Keynote, Poet Laureate, and Advocates


A product of the University of Cincinnati’s Civil and Environmental Engineering program, Mark spent the first twelve years of his professional career working as a project manager for Turner Construction Company.  Many of those years were spent at the Cincinnati Zoo, overseeing the construction of several major exhibits.  In 2006, he came on board with the Zoo as the Senior Director of Facilities and Planning.  

Mark is also the driving force behind the Zoo’s nationally recognized sustainability movement. By implementing the most aggressive green building program in the nation, along with producing dramatic reductions in natural resource consumption, the Zoo has transformed itself from an organization that barely had a recycling program, to becoming the greenest Zoo in world.

Mark is involved with several non-profit organizations, in various capacities, including SonLight Power, Gabriel’s Place, Reds Community Fund, Habitat for Humanity, the Aquarium and Zoo Facilities Association, and the Avondale Development Corporation, among others.

Click here for Mark’s presentation from the Sustainability Summit.


Lily Gardner, a junior at Henry Clay High School, is a director of Future Voter Support work for Sunrise Movement. She also serves as the state policy director for Kentucky Youth Climate Strike, a hub coordinator of Sunrise Lexington, and on the Bluegrass Youth Sustainability Council. Recently, Lily planned the September 20th Climate Strike in Louisville, Kentucky, drawing a crowd of hundreds. Since then, she’s trained high schoolers from across the country in climate organizing and served on the Youth Climate Coalition, the youth coordinating body to plan upcoming Earth Day events.


Maya Meena Zachry, 5, is a vivacious, articulate, and passionate ocean enthusiast. Her fight against plastic pollution began in 2018. She was touched by a video of a sea turtle crying in pain while rescuers tried to remove a plastic straw from its nose. At age 3, she was instantly called to action to launch her campaign against single use plastic straws. Since then, Maya’s community engagement rivals that of environmentalists five times her age.

Maya’s other interests include traveling, hiking, reading, art, and running. Her role models include Greta Thunberg, Bob Marley, Harriet Tubman, Al Gore, and Sally Ride.

Click here for Maya’s presentation from the Sustainability Summit.


Jeff Worley has published six books, four chapbooks, and edited a poetry anthology, titled What Comes Down to Us (University Press of Kentucky, 2009). Jeff’s poems have also appeared widely in magazines in the United States and Canada for the past 45 years, and he is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including being Kentucky’s current Poet Laureate.