Goal: Reduce emissions in ways that align with core county functions and priorities

Analysis of the county’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory shows that there is a path forward to meeting our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, but only if we work in sync with our partners.

The county has a role to play in:

  • Leading by example to reduce energy and use carbon-free electricity and supporting the adoption of these efforts by local governments for broader impact.
  • Reducing vehicle related emissions in the operation of the county's transportation network and supporting transit and transit-oriented development.
  • Reducing emission associated with material use and waste as part of the county’s statutory responsibilities to manage a solid waste management system.

Buildings and energy use

Closeup of solar panel with downtown Minneapolis in the backgroundAs a large organization, a major consumer of energy, and an energy generator, Hennepin County can have a significant impact through efforts to reduce energy use and improve energy efficiency in buildings.

The county is well situated to lead by example in reducing energy use and associated emissions, as well as influencing energy planning, policies and regulations to lessen the impact on the environment, improve communities, and protect public health.

Aspects of reducing emissions and meeting greenhouse goals with buildings and energy use are:

  • Conserving energy and using energy more efficiently in existing buildings
  • Electrifying buildings
  • Using carbon-free electricity sources, such as solar and wind, for county operations and making carbon-free electricity more widely available for residents and businesses.
  • Other ways to avoid greenhouse gas emissions with buildings is by reusing buildings and building materials rather than building new and by using of a lifecycle analysis when designing new buildings.

Objective: Greenhouse gas emissions associated with buildings and energy use are reduced to meet the state’s Next Generation Energy Act and county emission goals

  • Strategy: Reduce climate impacts of buildings through innovative and efficient design, including the use of climate-friendly material choices
  • Strategy: Transition to renewable energy sources, reduce energy use overall in county operations
  • Strategy: Support Hennepin County communities in establishing initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy use

Transportation

People on bikeway next to walkers on path alongside roadwayHennepin County plans, funds, builds, and manages a transportation network of roadways, bikeways, and sidewalks. Long-term partnerships have produced an increasingly dense network of transit and transportation options that include light rail transit, bus rapid transit, commuter rail, bikeways, and pedestrian walkways.

As the first Minnesota county to adopt a Complete Streets policy, Hennepin County recognizes the importance of addressing the needs of transit riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians along with the needs of motorists.

Transportation emissions have declined slightly in the past decade despite an increase in the number of miles driven due to increased transit options, higher fuel economy standards, and intelligent traffic systems that reduces congestion. But Minnesota’s transportation planners have determined that we will not be able to achieve our state greenhouse gas emission reduction goals without reducing vehicle miles traveled.

Managing the land and infrastructure in the county's transportation network creates opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, sequester carbon, manage increased precipitation, and reduce the impact of the urban heat island effect. As our transportation system evolves, reducing air pollutants from fossil fuel combustion will not only help meet our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, but also reduces disparities in traffic-related health impacts.

Objective: Greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation are reduced to meet the county emission goals

  • Strategy: Reduce vehicle miles traveled in Hennepin County and throughout the region
  • Strategy:Promote electric vehicle infrastructure regionally
  • Strategy: Use transportation investments to support broader county goals including reducing disparities, improving health, enhancing livability, and growing the economy

Waste and material use

Girls and mom in kitchen putting food scraps into organics recycling containerCreating new products requires energy – to harvest raw material, process it, manufacture it, transport it, and sometimes, to use it. When looking at emissions to show how they are tied to the production of materials and goods, producing and transporting goods is associated with 45% of global emissions.

This underscores the importance of sustainable purchasing. Significant opportunities to reduce emissions with waste and materials include:

  • Using the purchasing power of public entities to make a positive impact on climate change through procurement decisions.
  • Increasing the salvage, reuse, and recycling of building materials from construction and demolition projects.
  • Reducing food waste and increasing the composting or digesting of food scraps.
  • Shifting consumer behaviors to increase the understanding of the climate impacts of consumer choices and reducing the environmental impacts of waste.
  • Making policy changes that hold producers responsible for good accountable and advance zero-waste initiatives.

Objective: Greenhouse gas emissions associated with waste and material use are reduced to meet county goals

  • Strategy: Prevent food waste and divert organic material from the trash
  • Strategy: Reuse and recycle construction and demolition waste
  • Strategy: Understand the climate impacts of our consumer choices and mitigate the largest impacts
  • Strategy: Advocate for state leadership on zero-waste policies and producer responsibility

Carbon sequestration

Trees planted as part of a reforestation project on a conservation easementCarbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This is a critical part of achieving net zero carbon emissions since it involves “balancing” a certain measured amount of carbon released with an amount of carbon offsets.

Protecting, restoring, and managing natural ecosystems, planting trees and plants, and leveraging the ability of soil to store carbon are among the most effective ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Each decision that Hennepin County makes around the use and management of properties it owns and manages presents an opportunity to sequester carbon. In addition, through the county’s role as the Soil and Water Conservation District, there is tremendous opportunity to sequester carbon on private property.

Researchers are also working to improve technologies that capture the carbon dioxide generated by burning fossil fuels before it is released to the atmosphere. Carbon capture technology is relatively expensive compared to carbon sequestration through biological processes, but this is a field of research to monitor for developments.

Objective: The county sequesters carbon on county-owned property, including along county road rights-of-way and tax-forfeit properties.

  • Strategy: Reassess policies and practices to increase carbon sequestration on county-owned properties

Objective: Landowners sequester carbon by protecting and restoring habitat, building soil health, and preserving and planting trees.

  • Strategy: Assist residents to sequester carbon on private property