Community cleanups across the Bluegrass need everyone to pitch in

Lawrenceburg's Main Street Clean Sweep crew (Photo provided)As the region’s beautiful scenery springs to life, Bluegrass Greensource volunteers will be working with communities to create a clean, healthy environment for residents and visitors. And we want you to join us.

There are plenty of opportunities for you, your family and community groups to volunteer to benefit our environment this spring. Take advantage of the beautiful weather and get out with your family or community group to pitch in to make the Bluegrass a better, healthier place to live and visit.

April Volunteer Opportunities:

4/11: Reforest the Bluegrass, throughout region
4/17: Downtown Trash Bash, Lexington
4/18: Garrard County Watershed Festival, Garrard County
4/22: Main Street Clean Sweep, throughout region
4/25: Boyle County Watershed Festival, Boyle County
4/25: Arbor Day at the Arboretum, Lexington

If you or your group or organization are looking for a fun Earth Day project – Main Street Clean Sweep is for you Main Street Clean Sweep is a community-led litter clean-up coordinated by Bluegrass Greensource (sponsored by PNC Bank and Republic Services). Last year Main Street Clean Sweep had more than 400 participants from counties and collected 286 bags of trash. This year 17 communities have committed to participating, and we hope to have over 1,000 participants across 12 counties. Supplied with trash bags, volunteers will clean up 17 communities around the Bluegrass. The more volunteers we have – the more miles we can cover.

Cleanups are planned in Burgin, Cynthiana, Frankfort, Georgetown, Harrodsburg, Irvine, Lancaster, Midway, Nicholasville, Paris, Richmond, Sadieville, Stamping Ground, Stanford, Versailles, Wilmore, and Winchester from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., rain or shine. On April 22, you can pick up your trash bags, gloves, t-shirts (adults who pre-register) and stickers (kids) at local kick-off locations. Individuals and business are encouraged to clean designated areas in their communities.

For more information about Main Street Clean Sweep or any volunteer opportunities, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Ashley Bryant Cheney, at To register for Main Street Clean Sweep, click here or call 859-266-1572.

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 osychology from Carson-Newman University and a master’s in urban studies and community development from Eastern University.

This article appeared in KY Forward on April 2, 2015.


Litter begets litter, meaning until we stop it we have to keep cleaning it up

Today I had sushi for lunch – in my car. Who does that?

I guess it is not as bad as eating a gourmet filet mignon, but the car is not exactly the best place for sushi. A fast food burger or burrito maybe, but nothing that gets dipped in a wonderful mixture of soy sauce and wasabi and is eaten with chop sticks.

I decided on sushi from a grocery store to choose something that would be a healthier between-meetings lunch than fast food. The problem was less in the act of eating, since I managed to not spill anything, but in throwing it away afterward.

 caption Bluegrass Greensource is planning its second annual Main Street Clean Sweep and will be working with 17 Central Kentucky communities, such as Winchester, to clean up litter in their downtowns.

Let me preface this by saying that it is almost impossible to eat a waste-free lunch on the go. A Chipotle burrito comes closest because the aluminum wrap can often be recycled, along with the paper bag it comes in. But they are so good I eat the whole thing, which usually has enough calories to last the whole day.

The biggest problem with eating the sushi in the car was not just the packaging but also the leftover liquid from the soy sauce/wasabi mixture. Don’t get me wrong, my car is nowhere near pristine. I have two young kids, and I believe that I get a pass on worrying about keeping it clean until they are at least 18. But I do draw the line at anything liquid other than water so I wanted to find a way to dispose of my trash before the pungent mix leaked or spilled on my upholstery.

That is where I found the problem: There are very few easily accessible public trash cans. I know that the obvious choice for public trash cans is at a gas station, that is where I usually throw away all of the lollypop sticks, baby wipes and other things that end up in my floor board. Today, however, there were very few gas stations on my side of the road. There were a lot of restaurants and fast food places, car washes and drug stores, but none of which had a trash can that I could find without going into the establishment.

I finally found a trash can on the sidewalk, near the entrance of a McDonald’s. It was quite a relief to be rid of the soy sauce smell, but my struggle to find a trash can made me think a lot about litter.

Now that all of the snow we had this winter is gone (hopefully!), all I can see is litter. I have not noticed sushi containers but just about everything else that is consumable is on the side of the road. I have no idea why people do this. Some litter can be attributed to stupid people who think that litter fairies take the trash out of the back of their pickup truck instead of the wind, or overflowing trash/recycling cans or maybe even the waste hauling trucks themselves, but most of it is caused by stupid people who just don’t care.

The only type of litter that is thrown by ignorance rather than indifference is the cigarette butt. I have known many people in my life who would never throw a soda can out the window but think nothing of flicking their butts. Often, people think that cigarette butts are either too small to count or biodegrade fast enough to not matter. But looking down at almost any intersection will tell you otherwise.

National studies have shown that litter begets litter. Once the first beer can has been thrown down, the other 100 pieces come easily. So often, our first form of defense is cleanups. Many communities do this all year long with inmates, road crews or volunteers.

Bluegrass Greensource is planning its second annual Main Street Clean Sweep and will be working with 17 communities in Central Kentucky to clean up litter in their downtowns. On Earth Day (April 22), we expect more than 1,000 volunteers to pick up more than 1,000 bags of trash between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Last year we worked with seven communities and had more than 400 people volunteer, but the excitement about a concentrated effort has allowed the program to grow to unprecedented levels. Click here to find out if your city is participating and to sign up to help.

There is an Instagram account called “Litterati,” which is dedicated to taking pictures of litter nationwide. I like the play on the traditional use of the word meaning “the educated class.” I feel that the only way to stop all litter is to find ways to educate our kids about the effects of litter on our local economy and environment.

And between now, and when they are ruling the world, clean up after the stupid people.

1 Amy-Sohner

Amy Sohner is executive director of Greensource and a graduate of the University of Kentucky in Natural Resource Conservation and Management. Sohner has worked with Greensource since its inception in 2002 and is a Certified Environmental Educator. She is involved with the Kentucky Environmental Literacy Alliance, the Bluegrass Rain Garden Alliance, the Licking and Kentucky River Basin Teams, and serves as vice-chair of the Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission. Sohner lives near the Kentucky River palisades with her husband, two daughters and a multitude of pets.

This article appeared in KY Forward on March 26, 2015.


Butt, they decompose. Right?

cigarette-butts most littered graphic

Cigarette butts are a major litter problem in Kentucky. Many people are unaware that cigarette butt litter usually ends up in our local creeks and rivers after being washed down our storm drains when it rains. Estimates of how long it takes a cigarette butt to decompose range from 8 to 10 years. Scientists debate whether the filter (made of a plastic called cellulose acetate) ever completely breaks down, but rather remains in our water and soil at microscopic levels.

Bluegrass Greensource is currently designing a cigarette butt campaign to address the issue in Lexington and we are seeking your input! Do you find cigarette butts in your neighborhood, your favorite park, or near your office or school? Send your ideas for addressing cigarette butt litter and locations that could use some assistance to Thank you!


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.


Franklin County Elementary Schools Create Litter-Free Zones

litter free zone

Last fall, Bluegrass Greensource environmental educators worked with students in Franklin County to address the issue of litter in their community.  Fourth grade students at seven participating elementary schools spent two days with Greensource educators in their classrooms, learning about the effects of litter and other nonpoint source pollutants on our environment and our waterways.  They concluded with a project where the students created their own aerial view maps of their school grounds, and used the maps to mark areas with stormwater runoff and litter, while conducting a litter clean up.  County and city high school and middle school students participated in litter cleanups on their school campuses throughout the spring as well, collecting over twenty pounds of litter in total.

This fall, all county and city schools were given a sign designating each school’s grounds as a litter free zone.  This sign was designed by Second Street School 7th grade student Jacqueline DeMers.  Jacqueline entered a litter art contest, along with 100 other students from the city and county schools, for which students were asked to create a logo to display on school grounds.  Jacqueline’s drawing was among the top 3 entries that were voted on during a social media contest in December 2013, and received the most ‘likes’ on Facebook.  Her original artwork was turned into an aluminum sign with funding from the Franklin County Solid Waste department.  Thanks to Jacqueline and all the other Franklin County students, all school zones are now litter free!


Water Week Activities to be Held June 3 – 6, 2014

Grab your goggles, LiveGreenLexington Partners, because we’re diving into Water Week from June 3rd – 6th!  The water stewardship season of this year’s LiveGreenLexington Games runs through June 30th, so there’s still plenty of time to sign up and work on your scorecard. If you’re getting a late start (or just really want that water stewardship award), Water Week is the perfect opportunity to earn a little extra credit.

Water Week activities include:

  • Lunch-and-Learn on Water Conservation in the Workplace – Tuesday, June 3rd, 12:00 – 1:00 pm
    Eliminate waste, reduce your water bill, and help make Kentucky’s streams a little cleaner with these simple tips on water quality and conservation.  We’ll be focusing on easy, practical fixes – indoors and out – to help your business use water more efficiently, even if you lease your space and you don’t have as much control over the big picture as you would like.  Lunch and coffee are on us!  This event will take place in the Plantory’s conference room at 560 E Third Street.  Please RSVP to by Friday, May 30th to ensure there’s a lunch waiting for you.
  • Tour of the Town Branch Wastewater Treatment Plant – Wednesday, June 4th, 10:00 – 11:00 am
    Where does the water you use wind up once it goes down the drain?  60% of Lexington’s wastewater (up to 64 million gallons per day) runs through the Town Branch Wastewater Treatment Plant.  Get a behind-the-scenes look at how the water you use at home and at work is cleaned and treated before being discharged back into our streams.
  • Stream Clean-Up at the Park Hills Shopping Center – Thursday, June 5th, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
    We don’t always think of litter as a water quality issue, but it is, and nothing makes that more apparent than seeing just how much litter washes directly into streams through our storm sewer system.  Help us clean up the stream behind the Bluegrass Greensource office in the Park Hills Shopping Center at 3120 Pimlico Parkway; we’ll provide gloves, bags, and litter pickers.  Be sure to wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothes that you don’t mind getting wet (just in case…we won’t ask you to dive in).  Sign-in runs from 2:00-3:30 pm.
  • Storm Drain Stenciling – Friday, June 6th, 2:00 – 4:00 pmStorm drains carry pollutants and litter straight into our streams every time it rains.  Remind your fellow Lexingtonians to respect our water by marking storm drains along National Avenue with the city’s “No Dumping – Drains to Stream” stencils.  If you’ve always wanted to do a little graffiti for a good cause, this is your chance!

For businesses participating in the water stewardship season of the Games, each activity will earn you one extra point; if your business is represented at all four activities, you’ll earn an additional point (for a total of five possible points).  Water Week activities are free and open to all LiveGreenLexington Partners, even if you’re not participating in the Games.  Email Beth Oleson with any questions, to register for any of our Water Week activities, or to find out how your workplace can become a Partner!


2014 Downtown Trash Bash a Success


Above: Trash Bash volunteers at the South Limestone location.

The 2014 Downtown Trash Bash on April 18th was a great success! Bluegrass Greensource partnered with the Downtown Lexington Corporation and the Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission to expand this annual litter cleanup to five downtown locations.

We had a wonderful, mild spring afternoon and over 100 volunteers from downtown neighborhoods and businesses enjoyed the weather while picking up litter. Each of the five starting points brought out a great mix of folks, from the UK Student Sustainability Council, who helped clean the flow-through planters on South Limestone, to the staff from Bullhorn Creative, who worked in the North Limestone corridor.

We had great participation from downtown offices at the Fifth Third Bank Pavilion starting point, where WUKY did a live remote broadcast and also bashed some trash themselves. Also at the pavilion, artist Sarah Heller incorporated some of the more interesting finds of the day into an artwork that was later displayed as part of Gallery Hop at the Breadbox Studio Artists stop.

Jefferson Street was hopping, with volunteers cleaning up from the start point at Short Street all the way up to West Sixth Brewing. Participants at the Thoroughbred Park start point helped clean the East End.

A big thanks to all of our sponsors, including those who provided treats for our participants – West Sixth Brewing, North Lime Coffee and Donuts, A Cup of Common Wealth, and Village Host. We had a great time at this event, and look forward to many more!


Over 400 Volunteers Participate in First Annual Main Street Clean Sweep

Bluegrass Greensource hosted the first annual Main Street Clean Sweep on Earth Day.  On April 22nd, city employees, small business owners, and concerned citizens from seven counties throughout the Bluegrass region came together to clean up litter during their lunch breaks to keep their main streets clean. Our first annual Earth Day Main St. Clean Sweep was a huge success.  We had 413 volunteers collect 286 bags of trash and recycling from Anderson, Clark, Estill, Franklin, Garrard, Lincoln, and Mercer counties!

We would like to thank all of the volunteers that took time out of their busy schedules to make a difference in their communities! We would also like to thank the businesses and government agencies that partnered with us to make this day possible:

  • All Things Country Magazine
  • Bushnell Drycleaning
  • City of Burgin
  • City of Frankfort
  • City of Harrodsburg
  • City of Irvine
  • City of Lancaster
  • City of Lawrenceburg
  • City of Winchester
  • Clark County Emergency Management Agency
  • Davis Law
  • Corning Inc.
  • Estill County Animal Shelter
  • Estill County Fiscal Court
  • Estill Development Alliance
  • Evergreen Community Supports LLC
  • Farmers National Bank
  • Frankfort First Baptist Church
  • Franklin County Attorney’s Office
  • Franklin County Circuit Clerk’s Office
  • Franklin County Drug Court
  • Franklin County Fiscal Court
  • Franklin County Occupational Tax
  • Friends of the Franklin County Court
  • Full Circle Market
  • Garrard County Extension Service
  • Garrard County Food Pantry
  • Garrard County Schools
  • Garrard County Recycling Center
  • Halcomb’s Knob B&B and Farm
  • Hitachi
  • Howard Law Group
  • Kentucky Division of Energy Development and Independence
  • Kentucky Heritage Council
  • Lake Village Water
  • Lancaster Lube
  • Lile Law
  • Lincoln County Recycling Center
  • Mercer County Chamber of Commerce
  • Mercer County Schools
  • Napier Brothers Clothing and Shoes
  • No Kill Central KY Regional Humane Society
  • Otis Engineering LLC
  • Republic Services
  • Roy Gray Law Office
  • Sekisui
  • Strodes Creek Conservancy
  • The Mikes Travel
  • Three Elements Design
  • Winchester First
  • Winchester Municipal Utilities
  • WUKY

Thank you, and we hope to see you all again next year!

Below: Volunteers from (1) Winchester and (2) Lawrenceburg participate in Main Street Clean Sweep.

Main St. Winchester 3 Main St. Clean Sweep 3 - Lawrenceburg


So, what’s your watershed? Find out, then work to keep pollutants out

Several years ago while attending a conference, I chose a session on rain gardens. As a horticulturist with a penchant for native and heirloom plants, I found the concept intriguing.

(Graphic from from

To my surprise, the presenter started out by asking if we could identify our watershed. “My what?” This led into an unexpected but undeniably interesting talk about stormwater runoff, storm drains emptying directly into our streams, and “best management practices” for handling this runoff – finally, we were talking about rain gardens.

Little did I realize that a few years later I would be planning watershed festivals in three nearby counties and using the Watershed Enviroscape model as an educational tool in classrooms throughout Central and Eastern Kentucky. Now I am the one asking students “So what’s a watershed?” (and no, it is not a shack by the water).

Now I know that a watershed is the land area that drains (or sheds) rainwater runoff into a common water body (and that land use within that area affects the quality of the water). In Kentucky, with our Karst topography, this affects both surface and underground water.

Ironically, when using the Watershed Enviroscape, the kids’ favorite part of the demonstration is watching the water with red food coloring pour out of the factory and into the stream (indicating “point source” pollution). But as educators, we focus more on “non point source” or “runoff” pollutants that are carried in rainwater runoff, and what we, as conscientious citizens, can do to prevent that pollution.

The easiest of all these “best management” practices is don’t litter. Take personal responsibility, recycle and make sure that your bins have secure lids.

Next, use fertilizers and pesticides sparingly, opting for composting yard and kitchen waste and choosing other ways of deterring pests, like companion planting.

Install a rain garden to capture runoff in your yard and/or a rain barrel to catch rooftop runoff and conserve water.

Plant native flowers, grasses and trees, with deep roots, to prevent erosion and reduce topical watering. This is especially important near waterways, creating a “riparian” buffer to filter out pollutants.

Pick up after your pets, and if you farm, keep livestock out of the streams to prevent erosion and large amounts of waste from entering our watershed.

Maintain your septic system.

Maintain vehicles to prevent leakage of oil, gas and other fluids.

And remember, our storm drains lead directly into our streams, so don’t sweep contaminants into the street or down storm drains.

I participate in volunteer water sampling for Kentucky River Watershed Watch in my local watershed, the Mock’s Branch/Spears Creek sub-watershed of the Dix River. I find that identifying my watershed and participating in testing gives me a personal investment in the quality of the water that flows behind my home.

Want to find out about your watershed? If you live in Lexington, click here. Outside Lexington, visit Surf Your Watershed here or Kentucky River Watershed Watch here.

1 deborah-larkin-1Deborah Larkin joined Greensource in 2010 as an environmental educator. She works with numerous schools in Fayette County as part of Greensource’s partnership with LFUCG and is responsible for outreach activities in Boyle, Clark, Garrard and Lincoln counties. She received her bachelor’s in horticulture from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to Greensource, Larkin worked for 27 years at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, near Harrodsburg, where she researched and re-established the 19th century apple orchard, herb garden and heirloom seed industry.

This article appeared in KY Forward on April 24, 2014.


Downtown Trash Bash 2014

Help Keep Downtown Lexington Clean and Green at the 2014 Downtown Trash Bash

Come on out to the Downtown Trash Bash on Friday, April 18 and make our downtown more beautiful while helping to protect water quality in the Town Branch watershed!

Individuals and businesses are invited to join us any time between Noon and 4 p.m. at one of five starting locations, where we will provide the tools you need to help remove litter from our cityscape.

Our check-in booths are located at:

  • Fifth Third Bank Pavilion at Main Street
  • Thoroughbred Park at Main Street
  • Duncan Park on North Limestone
  • Jefferson and Short Street
  • South Limestone at Avenue of Champions

Each location will provide snacks and thank-you gifts for participants. Prizes will be given to the organization with the most volunteers, all organizations who register at least 10 volunteers, and the top 3 businesses with the most improved storefronts (must be within the Central Business District)! Event and registration details are available at or by calling 425-2590.

In case of rain, the event will take place on April 25, 2014.

This year, we have partnered with the Downtown Lexington Corporation and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government to help expand the scope of this annual event to include multiple areas of downtown. We have been further assisted by our partners at the University of Kentucky Student Sustainability Council, Fayette Alliance, and NoLi Community Development Corporation in organizing the sign-in locations.

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