Zero Waste Challenge

Hi Sam,

I’ve always heard about these Zero Waste Challenges or other challenges the county puts on, but I’m curious what it’s like to participate?



Hi Victoria, 

We have a member of our committee, Kathie, who is in the process of doing a Zero Waste Challenge with Hennepin County. This Challenge incorporates a Food Waste Audit within it. I recently interviewed her and I will share our conversation below to help highlight the process and how it has changed her awareness and habits with food waste.

Sam:  Good afternoon, Kathie, I was hoping that you could share with me the process of separating waste for a food audit.

Kathi: Sure! With the Zero Waste Challenge, and most of my household’s waste involves food, food containers, etc., we have garbage, composting and recycling to think about. They are related and the goal is to have little garbage (landfill) and to be accurate in what you recycle and compost. The County provides education about how to do this separation.

Sam: How do you go about measuring these things as they leave your house?

Kathie: We keep a bathroom scale by the back door, and when we are taking a compost bag, recycling bags or a garbage bag out, we first step on the scale alone, then with the waste and calculate the difference. We have a logging sheet right there on the wall, and in formal form on a computer. The county provided the logging sheet. (linked here) 

Sam: Have you found that measuring your waste has changed your shopping habits?

Kathie: It has made me much more aware of the containers that food comes in (so I look for places that let me reuse containers) And I avoid buying food that is in unrecyclable or compostable containers. I also am much more aware of buying produce carefully and with meals in mind so I don’t have food spoiling in the fridge.

Sam: Is there anything else you have done to reduce food waste?

Kathie: I save vegetable scraps, and even some past their prime veges, in a gallon zip lock (that I reuse again and again) in my freezer and when it’s full, make vegetable stock (no salt so you can use it in anything and add a bay leaf just because) I make about 3 quarts at a time. I started making my own yogurt to stop consumption of those little plastic cups. I also started reusing zip lock bags by washing them out and letting them dry. They are good for many reuses. And finally, I look in my fridge, to find the oldest produce, meat, condiments etc. and try to make meals that use those things first.

Sam: thank you so much, Kathie, not only for answering my questions, but for being a conscientious neighbor taking stock of your household’s waste.

Hennepin County also has a food waste challenge available once per year to bring awareness to the amount of food that goes into our trash. They provide resources for learning skills like creating a meal plan, buying just what you need at the grocery store, cooking creatively, and properly storing food. These actions can have a big impact on reducing the amount of food in your home that goes into the waste. Join Hennepin County’s online Stop Food Waste Challenge at to learn easy, practical skills that will help you stop wasting food, put more money in your pocket, and create a healthier environment. And don’t miss our own series around reducing packaging and food waste which include both upcoming virtual events and past event recordings here.