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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Responding to Minnesota’s changing winters

Kids walking in a snowstorm

Cold weather is here in Minnesota. Despite the winter weather, we’re still seeing the effects of climate change. In fact, much of the observed warming of Minnesota’s climate has happened when it’s the coldest.

Warmer winters combined with a trend toward heavier precipitation events increase the frequency of flooding, landslides, freeze/thaw cycles, ice storms, rain on snow events, and heavy snowstorms. All of these put increased strain on county operations, residents, businesses, and the natural environment.

In this edition of the Climate Action Update, we explore how Hennepin County is learning about and responding to Minnesota’s changing winters and provide tips for keeping your home comfortable while saving energy during the coldest months.

This edition also includes an update on the county’s Climate and Resiliency team, how to get engaged in the development of the Zero Waste Plan, and resources to cope with the mental health impacts of climate change.

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Climate and Resiliency Department update: Building a team

The Climate and Resiliency Department is developing and strengthening our internal team, which currently includes our director, and two additional members:

Jessi Eidbo, Senior Data Analyst

Jessi Eidbo headshot

Jessi is responsible for leading the management, analysis, and visualization of data to inform the work of our Climate and Resiliency Department. Jessi joins us from the Great Plains Institute, where she served as a subject matter expert in greenhouse gas mitigation and decarbonization strategies, as well as energy planning and modeling. She brings several years of applied geospatial and statistical analysis working specifically with climate and sustainability data. Jessi has a master’s degree in urban planning with a minor in Geographic Information Systems and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences and Planning from the University of Minnesota.

Brian Shekleton, Senior Environmentalist

Brian Shekleton headshot

Brian is supporting the implementation of the Climate Action Plan. He facilitated planning processes to develop the county's Climate Action Plan, with a focus on operational and community resilience to climate change. Brian has supported the Environment and Energy department and served as a Policy Aide in the District 4 office for former County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. Brian has a master’s degree in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy and a BA in History from the University of Minnesota. He serves on the Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership Advisory Board.

Expanding the team

This year, one of the priorities is to expand our team members. We are working to hire the following additional staff:

  • one administrative manager to help us implement and track the activities and metrics identified in our workplan;
  • two community liaisons, who will support meaningful engagement with our residents, with a focus on equity and climate vulnerability;
  • one project manager to lead initiatives and support the monitoring and evaluation system implementation;
  • and one administrative assistant to support the Climate and Resiliency Department with scheduling, correspondence, and overall support.

These job opportunities will be posted on Hennepin County's job board.

News and updates

Share your input on Minnesota’s draft Climate Action Framework

Climate Action Framework

Minnesota’s Climate Change Subcabinet has released a draft of the state’s Climate Action Framework and is requesting feedback from residents. All Minnesotans are encouraged to help plan and prioritize how we will address climate change together and share your feedback on how the draft plan aligns with the needs of your community.

The Framework sets a vision for how Minnesota will address and prepare for climate change. It is organized around the following six climate action goals:

The Climate Change Subcabinet will release a final Climate Action Framework in mid-2022. 

For more information, visit or email

Reducing silos across the system

Our Climate and Resiliency Department is participating in several advisory boards and workgroups with the purpose of shaping a shared vision and action planning regarding climate change:

Climate Action Framework - Resilient Communities Workgroup

MN Climate Change Subcabinet

The State of Minnesota's Climate Action Framework (described above) identifies immediate actions towards a carbon-neutral, resilient, and equitable future for the State. The Framework identifies six key goals with action steps to help Minnesota achieve these objectives. Our Climate and Resiliency Department will participate in the Resilient Communities workgroup, meant to support the planning of infrastructure, natural systems, and community preparedness for the potential climate impacts.

Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council

Minnesota Department of Transportation

The goal of the Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council is to provide the Minnesota Department of Transportation with recommendations to transition toward a low-carbon transportation system in a way that is consistent with statutory goals for energy and emissions reductions. This work focuses on improving safety, reducing inequities, and supporting economic development. Some specific objectives include:

  • promoting and increasing the use of high occupancy vehicles and low emission vehicles;
  • prioritizing transportation modes with the greatest people-moving capacity and lowest long-term economic and environmental cost;
  • promoting the increase of bicycling and walking;
  • and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s transportation sector.

Learn more on the Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council's webpage.

Climate Program Advisory Committee

GreenStep cities logo

Minnesota GreenStep Cities

Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary assistance and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability goals through the implementation of best practices. Hennepin County’s Department of Climate and Resiliency has joined a cohort of stakeholders to co-design a program meant to support Green Cities to mitigate, adapt, and prepare for the effects of climate change.

Learn more on the Minnesota GreenStep Cities webpage.

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.

Learning about and responding to Minnesota’s changing winters

Medina deputy director measuring frost depth

Hennepin County’s Emergency Management and Transportation departments play an important role in keeping utilities and infrastructure safe and operating in the winter.

Emergency Management collects data on local frost depth and freezing rain to monitor for potential hazards such as frozen water mains, spring flooding, and icy roads. Frost depth measurements help to monitor for potential issues with water main breaks and forecast spring flooding. Freezing rain sensors help local agencies keep transit running, make decisions about de-icing roads, and alert utility companies to potential service disruptions. Read more about how new, local data helps combat winter weather hazards.

Hennepin County road operations staff use sodium chloride, or salt, to effectively remove snow and ice on more than 2,200 lane miles of county roads. Although it is fast and effective, salt negatively impacts soils and surface waters. Through proactive efforts, Hennepin County has been very successful in significantly reducing the amount of salt applied on county roads over the past 25 years. These efforts align with the Climate Action Plan's goals of enhancing public safety, increasing resilience of the built environment, and protecting natural resources. Read more about keeping waters clean and healthy while keeping county roads safe and drivable.

Snowplow on the road

Mapping a zero-waste future

About the Zero Waste Plan

Hennepin County is developing an operational plan to map Hennepin County to a zero-waste future that includes a broad community engagement process with a strong focus on equity and disparity reduction.

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

The Zero Waste Plan will complement the county’s newly adopted Climate Action Plan and provide the foundation for the county’s 2024 Solid Waste Management Master Plan. A draft of the Zero Waste Plan will be presented to the county board in November 2022.

Consultants hired to lead the development of the county’s Zero Waste Plan

Hennepin County recently hired numerous consultants that will work collaboratively with county staff to develop a plan to reach a zero-waste future.

Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) was hired as the solid waste consultant to identify gaps in the county’s existing solid waste system, review the solid waste systems of leading zero-waste communities, conduct stakeholder engagement, and coordinate work groups to develop strategies.

Antonia Apolinário-Wilcoxon, Ed.D. of Equity Strategies

Antonia Apolinário-Wilcoxon, Ed.D. of Equity Strategies was hired as a facilitator to support the plan’s broad community engagement process with a strong focus on equity and disparity reduction. One key responsibility of the facilitator is to coordinate a cohort of 18 community groups that will be focused on engaging residents who have traditionally been left out of solid waste planning processes and are potentially more burdened by the current solid waste system.

As a skilled local facilitator, Dr. Apolinário-Wilcoxon will provide transparency and neutrality in discussions and analysis of feedback regarding concerns and opportunities related to the county’s solid waste system.

Zero waste plan community engagement partners

Eighteen community groups were selected to receive funding to support community engagement with the Zero Waste Plan. These groups will be responsible for providing input on engagement plans for their communities, hosting engagement sessions, and communicating updates to their members on the process and feedback opportunities. As a cohort, these groups will work together to gain a broader understanding of the solid waste system, develop community-identified solutions, and define themes for use in the subsequent plan development phase.

  • Action to Equity
  • Audubon Neighborhood Association
  • Center for Hmong Arts and Talent
  • Climate Generation/Youth Environmental Activists of Minnesota (YEA! MN)
  • Community Power
  • Congregations Caring for Creation
  • Eastside Neighborhood Services
  • Ebenezer Oromo Evangelical Church
  • Encouraging Leaders
  • Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota
  • McKinley Community
  • MN Renewable Now
  • NoMi Roots
  • Northside Residents Redevelopment Council
  • Off The Blue Couch
  • Somali American Women Action Center
  • Resilient Cities and Communities with Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia
  • Thai Cultural Council of Minnesota

Subscribe to the Zero Waste Plan Updates newsletter to receive updates as the plan moves forward. Public engagement will begin in March.

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.

Father and daughter relaxing on couch

Keeping your home comfortable in the winter while saving energy

Staying comfortable in your home this winter isn’t as hard as you may think. In fact, by taking a few simple steps to make your home more energy efficient, you can stay cozy and save money, even in the coldest months.

Simple steps anyone can take

Whether you own or rent, anyone can take these simple steps to stay comfortable in the colder months:

Adjust your thermostat to 68 degrees
  1. Set your thermostat: Manually set your thermostat at 68°F during the day and lower it when you go to sleep or when you are away from your home. If financially accessible, you could also invest in a smart thermostat to adjust the temperature automatically.
  2. Weatherize your windows and doors: Seal any leaks in your doors and windows using weatherization techniques such as draft snakes. Don’t try to heat the outdoors!
  3. Avoid using space heaters: Space heaters are inefficient and don’t distribute warmth around your home as well as your heating system does.
  4. Use the power of the sun: Open your blinds during the day to harness the power of the sun to warm your home.
  5. Tune up your heating system annually: Heating systems should be tuned up every year and replaced with newer, more efficient models at the end of their lifespan.

Improving energy efficiency is an easy way to reduce our energy consumption and use our resources more responsibly. Read more about keeping your home comfortable in the winter while saving energy for additional tips and links to resources and financial assistance.

Addressing the mental health impacts of climate change

Close-up of people holding hands

Climate change’s effect on mental health is well-documented. In fact, feeling stress or anxiety due to worrying about climate change is one of the most common impacts Hennepin County residents say they are already experiencing. Despite this, it can be hard to find resources to cope.

The Climate Action article on addressing the mental health impacts of climate change outlines four ways to increase mental health resiliency:

  1. Name it: The first step in addressing mental health impacts is acknowledging them.
  2. Break mental health stigma: Avoid labels and use respectful language to avoid shaming people into silence or preventing them from seeking help.
  3. Use and share mental health resources: If you or someone you know is struggling, many resources are available to help.
  4. Get involved in climate solutions: Taking action on solutions is one of the most important things we can do to move from feelings of fear and anxiety – which can cause us to disconnect or leave us paralyzed to do anything – to feelings of worry and even hope. These are more productive emotions that show we care and keep us motivated to act.

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