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Esko teacher, Ashland-raised activist release 'Zero Waste Kids'

The Cloquet Public Library will host a March 4 event for the hands-on activity guide.

Esko teacher teams up with Ashland author to write a book about living with zero waste.
April Hepokoski of Esko with the book “Zero Waste Kids” seen on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, at her home in Esko. Hepokoski teamed up with sustainability activist and Ashland native Rob Greenfield to create "Zero Waste Kids."
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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ESKO — If you wanna learn how to craft a bee hotel, make napkins out of T-shirts or construct earth-friendly confetti, you’re in luck.

Esko zero-waster April Hepokoski and environmental activist and Ashland native Rob Greenfield have teamed up with a host of writers on “Zero Waste Kids: Hands-On Projects and Activities to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle,” released Tuesday, Feb. 15.

It’s an illustrated, solutions-based guide for readers who’d like to start living more sustainably.

The pair are hosting a book-signing and Q&A from 5:30-8 p.m. March 4 at the Cloquet Public Library, 320 14th St. Cloquet. Register at https://bit.ly/3oS6tiS ; it’s free.

“This book would’ve been helpful for me as an adult starting on my zero-waste journey,” Hepokoski said.

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April Hepokoski holds a Mason jar filled with her entire trash accumulation for the month of September.
April Hepokoski talks about the things she does to reduce the amount of waste she produces at her rural Esko home on July 21, 2019. The Mason jar in her hand holds all the waste she produced in September.
Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune

The Esko woman started reducing her waste about seven years ago. Today, she brings her own containers to the grocery store meat department, she shops with cloth bags and she regularly fits a month’s worth of trash into a Mason jar.

She also manages the Zero Waste Duluth Facebook page .

After her pivot to living more sustainably, Hepokoski began shifting her nature-based day job running The Little Barnyard Preschool .

Her experience incorporating these principles with her kiddos came in handy in her crafting 13 of 35 activities in “Zero Waste Kids,” she said. (See her “recipe” for natural-dye play dough.)

Esko teacher teams up with Ashland author to write a book about living with zero waste.
The cover of the book “Zero Waste Kids” seen on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Esko.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

A way to start inviting children into this can be as simple as explaining that after snack time, leftovers go into a bucket for the farm animals, or, using reusable cups, plates and silverware — and involving kids in the hand-washing of the items, she said.

“It’s one small step at a time, finding a way to have fun with it,” Hepokoski said.

Other how-to guides from the book:

  • Make your own recycled paper 
  • DIY wax food wraps
  • Build a papier-mâché piñata
  • Go “plogging”
  • Learn what “plogging” is

Hepokoski and Rob Greenfield also collaborated on a University of Minnesota Duluth presentation on sustainability in 2019.

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Wearing 84 pounds of paper plates, pizza boxes, FedEx packaging strapped to his body in plastic bags, Rob Greenfield talks to passersby on a New York City street about trash consumption.
In 2016 New York City, Rob Greenfield vowed to wear every piece of trash he used for 30 days, aiming to consume the same as the average American: 4.5 pounds daily. On Day 30, Greenfield wears 84 pounds of paper plates, pizza boxes, FedEx packaging and more.
Contributed / www.JermCohen.com

Greenfield is known for his environmental activism and demonstrations.

He wore every piece of garbage he accumulated for one month around the streets of New York City. He survived a year on food he grew or foraged, and he rode his bike across the U.S., eating well, and mostly, from grocery-store dumpsters.

This all stemmed from Greenfield educating himself on environmental issues and slowly shedding his car, his credit cards and most of his belongings. (He notoriously keeps his possessions to a scant 111 items .)

Rob Greenfield is surrounded by a large bounty of colorful orange peppers, green cucumbers, red tomatoes, brown potatoes and more. This is all food he rescued from a San Diego Dumpster in 2014.
In 2014, Rob Greenfield rescued food from more than 300 dumpsters across the U.S. in what he coined his "Food Waste Fiasco."
Contributed / Rob Greenfield

“A lot of people would feel overwhelmed or disempowered when they found out their actions had a negative impact. I felt very empowered to hear that solutions exist, and that I could change my life,” Greenfield said in a 2019 News Tribune story.

Other contributors to “Zero Waste Kids” are science advocate and environmental writer Zion Lights, author Michelle Cassar and illustrator Alissa Imre Geis, among others.

All sales for the book go to environmental nonprofit organizations.

Esko teacher teams up with Ashland author to write a book about living with zero waste.
One of the items that April Hepokoski of Esko authored for the book “Zero Waste Kids” seen on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Esko.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Greenfield’s next book, “Be the Change: Rob Greenfield’s Call to Kids ― Making a Difference in a Messed-Up World” is set for an April release.

“Zero Waste Kids: Hands-On Projects and Activities to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” can be purchased at the March 4 event; and at Zenith Bookstore .

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For more info, visit robgreenfield.org or facebook.com/zerowasteduluth.

If you go

What: “Zero Waste Kids: Hands-On Projects and Activities to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” book signing

When: 5:30-8 p.m. March 4

Where: Cloquet Public Library, 320 14th St. Cloquet

Cost: Free; register at https://bit.ly/3oS6tiS

Esko teacher teams up with Ashland author to write a book about living with zero waste.
April Hepokoski of Esko buys most of her food in bulk using reusable bags and containers to purchase and store her food in. These are some of the containers she has at her home seen on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Esko.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Esko teacher teams up with Ashland author to write a book about living with zero waste.
A game that April Hepokoski of Esko made for her students out of old Scrabble tiles and a piece of a log seen on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Esko.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Melinda Lavine is an award-winning, multidisciplinary journalist with 16 years professional experience. She joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2014, and today, she writes about the heartbeat of our community: the people.

Melinda grew up in central North Dakota, a first-generation American and the daughter of a military dad.

She earned bachelors degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota in 2006, and started her career at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald that summer. She helped launch the Herald's features section, as the editor, before moving north to do the same at the DNT.

Contact her: 218-723-5346, mlavine@duluthnews.com.
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