Join the GreenForce!

It has almost been a year since we started the Bluegrass GreenForce volunteer program. There have been dozens of people who have gotten involved with zero-waste events, rain garden planting, litter clean-ups, and storm drain stenciling all across the Bluegrass.  But we know there is still more work to be done to promote environmental education in Central Kentucky!

We want you to join the GreenForce!  Don’t know how to get involved or get started?  Then you should come to our next GreenForce 101 training class (this will be the last training of the year):

GreenForce 101

When: Saturday Nov. 21st, 10am – 12pm
Where: Bluegrass Greensource, 835 National Ave
Why: Learn the basics of environmental education and volunteering at Bluegrass Greensource.

RSVP by Nov. 20th to

Want to volunteer, but can’t make it to the training?  We have the following volunteer opportunities coming up:

Gobble Grease Toss

When: Friday, November 27th 10am – 2pm (day after Thanksgiving)
Where: Sayre School, 194 N Limestone, Lexington
Why: Help Lexington collect oil/grease.  The used oil will be turned into biofuel.

We will need one volunteer per hour to assist with unloading oil from cars and handing out educational materials.

Holiday Litter-clean up and FOG Education

When: Saturday, December 5th 2-4pm
Where: Location TBD

Everyone is welcome to help clean up litter and pass out FOG (Fats Oils and Grease) educational hangers.

Children’s Environmental Education

When: Tuesday, December 22nd, Times TBD
Where: Athens-Chilesburg Elementary, 930 Jouett Creek Drive, Lexington

You will be assisting our Environmental Educators with activities during ESP (extended school program) – 3 volunteers needed.

For more information about the GreenForce or to get involved with any or our volunteers trainings or events, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Ashley Bryant Cheney, at


College Students Lend a Helping Hand for the Environment

As most of us know, schools are back in session. And for those of us that live in college towns, that includes many of the local college and universities. Central Kentucky is fortunate to have many institutions of higher learning that are invested in giving back to their local communities. Bluegrass Greensource partnered with both University of Kentucky and Georgetown College recently on several outreach endeavors.

For the first time, Bluegrass Greensource worked with University of Kentucky’s FUSION Program to coordinate two Great American Cleanups and distribute water quality information to local neighborhoods. Fusion is an annual day of service that matches incoming freshman with non-profit organizations looking for volunteers. Between the two cleanups, 16 pounds of trash and nearly 30 pounds of recyclable materials were collected from the streets around UK’s campus and the Elizabeth Park area. Additionally, students assisted Bluegrass Greensource in distributing water quality door hangers to 836 residences near Southland and Castlewood Parks. The door hangers provide information about fats, oils, and grease (FOG) and included a lid that residents can use for the collection of oils they produce during cooking. Forty-five students volunteered with Bluegrass Greensource for the day and, in spite of the heat, worked hard to improve the environment in their community. Many people do not realize that litter and FOG are two important issues that impact water quality. During a rain event, litter is washed from our streets into the storm drains which lead directly to our local streams and rivers. FOG impacts water quality by clogging up residential and city pipelines and causing blockages.

 Sandys group


Lisas group

Bluegrass Greensource also partnered with Georgetown College on Friday, August 22nd as part of the Georgetown College Freshmen Orientation Program. The program, coordinated by Georgetown staff, seeks ways to bring together the incoming Freshmen and the Scott County community by sending small groups of students and a faculty leader out into the town to assist with a variety of different service projects. Working with funding provided by Kyle Goodwin and the city of Georgetown’s engineers, Greensource sponsored two service projects, specifically litter cleanups at both Brookings Park (more commonly known as Scott County Park) and the Yuko-En Japanese Friendship Garden. Dr. Nancy Lumpkin, a professor in the department of Business Administration and Economics at the college, led the morning group around Brookings Park for about three hours as they helped pick up nearly 30 pounds of trash, mostly cigarette butts and food wrappers. Dr. Jeff Asher, a professor in the Religion Department, brought his group to the Japanese Friendship Garden for the afternoon session, where they not only helped clean up litter near Elkhorn Creek, but also assisted the in the Garden with several landscaping tasks. Each of these cleanups served as great opportunities for the students to not only get to know their community but to also serve others that will be living around them during their four year college experience.

Brooking Park Cleanup (2)

Japanese Garden Cleanup (3)

We want to thank the students from UK and Georgetown who volunteered to make these events a huge success! We hope to work with you again in the near future.


Keep FOG – fats, oils, grease – out of drain to help protect the environment

There is a debate right now about whether fat is good or bad and how much fat should be in a healthy diet. There is even debate about which fats are healthy. I am always confused about which cooking oil to buy and whether I should stick with margarine or use butter (or even lard).

Nevertheless, there is one thing I am sure about when it comes to FOG – fats, oils and grease: FOG does not go down the drain.
Flog clog (Photo provided)I didn’t always know about FOG. When I was growing up, my grandmother taught me to cook. We cooked bacon, fried chicken and any other Southern comfort food you could imagine. When we were done cooking, we would save most of the oil to reuse for later, but we would put the oily pots and pans directly into the sink to clean with soapy hot water. What my grandmother and I did not know is that even that tiny bit of FOG is damaging to the environment, home plumbing, septic systems and sewer systems.

I now know that putting even a little FOG down the drain is bad for water quality and can ruin the plumbing. So when I have finished cooking, I collect liquid grease and oils in a sealable container. For the grease that cannot be poured into the container, I wipe pans clean with a paper towel and put it in the trash. My food scraps that do not go into the compost also go in the trash. I scrape off excess food from pots, pans and plates before rinsing them in the sink with cold water. This means that I almost never need to use my garbage disposal.

FOG does not stop at the kitchen sink. The residue left over from cooking meats, butters and margarine, lard, food scraps, sauces, salad dressings, dairy products and cooking oil will harden after it cools and can clog pipes when poured down the drain.

Plus, FOG can also clog the sewer pipes under the streets that take the wastewater from your house to the treatment plant. When that happens, the wastewater can back up and come to the surface. This can allow untreated sewage to run into the streets and into our storm drains. This is not only a human health hazard but, since storm drains flow to creeks and rivers, this can cause significant environmental damage and affect aquatic life forms.

To avoid household or environmental damage, as well as a costly bill, never put FOG down the drain. Follow these few tips and you can avoid any FOG problems:
• Do put oil and grease in covered collection containers.
• Do scrape food scraps from dishes into trash cans and garbage bags and dispose of them properly.
• Do avoid using the garbage disposal. The garbage disposal does not destroy grease; it only makes the particles smaller. If you have even a little accumulated grease in your pipes, putting food scraps down the drain can clog your pipes faster.
• Do remove oil and grease from dishes, pans, fryers, and griddles. Cool first before you skim, scrape, or wipe off excess grease.
• Do prewash your dishes in cold water before putting them in the dishwasher.
• Don’t pour oil and grease down the drain.
• Don’t put food scraps down the drain.
• Don’t rinse off oil and grease with hot water.

Whether you are cooking with bacon grease, extra virgin olive oil, butter or coconut oil, keep your FOG out of the drain.

Ashley photo

Ashley Bryant Cheney is the green jobs coordinator for Bluegrass Greensource, connecting green businesses with a young workforce and preparing students for green careers in the Bluegrass. From Knoxville, she’s worked in volunteer and program management at various nonprofits. She has a bachelor’s in psychology from Carson-Newman University and a master’s in urban studies and community development from Eastern University.

This article appeared in KY Forward on August 18, 2014.


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.

1 131007 KyForward Article

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

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.