Environmental education resources

A wide variety of free environmental education resources and project support and funding is available to organizations working with residents in Hennepin County. 

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Environmental education activity guides

About the activity guides

The environmental education activity guides are intended to be used to engage audiences of all ages in learning about and taking action to protect the environment.

Activities are included on a variety of environmental topics. There are also a few general activities that could be applied to any environmental topic. 

Each section includes background information to help educators and participants learn about the environmental issue. Each activity includes an introduction, recommended age group, estimated time requirement, outcomes and concepts to reinforce, supplies, preparation steps, procedure, discussion questions, additional activity ideas, and resources.

The activities have also been linked to state education standards. See the education standards matrix (PDF).

Introduction and general activities

Introduction: how to use the activity guides and tips for motivating behavior change (PDF)

Calendar: seasonal milestones and environmental holidays (PDF)


Air, energy and climate change

Air, energy and climate change background information (PDF)


Protecting land and water

Protecting land and water background information (PDF)



Recycling background information (PDF)


Reducing waste

Reducing waste background information (PDF)


Reducing food waste

Reducing food waste background information (PDF)


Toxicity and hazardous waste

Toxicity and hazardous waste background information (PDF)


Learning trunks and event displays

Learning trunks and activities that can be checked out by educators (both formal and informal) for use in environmental education lessons or as displays at events.

To reserve any of the following learning trunks, contact Angela Ziobro at angela.ziobro@hennepin.us or 612-348-9850.

Green gifts learning trunk 

This trunk helps illustrate ideas for giving greener gifts as well as choosing greener gift wrapping. It includes examples of gifts wrapped using reused and recyclable material as well as low-waste gift ideas.

See the trunk contents (PDF) and engagement guide for leading an activity (PDF) or at events (PDF).

Green parties learning trunk

This trunk helps illustrate ideas for hosting greener parties. It includes party supply examples for high-waste parties, low-waste parties, and parties with organics for composting as an option.

See the trunk contents (PDF) and engagement guide for leading an activity (PDF) or at events (PDF).

Household hazardous waste learning trunk

The Household Hazardous Waste Learning Trunk will help educators explain the importance of proper use, storage, disposal and safety information of household hazardous products.

  • Sample products for a label reading activity
  • Activities, lesson plans and project ideas
  • Posters and display signs
  • Digital files including presentations, images and resources
  • Engagement guides for presentations, workshops and events

See the trunk contents (PDF) and engagement guide for leading an activity (PDF) or at events (PDF).

Green cleaning learning trunk

The Green Cleaning Learning Trunk will help educators to explain the simplicity, safety and effectiveness of home-made cleaners.

The trunk includes:

  • Green Cleaner recipe guides
  • Green cleaner ingredient example containers
  • Drain cleaning example product
  • Engagement guide for presentations and workshops

See the trunk contents (PDF) and engagement guide (PDF).

Packaging waste reduction learning trunk

The packaging waste reduction learning trunk will help educators illustrate how purchasing products with less packaging reduces waste and saves money.

The kits includes:

  • Examples of low and high waste purchasing options
  • Reusable options for lunches, coffee, and applesauce

See the trunk contents (PDF) and engagement guide for leading an adult activity (PDF)youth activity (PDF) or at events (PDF).

Reduce, reuse, recycle learning trunk

This learning trunk will help educators and community leaders explain the importance of recycling, reuse, and waste reduction. It focuses on the connections and interactions of society in our changing world.

The kit is contained in two plastic storage boxes and a poster tube. The learning trunk is recommended for all ages.

The Reduce, Reuse, Recycle trunk includes:

  • Items that can be recycled
  • Examples from recycling manufacturers of what products look like during the recycling process
  • Curriculum, activity guides and project ideas
  • Books, posters and display signs
  • DVDs and videos on the 3Rs for all ages

Full kit contents (PDF)

Recycling sorting activity

The recycling sorting activity is great for adult discussions on what can be recycled.

The activity includes two cloth bags filled with items you can or cannot recycle. A guide is attached to each bag with the answer key. This activity can spark some great discussions about recycling.

Full kit contents (PDF)

Make your own 

Save yourself the trip and create your own customized recycling sorting activity. Use one of the following guides to help you.

Recycled product learning trunk

This learning trunk will help educators and community leaders explain the importance of completing the loop by purchasing goods made from recycled products. It focuses on showing the variety of items available and their quality.

This kit is contained in one large plastic storage box and a poster tube. This learning trunk is recommended for ages 10 and older.

The learning trunk includes:

  • Examples of what products look like during the recycling process
  • Recycled products available on the market today
  • Activity guides
  • Books and posters
  • DVDs and videos on recycling and buying recycled for most ages

Full kit contents (PDF)

Water quality game

The water quality game helps educators explain the importance of daily choices on water quality. This fun game gets participants moving and employs problem solving and innovative thinking in the learning process. 

The learning trunk includes:

Every Drop water demonstration kit

The Every Drop water demonstration kit will help educators explain the importance and relative scarcity of accessible fresh water on Earth. 

The learning trunk includes:

  • Inflatable globe
  • Measuring cups and eyedropper tools
  • Engagement guide to facilitate activity

For more information, see the trunk contents and engagement guide (PDF).

Your street connects to lakes and rivers display

The display demonstrates how pollutants carried with runoff from lawns, driveways and streets drain directly into lakes and rivers. Polluted runoff may include sediment, yard chemicals, automotive fluids, pet or farm animal waste, road salt, and other debris.

With this display, individuals place "pollution balls" down the storm drain and follow them as they enter the nearby lake or stream. Each "pollution ball" is labeled to represent 1 of 10 common sources on nonpoint source pollution. It is great to use at local neighborhood events, watershed festivals, or in classrooms.

Brick of cans

The brick of cans shows what happens when cans are crushed at a recycling center. The brick of cans would be a great used with one of the learning trunks listed above.

Recycled bowling game

The recycled bowling game is a great activity for kids. The game includes reused pop bottles as pins. The games comes with a handout on the importance of reusing and recycling and instruction for making your own game.

Guidelines for reserving learning trunks

  • Trunks are available to group in Hennepin County only.
  • An organization can check out only one trunk and one activity at a time. Trunks must be returned before another trunk can be checked out.
  • Trunks can be checked out for 10 days at a time. ECFE programs can check out trunks for 16 days.
  • Please report to the county if you find any items in the trunk to be missing or broken.

Trunks and displays from partners

Additional displays are available for reservation through Metro WaterShed Partners. Learn more and reserve here.

Literature order form

Factsheets, brochures and incentive items covering a wide variety of environmental topics are available to community groups, municipalities and schools in Hennepin County at no charge.

If you would like to order literature, visit the Environmental Literature Order Form to review what's available and order online.

Ordering guidelines

When ordering, please plan ahead. Orders will be filled and postmarked within three to five business days and will require an additional two to three days for delivery through the U.S. Postal Service.

If you need your order filled sooner, pick up at the 701 Building is an option. Select the pick up option on the order form. Pick up orders will be ready within two to three business days. Environmental Services staff will contact you when your order is ready for pick up.

We encourage you to plan ahead so your order can be shipped.

Newsletter articles, social media posts and images

Spread the word! Use the following resources to promote environmental programs, issues and news in your communication channels. Resources include newsletter articles, web stories, social media posts, images and handouts. Resources are available for current campaigns and for general environmental issues.

Current campaigns

Non-reusable clothes and linens now accepted at Hennepin County Drop-Off Facilities

Got torn or dried-in stained clothing? Not a problem. Clothes and textiles that can’t be reused or donated now can be recycled at Hennepin County Drop-Off Facilities.

Choose to Reuse website, www.hennepin.us/choosetoreuse

Green thinkers, unite! The new Choose to Reuse website is a gathering space for Twin Cities green thinkers that will help you make sustainable choices for everyday living. Spread the word!

Recycling and reducing waste

Residential recycling

Recycle Everywhere

The Recycle Everywhere campaign focuses on tips and tricks to expand your recycling habits beyond the kitchen to the bathroom, laundry room and home office. 

Business recycling

Owners with commercial buildings in the seven-county metro area – that also generate four cubic yards or more of trash per week – must be recycling at least three materials by January 1, 2016. Businesses can get funds, recycling bins and advice from Hennepin County. Learn more.

Green events

Get resources for planning green events, including a planning guide, templates and tools, and event recycling containers. Learn more.

Fix-It Clinics and repair tips

Residents with broken household goods or clothing in need of repair can get free, guided assistance on disassembling, troubleshooting and fixing their items at Fix-It Clinics.

Rethink Recycling communication tool kits

Find free articles, fact sheets, images, ad templates and more on a variety of waste reduction and recycling topics. Available at Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board.

Disposing of and reducing hazardous waste

Identifying, reducing and disposing of hazardous waste

Green Disposal Guide

The online Green Disposal Guide provides simple content about how to get rid of items. Easy to use and mobile friendly, the Green Disposal Guide offers a range of disposal options and also encourages responsible disposal practices.

Medicine disposal

Medicine drop boxes are available throughout Hennepin County for residents to safely dispose of unwanted and unused medicines.

Safe disposal options for household needles and sharps

It’s important to manage and dispose of sharps (needles, lancets, and syringes) safely to prevent injury and disease transmission from needle-sticks.

Organics recycling, composting and disposing of yard waste

Backyard composting

Organics recycling

Yard waste

Protecting land and water

Actions to protect water quality

Adopt a storm drain

Rain gardens


Events and speakers

Hennepin County Department of Environmental Services staff is available to attend events in the county and give presentations to:

  • Community groups
  • Schools
  • Organizations
  • Businesses

Depending on the type of event, speakers can be experts on:

  • Waste reduction and recycling
  • Water conservation
  • Natural resource protection
  • Toxicity reduction
  • And much more

Email environment@hennepin.us to schedule a presentation or environmental expert for your event.


Hennepin County has produced informational videos on a range of environmental topics. We encourage residents, businesses, organizations and local governments to use them to learn more about a range of important environmental topics.

DVD copies of some of these videos are available. Call 612-348-3777 to request a copy.

How to collect organics at home

Many cities in Hennepin County are now offering curbside organics recycling. Learn about what's compostable in each room of your house and how to best collect your organics. Watch the video.

How does recycling work

After your recycling is picked up, it is sorted at a recycling facility and then sold to manufacturers who make a variety of new products. See how the process works by watching the videos from MPR below or Kare11.

HERC - More power than you know

The Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) is a waste-to-energy facility located in downtown Minneapolis that burns garbage to generate energy. HERC generates enough electricity to power 25,000 homes every year. HERC also provides steam for hot water and heating to the downtown Minneapolis district energy system and Target Field. Watch the video to learn more about how waste is managed in the county and how HERC generates energy from garbage. Watch the video.

Let's get rid of it!

Learn more about how to dispose of your household hazardous waste properly to protect your family's health and our water and air. Watch the video.

Waste, What's the Problem?

This five-minute video is an introduction to waste issues. It shows the amount of waste generated in the Twin Cities area, tells why some wastes are hazardous and gives ideas on how to reduce waste, recycle more and properly dispose of hazardous items.

Solar array on Medina Public Works Facility

Learn more about the county's solar array, installed as part of Hennepin County's Cool County initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The system will save 100 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually and more than 2,500 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the warranted life of the array.

Environmental tours and field trips

Brooklyn Park drop-off facility

Hennepin County offers facility tours at the Brooklyn Park Transfer Station (BPTS) waste drop-off facility. Please refer to the BPTS tour safety guidelines and tour form to request a tour.

Available tours include:

2nd grade and younger tour (participants must be 7 years of age or older):

Participants will learn about the importance of taking care of the things in their lives, including our Earth. They will explore how recycling and composting are ways to take care of the Earth every day. Classes will learn about natural resources, participate in a waste sort challenge and tour the facility.

State standards reinforced:

  • Science:,,,,,,
  • Social Studies:,,,

3rd-6th grade tour:

Participants in this tour will learn what a transfer station is, what is in the garbage, how to limit waste, participate in a recycling sort activity and tour the Brooklyn Park Transfer Station.

Tour options: If students are familiar with recycling and sorting of recyclables, indicate “HHW Tour” and we will focus on household hazardous waste in interactive activities.

State standards reinforced:

  • Science:,,,,,,,,,,
  • Math:,,,
  • Social Studies:,,,,,,,

7th-12th grade tour: 

Participants in this tour will learn what a transfer station is, what is in the garbage, how to limit waste, participate in a waste sort challenge and tour the Brooklyn Park Transfer Station.

Tour options: If students are familiar with recycling and sorting of recyclables, indicate “HHW Tour” and we will focus on household hazardous waste in interactive activities.

State standards reinforced:

  • Science:,,,,,,,,,,
  • Social Studies:,,,,,

Adult resident tour:

Participants in this tour will learn what a transfer station is, what is in the garbage, how to limit waste, participate in a waste sort activity and tour the Brooklyn Park Transfer Station.

Tour options: If participants are familiar with recycling and sorting of waste, indicate “HHW Tour” and we will focus on household hazardous waste in interactive activities. 

Hennepin Energy Recovery Center: A waste-to-energy facility

Hennepin County offers facility tours at the Hennepin County Energy Recovery Center (HERC) waste-to-energy facility. Please refer to the HERC tour safety guidelines and tour form to determine what may be available for your group.

HERC is a waste-to-energy facility in action where Minneapolis waste is received and burned to generate steam for the downtown district energy system and energy sold to Xcel. This tour describes the waste hierarchy, engineering alternatives to landfills and preventing pollution.

South Hennepin Recycling and Problem Waste Drop-Off Center in Bloomington

The Bloomington facility cannot accommodate tours due to its size and the heavy equipment in use.

Recommended field trips

See the list of field trip destinations (PDF) recommended for groups interested in environmental education.

Field trip transportation

Hennepin County provides field trip transportation for groups taking environmental education field trips. Groups must have at least 25 participants age 7 and above to be eligible. Transportation will be arranged with a county-provided bus service.

Field trip destinations must be located in Hennepin County unless you’ve received special permission from the program manager. To ensure we can fulfill your request, please apply for field trip transportation between two to eight weeks before your field trip.

Apply for field trip transportation.

Envisioning the future of environmental education for youth

Connecting youth to the natural world, helping them learn about environmental issues, and working with them to develop solutions is critical to prepare them for a world with increasingly complex environmental challenges.

To understand how we can best support environmental education efforts throughout the county, we've been gathering feedback from partners on the benefits of, barriers to, and effective strategies for engaging youth in environmental education.

A report outlining the results and next steps will be available in spring 2017.  


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