Climate Action Update: Climate solutions the county is pursuing and how the county is institutionalizing the framework of the Climate Action Plan

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Relaunching the Climate Action Updates

Since the county adopted the Climate Action Plan in May, we have been working to institutionalize the framework of our climate change response.

The county appointed Diana Chaman Salas as the Director of Climate and Resiliency. Diana is currently building a team who will elevate and coordinate climate action across county departments and with external partners and diverse communities across Hennepin County.

We have also made progress on many of our foundational strategies, which are outlined on page 65 of the Climate Action Plan (PDF). These strategies were identified by the county’s climate action teams as the best place to start because they will serve as a strong foundation for the county’s long-term response to climate change.

We plan to send Climate Action Updates every other month to keep you informed of the county’s progress toward achieving our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, provide updates on climate solutions the county is pursuing, and let you know about new resources available for taking action at home and in your community.

Please share these updates and encourage others to sign up!

Introducing Hennepin County’s Director of Climate and Resiliency

About Diana Chaman Salas

Diana Chaman Salas headshot

Diana Chaman Salas became Hennepin County’s Director of Climate and Resiliency in June.

Previously, she has worked as a program coordinator and senior planning analyst for Hennepin County Health and Human Services, a Child Hunger Program Specialist at Second Harvest Heartland, and a consultant for the Global Food Banking Network.

She has a Master’s in Public Administration from Syracuse University and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. She co-developed the Peruvian National Strategy for Family Farming and Food Security. Diana has been a speaker at the UN Climate Change Conference COP20, the No More Food to Waste Conference in the Hague, the UN’s Woman of the Mountain Conference, and the World Bank 2015 Annual Meeting. She is a former recipient of the Minnesota International NGO Network Fellowship.

A message from Diana

The climate change impacts that Hennepin County is already experiencing create abrupt and challenging situations, such as severe weather, flash floods, and poor air quality, that effects everyone’s health and well-being and worsens existing disparities. These conditions disproportionately affect our most vulnerable residents, particularly Black and Indigenous people of color, immigrant communities, children, and older populations.

As the Climate and Resiliency Department director, my work centers on operationalizing our Climate Action plan in collaboration with key stakeholders. As we craft a shared vision for climate resiliency, I plan to focus on engaging with and supporting all county lines of business, empowering vulnerable communities by honoring their voices, working closely with community-based agencies, and providing accountability through monitoring our response and adapting as needed.

With a bold goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, our Climate Action Plan seeks to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change using a disparity reduction lens. In other words, our response will focus on building resiliency across historically vulnerable communities.

Priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions include assessing strategies to reduce vehicle miles traveled, planning countywide infrastructure for electric vehicles, transitioning to an electric vehicle fleet, and pursuing anaerobic digestion to manage food waste. We are also increasing community resiliency by expanding the tree canopy on county properties while creating green job opportunities and investing in urban agriculture opportunities for youth. Read more about these priorities in the articles below.

Finally, we are seeking to make data-driven decisions and establish an ongoing monitoring and evaluation system. We are working on online dashboards that will assess vulnerability to climate change and capture our operational greenhouse gas emissions across Hennepin County.

Join us as we implement this vision!

Hennepin County’s Climate Action website

Screenshot of Climate Action website

Hennepin County’s Climate Action website, available at, is the home for resources and updates about the county’s response to climate change. The website includes four main sections:

Climate Action Plan

Understand the path to achieving our goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and explore the Climate Action Plan and strategies.

Also see greenhouse gas emission trends in Hennepin County and access supporting documents for the plan development, including findings from community engagement efforts and research and assessment phases.

Climate change in Hennepin County

Learn how our climate is changing in Minnesota and Hennepin County. Explore the local impacts of climate change and understand who faces the greatest risks of negative climate impacts.

What the county is doing

Learn how the county will approach implementation of the Climate Action Plan and read about climate solutions the county is currently pursuing.

What we can do

Get tips and resources for taking action at home and in your community.

News and updates

Funding available to conduct community engagement in support of zero-waste plan

Hennepin County is developing a plan to reach a zero-waste future. A draft of the plan will be presented to the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners in November 2022. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with the materials we use and discard is a core strategy in the Climate Action Plan.

To support the development of the Zero Waste Plan, Hennepin County is looking to partner with community groups who will work with county staff to develop the plan. Community and neighborhood groups will receive up to $15,000 to conduct engagement and outreach focused on how we get rid of stuff, recycle more, and reduce trash.

Learn more by reading the grant overview, guidelines, and application materials and by attending an upcoming information meeting on December 22 or January 5. Applications are due January 14.

Hennepin County hosts panel on youth green jobs at COP26

Hennepin County recently hosted a panel during capacity building day at COP26, the global climate summit. The panel focused on empowering vulnerable youth through green jobs.

Banner for COP26 capacity building day

The panel featured:

  • Diana Chaman Salas, Hennepin County’s Director of Climate and Resiliency
  • Patience Caso, manager of Hennepin County’s Green Partners environmental education grants
  • Analyah Schlaeger dos Santos, environmental justice youth program coordinator for Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light
  • Craig Taylor, regional director of the University of Minnesota Extension Service

Panelists discussed how engaging youth in environmental action can advance climate goals, diversify our work force, and create a network of environmental stewards. Watch a recording of the panel discussion.

Hennepin County commits to goals of the Paris Climate Agreement

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, as part of the county's 2022 budgeting process, recently passed a resolution committing the county to adopting and supporting the goals of the Paris Agreement, the global climate agreement adopted in 2015. Joining the Paris Agreement commits the county to exploring and adopting policies and programs that promote the long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions while maximizing economic and social benefits of such action.

How Hennepin County is leading on climate action

Hennepin County’s response to climate change is important. The county leads in many areas that offer the most effective ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions, such as investing in transit, conserving energy use in our buildings, protecting natural resources, and preventing waste. The county must also work toward eliminating disparities in our response to climate change and prioritize protecting the health of residents amid increasing threats.

The following are some of the climate solutions the county is currently pursuing.

Turning food scraps into clean energy and compost to grow healthy food with anaerobic digestion

Hennepin County is proposing to build an anaerobic digestor, also called an AD facility, adjacent to the county’s Brooklyn Park Transfer Station.

The facility would turn food scraps and other organic materials, which currently make up about 30% of our trash, into clean energy and compost to grow healthy food. This would add critically needed regional capacity to recycle organics, which is identified as a foundational strategy in the county's Climate Action Plan.

The county’s vision for the project is to establish an Eco Center that would also create environmental education and green job opportunities, and help advance our healthy community, zero waste, and climate action goals.

Watch our video to learn how anaerobic digestions works (YouTube) and read the Climate Action article to learn more about the proposed anaerobic digestion facility and the county's vision for an Eco Center.

Screenshot of anaerobic digestion facility video

Providing green career pathways for vulnerable youth

Close up of tree roots on tree being planted

Providing pathways to green jobs for historically vulnerable youth and expanding the tree canopy are both priorities in the Climate Action Plan. To make progress on both goals, the county is developing a pilot program that seeks to employ, train, and provide career pathways for youth currently in juvenile diversion while planting 500 trees on tax-forfeited land and other county properties.

Staff from numerous county departments, including Climate and Resiliency, Community Corrections and Rehabilitation, Environment and Energy, Workforce Development, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, and Resident and Real Estate Services are collaborating on this pilot program. The county is also partnering with a community-based agency to further develop career pathways and educational opportunities that will help provide permanent employment for participants who complete the program.

Developing a road map to achieving vehicle miles traveled reduction goals

Person biking on U of M campus with light rail and walkers in background

Reducing vehicle miles traveled in the county is a key component of reaching the county’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. Vehicle miles traveled is a transportation metric that accounts for all of the miles traveled by all vehicles on all the roadways in a region.

Reducing vehicle miles traveled will decrease the amount of time and money people spend driving, reduce air pollution, and promote healthier communities. These efforts will also reduce disparities by having immediate, lasting benefits to communities of color who are exposed to higher amounts of air pollution and a higher risk of traffic crashes.

The county’s Climate and Resiliency and Transportation departments are working to develop a roadmap toward reducing vehicle miles traveled by hiring a consultant to analyze strategies and scenarios that help us achieve both short- and long-term goals. Scenarios will be evaluated based on a variety of metrics, including greenhouse gas emission reductions, equity impacts, feasibility, and partnerships. This effort will also establish a monitoring framework to track progress and ensure success. Strategy and scenario analysis will begin in early 2022.

Celebrating ongoing energy savings in Hennepin County buildings

Worker on ladder changing out lights in commercial building

Reducing energy use and increasing energy efficiency in buildings are key strategies to achieving the county’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Staff in Facility Services, which maintains and operates nearly 6.5 million square feet of county building space, have been focused on saving energy for decades, and those efforts have had a big impact over time.

In 2019 alone, Hennepin County saved nearly 17 million kilowatt hours of electricity. This is enough energy to charge an electric vehicle 340,000 times and drive it 22 times around the world!

Implementing changes to have the greatest energy savings have been so positive for staff that Facilities Services holds recognition event called the Hennergy Awards every year.

So, what actions give Hennepin County the most bang for the buck in both energy and cost savings?

  • Converting to LED lighting
  • Installing more efficient equipment and building controls
  • Turning off equipment and lighting when not needed

Learn more about how these changes have yielded big savings.

What we can do – taking action at home and in our communities

We all have a shared responsibility to do more to combat climate change, protect our local environment, and make our communities healthier. We recently added the following articles to help you take action at home and in your community.

So what can I do? Figuring out where to focus your climate action

Venn diagram showing questions to ask to figure out where to focus your climate actions

When thinking about climate change, people often wonder: “So, what can I do?” Climate change is a broad issue, so addressing the climate crisis will require a lot of different people putting their skills and talents to work in a lot of different areas.

Learn questions to ask yourself that will help you put your interests, talents, and connections to work addressing climate change.

Create meals not waste: be a climate hero by taking steps to reduce food waste

Family in kitchen chopping vegetables

Reducing food waste is a surprisingly powerful climate solution. About 40% of food is wasted somewhere along the supply chain. Wasted food has both upstream and downstream impacts - from the energy used to grow, transport, process, and refrigerate it to the methane generated when food waste is landfilled.

The Natural Resources Defense Council reports that wasted food accounts for 2.6% of the annual greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., which is equivalent to 1 in 7 cars on the road. Reducing food waste is a top strategy for addressing climate change according to Project Drawdown.

It may be surprising to learn that consumers are the biggest contributor to the food waste problem. But that’s also good news. We have the power to significantly reduce the amount of food that goes to waste, save ourselves money, and have a positive impact on climate change by making changes right at home in our kitchens and when we go shopping.

Learn ways to reduce food waste in these climate action articles:

Preparing for winter weather in a changing climate

Two kids ice skating

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 ways to make sure you and your family, friends, and neighbors are prepared to stay safe this winter. Read the climate action article on preparing for winter weather for tips and resources.

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