projects.
  • Encouraged the county to work collaboratively with public entity and community partners to advance natural resource priorities.

Next steps

County staff will now use the feedback to develop draft goals, objectives, and actions for the plan. Staff are convening advisory groups comprised of county staff and external partners to provide ongoing feedback during the plan development.

The next phase of broad community engagement to gather feedback on what the community likes and areas for improvement within the draft goals, objectives, and actions will take place in early 2022.

Sign up for Natural Resources Strategic Plan email updates to stay informed of the process and opportunities to provide feedback.

Mapping a zero-waste future

In August, the county board passed a resolution directing staff to develop an operational plan to map Hennepin County to a zero-waste future. The board specified that plan development include a broad community engagement process with a strong focus on equity and disparity reduction.

Our vision for zero waste

Hennepin County’s zero-waste vision is a waste management system where all materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

This will systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. The key performance measure is diverting 90% or more of all discarded materials from landfills and incinerators.

Our approach to plan development

The county’s zero-waste resolution calls for a draft zero-waste plan to be presented at a Board Briefing in November 2022. To support the development of the plan, the county is soliciting multiple proposals to hire consultants and community groups that will work with county staff to develop this plan.

Seeking community groups to conduct engagement

In December, the county will be seeking proposals from groups with long-standing relationships with under-represented communities in Hennepin County to conduct engagement. These groups will conduct outreach and host focus group sessions to elevate the real-life experience of county residents with the solid waste system.

The community organizations will form a cohort to share learnings from county residents, develop a broader understanding of the barriers and benefits to living a low-waste lifestyle, and offer community-driven solutions.

To learn more about the early planning stages for the zero waste plan, visit

Grants available to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species 

Group in sailboat with decorated aquatic invasive species art sail

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.

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

Review the grant flyer (PDF) for more details. Applications are due by Thursday, January 13, 2022. Learn more and apply. 

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

A successful year for household hazardous waste collection events

Hennepin County hosted six household hazardous waste collection events in 2021. In total, more than 5,600 residents dropped off 276,000 pounds of hazardous waste. 

This included 9,346 pounds of household batteries. On average, 49 pounds of hazardous waste was collected per participating household.

Infographic showing results from household hazardous waste collection events in 2021


The county offers collection events throughout the spring, summer, and fall to provide residents a convenient, local option for disposing of household hazardous waste. Event locations and dates for 2022 will be announced in the spring.

Household hazardous waste can be disposed of year-round at county drop-off facilities.

Create joy, not waste this holiday season

Eco-friendly Holiday Guide from Choose to Reuse provides tips for reducing waste and supporting local retailers

We all go into the holidays with the best of intentions – we want to share great gifts, tasty food and plenty of time together. With a little planning, you can create joy, not waste this holiday season.

Santas for sale at thrift store


Check out your local thrift or vintage stores for decorations and ornaments you can reuse and enjoy for years to come. Retailers like Arc’s Value Village,  Bethesda, and Time Bomb Vintage are all great options.


Buying secondhand saves money, cuts waste, and allows you to find something unique and special without worrying about shipping delays. Check out the Hopkins Antique Mall, which has 78 booths on two floors packed with vintage finds. See the Secondhand Holiday Gift Guide for more great ideas.

Snowshoes on snow

Giving experiences never gets old and is usually a less-waste, more sustainable option. See our guide for giving experiences rather than physical gifts. 

If you are buying new, look for long-lasting items that can be reused or recycled later. In addition, look for battery-free and plastic-free toys and always opt for minimal packaging.

Remember to wrap up your gifts the green way. Get creative – reuse gift bags from last year or wrap gifts using recyclable materials, like newspapers and brown paper bags.

Inspired hosting

holiday table with reusable dishware

Although you want to be a generous host, making too much food that doesn’t get eaten is a waste of money and resources. The Guest-Imator from Save the Food will help you plan and shop for just the right amount.

A low-impact holiday meal also means skipping the disposables. Use dishes you already have and purchase any extra dishes you need, like pie plates, at a local thrift store. While you’re there, get inspired and grab festive table décor to make the meal memorable.

For additional ideas for choosing to reuse by opting for secondhand gifts and decor for the holidays, see Hennepin County’s guide to an eco-friendly holiday season.

Green Tip: Preparing for winter weather

Kids walking in a snowstorm, photo from the Star Tribune

Are you prepared to stay safe this winter? Minnesota's winters can be a great time to get out and explore.

But winter also presents many hazards that we need to prepare for – including extreme cold, snow, and ice – and our changing climate means an increased frequency of freeze/thaw cycles, ice storms, rain on snow events, and heavy snowstorms.

During Winter Hazard Awareness Week in November, Hennepin County shared the following ways to make sure you and your family, friends, and neighbors are prepared to stay safe this winter.

Learn about local conditions

Woman walking on salt filled icy sidewalk

Monitor current conditions and explore weather history on the Hennepin West Mesonet. A mesonet is a system of automated weather monitoring stations used to measure local weather conditions, which can differ greatly from the region as a whole.

Create emergency kits to prepare for winter weather

Heavy snow or ice storms can make it hard to get out to get what you need. So, it’s a good idea to be prepared to hunker down for a few days and to stay safe when traveling on our roads.

See's list of what to include in an emergency kit at home and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s list of what to include in a winter driving survival kit.

Get outside safely

As long as you’re prepared, Minnesota winters are a great time to get out and explore!

Remind yourself how to dress for chilly, cold, and extremely cold weather with this helpful graphic from (PDF).

Infographic showing how to dress for chilly, cold, and extremely cold weather

Also learn the signs of hypothermia and frostbite and the avoid, spot, treat approach from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Avoid getting hypothermia or frostbite by dressing properly and knowing who is at greater risk. Know how to spot the signs and symptoms and treat anyone who is experiencing symptoms properly to avoid further risks. Learn more in the avoid, spot, treat infographics (PDF).

Two kids ice skating

Now that you’re prepared for cold weather, get out and explore! From downhill and cross country skiing to snowshoeing, fat biking and ice skating, there are many different winter activities to try. And fortunately, there are many rental options available so you can try out a new winter activity without having to invest in new equipment. Find options in our Choose to Reuse article on renting winter sports equipment.

Clear snow and ice and use salt responsibly to protect water

Two people shoveling sidewalk

Using salt on sidewalks, driveways, parking lots and roads can help improve safety, but too much salt pollutes our water and can harm pets and wildlife. Melting snow and ice carries salt into our lakes, rivers and streams, permanently polluting our water. And with more freeze/thaw cycles and ice storms, salt pollution is a concern throughout the winter.

Do your part to minimize your impact this winter by following Clean Water Minnesota’s 4 steps to using sidewalk salt responsibly:

  1. Shovel early and often
  2. Select the right product for the right temperature
  3. Scatter to use salt sparingly
  4. Sweep up leftover salt and sand

Get more tips for preparing to stay safe this winter on the Hennepin County Climate Action website.

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