On December 12th, 2018, Bluegrass Greensource hosted its second topical community forum. After the overwhelming response following the Recycling Forum, this forum covered composting efforts in Lexington and surrounding areas. Representatives from LFUCG, Seedleaf, the University of Kentucky, GleanKY, and the Franklin County Fiscal Court came out to discuss what they’ve been doing, as well as to provide answers to audience members’ questions. Greg Butler, a Bluegrass Greensource board member and the Municipal Services manager at Republic Services, served as the host for the night.

Starting off, Richard Boone from the LFUCG Division of Waste Management discussed plans in the works to relaunch a composting program in Lexington. He discussed the challenges the city needs to address, such as contamination and the need for compost education for citizens, before a full relaunch can happen. Because of this, he emphasized that a citywide composting program would be a slow journey in order to assure it was done correctly.

Up next, Ryan Koch from Seedleaf discussed the nonprofit’s composting program, which works with businesses and homeowners to collect compost across Lexington. For a small fee, Seedleaf offers home or restaurant compost pickup on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. Seedleaf partners with over 20 locations around Lexington to pick up their kitchen compost, which they use in their community gardens around town.

Shane Tedder from the University of Kentucky Office of Sustainability announced the launching of a large-scale composting program for the school which is set to begin early next year. He also stressed the need to provide comprehensive education to folks in order to reduce the amount of contamination entering the compost stream.

The only non-Lexington-based speaker of the night, Blair Hecker, came in from Franklin County to discuss their wildly successful livestock composting program. In the county, farmers can send their deceased animals to the facility to be turned into rich compost. Like many of the other speakers, Blair emphasized that the education of the public was a crucial piece in the success of their program. After three years in operation, they haven’t had so much as a phone call about the smell!

Wrapping up the presentations, Stephanie Wooten from GleanKY came to the podium to discuss a different side of food waste: the production stage. GleanKY is a non-profit that seeks to reduce food waste and food insecurity in the Bluegrass region (and beyond) by picking up the “ugly” produce that would not be accepted by retail stores. They then donate this food to feeding programs in the region. The food waste that occurs before fruits and vegetables can even reach a  grocery store makes up a HUGE chunk of the food waste we produce, and it is something that many of us don’t often consider.

The overall theme of the night was that education is key to making these programs work. All of our speakers and audience members were passionate citizens who want these programs to work, but as our panelists expressed, they can only work if comprehensive education takes place before and during a program’s existence.

If you missed the forum, don’t fret: Bluegrass Greensource filmed the entire forum on their Facebook through Facebook Live. For more detailed information about any or all of these panelists’ work, or to see them answer the hard-hitting questions that our audience members asked on sli.do, view that video here.