We spent day ‘unplugged’ as part of a resolution to get outdoors more

For those of you who joined Bluegrass Greensource in including getting outdoors more among your 2014 resolutions, I hope it’s one you’re actually going to keep. Beyond the obvious benefits of getting fresh air, vitamin-D enriched sunshine and exercise, being around nature can boost energy levels and relieve stress. It also can remind us how important our natural surroundings are to our quality of life.

Greensource is asking everyone, adults and children alike, to enjoy more time outdoors this coming year, maybe with a hike, a walk around your neighborhood or geocaching, a real-life treasure hunt. Anything that lets us “unplug” from electronic gadgets and enjoy the outdoors will count.

Learning to identify the trees along your street would provide fun and interesting outdoor time for your family. You could even set a goal to visit at least one state park this year. For a list of other great ideas, click here and search “resolutions.”

A pair of bald eagles perch on a bare branch at Kentucky Dam Village where my family loves to go. (Photo by Donna Stinnett)

A pair of bald eagles perch on a bare branch at Kentucky Dam Village where my family loves to go. (Photo by Donna Stinnett)

My family has agreed to accept the challenge. This past weekend, we started by “unplugging” from electronic gadgets for a day. No phones, TV, computers or iPads – just a day of family time. As a mom of two, 10 and 8, I was looking forward to a day without Minecraft discussions, Jessie episodes and texting marathons.

I did not take into account the fact we use our smartphones to tell time, iPads to do science fair project research and that UK would be playing Vanderbilt. We ended up taking advantage of the warmer weather and spent lots of time outside – walking, playing basketball and doing much-needed yard work. That night, we enjoyed a family game night. All in all, we learned that we could survive while taking some time away from gadgets. There was even talk about a day of no electricity, but I’ll have to check UK’s schedule first.

This summer, we plan to explore a state park we’ve never been to before. I grew up going to Kentucky Dam Village with my family, and I really enjoy taking my kids there now. They just can’t get enough of Mom’s “back in the day” stories or saying the park’s name with a giggle. We’ve enjoyed the park’s hiking trails, swimming spots and fishing and golfing opportunities.

The 18-hole golf course is really top-notch and well maintained, plus some of the local wildlife may even join you. If you have a favorite state park, share it on our Bluegrass Greensource Facebook page here and maybe we will visit it this year.

The year is off to a great start already as my family resolves to get outdoors more. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with nature and discovering new things with my kids. I’m sure you have some great ideas of your own for spending more time outdoors. I’d love to hear about all the fun activities, but only after you’ve enjoyed your time outside.


Chris Clabes photo

Chris Clabes is the development and public relations coordinator at Bluegrass Greensource. Before joining Greensource, Chris worked as a consultant for numerous nonprofit organizations across the state, including the formation of Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative and Gov. Beshear’s Commission on Philanthropy. She was Kentucky 4-H Foundation’s executive director and served as the director of finance for the National Association of Home Builders’ Political Action Committee in Washington, D.C. She is a graduate of the University of Kentucky.


This article appeared in KY Forward on January 30, 2014.


Tis the Season to GIVE

By Lisa Conley

Frankfort trash clean up

Remember when a toy required no batteries and did not include a screen? Albert Einstein said “Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift.”  This holiday season, you could give that gift to classrooms of children right here in Central Kentucky through a donation to Bluegrass Greensource.

Our educators work tirelessly throughout the school year in over 230 schools to teach children in our community about the natural world- something most of us today see less and less of.  Our environmental activities include litter cleanups, watershed education using enviroscapes, organizing school green teams, helping students start vermicomposting/worm bins, and introducing students to Kentucky’s flora and fauna at outdoor events to name just a few.  Dunbar studentsWith your gift, we can introduce many more young people to the natural world.  A world where the gadgets and screens can have a rest and the mind can be free to explore.

A donation to Bluegrass Greensource will not only spread the gift of environmental education, but it can help you with that person who has everything already.  In the past, I have personally donated in the name of family. This was the perfect gift for them. There was no plastic and paper packaging to dispose of, no disappointment with another boring gift they didn’t really need, and we both had the pleasure of knowing the young people we might see at the grocery actually benefited from our gift.  Your one contribution’s impact could multiply across generations.  What other gift has this potential?

Montessori ResizedTo make your gift of education this year, please go to: https://bggreensource.org/support/

If you are a teacher who would like one of our educators to visit your classroom, please call us at 266-1572.  We also offer many environmental education materials for check-out at no cost.

‘Tis the season to give a gift that can change a life.


When it comes to taking care of the environment, every little bit helps

Before working at Bluegrass Greensource, I truly felt I was doing my part in reducing my carbon footprint and I encouraged my family to do the same. We recycled our paper, glass and cans every week. We used our reusable grocery bags — as much as we could actually remember to bring them into the store. We tried to reduce our waste by using reusable containers instead of plastic food storage bags. We used some green products like environmental friendly laundry detergent and cleaners. We even programmed our thermostat for when we weren’t at home. All of this made me feel like I was really doing something for the environment.

Then I started working at Bluegrass Greensource.

It was intimidating to think of what I may be doing wrong and not doing enough of. The day before I officially started, I remember wondering what I should wear? Will everyone be wearing hemp clothing and Birkenstocks? Will everyone be a vegetarian and only eat organic food and drive electric cars?

Luckily, Executive Director Amy Sohner eased my nerves. She said, “we encourage people to make small changes, not restructure their whole lives. Every little bit helps the environment. Be realistic in what you can do.” Wow, what a relief!

1 fog Screen shot 2013-10-09 at 1.25

With that message, I have been motivated to step up my efforts. This summer, my husband and I installed a rain barrel at our home. Ironically, it stopped raining soon after, but no matter, we have used what water we have captured to save our flower boxes.

Next spring, I will look into adding some native plants to our landscape. I like the idea that they need fewer fertilizers and pesticides to grow and thrive. Plus, their water needs are more compatible with the local climate.

Inside our home, we’ve made more small changes. Before starting at BGGS, I thought FOG was suspended water in the atmosphere that made driving difficult. I didn’t know it really stood for Fats, Oils, and Grease and the picture above shows the effect it has on our pipes and drains.

Imagine what all your neighbors might be pouring down their drains. Can you envision the cumulative impact in the pipes on your street? My disgust has motivated me to encourage everyone I know to put a can with a lid under the sink to collect their FOG and keep it out of the drain.

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Speaking of the community, I never really noticed storm drains like the one shown here until I started working for Greensource. And now I see them everywhere! I see some painted, some not. Some filled with trash, some with leaves.

Do you know where all the trash in the storm drains goes? To our local streams. Think of what an impact we could have on the quality of our water and streams if we all took responsibility for our own litter and pick it up when we see litter from others. Do you know that if everyone in Lexington committed to picking up two pieces of litter per day, we would have 610,978 fewer pieces of litter in our area each day?

My family and I will never be Ed Begley Jr. and live completely off the grid. That’s just not realistic for us. I do know that every day we are taking steps, small steps, to be kinder to our environment. I know that in my lifetime, I will make a difference, one step at a time, and I will have passed this commitment on to my children.

If you are interested in making small green changes in your life, contact Bluegrass Greensource to learn more at 859-266-1572 or email us at info@bgreensource.org.

Chris Clabes photo

Chris Clabes is the development and public relations coordinator at Bluegrass Greensource. Before joining Greensource, Chris worked as a consultant for numerous nonprofit organizations across the state, including the formation of Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative and Gov. Beshear’s Commission on Philanthropy. She was Kentucky 4-H Foundation’s executive director and served as the director of finance for the National Association of Home Builders’ Political Action Committee in Washington, D.C. She is a graduate of the University of Kentucky.

This article appeared in KY Forward on October 10, 2013.


Weather has a way of wreaking havoc with even the best-laid summer plans

I don’t know about you, but it seems like my summer is passing too quickly and not gone as planned.

My wife and two sons planned on spending about a week at Cave Run Lake – our favorite place to camp, fish and do what you do on vacation. We were hoping for a peaceful time from work, email and normal daily stresses.

Our aging German shepherd was also going to get some time wading and hanging out by campfires. Our sons Sully, 3, and Harmon, almost 2, were thrilled at the aspect of fishing, searching for bugs, swimming and all of us trying to paddle our giant canoe in the lake water. My wife Kate and I knew that camping with children and an aging dog is altogether a different kind of stress, but the prospect of the lake camping lifestyle outweighed any future challenges.

But weather has a way of changing things. We knew the weather was going to be sketchy, but we planned accordingly with rain jackets and plenty of tarps for our campsite.

On arrival at our favorite campsite, the weather was calm with just a enough breaks in the rain to put up our tent and rain tarps over the picnic table and to get the necessary things settled. That night the firewood was too wet for a fire, so we retired early.

It rained and stormed heavily that night with just a few small leaks in our tent. No too bad. I thought “If we can survive through that rain last night, we’ll be fine.”

That morning and afternoon saw more rain and on again, off again downpours. I looked at Kate and said – “I think we are going to need more tarps.” She was pleased with the idea of venturing back to civilization for a while because our boys were starting to go stir crazy in the tent and needed to get some space. So we drove to the closest big box store and loaded up with rain protective gear, a.k.a. tarps.

By the time we had drove back to the campsite it was deceptively sunny and our camping friends had just arrived. We continued to rainproof our campsite with lots of rope and tarps. We marveled at our engineering feat of three large tarps covering our tent, table and fire site as we made dinner.

Then a distant “boom”! We all looked at each other – each convinced that our protective measures would sustain any amount of rain. We should have built an ark.

Just after dinner the rain started again – this time there was hurricane-force rain and lightning flashed in ways that I have never experienced before. That says a lot because I have experienced multiple tropical storms and a hurricane growing up in North Carolina.

Our tarps filled with hundreds of pounds of water and failed miserably. They failed with such a force that the plastic grommets pulled out from the corners of the tarps. Our gravel campsite began to flood.

Luckily our boys were exhausted and were sleeping in the tent. I looked at our dog, who was lying in about 2 inches of water. The rain was not stopping anytime soon. We all agreed to tuck tail and retreat. Heavy deluge of rain, copious nonstop lighting and floating water tents with metal poles is not a nice condition for toddlers. So retreat we did to a motel. That next morning we decided to pack up between rain events. And it continued to rain all the way back home.

I write this story of survival all to remind myself that nature will have its way every time. No matter how we plan, organize, build and construct, nature will do what it wants – when it wants. We have to adjust to it.

I try to remember that as I educate kids about the surprising and unpredictable world in which they live. I talked with Sully (attempted with Harmon) about how sometimes nature surprises us and plans change but added that rain, lightning, thunder are all beautiful things. All except for the wet/unused diapers, soaked aging dog, waterbed tent, floating firewood and tarps filled with enough water you could host an Olympic diving event.

Chris Muesing has been with Greensource as an environmental educator for three years.  Chris received a bachelor’s degree with a focus in environmental stewardship from Houghton College in New York. Before joining Greensource he taught environmental education to various summer camps and school groups. He has two sons that are growing up to be avid outdoors men that enjoy hiking, creeking and fishing. Chris can be reached by calling 859-266-1572 or via e-mail at chris@bggreensource.org.

This article appeared in KY Forward on August 8, 2013.


New name, new look, but same mission – to teach and encourage green living

Bluegrass PRIDE is now Bluegrass Greensource. We’ve updated our social media accounts, launched our new website and got new business cards and email addresses. But now what?

Amy Sohner, executive director of Bluegrass Greensource, took a moment to reflect on our accomplishments in the last 12 years and expressed her desires for the future.

“Since I’ve been around from the beginning, I have really enjoyed seeing a shift in the understanding of what it means to be green. And with our new name, new brand, we want to continue this momentum,” she said.


Our environmental educators have worked with students in over 230 schools. “On any given day, they may be knee-deep in a stream showing kids how to test water quality or up to their elbows in classroom trash as they complete a dumpster dive.” Amy reminisced.

We also work with teachers on how they can use the environment to teach across all disciplines. We have taken science, social studies and English teachers in a coal mine and to solar farms to help them teach about energy.

PRIDE’s outreach specialists stay busy reaching out to Central Kentucky’s adult population and educating them on waste reduction, water quality and energy efficiency issues. This year alone, our staff assisted with home energy audits, partnered with community organizations to stencil storm drains and completed waste analyses for area businesses helping them recycle almost 1500 tons each year.

Our grant programs have helped Lower Howard’s Creek Nature and Heritage Preserve remove invasive plants and open its first public hiking trail. Eastern Kentucky University installed five reusable water bottle filling stations in campus buildings, saving tens of thousands of plastic water bottles from the landfill. Madison County Conservation District developed a fallen animal composting pad to use for education and demonstration purposes. Herrington Lake Conservation League cleaned up the lake, filling 19 commercial dumpsters with litter and manmade debris from the lake, while establishing a recycling and litter reduction program at several marinas.

We also provide resources to community groups for litter removal along roads and streams and have removed more than 150,000 bags of trash from local roadways and stream banks. To help promote our message across the region, we have assisted in making events throughout Central Kentucky both litter and waste free!

Over time, we became THE SOURCE for green education in Central Kentucky. With that said, we wanted our name to better reflect our mission and the fact that we are the green source for this area. As we begin this new chapter, we want to continue our outreach in the schools, building on the programs we provide in our region.

We want to continue our outreach in homes, encouraging small changes that make a big impact not only to our local environment, but also to our wallets and our health.

We want to continue building our partnerships with more than 600 business and apartment complexes, assisting them in all of their green needs and helping them get recognition for being environmentally responsible.

With this said, we need your help spreading the word. Same important mission, just a new name. Please share with your friends and your community.
Chris Clabes photo

Chris Clabes is the Development and PR Coordinator at Bluegrass Greensource.  Before joining BG Greensource, Chris worked as a consultant for numerous nonprofit organizations across the state, including the formation of Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative and Governor Beshear’s Commission on Philanthropy.  She was KY 4-H Foundation’s executive director and served as the Director of Finance for the National Association of Home Builders’ Political Action Committee in DC. She received her BA at the University of Kentucky.

This article appeared in KY Forward on July 4, 2013.