Hennepin County has lots of ideas to maintain good environmental habits during the holiday season and beyond.
To begin with, the county suggests giving “greener gifts,” including presents that aren’t necessarily material goods — such as gift certificates, memberships, and tickets to shows.
When shopping for gifts, the county suggests you buy high-quality, reusable and durable goods. Products with green attributes are good choices, such as those that have been repurposed, minimally packaged and made with less-toxic ingredients.
Another option is to repair a favorite but broken item at one of the county’s monthly Fix-it Clinics. The popular events are free, and the next one is Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. at the Maple Grove Community Center, 12951 Weaver Lake Road.
At the clinics, volunteer fixers with all sorts of skills — electrical to mechanical, wood working and sewing — guide repairs on everything from holiday decorations and clothing to lamps and appliances. Volunteering itself can be a gift option, for those with expertise in different areas; volunteers are always needed and welcome.
Having a green season applies to decorating as well. The county accepts strings of holiday lights at its waste drop-off facilities; the copper inside the lights and the plastic coating on the strings can be recycled. When buying new lights, seek out LEDs because they’re 80 percent more energy efficient.
Environmental efforts in Hennepin County, the state’s most populous county, appear to be producing results.
A Minnesota Pollution Control Agency draft report indicates waste generation per person has declined for the first time in the state, even as the economy has improved; the trend typically is that waste per capita increases with economic upswings.
The county has a list of 140 green business partners and encourages residents to support them. On its website, it provides a map that includes environmentally savvy options for grocery shopping, dining out, shopping, entertainment and donations.
Beyond the holidays, the county has launched other projects, including:
• A pilot project to encourage reuse of goods when people move. The program, free for property managers and residents, provides collection containers for residents to dump unwanted household items, which are then picked up by a reuse retailer. The idea is to keep reusable furniture, clothes and dishes out of the garbage.
Eight properties participated in the first few months of the program, diverting 3,000 pounds of waste from the trash, according to a county report. Kristen Wahlberg, at 612-348-6846, runs the program.
• Newly planted trees (from the county’s gravel-bed nursery) along Hiawatha Avenue in Minneapolis, a popular but traffic-riddled thoroughfare. Crews from Sentencing to Service, a community program that helps low-level offenders work off their sentences, recently planted 130 trees along the roadway between E. 32nd and 46th streets.
• Programs aimed at stemming the scourge of aquatic invasive species. Applications are due Jan. 15 for grants for projects including risk assessment, education and early detection, managing existing populations and research. The county contact on the project is Tony Brough, 612-348-4378.