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Feb 07

Zero Waste with April Hepokoski

Posted on February 7, 2020 at 1:55 PM by Karola Dalen

I recently attended a Zero Waste workshop presented by April Hepokoski, hosted by Esko Community Education.  Hepokoski runs Zero Waste Duluth, a Facebook group and community dedicated to changing lifestyles to reduce the amount of trash a person generates. A month’s worth of Hepokoski’s trash often fits inside a quart sized mason jar. Therefore not zero, but drastically less than the average American.

We throw our trash away.  This workshop reminded attendees that there really is no “away”.  Our trash goes to a landfill where it stays forever or gets released into the environment where it can cause harm. 

Americans see an average of 5000 ads per day of goods to purchase.  This rate of consumption leads to vast amounts of trash.  Hepokoski explained that it is a challenge to not buy “things”.  However, intentional choices can lead to dramatic change.Photo of April Hepokoski, a Zero Waste advocate.

In the past we learned to focus on the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  The Zero Waste workshop focused on examples of the expanded 5 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot.  Hepokoski explained the importance of the 5 R’s and provided examples of how she has implemented them into her daily lifestyle.  For example, refusing a bag at the grocery store or a plastic straw at a restaurant.


How does a zero waster do take out from a restaurant?  Hepokoski described how she calls ahead and asks for the order to be placed on a plate which allows her to transfer the food into her own glass containers when she picks it up.

Zero Waste takes a mind-set of thinking and planning ahead.  For example, she has a Zero Waste car kit which includes the following: plate, bowl, silverware, coffee mug, water bottle, and chopsticks.  This way she is prepared to refuse any disposable items that come her way and can use her own supplies. 

Hepokoski needs to avoid plastic in her life for health reasons, and therefore has become an expert on removing plastic from everyday life.  She explained that as she learned more about plastics and their negative effect on health, she also became more aware of how plastics negatively affect our environment.  Plastic litter is common in our own lakes and beaches here in MN.

This quote from Anne Marie Bonneau, a Zero Waste chef, was an enlightening part of the workshop: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions doing it imperfectly.”

At the end of the workshop, the attendees were given a challenge of a trash audit.  Empty your full trash bin and take a look at the contents. Pick one thing that you could, from this point forward, prevent from ending up in your trash ever again.  I decided take the challenge.  See the results in a future blog post!

To learn more, follow Zero Waste Duluth at

Karola Dalen

Resource & Recycling Coordinator

Carlton County Zoning & Environmental Services


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