Saving Energy and Saving Money with Co-ops

The following article is sponsored content by Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.

Whether it’s keeping more of the hot or cold air out, or keeping more of the comfortable temps in, one of the easiest ways to save money on your electric bill each month is by using less energy.

And Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives have energy efficiency programs that can help.

Major upgrades to your home aren’t necessary to improve your energy use, lower your energy bills and help the environment along the way. Small, often inexpensive energy-saving upgrades can lower your monthly energy usage.

There are also rebates available for doing a few money-saving “button ups” to your home, including sealing air leaks from your home and sealing your ductwork, if you meet certain criteria. It’s an inexpensive way to participate in an energy-saving program, while saving money on your energy bill.

Another program which offers a significant rebate is the heat pump retrofit. By installing an ENERGY STAR-rated 15 SEER 8.5 HSPF heat pump, and replacing older, inefficient heating sources, you could receive up to a $750 rebate. There are smaller rebates for heat pumps that meet minimum standards as well. Not only will the heat pump save you money over the long term, you’ll get a rebate just for installing it.

If you’re buying a new manufactured home, you can get up to a $750 rebate for installing the ENERGY STAR heat pump, or smaller rebates for other types of energy-efficient heating systems. Same goes for new home construction. Combine the efficiency of electric heating and cooling with high insulation standards when building a new home, and you have the basis for the Touchstone Energy Home. By meeting minimum Home Energy Rating System (HERS) standards, you’ll save money and lower your energy usage over the lifetime of owning that home.

The SimpleSaver program is another way that we are working to keep your electricity affordable. Your participating co-op will pay you up to $20 per year for each central air conditioner you enroll into the program for as long as you remain in the program.

The program helps you limit your electric use at peak times during the summer and winter. Managing peak load also decreases Kentucky’s carbon footprint and gives all of us more time to explore affordable sources of renewable energy. Plus, that smart thermostat may earn you a $100 rebate. Learn more at

You can find many energy-saving tips on


Staff Spotlight: Staff Members Recognized for Their Achievements

Rachel Patton, Environmental Educator

2022 M.K. Dickerson Outstanding Educator Award

Since beginning at BGGS, Rachel has developed a robust preschool education program. First through the development of the Junior Nature Program (JNE) and then expanded with the development of the Junior Energy Explorers Program (JEE). This past year, across Central Kentucky Rachel led education in 41 preschool classrooms for JNE and worked with 27 preschool classrooms and led six energy labs for caregivers and preschool students for JEE. This honor is well deserved and we are so proud to have her as a part of our team!

Chris Howard, Watershed Coordinator

Appointed Member of the Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Authority

Since joining the BGGS team last November as our Watershed Coordinator, Chris has worked diligently to further water quality education and improvement within our service region. He has hosted public workshops and implemented private and public projects such as riparian buffer plantings, septic system repairs, and rain garden plantings. In addition to these programs, Chris has worked to host field days for community education and continued to build partnerships for future water quality improvement projects. As representative for Environmental Groups At Large on the commission, his role is to represent the interest of environmental organizations in the Bluegrass. We’re so proud of Chris and all he has accomplished and look forward to seeing him grow our water quality programming even further!
UPDATE: Chris was also recently commissioned a Kentucky Colonel! More on that later…


Sustainable Gift Wrapping with BGGS

On Saturday, December 14, we hosted a Green Living Lab on Sustainable Gift Wrapping. We had a fun and festive morning full of holiday music, treats, and gift wrapping–of course! Our participants learned some strategies for wrapping gifts in more sustainable ways. We used fabric as reusable wrapping, while also using and reusing paper to make reusable gift boxes, bows, and gift tags. 

Are you looking for some ways to “green” your gift wrapping this year? Try using brown craft paper bags, newspaper, or maps to wrap gifts. Decorate and fold toilet paper tubes (as seen in the bottom right photo) to give gift cards, candy, or other small gifts! Clippings of pine and other greens are great ways to beautify your gifts, along with gift tags made from past years’ holiday cards or craft paper. Though sustainable gift wrapping may be more time consuming, it is a great way to put a lot of love, thought, and creativity into your gifts! We look forward to continuing this holiday tradition next year at Bluegrass Greensource.


Your Guide to Earth-Friendly Holiday Shopping

‘Tis the season for giving!  For many of us this may mean trips to brick and mortar stores to select the perfect gift, for others shopping online is the preferred method.  Have you ever wondered about the environmental impact of online shopping

How does it stack up against a trek to the mall or other local stores?

There is no quick and easy answer to this question because it involves so many variables.  Chances are, if you live in a suburban or rural area where you have to travel considerable distances to shop, online shopping makes sense.  One study found that online shopping consumed an average of 30 percent less energy than traditional, brick-and-mortar shopping. Most likely, this is due largely to the limitations present in driving to a store, such as paying for gas and carrying your purchases to and from the car. But that study also conceded that there was significant uncertainty and variability in their analysis, especially regarding transport to the retail store (fuel economy, trip length, purchases per trip, etc.).

Another study contends that shopping online has a greater impact on the environment, when considering the following factors: 

• Many people do not drive alone, but go shopping with others, hence total purchases are higher per trip, thereby reducing miles driven per item.
• Shoppers often engage in other activities while at the mall, so miles traveled can’t be assigned only to shopping.
• A lot more goods purchased online get returned, which requires repackaging and shipping (33 percent compared with just 7 percent from stores).
• Online products often require a whole lot more packaging.
If online shopping is your preferred method there are a few things you can consider to lessen the impact on the environment:
• Purchase from eco-friendly retailers.
• Do not ask for same-day or next-day shipping.
• Purchase more than one item at a time.
• Ask for eco-friendly packaging.
• If you are uncertain about clothing size skip online shopping and visit the store to try the item on. This reduces the need to return the item which adds to the energy footprint.
• Heavy items or items that require additional protective packaging are best purchased at a local store.

Ultimately, though, it’s we as the customers who will make the decisions that will determine which method of getting the product is better.  So, if you want to go shopping the old school way, share the trip with a friend or two and maybe even take the bus. If you want to buy online, checkout some of our staff’s favorite environmentally friendly online stores:
Life Without Plastic
Meg C Jewelry Gallery
Pet Wants Lexington
Ten Thousand Villages


Green Check Welcomes Nine New Members

The City of Lexington’s Green Check program recently honored nine new certified members. Honorees included: Most Valuable Pets (Silver), EARTHeim Landscape Design Studio (Silver), Bluegrass Landscapes (Silver), West Sixth Brewing (Bronze), GRW (Bronze), Carson’s Food & Drink (Bronze), Downtown Lexington Partnership (Member), Clark Law Office (Member), and Barnhill Chimney (Member). The program recognizes businesses for their green initiatives and helps them expand their sustainability efforts.

Becoming a Green Check Member business begins with a personal consultation and completion of the Green Check Sustainability Scorecard. The Sustainability Scorecard caters to organizations across a variety of sectors, including restaurants, non-profit organizations, retail, and manufacturers. 

Based on their baseline sustainability score, the business or organization is awarded Gold, Silver, Bronze, or Member designation. Although the certification is valid for three years, member organizations are encouraged to pursue higher tiers through continued participation and achievement.

These nine businesses all demonstrate a commitment to increased sustainability within their facilities and operations. Examples initiatives from the businesses include installation of rain gardens, upgrades to energy efficient lighting, office compost programs and promotion of alternative transportation. Beyond these high-impact features, there are lots of actions individual team members can take to improve sustainability in the workplace.

After three years, businesses who wish to renew their certification go through the recertification process. The 2016 pilot Green Check businesses were up for recertification this year. All five businesses moved up in membership level. They are as follows: Lexmark (Gold), Bullhorn (Gold), Good Foods Co-op (Silver), RossTarrant Architects (Silver), and Lexington Habitat for Humanity (Silver). 

Green Check is a program of the City of Lexington, managed by Bluegrass Greensource. For more information, including how to become Green Check Certified, please visit


Lexington Hosts NAAEE Conference

Since joining the field of Environmental Education in 2011, I have loved attending the annual conference for the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education. This great opportunity has been a fantastic way each year to meet with other professionals from across the state to bring fresh ideas back to the programs we offer here at Bluegrass Greensource. This year, however, was a very special case as Lexington played host to the largest conference in North America focused on Environmental Education and it did NOT disappoint!

The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), created in 1971 by a group of environmentally-minded community college professors in Florida, holds their own conference every year in different parts of their service region. From the resting place of Aldo Leopold in Wisconsin to the beaches of Cancún, Mexico, NAAEE moves their annual conference in an effort to connect with many partners to share common goals of promoting environmental literacy. Kentucky last held the conference in 1981 and later became the very first “affiliate” to join NAAEE in 1986! 

Over 2,000 environmental and educational professionals descended into downtown Lexington to learn from each other and to see the great things we are doing right here in the Bluegrass. As someone who has lived in Lexington for over 11 years, my favorite part was helping shuttle visitors to their tour at FoodChain. I remember when this great nonprofit was first beginning and the dreams they had for the rest of their space. Having not been back in several years, it was so inspiring to see all that they are accomplishing – and how excited the visitors from all over our country were to take in this fantastic operation. From one nonprofit to another: cheers to FoodChain and all of the potential that is yet to be tapped.

Two presentations by Bluegrass Greensource staff members were accepted for the conference. One was a poster presentation on our Junior Nature Explorer’s program by Rachel Patton, the program coordinator, alongside education professor Dr. Priyanka Parekh of Transylvania University, who partnered with Bluegrass Greensource to do research on the way environmental education was helping in the preschool classrooms. The other presentation was by Pattie Stivender, education director, and Danny Woolums on the success of the Lexington Teachers’ Environmental Academy. Alongside staff from the City of Lexington, the 4 people shared about the city’s goals for the program and lessons learned over the course of two years. Since the presentation, a city in North Carolina has already reached out to learn about how they can model this same program next year with local teachers.

Overall, Bluegrass Greensource was everywhere at the conference. We were volunteering at registration, with the silent auction, participating in sessions, coordinating networking events, and so much more. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet people from all over the country and share what makes Kentucky such a special place to be.


Greening your Big Blue Tailgate

It’s football season in the Bluegrass! While we love to hear Carl Nathe shout “FIRST DOWN KENTUCKY,” we equally love to hear “where is the recycling bin?” at the tailgates. To celebrate the excitement over this season, we thought we would provide some tips on how to green up your tailgate. 

Remember the three Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle!  They are in order of importance, so reducing and reusing should be your first steps to greening up your Big Blue Tailgate.


  • Purchase reusable dishware – Durable plastic dishware is generally low cost and can be found at many general purpose stores.
  • Ditch the Solo Cups – use reusable cups when pouring drinks. If you are a member of our Resource Society, bring your Yeti Lowball to keep drinks cold throughout the game.
  • If Ale-8-One is your favorite soft drink, buy their longneck bottles.  All purchases are not only returnable at local Kroger stores and reused, they also are part of the 1% For the Planet program that helps funds local nonprofits like Bluegrass Greensource!
  • Reuse decorations – Those paper footballs and streamers may be cheap, but they are still good for next weekend! 
  • Buy in bulk – Have everyone designated to purchase one tailgating item this season so buying in bulk is more practical.
  • Grill with a propane tank – Yes, propane is a fossil fuel but it burns cleaner than charcoal. Also, victory couches do not burn clean either. 
  • Buy Local – Consider local restaurants and breweries when preparing food options. If you prefer to make your own dishes, check out your local farmers’ market for locally grown ingredients. Many farmers’ markets are open throughout the fall.
  • Carpool to the event or walk with friends


  • Utilize campus recycling – UK Recycling provides game day recycling at Kroger Field. Use clear bags for recycling and black bags for trash. If you run out of bags you can pick up more at the “Recycling End Zone” located in the Green Lot on the BCTC Lawn or from one of the Big Blue Recycling Crew Volunteers. Items that are recyclable: bottles, cans, and boxes. Items that are not recyclable: paper plates, napkins, cups, food waste, and aluminum foil/pans.

If you have any questions regarding this information please email Noel Osborn at GO CATS! 


Growing Good Kids at Junior Master Gardener Camp

In their last weeks of summer break, fifteen young gardeners joined us at The Arboretum for Junior Master Gardener camp, an annual camp organized by The Arboretum in partnership with Bluegrass Greensource educators. Our educator, Kara, and EELCorps members Cassie (Bluegrass Greensource) and Hannah (The Arboretum) became camp counselors for the week, working with campers to teach them more about gardening and expand their knowledge of plants in general. In addition to becoming more knowledgeable gardeners, campers also got to explore and play in the Arboretum and Kentucky Children’s Garden. At the end of the week, they toured UK’s Horticulture Research Farm and received their certifications recognizing them as certified Junior Master Gardeners!


Breaking Ground in the Community Garden

As our Urban areas in Central Kentucky grow, it is important to consider leaving green space for our communities to connect with nature, dig in the dirt, and explore the marvels of cultivating our own food. As many of us rush through our days, busy with work, school, and other appointments, we often forget to stop, connect with nature, and eat a healthy meal. We are not thinking about how our food gets to us. Many of us may never have an opportunity to eat locally grown food or have healthy options available. This can lead to unhealthy patterns and create stress, which can lead to illness. It is vital to our health and the health of our planet to stop and find a better way. Community gardens can be an answer to some of these issues. Community gardens can provide a sanctuary from haste, and allow us to use space in our urban areas to grow food, connect with others, and preserve the land. 

This year Bluegrass Greensource was offered a Community Garden plot at Peace Meal Gardens, a 2.5 acre organic, no till, garden space owned by Bluegrass Community and Technical College. The focus of our garden plot is to determine what we can grow, what partners we will connect with, and how we can gain a better understanding of teaching in this environment.  With these goals in mind, the garden was a huge success. Our most abundant crop of the season has been cherry tomatoes; they came on early and are still going strong. We’ve also had tomatillos, okra, peppers, cucumbers, green beans, basil, eggplant, and corn. In our office we’ve shared in the abundance of cherry tomatoes along with sharing stories of homemade gazpacho, cherry tomato and melon salad, and tomatillo salsa.

All along the way, we have been so grateful to the community partners that helped our garden grow. Luckily we found a community of helpful volunteers, gardening experts, and generous donors to help guide our first office community garden plot. The Bluegrass Youth Sustainability Council donated funds to purchase seeds, mulch, and compost. Expert gardener, Jessica Ballard, with Star Flower Service, partnered to help start seeds in a hothouse. Volunteers from Montessori Middle School, the Apple store, and Maxwell Presbyterian Church all donated time and efforts to prepare the garden soil, plant, weed, and help water our space over the summer. BCTC and Peace Meal’s Garden Manager, Rebecca Glasscock, aided the community gardeners with mulch, garden advice, and shared the amazing space. These garden helpers not only joined in this beautiful work and made some great memories, but taught us about incorporating garden education into the use of our space. 

Breaking ground has been wonderful, enjoy the photos, and let’s dream about what we can grow next season…..


Teachers’ Academy Back and Better Than Ever

This past July, we wrapped up our second Teachers’ Environmental Academy for educators working in Fayette County. Funded by the City of Lexington, this program aims to equip teachers with knowledge about the systems working behind the scenes in our city that they can bring back into their classrooms. From visiting an active landfill to going behind the scenes at LexTran, our 23 teachers were given the opportunity to ask questions of the people who help make our city work. A new model was adopted this year, with the full program taking place over the course of a single week, July 8th through July 12th. Developing changes for next year include offering a second week to the academy so that one week can be dedicated to middle and high school teachers and one week dedicated to elementary school teachers. 

Free and open to both public and private school teachers, the Teachers’ Environmental Academy was modeled after the City’s own “Citizens’ Environmental Academy.” To make sure that teachers felt equipped to teach about the content, the final day of the academy consisted of sharing lessons that could be used in the classroom. Pulling from Project Learning Tree’s Energy & Society Module, Project WET, Project WILD Aquatic, and Population Education, teachers were given the opportunity to create small units from the curriculum that they could take back to their schools. 

Currently, Bluegrass Greensource is working with several surrounding counties to do similar, smaller workshops focused on environmental issues facing out Bluegrass communities. If you live in Franklin or Scott County and would like information about workshops currently being developed for your community, please email Pattie Stivender at

“Bluegrass Greensource hosts a wonderful environmental education academy for teachers, and I feel fortunate to be part of it this year. They take us to many interesting facilities so that we can see the “behind the scenes” and full cycle of processes and resources that we all benefit from. We have visited landfills, the recycling center, water treatment facilities and waste water plants, as well as Lextran and East Kentucky Cooperative Solar. All of the places we visited are connected to each other and to us as citizens. BGGS has carefully planned all aspects, and have made this an amazing week. This week has been extremely interesting and educational, and I’m excited to take these experiences back to my classroom.”