This Earth Day, consider the small things you can do to help environment

April 22 marks the 44th annual Earth Day celebration. Earth Day events, held worldwide, demonstrate support for environmental protection. The first Earth Day saw 20 million Americans who peacefully demonstrated for environmental reform. Today it is coordinated by the Earth Day Network and is celebrated by more than 1 billion people in more than 192 countries.

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Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson organized the first “national teach-in on the environment” after witnessing the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif. His goal was to bring environmental protection into focus. Within a year of the first event, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was formed. Before the EPA was formed there were no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect our environment. After its formation it led to the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts.

As the world’s population continues to grow and our natural resources are stretched thin, it’s even more important to keep a watchful eye on the natural environment. Not all acts and participation must be large. Many small changes help to reduce our impact on the earth. Following is a list of small changes you can make this Earth Day to improve environmental health.

1. Buy local. Visit your local farmer’s market. Your food will be fresher and will have traveled fewer miles than the majority of foods found at your local grocer. Use the items you purchase to plan an Earth Day dinner serving locally grown food. Remember to take a reusable bag!

2. Compost your food waste. Food thrown into the trash ends up in a landfill. Food rinsed down the drain goes to a waste water treatment center where it is removed from the water and then sent to a landfill. By composting you save land space, save fuel energy from waste removal vehicles, and have a nutrient rich additive for your plants.

3. Attach a rain barrel to your home’s downspout. When structures are built they change the natural flow of rainwater, producing greater amounts of runoff. A rain barrel holds the water during a rain event and is available for later use.

4. Organize a litter cleanup. Litter is not only unsightly, it’s also detrimental to water quality. Litter left on the ground can be picked up by rainwater and swept into a stream or a storm drain, which discharges into a stream. By removing litter you are improving water quality and improving the appearance of your community.

5. Reduce gasoline consumption. Instead of using your vehicle for short trips, walk or ride a bike. Whenever possible, use public transportation. You will not only reduce the amount of gasoline being used (gas is made from a nonrenewable natural resource), you may also see an increase in your funds.

This is just a sampling of the small changes each individual can make to improve the environment. With a world of over 7 billion, individual actions add up. Small changes can make a big impact.

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Pattie Stivender is the education outreach and volunteer coordinator for Bluegrass Greensource.

This article appeared in KY Forward on April 17, 2014.


Want to help others be more earth-friendly? Join the Zero Waste Team

As winter approaches, many of us look for ways to contribute to our communities. Whether we serve food at a shelter, donate to our favorite nonprofit, or give time to our community, this time of year has traditionally been one of volunteerism and giving.

My own family has seen the rich rewards that come from volunteering and giving to our community, and we try to instill in our children a love for the intangible benefits that come from giving to others.


Zero-Waste-Recycle-graphicWe at Bluegrass Greensource have been looking for new ways to engage our volunteer base in the betterment of our community, and as a result have developed a new Zero Waste Team to help us make community events a little more environmentally friendly by going zero waste or reduced waste.

So what exactly does zero waste mean? A zero waste event diverts 90 percent or more of its waste material away from landfills by recycling, composting and avoiding disposable materials. This is an especially important goal to achieve because events have the potential to create a lot of waste due to their temporary nature and the use of disposable plates, cups and other similar items. These items end up in landfills, causing a cascade of other problems. It’s not difficult to implement zero waste at public events, but it does require planning ahead, and that’s where our volunteer team comes in to help.

We hope to encourage event planners to go zero or reduced waste by providing the resources and volunteers they may need to reach that goal. For the volunteers, it provides an opportunity to help the community in concrete ways while participating in fun community events.

Our volunteer base is divided into two groups – the Zero Waste Planning Committee and the Zero Waste Event Team. When we get a call requesting support for a zero-waste event, we will send out a call to our volunteers to help. Members of the Zero Waste Planning Committee will work with the event planners to assist with all of the coordination that must be done in advance to support zero-waste events. This includes working with vendors to use recyclable, washable, or compostable goods, procuring the correct containers and bags, strategizing the best way to deploy resources, and promoting the zero-waste goal of the event to patrons through advertising and signage.

On the day of the event, the Zero Waste Event Team will spring into action, setting up containers in the appropriate places, making sure signage is in place, answering questions for patrons and staff, and helping people properly sort their waste.

Not only do our volunteers get the satisfaction of making our community a more sustainable place while participating in fun community events, they will also get “Zero Waste Team” shirts. They’re cooler than they sound, I promise!

One of our first partners is the NoLi CDC’s Night Market. They first approached us about supporting recycling at their event, and we are now working with them to fully support zero-waste at future Night Markets. Now is the time to jump on board and help this great community event and others become more sustainable.

Our goal is to eventually provide zero-waste support for all counties in our service area, but for the moment, this support is limited to Fayette County. In the meantime, we do have resources to help events outside of Fayette County reduce their waste through recycling.

If you are interested in joining our Zero Waste Team or in hosting a zero-waste event, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Pattie Stivender, at or give us a call at 859-266-1572.

Schuyler Warren is an outreach specialist for Bluegrass Greensource, focusing on participation in the LiveGreenLexington initiative by businesses in the city core. A native of the Bluegrass Region, he received a master’s in community and regional planning and in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon. He is a board member for Town Branch Trail and Castlewood Neighborhood Association.

This article appeared in KY Forward on November 21, 2013.