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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Earth Day 2022: Take climate action

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges the county faces because of its significant environmental, societal, and economic impacts on both a global and local level. This Earth Day, we are focusing on how we can take action to address climate change as individuals and as a community.

Three people wearing rain coats hold open trash bag during litter cleanup

Our climate is changing, and we all need to be part of the solution

Climate change is solvable, we know the solutions, and we’re in this together. Even in Minnesota, we are starting to notice the effects of climate change from warming winter temperatures to more extreme precipitation events. Thankfully, most people are interested in creating a climate-friendly future. To create that future, we need to be willing to take significant action on the most impactful changes.

The most impactful ways to take climate action are:

  • Drive less and get around in a sustainable way
  • Switch to renewable energy and conserve energy
  • Avoid wasting food and eat a more plant-based diet
  • Live a low-waste lifestyle and practice thoughtful consumption
  • Be a good steward of our natural resources
  • Talk about climate change and get involved in your community

In this edition of the Climate Action Update, we explore how Hennepin County is working to diversify the county’s tree canopy, improve access to biking, and divert food to people in need.

This edition also includes an update from the county’s Climate and Resiliency team, a map of Earth Day events and city cleanup days, and an invitation to participate in the development of the county’s Zero Waste Plan.

Take action this Earth Day and be part of the solution to climate change. If you know of others who would be interested in this content, please share it with them and encourage them to sign up!

Climate and Resiliency Department update

Commissioner briefing on progress implementing the Climate Action Plan

On Thursday, April 14, the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners received a briefing on the progress implementing the Climate Action Plan. The briefing included:

Updates on the ongoing efforts currently implemented as part of our foundational strategies.

  • Strengthen individual and community resilience by supporting the redevelopment of underutilized urban parcels into productive community gardens, developing a GIS hub to assess climate vulnerability and working to site a new automated weather station in North Minneapolis to improve weather forecasting. The weather station will also be used to study the urban heat island effect, engaging youth in climate action and meteorology.
  • Cut greenhouse gas emissions in transportation by electrifying the county’s fleet and expanding charging stations.
  • Prevent food waste and divert organics from the trash by conducting research to identify ways the county can better support organizations that rescue food, providing waste prevention grants and expanding residential organics recycling programs.
  • Transition to renewable energy and reduce energy use overall by updating the plans for county buildings to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and continuing to reduce energy use by 3% annually, completing a building decarbonization study and installing a solar array at the Adult Corrections Facility.
  • Decreasing the heat island effect by enhancing the community forest, developing a road map to plant one million trees equitably and developing a pilot program for a tree green job training opportunity for youth in probation to plant trees on tax-forfeited properties.

Building key partnerships across systems

Staff provided an update on the county’s participation in key statewide partnerships, including the Minnesota Climate Action Framework, Minnesota’s Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council and the GreenStep Climate Program Advisory Committee. The county is also coordinating with municipalities, government agencies and community organizations at the county-level. With the support of the Great Plains Institute, the county is coordinating a cohort of 21 cities to focus on tree canopy and electric vehicle infrastructure to leverage resources and center disparity reduction.

Upcoming future updates

Staff previewed future board briefings in 2022 including a goal and plan to reduce vehicle miles traveled, a Complete Streets policy update, and the Zero-Waste Plan.

Share opportunities for community engagement

The board also learned about efforts to expand engagement with residents, hiring community liaisons and developing a Climate and Resiliency community engagement strategy.

To learn more, review the PowerPoint and watch the recording of the briefing.

News and updates

Board of Commissioners officially recognize Earth Day in Hennepin County

On April 19, 2022, Hennepin County's Board of Commissioners passed a resolution officially recognizing Earth Day in Hennepin County. The resolution recognizes the importance of climate action, green infrastructure, environmental education, community engagement, and partnerships in meeting our goals and fulfilling our mission. Read the full resolution here.

Hennepin County recently received a Department of Energy Communities LEAP award

Map of LEAP award locations

Hennepin County recently received a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Communities LEAP technical assistance award. This project will support engagement with residents in areas of environmental justice concern to assess awareness, barriers, and community interest on transportation electrification.

As electric vehicles and electric charging infrastructure deployment efforts are coordinated across systems, the county wants to ensure that low-income communities with limited access to public transit are included. The engagement efforts will seek to understand how transportation electrification technology, including electric vehicle charging stations, can best serve these community members.

Current project partners include the cities of Brooklyn Park and Minneapolis, and African Career, Education, & Resources Inc. (ACER). Project results will inform efforts to facilitate a coordinated external transportation decarbonization strategy with municipalities across Hennepin County.

To learn more, visit the Department of Energy's LEAP communities website.

Share your feedback about electric vehicle charging stations throughout the state

Electric vehicle charging station

Minnesota is working to become a leader in electric vehicle use in the Midwest. As part of this effort, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is developing a plan to invest federal funds in electric vehicle charging stations in Minnesota. Take this five minute survey to share your ideas about where to install electric vehicle charging stations throughout the state.

Map of Earth Day and Arbor Day events

Earth Day and Arbor Day events

Take action this Earth Day by getting involved in local events that celebrate our community, trees, and the environment. Get outside and enjoy! View our map of Earth Day and Arbor Day events.

City cleanup events

City cleanup events are back! Get outside and get involved with your local city cleanup and tree plantings. You’d be surprised how much you and your neighbors can do in a day.

To make it easier, we’ve started a list of events on our website: 2022 city cleanup events.

Share your ideas for a zero-waste future

We want to hear from you! Participate in developing Hennepin County’s Zero Waste Plan by telling us about your experiences in recycling, composting and ideas to reduce waste on our new engagement site. Residents who register on the website can engage with other community members, post ideas, and stay informed as the plan progresses.

Zero waste plan engagement

Our vision for zero waste

Hennepin County’s zero-waste vision is a system where all materials are designed to become resources for others to use. Our definition of zero waste is preventing 90% or more of all discarded materials from being landfilled or incinerated.

About the Zero Waste Plan

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

Sharing the engagement site

Please promote the engagement site through your channels and to your partners and participants. You can share this article with them, promote organically through your own words, or share posts from our social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

Share your ideas today!

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.

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

People walk through a gravel bed nursery

Creating a community forestry program was part of the county’s expanded role in natural resource conservation and is a core component of the county’s efforts to combat climate change. The forestry program focuses on protecting the county’s tree canopy to increase the benefits that trees provide.

The tree canopy is an important and integral part of Hennepin County’s green infrastructure. When properly planned and managed, trees provide significant ecological, social, and economic benefits.

The benefits include improved air and water quality, reduced soil erosion and stormwater runoff, increased wildlife habitat, savings in heating and cooling, improved health, enhanced livability, and increased property values.

To maximize the benefits that trees provide, the county’s forestry program focuses on growing healthy trees, partnering in large-scale planting events, managing threats to the tree canopy, raising awareness about tree pests and disease, educating the public on the benefits of trees, and supporting partners through the Healthy Tree Canopy Grant program.

Learn more about the county's first Community Forestry Strategic Plan (PDF) and the work that was accomplished by our foresters in 2021.

Food rescue diverts excess food to people in need

Woman holding box of food outside trunk of car

Each year in the U.S., 63 million tons of food are wasted, representing around 15% of the total waste generated. In Hennepin County, we know from waste sorts that 20% of our trash is food. On average, 3.5 pounds of food are wasted per person per week. Of that waste, two-thirds is potentially edible.

The county is focusing on reducing food waste because it’s one of the single most effective solutions to address climate change and a priority strategy to get to zero-waste.

Food waste reduction combats climate change and supports disparity reduction efforts

Wasting food has upstream climate impacts.

It wastes energy used to grow, produce, transport and store food products. When food makes it to the landfill, it has a direct effect on climate change because decomposing food generates methane.

An estimated 17% of all methane emissions come from landfills. Methane made up only 10% of the total greenhouse gas emissions nationwide in 2018. However, it traps 28 times more solar radiation than carbon dioxide. This makes it a potent driver of climate change.

Learn more about what Hennepin County is doing to increase the diversion of food to people that would otherwise go to waste.

Improving biking in Hennepin County

Woman riding bike on city street

About 2.5 percent of all trips in Hennepin County are by bike, which is more than double the national average. Hennepin County is committed to creating a biking environment that meets the needs of all residents, including those who bike now and those who will bike in the future.

There are about 800 miles of bike lanes and facilities in Hennepin County. We’re working to increase that number by adding bike lanes or multi-use paths through reconstruction, repaving or standalone projects.

In fact, a goal of our 2040 Bicycle Transportation Plan is to add 20 miles of bike facilities every year and ensure that 90% of homes are within a half mile of a bikeway. Other improvements need to be made to ensure people feel safe, that access is equitable, and that the work is done sustainably.

Recent bike projects

Our recently finished and current bike projects include:


Ongoing and upcoming

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.

Celebrate Earth Day 2022: Be part of the solution to climate change

Take action this Earth Day to address climate change as individuals and as a community. Learn more about how you can be part of the solution to climate change on the Climate Action website.

Woman in bike helmet looking for cars at an intersection

Get around in a sustainable way

Gasoline-powered vehicles are a big source of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the transportation sector generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., so choosing more sustainable transportation options can have a big impact.

Act now:

  • Choose to bike, walk, take public transit, and carpool instead.
  • Invest in an electric or hybrid vehicle.
  • Cut down on airplane travel.

Solar panels on a roof

Switch to renewable energy and conserve energy

Much of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, making electricity production the second largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Conserving energy and transitioning to renewable energy sources will make a big difference.

Act now:

  • Purchase renewable energy through your electricity provider, buy into community solar, or install solar at your home.
  • Conduct a home energy audit to identify energy conservation opportunities, including adding insulation and sealing leaks.
  • Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances.

Strawberries and peppers on a counter

Avoid wasting food and eat a more plant-based diet

More than 40% of food in America is wasted, which wastes the energy and resources that goes into growing, transporting, and processing that food. Additionally, our food industry, particularly the meat and dairy sector, is a major contributor to climate change, so eating a plant-rich diet can greatly reduce your carbon footprint.

Act now:

Smiling woman with sewing machine

Live a low-waste lifestyle and practice thoughtful consumption

From manufacturing and transportation all the way through to disposal, everything we buy has an impact. Being intentional about the things you own and taking care of them to make them last will reduce your footprint and simplify your life.

Act now:

  • Think before you buy – consider if you really need it, how you will use it, and how you will ultimately get rid of it.
  • Be an intentional consumer by only buying what you need, buying high-quality items that are designed to last, shopping used, and seeking opportunities to borrow or swap.
  • Extend the life of your items by maintaining and repairing them.
  • Use your power as a consumer to support businesses that are taking steps to reduce their climate impact.

Woman in hat leaning over tall prairie grasses

Be a good steward of our natural resources

The natural areas and habitats we treasure and that increase our resiliency are vulnerable to climate change. Changing temperature and moisture patterns put added pressure on ecosystems and stormwater management infrastructure.

Act now:

Woman and daughter cleaning litter from storm drain

Talk about climate change and get involved in your community

Climate change is a big problem that requires big solutions. Acting together can help bring about the changes we need.

Act now:

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