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Zero Waste Challenge

Get personalized help to live a lower waste lifestyle

Many people are interested in taking steps to prevent waste, declutter, and recycle more, but aren’t sure where to start.

Hennepin County’s Zero Waste Challenge will help you learn more, connect you with resources to help you reach your goals, and provide support and motivation along the way.

The county offers a personalized, eight-month Zero Waste Challenge with limited participation once per year, and multiple rounds of the online Zero Waste Challenge with unlimited participation throughout the year. 

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During the eight-month challenge, participating households take an in-depth look at the goods we buy and waste we create to uncover opportunities to recycle more and reduce waste.

Get involved

Applications are accepted once per year, typically in August. Applications are no longer being accepted for the 2021–22 challenge. Sign up below to be notified of future opportunities to participate in the Zero Waste Challenge.

What participants receive

Participating households:

  • Receive hands-on, personalized coaching from a county waste reduction and recycling specialist or certified Master Recycler/Composter to assess the waste generated in their homes, develop a customized waste-reduction plan, and make low-waste lifestyle changes.
  • Attend a series of virtual educational workshops and discussions on waste-reduction topics such as low-waste shopping, preventing food waste, and backyard composting.
  • Evaluate their waste at the beginning, middle, and end of the challenge and submit their data to the county.
  • Receive bi-weekly waste reduction tips and get access to supplies and educational materials.
  • Connect with other households striving to live lower waste lifestyles.

Participating households are expected to attend a virtual introductory workshop and at least four virtual workshops and discussions.

Why participate

Many of us intend to take action on issues we care about but struggle to figure out which changes or new habits fit into our busy lives. If you’ve ever wanted to reduce the amount of waste you create, this program is a great opportunity to learn more and get personalized help.

Additionally, your participation provides the county valuable insights into the opportunities, challenges and priorities to reach our recycling and waste reduction goals. The results and lessons learned are used to develop future waste reduction programs.

Watch the video to learn more about the Zero Waste Challenge

Expectation of participants

Participants are expected to:

  • Attend a virtual introductory workshop.
  • Attend at least four virtual workshops to learn more about ways they can reduce waste. Workshops will cover a variety of topics and will be offered several times per month throughout the challenge.
  • Have one home visit/one-on-one conversation with their liaison to check in on their progress and answer questions. Home visits will be virtual unless there is an option to be in-person while following health and safety precautions.
  • Make their best attempt to adopt actions to reduce the amount of waste created in their households.
  • Track and report the trash, recycling, and food waste their household generates for two weeks at the beginning, middle, and end of the challenge.
  • Commit to the entire eight-month challenge from mid-September 2021 through early May 2022.

Participation involves about two hours of scheduled time each month for workshops and other check-ins. Additional time is spent on your own schedule to make progress on waste-reduction actions and evaluate your waste.

Spread the word

Encourage others to join! Download the Zero Waste Challenge media kit (DOCX) with articles, social media posts, and graphics that can be customized and used to promote the challenge.

Opportunities to participate in the online Zero Waste Challenge 

Upcoming online challenges

Hennepin County offers numerous opportunities to participate in rounds of the online Zero Waste Challenge throughout the year.

The Stop Food Waste Challenge will be open for sign ups soon. 

About the online challenge

The online Zero Waste Challenge will help you take an in-depth look at the goods you buy and waste you create to uncover opportunities to recycle more and reduce waste. You may be surprised by the variety of actions you can take.

Hennepin County’s Stop Food Waste Challenge will open for sign ups soon. Participants check off the actions they already take, then select up to five one-time actions and five daily actions to track progress on during the four-week challenge.

The challenge is powered by EcoChallenge.

About the workshops

During the Stop Food Waste Challenge in October and November 2021, Hennepin County offered four workshops presented by Cooking Matters. Each workshop featured basic food safety and knife skills as well as focused content and a cooking demonstration.

Workshop recordings and resources

Focus: Planning

Wednesday, October 20 from 6 to 7 p.m.

Practice planning meals in advance, shopping with a list, and learn to make frittatas.

Watch a recording of the week 1 workshop (YouTube)

Download the week 1 handout with a frittata recipe and meal planning worksheets (PDF).

Focus: Shopping

Friday, October 29 from noon to 1 p.m.

Take a virtual grocery store tour, compare pricing and labeling, and talk about local shopping. Learn to make turkey tacos.

Watch a recording of the week 2 workshop (YouTube)

Resources from week 2 workshop:

Focus: Kids in the kitchen

Saturday, November 6 from 10 to 11 a.m.

Discuss age-appropriate kitchen tasks for kids, ways to help develop healthy eating habits, and learn to cook mini pizzas.

Watch a recording of the week 3 workshop (YouTube)

Download the week 3 handout with the recipe for mini pizzas (PDF).

Focus: Creative cooking and safe storage

Tuesday, November 9 from 6 to 7 p.m.

Discuss safe handling and storing perishable foods as well as using ingredients in multiple meals and how to be flexible with recipes. Learn to cook a veggie and rice stir fry.

Watch a recording of the week 4 workshop (YouTube)

Resources from the week 4 workshop:

Personalized eight-month Zero Waste Challenge

Applications are accepted once per year, typically in August. Applications are no longer being accepted for the 2021–22 challenge. Sign up below to be notified of future opportunities to participate in the Zero Waste Challenge.

Online Zero Waste Challenge

The Plastic-Free Challenge will be offered in February 2022, with registration opening in January. Sign up below to be notified when registration opens.

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