Students and Parents Have a Wonderful Time at Kentucky Energy for Youth Program Field Trip




By Chris Porter, Development Director, Bluegrass Greensource



Conundrum – noun

  1. a kind of riddle based upon some fanciful or fantastic resemblance between things quite unlike; a puzzling question, of which the answer is or involves a pun
  2. a question to which only a conjectural answer can be made.

(From Mary Knight’s Saving Wonder)

The Thursday morning was cold and the sky spit snow as we gathered at the entrance of Portal 31 Mine in Lynch, Kentucky. My daughter was ecstatic as we climbed into the rail cart and began our descent into the mine. It was a new experience for us both. As our car wound its way through the mine’s exhibit, we learned about the men who had worked in that mine and the community that grew up around it in Harlan County.

We were taking part in the culminating field trip of Bluegrass Greensource’s Kentucky Energy for Youth program. This overnight field trip presented students from Central Kentucky with the opportunity to learn about coal’s economic, cultural, and environmental impacts on Kentucky’s past, present, and future. Benham and Lynch are neighboring towns that were both former coal camps and are now in the midst of a difficult transition to a new way of life. For many Central Kentuckians, what little they know about coal communities comes from media and partisan campaigns. We are all familiar with “Friends of Coal” and “I Love Mountains,” but we don’t often take the time to become familiar with the people whose lives exist between these two opposing viewpoints. The history and reality of life in the mountains is far more complex than any particular slogan can convey.

As my daughter and the other children bustled about Lynch and Benham, it was so humbling to watch them grapple with these complexities – with the hard work, sweat, and pride that built these communities, and with the economic and environmental struggles that they face in the wake of coal’s decline. Much has recently been said about the solar panels that sit atop the Coal Museum in Benham, but it was inside the museum where students learned just how dangerous the job of underground coal mining is. At the Catholic Church in Lynch, students learned about the diversity of languages and nationalities that worked in the mines and built these communities. Visits to former bath houses that are being converted into shops and a mushroom growing business illustrated the ingenuity and hard work that residents are pouring into forging a new future.

That Thursday night, in the former gymnasium in the Benham Schoolhouse Inn, 60 Central Kentucky students gathered around Mary Knight, the author of the young adult novel Saving Wonder, a book about an Eastern Kentucky boy who fights to save his family’s land from mountain top removal. Each child had received and read the book as part of the program. In their conversation with the author, they wrestled with the conundrum—an issue to which there is no easy or certain answer—that coal mining represents for many communities in Eastern Kentucky.

The next day, the sky was clear and cold, and the sun shone as my daughter and I ascended to the top of Black Mountain at the Kentucky/Virginia line. On a clear day you can see all the way into Virginia to what used to be a mountain but is now a massive brown scrape in the ground – a mountain top removal site. It was quiet at the top of the mountain as I described the process by which MTR coal mining works.

“Who takes care of it after they’re done?” my daughter asked. “What happens now?”

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” I said.

The Kentucky Energy for Youth Program is funded through the Kentucky Department for Energy Development and Independence. 



Franklin County Litter Map


By Kyle Hager, AmeriCorps VISTA Member at Bluegrass Greensource

Franklin County folks looking to publicize their litter clean-up efforts, or to show their students or community members how proud they are of their hard work, now have a new medium to do so. The Franklin County Litter Map showcases litter abatement endeavors in an interactive fashion and lets fellow community members see volunteer efforts going on around them.

Those who participate in a clean-up are invited to take a picture and upload it and a story about how their efforts made an impact on their community. Each story and snapshot will get a data point on a map of Franklin County that fellow community members can then check out. The app can be accessed using a computer, tablet, or smart phone.

In the future, the application will be accompanied by an instructional video and will include lesson plans for teachers to incorporate into their classroom activities on waste reduction and litter abatement. The app is made possible by Franklin County Solid Waste Management and Bluegrass Greensource.


Reliable Hens

By Anna Ackerman, writer, Bluegrass Greensource Blog 

Spring is bursting forth around our house. The daffodils are blooming, the roses are budding, the bush and tree branches are swelling at the tips, and the hens are laying again. We allow our hens to take a much needed break from laying during the short days of winter by not adding artificial light to their coop. It seems more natural for them, and we have plenty of eggs to hold us over. Plus, we want them well rested for the work we expect them to do in the spring: garden prep.

Every winter, we plant a cover crop in the garden, usually winter rye. It adds nitrogen back to the soil, and its roots penetrate the soil, keeping it light and fluffy. Then, every spring, we mow the rye down and till it under to replenish the soil. My dad has a 50-year old tiller that is always in some state of “repair” (usually in pieces on his workbench) – so depending on it to get the garden ready can be a gamble. The hens, however, are always reliable. They are anxious to stretch their legs and scratch for worms and hibernating bugs in the cold soil.

In just a couple afternoons, our three hens can turn a 10×4 foot plot. We have an open bottom pen, called a tractor. We put them in to keep them contained in one area, and also to protect them from the hawks in our neighborhood. They will spend several afternoons in one area of the garden before we move them to a fresh plot.

The best part is, while the hens are happily working for us in the garden, we can spend our time looking through seed catalogs and planning the summer crop; Heirloom Ground Cherries are looking like a good possibility in the garden this year!



Try Straw Bale Gardening This Spring

By Deb Larking, Environmental Educator, Bluegrass Greensource

The February thaw always puts me in the mood for gardening.  But in recent years, with less time and energy for it, I have gravitated to pots for my herbs and straw bales for my tomatoes and peppers.

I start preparing my bales about two weeks before planting time.  So usually, mid-April.  Purchase wheat straw bales, and place them in a row where they will receive 6-8 hours of sun each day.  I put cardboard under the bales to prevent weeds.  The cut side should be up and the string binding should be around the outside of the bale.  Pounding in stakes at each end of the row and stringing wire between them helps support both the plants and bales.  Add soaker hoses and you are ready to go!

Next, condition the bales.  This process takes 10-12 days and is designed to jump start the decomposition process within the bales, providing a nutrient rich growing medium for the plants.  For the first three days, water the bales thoroughly.  On the fourth day, add a high nitrogen fertilizer (I prefer ½ cup fish emulsion) and water in.  Alternate fertilizing and watering only for the next six days.  The bales should get “hot” inside.  On day ten, switch to an organic 10-10-10 fertilizer to balance out the nutrients and water thoroughly.  Test to see if the internal temperature has cooled.  If not, keep watering daily until it does.  Now you are ready to plant!

I use two tomato plants per bale, or 3-4 pepper plants.  Cut a hole in the straw, add a little soil and the transplant.  Water it in, tie it up as it grows and use the soaker hoses as needed.  Basically maintenance free, the next step is to harvest and enjoy!  And the old bales go into the compost to fill my pots next year!


Minglewood – Plastic Sucks


By Noel Osborn, Outreach Specialist, Bluegrass Greensource 

Five hundred million plastic drinking straws are used each day in the United States. That’s 182.5 billion straws each year. Because plastic straws are not recyclable, they eventually end up in our landfills, as litter on our streets, or clogging our streams and waterways.

One block of Lexington restaurants and bars is taking a big step to change that. Led by local restaurant and pending Green Check member, Minglewood, several venues along North Limestone are reversing that trend. Last month, Minglewood held a “Don’t Suck in January” campaign to encourage patrons to opt out of straw use.

Trish Tungate, owner and manager of Minglewood, estimates that they use about 50,000 straws in a single year. Joining Minglewood are two other downtown restaurants, Corta Lima and Oscar Diggs, who have also reduced straw use.  If all three locations adopted a “no straws” policy, an estimated 150,000 straws a year, or 750,000 in five, would be eliminated from our waste stream. With fellow block mate Sidebar going “upon request only” for straws, Tungate says theirs is the first block to make a collective effort to reduce the number of plastic straws being used in Lexington.

For those outside of the restaurant industry who are interested in expanding the no straws initiative, Jackie Nuñez, founder of The Last Plastic Straw, suggests encouraging the restaurant managers at your favorite eateries to serve straws only upon request and consider switching plastic straws to reusable or *compostable options. Nuñez also suggests leaving an info card with your bill. With straws in the top 10 items consistently polluting our environment, these behavior changes are an easy way to take a step in the right direction.

To learn more about the Green Check program and how your business can receive recognition for your efforts to increase sustainability, check out or contact Noel Osborn at

*Please keep in mind that compostable options are almost completely ineffective in cities that do not have City serviced composting. Lexington is one of these cities, meaning that compostable straws, to-go boxes, and utensils are ineffective unless added to the compost bin at a private home or private business.


Seeking Help with Dog Waste at Your Apartment? We Have What You Need!

By: Chris Porter, Development Director, Bluegrass Greensource

Whether as a service animal or family pet, dogs are integral parts of our lives. With temperatures warming, dog owners will soon be re-emerging from their homes to get outside with their canine companions.

Today, many of Lexington’s apartment communities allow residents to have dogs. But if you manage or work at one of these many communities, you know that allowing dogs often means allowing some of the mess that dogs bring. In particular, you are likely familiar with the issues of dog waste on your property.

Uncollected dog waste is an eyesore and nuisance, but it is also an environmental issue. Each year, America’s 80 million-plus dogs produce more than 10 million pounds of waste. Given that 40% of dog owners do not pick up after their animals, it is no surprise that around 90% of the fecal bacteria found in our city streams is of non-human origin, mostly dog. Dog waste harbors harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites, including e. coli, giardia, and salmonella, and in just three days, waste from 100 dogs can contribute enough bacteria, nitrogen, and phosphorous to close 20 miles of a bay-watershed to swimming and shellfishing. Reducing the amount of uncollected dog waste is both an aesthetic and a health issue.

Whether you want to address environmental issues on your property, or reduce the number of complaints about dog waste that you receive from your residents, Bluegrass Greensource and the City of Lexington can help you address these issues.

The City of Lexington has made available to Fayette County apartment communities free animal waste stations that you can access and install on your property. Each waste station comes with all parts needed for installation, as well as a supply of bags for the trash can and small bags residents can use to collect the waste before disposal. In addition, you will be able to work with Bluegrass Greensource outreach staff who will perform a brief review of your facility and recommend tangible steps – in addition to installation of animal waste stations – that you can take to reduce the amount of uncollected waste at your community.

If you would like to access these resources, please call Chris at 859.266.1572, or get in touch by email at


Be My GREEN Valentine this year

By: Danny Woolums, Environmental Educator, Bluegrass Greensource

Who knew that Valentine’s Day is right around the corner? Considering the overabundance of Easter décor already at the local Kroger, I had forgotten the day even existed! But whether you’re celebrating Galentine’s Day Leslie Knope-style, spending a romantic evening with your partner, or enjoying a special evening with a spoon and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, there are a lot of ways that you can show your love of the Earth this February!

Consider a Hike through the Woods!
Hug some trees while hugging your partner this month, and check out some of the beautiful wilderness Kentucky has to offer. From the Dupree Nature Preserve in Garrard County to McConnell Springs in Lexington, there are many places you can visit on a date to stay outside and off of screens or using electricity. And, consider this post from Harvard Health reminding us of the tremendous health benefits to hiking!

Shut off the lights. Light up a candle.
Besides the obvious increase in romanticism that comes with food by candlelight, consider the energy savings as well. Shutting off the lights in your house and turning off the screens are great ways to get your body ready for bed while also being romantic and energy-saving. And once you head to bed, turn down the thermostat! Let the coolness over take your house while you find other ways to keep yourself warm… like an extra blanket.

Come Make Candles!
If you’re worried about all of the things in candles or about the environmental impacts of transporting them, then come and learn to make your own! Bluegrass Greensource will be hosting a candle-making workshop on February 10th,  right here at our office. Our candle-wizard, Kyle Hager, will teach you the ins and outs  of sustainable candle making, and you’ll be able to enjoy knowing exactly what’s in your candle. It’s a great date and a skill that you can use for years to come.

Eat Local!
Besides the incredible benefit that eating local provides to our local economy, remember the eco-benefit as well. Eating local means less carbon pollution from transporting meat from South America or shipping in your cheese from France. Consider the local vineyards for your evening wine selection! Try out Lexington Pasta for some local sauce and noodles! Check out Marksbury Farms for some local beef! Dive into Boone Creek Creamery for some delicious cheese! I basically just planned your dinner for you, and I didn’t even leave Central Kentucky to get my supplies. Many grocery or liquor stores do a great job of designating what’s local and some Farmer’s Markets have indoor seasons during the cold months.

It’s easy to shrug off Valentine’s Day as an over-commercialized gimmick to increase consumption. But, there’s never a bad reason to love ourselves and the people around us. Enjoy yourself this February and remember to love the Earth every day as well.


Thank You for Your Support

Thank YOU!

Each year, Greensource asks you to show your support of environmental education and outreach by making gifts to our fall fundraising campaign, and this year, you came through in a major way!

Thank you for helping to make our fall campaign such a huge success. Because of your support and that of our many friends throughout Central Kentucky, we were able to raise $5,175! This money is critical to our mission and will help us put our educators in more classrooms, while connecting our outreach staff with more adults and businesses seeking help with their sustainability goals.

This year, we are especially grateful for the generous support we received from our friends at Pivot BrewingBourbon N’ Toulouse restaurant, Lucia’s World EmporiumAlfalfa Restaurant, and Magic Beans Coffee Roasters. When we reached out to them, they all stepped up and were eager to support our efforts.

It is such a wonderful feeling to know that so many in our community have love and support for the work that we do – you are a huge part of what makes Central Kentucky such a great place to live and work. Thank you again, and we hope to see you out in the community in the coming weeks and months!


Increasing Recycling at the University of Kentucky

By: Ashley Bryant Cheney, Program Specialist/Volunteer Coordinator,
Bluegrass Greensource

Bluegrass Greensource is partnering with UK Recycling to increase student recycling participation in residence halls. With UK’s campus-wide recycling infrastructure growing, continued education is key for recycling participation, especially among residential students. Bluegrass Greensource has implemented recycling education in three residence halls on campus through promotional materials and a peer education program. Students in the residence halls have been recruited as “recyclingchampions” to promote and educate their peers about recycling. The recycling champions have passed out flyers, given away promotional materials, and are planning recycling-based residence hall programming.

Initial results are promising; waste audits in residence halls show an increase in recycling rates and a more accurate knowledge of what materials can be recycled. Education in the three residence halls will continue through the end of this semester, and two more waste audits will take place this semester to track the program’s effect on student recycling habits.


Farm to Fork Recap

By Amy Sohner, Executive Director, Bluegrass Greensource

On October 14th, the Nicholasville Farmers’ Market hosted its first annual Farm to Fork Dinner at the Jessamine County Fair Grounds in Nicholasville.  More than 100 people attended to help support the Farmers’ Market as well as the Jessamine County Food Bank and Bluegrass Greensource. 

The dinner was prepared and designed by Scott Anderson, Madison County Public School’s Food Service Director.  The menu included produce and beef from local producers, and was absolutely delicious! 

The live auction included items such as an artistic rain barrel, a basket of mixes donated by Wisenburger Mill, a print donated by Taylor Made Farm, and numerous items donated by the Farmers’ Market vendors. 

Bluegrass Greensource would like to thank the Nicholasville Farmers’ Market, the Jessamine County Extension service and Chef Scott Anderson for making the night such a success.  We can’t wait until next year!