Make your cookouts and picnics environmentally friendly with these changes

Warm weather is here after what seemed like an unending winter. It’s time for cookouts, picnics, and even camping for many people. All of these activities involve cooking in the great outdoors. Picnics and cookouts can produce a lot of waste. How do we enjoy it while being gentle on the environment? These five simple changes can greatly reduce your impact on the environment.

1. Plan your menu with local foods in mind. If you aren’t able to grow your own food, visit the farmer’s market for vegetables and fruit. Your food will be fresher and you will be supporting a local farmer. Choose locally grown, sustainable meat options. Or, if you don’t fear a revolt, go meat free.

2. Choose a destination nearby. Are there picnic spots you can walk or bike to? Using public transportation can be an adventure. Explore your town. You may find a new location that you love.

3. Switch to reusables. Paper plates and napkins, disposable plastic ware and cups all end up in a landfill. Invest in a set of reusable plates, forks, and cups to reduce landfill bound waste. Towels and washcloths can be used for cleanup. Cloth napkins and tablecloths round out your zero waste event.

2. Recycle. Cold drinks are a must on hot summer days. Fill a water cooler with ice water and drink from reusable cups for a minimal impact. If canned or bottled drinks are a crowd favorite, provide a container for easy collection of empty drinks and recycle them with your local facility.

3. Compost. If disposables are a must for your event choose biodegradable table ware. These items can be composted in a large scale facility. Provide a container for compostable food waste. Most fruit and vegetables can be composted in a home vermicompost bin or in a backyard compost bin. The material produced is great for the lawn and garden.

4. Sustainable cooking – gas or charcoal? The merits and detrimental effects of each are debatable. But when cooking at a park or other natural setting charcoal or wood grills are the norm. And most people would agree that charcoal grilling adds flavor to food. If charcoal is your choice, use lump charcoal and a charcoal chimney to reduce the impact on air quality. Inexpensive solar ovens can be used for foods that only need heating. Solar oven s’mores are a delicious dessert.

5. Pack up leftovers and waste materials. Bring an extra container for waste that must be thrown away. Leftover food in trash cans is tempting to animals and can become litter if animals rummage through the can. Pack it up and take it with you when you leave. Skip disposable plastic storage bags and plastic wrap when storing leftovers. Opt for reusable containers instead. Not that there will be many leftovers when serving fresh, locally grown choices.

Bon Appetit.

1 Pattie-Stivender

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




This article appeared in KY Forward on June 4, 2015.


Volunteer Opportunities Available Throughout the Year

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering are enormous to you, your family, and your community. The right match can help you meet new friends, make a positive impact on your community, and learn new skills.

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mont middle volunteers

Regardless of your work experience we have a volunteer opportunity for you!  Volunteer opportunities change throughout the year.  Spring and fall are perfect for the volunteer that likes to work community outreach events.  Winter offers opportunities for the volunteer that would like to express their artistic side.  Summer is the best time for the volunteer that likes to work with children.  And all year long we need volunteers to assist with waste reduction at events, help with litter cleanups, and to assist in our office.

If you would like to learn more about volunteering with Bluegrass Greensource please click here.  Or contact our volunteer coordinator for upcoming opportunities.


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.

1 Pattie-Stivender

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

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


Become a Bluegrass Greensource Ambassador

Volunteer photo

Bluegrass Greensource Ambassadors serve as representatives of Greensource at assigned outreach and education events.  These may include community fairs and festivals, neighborhood events, farmers markets, watershed festivals, etc.  We are focusing on two main areas at this time:

Zero Waste team members to assist at outreach events.  This may include coordinating with event planners and/or assisting at events.

Children’s outreach events.  Volunteers will work with Bluegrass Greensource staff to offer educational activities geared toward children.

Volunteers must demonstrate an ability to conduct themselves in a professional manner, willingness to learn details of Bluegrass Greensource’s programs and educational activities, and comfort communicating with the general public.

Bluegrass Greensource Ambassadors will be expected to attend a mandatory training that will cover Bluegrass Greensource’s programs and educational activities.

Interested in volunteering?  For additional information please contact Pattie Stivender, Volunteer Coordinator, at (859)266-1572 or


Energy Tour Energizes Teachers

Energy Tour Photo

“One of the best, educational, thought provoking tours I have taken in 25 years of teaching,” said one teacher after having participated in Bluegrass Greensource’s fourth annual energy tour, sponsored by the Kentucky Department for Energy Development and Independence.

Teachers from Central Kentucky joined BGGS for two days of touring sites related to renewable and nonrenewable energy.  The tour gave teachers firsthand experience with a variety of energy resources and facilities and deepened their knowledge of the content they are teaching for the Next Generation Standards.

Dr. Bruce Pratt of Eastern Kentucky University’s Center for Renewable and Alternative Fuel Technologies started the tour with an overview of energy sources used to produce electricity, and the pros and cons of each.  Harlan County High School was a popular stop on the tour with its renewable energy features.  The school has incorporated many high performance energy features, such as:  day lighting, geothermal HVAC, energy recovery units, low-E insulating glazing, occupancy sensors on lighting, high efficiency lighting, and light colored roofing.

Teachers also learned about coal extraction while touring TECO Coal in Hazard.  After a training session, teachers were taken into a deep mine shaft and had the opportunity to view the mining process firsthand.  The history and impact of the coal industry in Harlan County was highlighted during a Kentucky Coal Mine Museum tour led by retired miner Al Feher.

The tour is intended to broaden teachers’ knowledge of energy-related topics while providing a balanced and unbiased view of each resource.

During this school year, Greensource Educators will be working with each teacher who participated in the tour to offer energy lessons and plan energy related field trips for their students.  For more information, contact Pattie Stivender at