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Environmental programs and initiatives

Hennepin County delivers a variety of programs to protect and preserve the environment.

The county offers programs to reduce and responsibly manage waste, protect land and water, take action on climate change, and promote environmental stewardship. The county is also leading the way in developing innovative programs to respond to the most urgent environmental issues.

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Sign up for Hennepin Green Notes, our monthly e-newsletter highlighting environmental programs, news and events from Hennepin County.

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Grants for environmental projects

Hennepin County offers a variety of funding opportunities to assist our partners in implementing projects that protect the environment. See the environmental grants factsheet (PDF) to learn about grants for recycling and waste prevention, to protect and restore land and water, and to promote environmental stewardship.

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Hennepin Green Notes is a monthly e-newsletter highlighting environmental programs, news and events from Hennepin County.

Sign up to receive Green Notes.

Latest edition

August 2022

In this edition

  • Fix-It Clinics celebrate 10 years!
  • Grants available to establish organics recycling drop-off sites
  • Grants awarded to clean up contaminated sites, applications open for the fall 2022 grant round, and webinars to learn about brownfield funding for redevelopment in Minnesota
  • Cullen Nature Preserve combats buckthorn with natural resources grant
  • Tours of the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center reopen
  • Updated recycling and organics guides available in eight languages
  • An “unsuccessful” Starry Trek search is good news for area lakes
  • Environmental programs earn national recognition
  • In the News: Hennepin County encourages all lake lovers to pledge to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species
  • Events: Free online and in-person backyard composting workshops
  • Green Tip: Incorporate environmental education into your back-to-school plans with resources from Hennepin County

Archived editions


Waste reduction and recycling programs

The county offers waste reduction and recycling programs, including providing technical and financial assistance for recycling and organics composting to cities, businesses, apartments and schools.

Learn more about our waste reduction and recycling programs:

Organics recycling 

The county has requirements that businesses that generate large quantities of food waste start food waste recycling by 2020 and cities offer organics recycling service to residents by 2022. Learn more about the requirements for businesses and cities.

The county is also exploring options to expand local capacity to manage organics. Learn about the county's proposal to develop an anaerobic digestion facility.

Learn more about organics recycling programs and how to sign up:

Food waste reduction

While organics recycling is a great way to dispose of food scraps and other compostable materials, preventing wasted food is even more important and has a greater impact on reducing waste and addressing climate change.

Explore resources to help residents, businesses, organizations, and schools reduce food waste:

Striving for zero waste

The county is currently developing a plan to map Hennepin County to a zero-waste future. Learn more about the development of the Zero Waste Plan and how to provide input.

The county supports residents in taking action to prevent waste. Programs include:

  • Zero Waste Challenge: offering a personalized 8-month challenge, month-long online Plastic-Free Challenge, and month-long online Stop Food Waste Challenge
  • Fix-It Clinics: offering in-person and virtual repair assistance
  • Choose to Reuse: supporting local reuse retailers and offering tips to reduce waste, buy used, and live better

Hazardous waste disposal

Residents can dispose of hazardous waste and recycling at drop-off facilities and collection events.

Find disposal information for common household items on the Green Disposal Guide.

The county also licenses and inspects businesses that generate hazardous waste to ensure proper disposal and protect the environment and health.

Use waste to produce energy

At the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC), garbage is burned to generate energy. HERC uses the latest technologies to reduce environmental and taxpayer costs and is part of the county's integrated waste management system.

Plan the future of natural resources protection

Hennepin County is in the process of updating the Natural Resources Strategic Plan, which will define our natural resources goals and strategies for the next 10 years.

The plan guides the county’s work to improve, protect, and preserve natural resources and provides a framework for our natural resources policies, programs, and partnerships.

The updated plan will seek to better align with new county initiatives, shifting demographics, and changing landscapes. This is the first opportunity to incorporate the county’s climate and racial equity priorities into the foundation of the plan.

Learn about the plan update process and how to get involved.

Provide data on natural resources

The natural resources interactive map includes detailed natural resources information that can be used to make everyday land use decisions and help with larger planning efforts.

Protect and restore natural areas

The county enhances natural areas and improves water quality by taking an increasingly strategic approach to planning, prioritizing, and partnering on natural resources projects.

The county offers a variety of funding and expert assistance for natural resources projects, including:

Enhance the tree canopy and promote sustainable landscaping

Hennepin County foresters conduct tree plantings, grow trees in a gravel-bed nursery, and offer grants to cities, affordable housing properties, schools and nonprofit organizations to combat threats from invasive species and disease, increase the diversity and resiliency of the tree canopy, and educate the public. Learn about the trees and forestry programs and resources.

The county also promotes the use of sustainable landscaping to protect pollinators and improve water quality.

Address invasive species

The county disperses state funding through grants and partnerships to innovative programs that prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

The county has also developed resources that help residents and partners understand the threat that emerald ash borer poses to our tree canopy and options for managing ash trees. Learn more about managing ash trees from the threat of emerald ash borer.

Clean up contaminated sites

Hennepin County supports the redevelopment of contaminated properties, known as brownfields, with several grant and loan programs. Learn more about site cleanup and assessment funds and assistance.

Promote stewardship of natural resources

The county provides resources and encourages residents in urban, suburban, and rural parts of the county to take actions that protect land and water.

Learn more about:

Our goal: net zero carbon emissions by 2050

Globally, climate scientists agree that we need to substantially reduce emissions and make rapid and far reaching changes in all aspects of society to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change.

Hennepin County has adopted ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction goals to reflect that need.

Our goal are to:

  • Reduce emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030
  • Achieve net zero emissions by 2050

Net zero carbon emissions is achieved by “balancing” a limited amount of carbon released with offsets that remove carbon from the atmosphere. These emission reduction targets apply to both the geographic area of the county and county operations. These goals position Hennepin County as a leader on addressing climate change in the upper Midwest.

Hennepin County's Climate Action Plan

Hennepin County’s Climate Action Plan includes strategies to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the changing climate in ways that reduce vulnerabilities and ensure a more equitable and resilient Hennepin County.

Pursuing the strategies laid out in the plan will enable us to create a better future for ourselves and future generations.

Learn more

Learn more about the county's Climate Action Plan, what climate change means for Hennepin County, how the county is leading on climate action, and what you can do at home and in your community at

Sign up for Climate Action Updates to receive bi-monthly updates, news, and links to tips and resources.

The county engages the public in how we design and deliver our programs and empowers resident to take action to protect the environment.

Environmental education

Organizations in the county have access to free environmental education resources, including:

  • Activity guides and lesson plans
  • Education kits
  • Free print materials, educational flyers and pamphlets
  • Media kits with articles, posts, images, and graphics
  • Tours and field trip opportunities and transportation funding

The county also provides funding and support to organizations to actively educate, engage and motivate residents to become environmental stewards and make positive behavior changes.

The county supports an environmental education network with quarterly meetings and an environmental education network Facebook group.

Volunteer opportunities

A variety of environmental volunteer opportunities are available, including:

  • Master Recycler/Composter: Take a training course and then implement recycling programs and encourage waste reduction
  • Tree stewards: Help take care of trees and learn about tree care
  • Fix-It Clinics: Help people fix their household items and keep goods out of the garbage
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