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Environmental education

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

Get the latest updates on environmental education programs and resources, learn about events and training opportunities, and read what others in the field are doing:

 
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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.

Educational materials

Factsheets, pamphlets and handouts covering a wide variety of environmental topics are available to community groups, municipalities and schools in Hennepin County at no charge. Be sure to plan ahead: it can take up to two weeks for us to send your order out.

See what's available and place an order.

Videos

Videos about our environmental programs are available on our YouTube channel.

Media kits to promote programs and current campaigns

Recycling and reducing waste articles, social media posts, and images

Building reuse grants

Fix-It Clinics

Business recycling grants

  • Media kit (DOCX) with articles, social media posts and images to reach out to general audiences.

Apartment recycling grants

  • Media kit (DOCX) with articles, social media posts and images to reach out to general audiences.

Online Stop Food Waste Challenge

Online Plastic-Free Challenge

Green events

  • Media kit (DOCX) with articles, social media posts, graphics, and sample email to reach out to general audiences

Recycling

Reduce, reuse, and low-waste lifestyle

Articles that take a deep dive into waste prevention, reuse and low-waste lifestyle topics are available on the county's Choose to Reuse website.

Tips to fight food waste

Holiday waste reduction and disposal

Disposing of and reducing hazardous waste articles, social media posts, and images

2022 household hazardous waste collection events

Spring cleaning with the Green Disposal Guide

Be a Battery Hero

The Be a Battery Hero campaign ask residents to put batteries in their place. Recycle batteries at Hennepin County’s drop-off facilities in Bloomington and Brooklyn Park. Please share campaign messaging with the communities you work with. You can download campaign assets below. Materials available in multiple languages.

Medicine disposal

Identifying, reducing and disposing of hazardous waste

Green cleaning recipes

Disposal options for needles and sharps

Protecting land and water articles, social media posts, and images

Actions to protect water quality

Adopt-a-Drain

Emerald ash borer and options for managing ash trees

Rain gardens

Clean Water Minnesota stories

Find stories of what others are doing to protect water and actions everyone can take on Clean Water Minnesota.

Climate action articles

Articles with tips and resources for taking action on climate change at home and in your community are available on the Hennepin County Climate Action website.

Organics recycling, composting and disposing of yard waste articles, social media posts, and images

Organics recycling

Yard waste

Green Partners environmental education and environmental education grants

About the environmental education network

Hennepin County coordinates an environmental education network that is open to anyone working to engage their community in learning about and taking action to protect the environment.

The network has quarterly meetings and a Facebook group that provide opportunities for environmental educators to learn about environmental topics, share resources and project ideas, and network.

Join the Facebook group

The environmental education network Facebook group serves as a forum for collaboration around environmental, outdoor and place-based education and motivating environmental action. Members can use this group to share environmental education opportunities and resources, job postings, volunteer opportunities, success stories, and project updates.

Network meetings

Network meetings provide opportunities for to learn about environmental topics, share resources and project ideas, and network with fellow environmental educators. Meetings are held quarterly and are open to the public.

Green Pathways and youth employment

Friday, September 30 from 9 to 10 a.m.

Environmental education network meeting. Thursday, February 24 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Join environmental educators to learn about work Hennepin County has been doing related to youth employment in the environmental field.

The Green Pathways youth internship project was piloted by Hennepin County this summer. Find out about the intern experience including highlights from one of the interns. Participants will also hear how Green Pathways was created and implemented from the project manager.

This virtual meeting will include:

  • Research and outreach findings about youth employment in the environmental field
  • Green Pathways youth intern experience takeaways
  • Overview of Green Pathways program creation and implementation

Register here.

Reducing food waste

Held on Thursday, June 16, 2022

Even though we love food, a surprising amount of it goes to waste. About 40% of food is wasted somewhere along the supply chain in the U.S., and much of that food waste happens at home. Food waste costs each of us a significant amount of money and wastes the resources that go into producing and transporting our food. Taking steps to prevent food waste is the best opportunity to reduce our trash and is a powerful climate solution.

Amy Maas and Alisa Reckinger from Hennepin County cover the following topics in the recording of the network meeting:

  • What we know about food waste and people’s barriers and motivations for taking action.
  • Activities and resources to engage audiences in learning about and reducing food waste.
  • The county’s upcoming Stop Food Waste Challenge and partnership opportunities.

Resources

Recruitment and retention of staff in the environmental education field

Held on Thursday, February 24, 2022

Learn from two staffing experts who share best practices for job descriptions, interviewing, recruitment, increasing diversity in staff, and benefits that help with retention.

Presenters:

  • Abbie Hugunin, Recruiter, Hennepin County Human Resources
  • Becky Rice, Executive Director, Metro Blooms

Celebrating networking accomplishments

Held on Tuesday, December 7, 2022

Attendees participated in breakout groups for networking, idea sharing, and collaboration about best practices for virtual and hybrid programming, adapting programming and education strategies for cold weather this winter, and how our organizations are approaching requirements for participants and staff as we move toward 2022.

The meeting included a slideshow (YouTube) showcasing successes and programs conducted by members of our network over the past year and a half.

Connecting climate with community

Held on Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Our ability to address climate change relies, in part, on engaging different audiences in taking action. As Hennepin County prepared its Climate Action Plan, a group of Environment and Energy staff got up to speed on the latest national and international research into the public’s perception of climate issues. Learn what insights from research tell us about the public’s knowledge and attitudes about climate change, barriers and motivations to taking action, and effective messaging strategies.

Training resources

Virtual recycling education kit

Use these presentations and activities to create your own education kit to teach participants about recycling and also go through common items that are and are not recyclable in Hennepin County. Be sure to utilize our recycling guide as an additional education tool.

View the county's recycling guide (PDF).

Recycling presentations

Use these presentations during virtual meetings or lessons to teach participants background information about recycling and also go through common items that are and are not recyclable.

Recycling BINGO activity

Have some fun with this great BINGO game! Cards are customized by Hennepin County to feature both items that are recyclable and the natural resources they come from. There are beginning and advanced versions of this game.

Recycling BINGO materials

Education kits

Kits are available for reservation by groups within Hennepin County. The maximum checkout period is 10 days unless approved by special request. Kits must be picked up and returned to the Hennepin County Environment and Energy office in downtown Minneapolis. Please request kits a minimum of ten days before they need to be picked up to allow staff time to prepare them for you.

Reserve a kit online.

Available kits

  • Brick of cans display
  • Every Drop water demonstration kit
  • Food waste prevention
  • Green cleaning
  • Green gifts
  • Green parties
  • Household hazardous waste
  • Organics recycling
  • Packaging waste reduction
  • Recycled products
  • Recycling education kit (youth)
  • Trees and forestry

Activity supplies

Receive free activity supplies to engage people in environmental education activities. Available supplies include spray bottles to make your own green cleaner, and reusable bags that can be decorated. Order supplies.

Kits and displays from partners

Additional displays are available for reservation through Metro Watershed Partners. Learn more and reserve online.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) offers display materials for use by local units of government, community groups, and educators. Learn more and reserve online.

Environmental education curriculum

Our list of environmental education curriculum (PDF) is intended to help educators incorporate lessons and activities on environmental topics.

The guide includes both local and national resources on a variety of environmental topics, including climate change, composting, recycling, reducing waste, protecting land and water, and understanding ecosystems. Many of the resources are available for free, and some include low-cost training opportunities.

Hennepin County environmental education 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).

Download activities by section below, or download the entire activity guide package here (PDF).

Introduction and general activities

Learn how to use activity guides, tips for motivating behavior change and teaching outside, along with general environmental activities to do with your group.

Introduction and general activities (PDF)

Air, energy and climate change

Climate change is already noticeable in Minnesota. Animal and plant habitats are shifting, weather patterns are changing, and severe storms and droughts are becoming more common. If temperature readings and precipitation continue to increase within the next century, Minnesota might soon feel and look more like Missouri.

Background information and activities about air, energy and climate change (PDF)

Organics recycling

Organics recycling involves collecting food scraps, non-recyclable paper and other compostable products to be recycled into compost at a large-scale composting facility. This process creates a nutrient-rich material that can be used in gardens and landscaping projects. Organics recycling is the best opportunity to reduce our trash – about 25 percent what we throw away is organic materials like food scraps and compostable paper. In order to be successful with organics recycling, it’s important to understand why it’s important, how it works, what is accepted, and how to get started.

Background information and activities about organics recycling (PDF)

Protecting land and water

Minnesota is known for its abundance of water and natural resources. Hennepin County has a diversity of landscapes and habitats ranging from formal gardens and urban parks to prairies, forests lakes, streams and wetlands. Natural resources provide critical habitat for wildlife, protect water quality, offer recreational opportunities and serve as the foundation to the region’s environmental well-being, economic prosperity and collective quality of life. Protecting the health of our natural resources is important for air and water quality, recreation, wildlife and tourism.

Background information and activities about protecting land and water (PDF)

Recycling

When you total up all the paper, plastic, aluminum and glass, Hennepin County recycles 580,000 tons each year. All of that recycling makes a big difference. By choosing to recycle, we reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, create jobs, conserve natural resources and protect the environment. Plus, recycling is simple, convenient and something the entire family can help with.

Background information and activities about recycling (PDF)

Reducing waste

More than one million tons of garbage is generated in Hennepin County every year. From packaging and junk mail to excess paint and food scraps – it takes a lot of time and money to deal with all of that waste. Waste reduction is any method used by a consumer or producer of a product to reduce the amount of solid waste that will require recycling, composting, incineration or disposal. In other words, if something is never created or you don’t buy it, you don’t have to decide how to reuse it or dispose of it.

Background information and activities about reducing waste (PDF)

Reducing food waste

As much as 40 percent of food produced in the U.S. for human consumption goes uneaten, and worldwide, one-third of food is wasted. About 36 million tons of food waste are generated in the United States each year. Food waste has increased significantly in recent years. Food waste per capita in the U.S. increased 50 percent from 1974 to 2009 according to the National Institute of Health.

Background information and activities about reducing food waste (PDF)

Toxicity and hazardous waste

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only a fraction of registered chemicals have gone through complete testing for human health concerns. Some chemicals have immediate toxic effects. Others are toxic to our bodies only after repeated, long-term exposure. In addition, many products we use in our homes contain heavy metals or other hazardous materials that can pollute the environment if improperly disposed of.

Background information and activities about toxicity and hazardous waste (PDF)

Hennepin County offers a variety of opportunities for educators to learn more about environmental issues and get experience working in the field.

Adopt-a-Drain

Water entering the storm drains on our streets flow directly into the nearest body of water, carrying leaves, grass, soil, litter, and anything else picked up along the way. This clogs stormwater infrastructure, contributes to street flooding, harms wildlife, and pollutes our waters.

You can help by adopting a storm drain and volunteering just 15 minutes, twice a month, to keep it clean. Learn more, sign up, and report your impact.

Master Gardener program

Master Gardener Volunteers take their knowledge and love of horticulture into the Hennepin County community and share it with others. Volunteers learn while they are volunteering and by attending required continuing education classes offered by the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and Minnesota Horticultural Society. The Master Gardener Program is the perfect way to volunteer your time and talents and learn more at the same time.

Master Gardeners complete the Core Course training, then are required to provide 50 hours of community service their first year and 25 hours every year after in order to remain certified. They must also receive 12 hours of continuing education credit.

Volunteers provide researched-based horticultural information to county residents. This happens in various ways, including information booths at events, farmers markets, garden centers and community education courses.

Applications are accepted from August 1 to October 1 each year.

Learn more about becoming a Master Gardener.

Master Recycler/Composters

Join fellow waste reduction enthusiasts and become an advocate for the three Rs in your community as a Hennepin County Master Recycler/Composter.

Master Recycler/Composters are trained on waste prevention, recycling and composting through an extensive six week course that features industry experts and field trips to local waste processing and recycling facilities.

Once training is complete, participants commit to volunteer 30 hours. Volunteer activities include staffing booths at events and designing and implementing waste reduction and recycling projects.

Learn more about Master Recyclers/Composters.

Minnesota Water Stewards

Minnesota Water Stewards is a program that certifies and supports community leaders to prevent water pollution and educate community members to conserve and protect our waterways. The program is a partnership between Freshwater and participating cities, counties, watershed management organizations, and nonprofit organizations.

Learn more about Minnesota Water Stewards.

Tree stewards

The tree steward program offers training classes and volunteer opportunities for adult residents interested in tree care.

Tree steward classes cover the basics of tree biology, tree planting, watering, pruning, and tree health through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on, outdoor field experience. Classes are offered in partnership with the University of Minnesota and host cities.

After completing the class, volunteers have opportunities to help plant and care for trees with the county and partnering organizations.

Learn more about tree stewards.

Tours

Tours of the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center

Hennepin County offers facility tours at the Hennepin County Energy Recovery Center (HERC) waste-to-energy facility. HERC is a waste-to-energy facility where waste is received and burned to generate steam for the downtown district energy system and electricity sold to Xcel Energy. Tours describe how the plant works and fits within the county’s solid waste management system to divert waste from landfills.

  • Tour participants must be 14 years of age or older.
  • Masks are optional. (Masks are available at HERC for participants that do not bring their own.)

Tours for groups

Please complete the HERC tour request form to request a tour for a group of five to 16 people. Due to safety precautions related to COVID-19, we are unable to provide tours to groups of more than 16 people at this time. Protecting the health of tour participants and HERC’s operating staff is critical to maintaining our waste and energy infrastructure.

Outdoor tour option: to request a tour that is 100% outdoors, list “outdoor tour” when providing your goal for visiting the facility. Note that outdoor tours will not enter the HERC facility.

Tours for individuals or groups with less than five people

Complete the HERC tour sign up form to sign up for a slot during pre-scheduled tours of the HERC facility. This option should be used for groups of less than five participants. New date options will be added regularly. You will be contacted by a Hennepin County staff person when your slot is confirmed with additional information, including how to access the facility the day of the tour.

Take a virtual tour

Watch a video about HERC (YouTube) to learn more about how waste is managed in the county and how HERC converts waste to energy.

Tours of the Brooklyn Park Transfer Station

Hennepin County offers tours at the Brooklyn Park Transfer Station waste drop-off facility. The facility provides an opportunity for residents to properly manage household hazardous waste, recyclables, organics, and problem materials such as computers, TVs and appliances. Tours describe how the facility works and highlight the importance of reducing, reusing, recycling and preventing pollution.

Participants and chaperones

  • Tour participants must be 7 years of age or older
  • Group sizes can range from 5 to 28. (A presentation is available for larger groups at their school or location)
  • One adult chaperone per 5 youth is required for grades 2 to 8
  • One adult chaperone per ten youth is required for grades 9 to 12

Minnesota State Education Standards

Youth tours have been linked with Minnesota State Education Standards.

  • Science: 0E.1.1.1.2, 0P.2.1.1.1, 1E.4.2.1.1, 2E.4.2.1.1, 4E.4.2.1.1, 4E.4.2.2.1, 6E.1.1.1.3, 6E.3.2.1.3, 7L.4.1.2.2, 8P.4.2.1.1, 9E.2.1.1.2, 9E.2.2.1.3, 9E.3.2.2.1, 9E.4.1.1.3, 9L.2.2.1.2, 9C.4.2.2.1, 9P.3.2.2.2
  • Math: 3.1.3.2, 3.4.1.1, 4.4.1.1, 6.1.1.3
  • Social Studies: 0.1.4.8.1, 0.3.1.1.2, 2.2.3.5.1, 2.3.4.9.1, 3.1.1.1.1, 3.1.4.6.1, 3.2.3.5.1, 4.2.3.3.1, 4.3.4.9.1, 5.1.1.1.2, 5.1.4.6.3, 6.1.1.1.2, 7.4.4.23.1, 8.1.1.1.1, 8.2.3.4.1, 9.1.4.6.8, 9.2.5.11.1, 9.3.4.9.1

Request a tour

Complete the BPTS transfer station tour request calendar and form to request a tour for your group.

Field trip transportation 

Take an environmental education field trip with a county-provided bus service. To be eligible for the field trip, groups must have at least 25 participants age 7 and above, and the majority of participants must be Hennepin County residents. Eligible groups and organizations include schools, nonprofit organizations, community groups, youth groups, congregations, watershed districts, environmental clubs, and cities, located within Hennepin County.

Select a field trip location and activity that aligns well with the age group and interest of your audience and your educational goals. To more easily get approved for funding, select a field trip site and activity from our pre-approved list (PDF). You can go to field trip sites not listed in this document, but you will have to provide more details about the field trip location and activities and how they align with the county’s goals for this program.

Complete the bus reservation request form to request field trip transportation.

Presentations

Hennepin County Environment and Energy staff is available to attend events in the county and give presentations. Depending on the type of event, speakers can be experts on: waste reduction and recycling, water conservation, natural resource protection, toxicity reduction, and other topics.

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

Environmental education programs

River Watch

River Watch is a hands-on environmental education program for youth in Hennepin County. School classes or youth groups assess the health of local streams by identifying and quantifying the stream's biological community.

Youth collect macroinvertebrates (small aquatic organisms) from the stream and then identify them in a lab setting. Conclusions about the stream's water quality can be drawn based on the number and variety of organisms in the stream. All activities are conducted in a group setting with assistance from a Hennepin County River Watch educator.

Learn more and get involved.

Envirothon

The Envirothon is a problem-solving natural resources competition for high school and junior high school students that tests their knowledge of aquatics, forestry, soils and wildlife. A metro area competition is held each spring.

During the event, teams of five students complete hands-on activities and give presentations on current environmental issues. The top three teams from the metro competition advance to the state Envirothon. Learn more about the Metro Envirothon.

Hennepin County provides funding to cover the registration fees and transportation costs for Envirothon teams. To request funding for entry fees or buses, contact Stacey Lijewski at stacey.lijewski@hennepin.us or call 612-348-9938.

Children's Water Festival

The annual Metro Area Children's Water Festival educates fourth-grade students about water resources and ways they can help ensure a future where both the quantity and quality of water resources are protected and managed wisely. The event brings 1,500 students from throughout the metro area to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for a one-day field trip at the end of September. Learn more about the water festival.

Environmental education grants

Hennepin County provides funding and support to organizations to actively educate, engage and motivate residents to become environmental stewards and make positive behavior changes through the Green Partners environmental education program.

We focus on actions to prevent waste, recycle, reduce household hazardous waste, conserve energy, care for trees, protect pollinators, and improve our air and water quality.

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