County waste-reduction initiatives planned

Two Hennepin County initiatives launching in September aim to help households reduce waste and increase recycling.

A “Zero Waste Challenge” will provide up to 50 households with one-on-one support and teach lifestyle changes they can make to reduce waste.

Participating residents will track their waste for four weeks at the beginning and at the end of the eight-month challenge and will attend a workshop on reducing waste.

Meanwhile, an online “Food Waste Challenge” will give households the opportunity to learn specifically how to reduce food waste, and it will allow them to document and track the actions they take.

They also will be able to interact with other households participating in the challenge through an online message board, said Amy Maas, who is coordinating the initiative.

Hennepin County has held Zero Waste Challenges since 2016 and is adding the Food Waste Challenge to raise awareness about the issue, senior environmentalist Carolyn Collopy said.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, up to 40% of food in America goes to waste, costing the average family of four $1,800 annually.

Food waste is the No. 1 contributor to U.S. landfills by weight, and it is responsible for at least 2.6% of the country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

“The environmental benefits of just preventing [food waste] in the first place are huge, because so much water and energy goes into growing and distributing and producing food,” Collopy said.

She said that participants in the Zero Waste Challenge generally reduce their trash by about 30% and typically continue with waste-prevention measures once it’s complete.

The Food Waste Challenge will provide residents with online resources on reducing food waste. They’ll earn points for actions they take and will be able to see the collective impact that they and other participants are making through their efforts.

Registration for the Zero Waste Challenge will open Aug. 24, and registration for the Food Waste Challenge will open Aug. 28. More information is at