Get your hands into some compost. Eat a meal fresh from the farm. Earth Day is April 22, and the University of Louisville is celebrating Earth Week 2017 with a variety of fun and educational activities, including a farm-to-table dinner and community garden project.
Every June, select high school students completing their sophomore and junior years from across the Commonwealth, head to the University of Kentucky’s Lake Cumberland 4H Education Center to experience a weeklong adventure exploring Kentucky’s forests, wildlife and bugs.
The Kentucky Forest Leadership Program (KFLP) began over 50 years ago and has greatly evolved during that time. It is all made possible with the cooperation of the U.K. College of Agriculture, the Food and Environment Cooperative Extension Service, the Kentucky Division of Forestry and the Kentucky Division of Conservation.
“The first day of camp participants get introduced to one another, the subject they will be investigating for the week and then they learn the basic tools to gather some of the information for their investigation,” said Laurie Taylor Thomas, KLFP Coordinator and Extension Forester with the U.K. Department of Forestry.
“Consulting firms” made up of students from each track, or area of interest- forestry, wildlife and entomology- and are gently guided by a wide variety of natural resource professionals as they collect data and do investigations throughout the week. At the end of the week the students come back collectively with their firm and share their findings. From there, the students then create a management plan for the 80 acres of mixed forestland they have been assigned. This teaching experience allows the students to learn through peer teaching throughout the week instead of the usual student/teacher experience giving a definite more hands on experience and one many won’t forget.
Reminiscing on their adventures, the campers eyes widen and their voices practically bounce off one another as they finish each other’s sentences, stand up to tell stories and of course, laugh constantly. And though most campers agree that the camp left them with new skills, clearer priorities and enhanced confidence, they certainly did not forget to have fun.
“What could be more fun than learning new facts about trees and insects?” said camper Elijah Schultz who participated in 2016. “The things we learned were incorporated into fun team activities and competitions throughout the week. We did things like a scavenger hunt, Jeopardy-style trivia and a tree-planting race. There was hands-on learning as well. We gathered insects from nearby streams, wetlands, fields, forest and even a cave! And what we gathered, we actually used to make collections. On hikes, we learned to identify trees by actually seeing real specimens rather than just looking at pictures and reading about them in books. At each presentation, there was something interesting to watch or do, from skinning a beaver to even flying a drone.”
But the camp fun wasn’t only limited to the student campers. Forester Chris Oelschlager with the Kentucky Division of Forestry, has been involved with the program since 1997. When she began teaching at the camp, she wasn’t much older than the students and admits to having as much fun, if not more than the campers.
“KFLP is probably my favorite week of the work year, and I look forward to it each summer,” said Oelschlager. “I’m always impressed with how much they learn throughout the intensive, fast paced week. On Monday afternoon we start them with basic tree identification and by Friday morning they are presenting detailed management plans for 80 acres of mixed forestland. Until it ends on Friday, I don’t even think they realize how much they have done throughout the week.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are honoring 143 businesses and organizations in 34 states and the District of Columbia for their commitment to saving energy, saving money and protecting the environment through superior energy efficiency achievements, according to a press release from the EPA.
Four of the 2017 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Awardees are Kentucky-based businesses or organizations. They are:
Kenton County School District (Fort Wright, KY), Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence in Energy Management. This award is given to organizations for adopting a continuous energy management strategy across the organization’s entire portfolio of buildings and plants. The Kenton County School District is receiving consecutive recognition for its commitment to building and operating energy efficient schools, and for using ENERGY STAR tools and resources as a central component of its energy program. Read about the Kenton County School District’s accomplishments.
Kentucky School Boards Association (Frankfort, KY), Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence in Energy Efficiency Program Delivery. This award is given to states, utilities and other organizations for sponsoring energy efficiency programs to improve the efficiency of products, homes and buildings within their community or territory. The Kentucky School Boards Association is receiving consecutive recognition for its commitment to intelligent energy choices for new and existing public schools to enhance both the environment and educational opportunities for the Commonwealth’s 650,000 public school students. Read about the Kentucky School Boards Association’s accomplishments.
Big Ass Solutions (Lexington, KY), Award for Excellence in Product Design. This award is given to companies that demonstrate leadership in the design and manufacture of ENERGY STAR-certified products. Big Ass Solutions is receiving consecutive recognition for its demonstration that energy efficiency and environmental considerations are paramount to producing quality products for the American consumer. Read about Big Ass Solutions’ accomplishments.
Olin Brass (Louisville, KY), Partner of the Year – Energy Management. This award is given to organizations for adopting a continuous energy management strategy across the organization’s entire portfolio of buildings and plants. Olin Brass is receiving recognition for formulating an energy management program with EPA’s ENERGY STAR resources. Read about Olin Brass’ accomplishments.
The 2017 ENERGY STAR Award winners lead their industries in the production and sale of energy-efficient products and services, and in the development and adoption of strategies that provide substantial energy and money savings in the buildings where we live and work. The winners have been selected from a network of 16,000 ENERGY STAR partners.
The awards will be presented in Washington, D.C., at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on April 26. Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd president and CEO, will give the partner keynote presentation.
- Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence: The 97 Sustained Excellence winners have demonstrated continued leadership over several years in the ENERGY STAR program and in achieving environmental protection through superior energy efficiency.
- Partner of the Year: Thirty-seven organizations have been awarded the Partner of the Year Award for comprehensively managing their energy use, promoting ENERGY STAR products and practices in their own operations, and providing energy-efficient products and services to their customers.
- Excellence: Nine winners are receiving recognition for demonstrating outstanding promotion of energy-efficient products, homes or buildings.
- Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Contractor of the Year: Two of the Partner of the Year Awardees are winning at least in part for their superior efforts in promoting the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Energy with support from EPA.
If you have ever wondered how you, your business or your community could reduce greenhouse gas emissions daily, there is a workshop designed for you. The Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center (KPPC) and KY EXCEL, Kentucky’s environmental leadership program, have partnered to organize a free “Creating a Green Footprint Workshop” to be held on April 26. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government will be hosting the workshop from 12:30–4:30 p.m. EDT at the Tate Building located at 125 Lisle Industrial Avenue, Suite 180, in Lexington. Registration will begin at 12:30 p.m. followed by the workshop at 1 p.m.
During this half-day event, the Division of Compliance Assistance (DCA); the Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center, an Inaugural Leader member of KY EXCEL; Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, a KY EXCEL Leader member; and the Division of Forestry will share their knowledge and expertise. Participants will leave knowing the basics of how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent pollution from everyday activities through heating and cooling or planting a tree. Participants will not become experts, but will gain a general overview in order to create a green footprint. Each attendee will leave the workshop with a free sapling to plant.
What will be covered?
- How to reduce greenhouse gas emissions daily
- Cost and GHG emission analysis of multiple heating and cooling options
- Insight into creating a forestry program
- Guidance on tree planting and sapling care
This workshop is free, but registration is required. For more information and to register, please visit the workshop website. Seating is limited, so reserve your spot today!
Distilleries in Kentucky make 95 percent of the world’s bourbon, as well as a variety of other spirits. Distilling spirits requires the use of many different grains, including corn, wheat, rye, and barley.
After the grain is used in the distillation process, it is left over as a by-product. Distilleries often work with farmers to use the leftover grain as a livestock feed. Since the distillery industry has grown quickly over the past few years, there is much more distillers grains available than in the recent past.
Distillers grains turn rancid very quickly, sometimes lasting only a few days. This short shelf life, combined with more of the grains being available, means that it is possible a farm could have grain that it is unable to feed to livestock. If this happens, there are options on how to properly manage the leftover grain.
The Kentucky Division of Compliance Assistance (DCA) has made a factsheet that covers proper management of leftover distillers grains. The “Distilling By-Products on the Farm” factsheet [PDF] is available online.
David Neville is a man of many hats, too many hats he says jokingly – cattleman, organic farmer, environmentalist, U.S. veteran and inventor.
Neville, who owns the 258-acre Capstone Farm [PDF] in Henry County, says his three real stewardships in life are to the land, to livestock and to people.
Neville first gained notoriety as the first KY EXCEL Farm Program Member for his work in 2016 with 52 Kiko/Savannah cross goats in brush control on his farm. KY EXCEL is the Department for Environmental Protection’s environmental excellence program. It recognizes the voluntary environmental improvement projects of both the regulated and non-regulated communities in Kentucky. Last year, the program decided to add a new membership category for farms, and the KY EXCEL Farm Program was born.
Looking for weed and brush control around his fence rows, Neville decided to put his always-hungry goats to work after weighing the environmental and financial cost of pesticides.
“Wild cherry is a nemesis to farmers,” said Neville. “A mouthful of a wild cherry plant that is wilted will kill a large cow. Since goats eat these and other toxic and invasive plants, the need for pesticides is eliminated.”
Goats also enjoying munching on other plants that farmers try to remove from their land such as bush honeysuckle, poison ivy, poison oak, wild rosebushes and kudzu. Neville said when the goats begin to eat small cedar trees, their least favorite food, he knows they have eaten the toxic and invasive plants and are ready to move to another field.
After three years of using no pesticides and goats, Neville’s farms were certified USDA organic. “It is quite a process to become USDA certified organic,” said Neville. “This was years in the making.”
Besides raising beef, goats and growing organic hay in Henry and Shelby counties, Neville and his Capstone Produce Market also offer organic pastures for rental to dairy farmers and is taking on the hot dog industry in Kentucky with an alternative wiener that is finding purchase in the Commonwealth.
Known as Kentucky Dawgs, these dogs debuted at the 2016 Kentucky State Fair and have taken off since then. Renowned for their basis of removing junk filler and replacing it with hemp extracts, these dogs are now in over 50 Kroger’s across the state and are making their way into state schools, and even across the U.S. High in protein and low in sodium, these healthy wieners are filled with amino acids and Omega 3’s, 6’s and 9’s. The hemp gives the dogs a nutty flavor and a much better consistency than a normal dog, which is made mostly from scrap meat.
“When I was in the service, I spent some time in Germany and learned to eat good food there,” Neville said. “When it was time to go, I wanted to bring it home with me. With the Hemp Dawgs, they are comparable to a good German beef sausage.”
Neville and the KY EXCEL Farm Program were also featured in the Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center news blog article “KY EXCEL Now Open for Agriculture.”
The KY EXCEL Farm program
KY EXCEL Farm members receive one-on-one assistance in identifying activities that can increase profits while minimizing excess nutrient releases, conserving water resources, reducing energy consumption and more.
Being a KY EXCEL Farm member can increase the marketability of your farm and products or advocacy group. In addition to a wealth of information and assistance available, all members have the opportunity to use the EXCEL Farm logo on their promotional materials and website. If you are one of the first 25 farm members, you will receive a commemorative sign to display emphasizing your devotion to promoting sustainable farm practices. Additionally, all KY EXCEL members receive 50 percent off of environmental and compliance stewardship trainings. See what trainings are currently available here.
Find out more about becoming a KY EXCEL Farm member on the Division of Compliance Assistance KY EXCEL Farm website.
KPPC and KY EXCEL
The Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center is an Inaugural Leader Member of KY EXCEL. KPPC was recognized at the 2017 KY EXCEL Member Celebration in January at the Locust Trace Agriculture Center in honor of the 10-year anniversary of the KY EXCEL program.
Are you actively engaged in environmental stewardship or are you looking to make that first step? KY EXCEL offers a home for individuals, businesses and organizations looking to make a contribution to improving Kentucky’s environment. Find out more about KY EXCEL and becoming a member on the Division of Compliance Assistance KY EXCEL website.
ReTree, the 501(c)3 that is committed to preventing climate change, launched Feb. 23 to help “re-tree” the planet. For every dollar donated through the ReTree.com website, donors can select the location for a tree to be planted from a list of more than 30 countries. The non-profit has simultaneously built a software platform that enables e-commerce retailers to seamlessly and easily add a donation functionality to their existing infrastructure. To kickstart donations, ReTree is auctioning an extremely rare bottle of 1980 Old Fashioned Copper Bourbon Whiskey, a 37-year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey from Buffalo Trace Distillery. All proceeds help fund the planting of trees and bids are currently being accepted via the ReTree bourbon auction website.
Founded by brothers Martin and David Tobias, ReTree helps prevent climate change and fights air pollution through donor-assisted reforestation. According to the International Energy Agency, air pollution continues to be a formidable public health crisis, leading to around 6.5 million deaths each year. Planting trees remains one of the simplest, cheapest, and most effective means of drawing excess CO2 from the atmosphere, a key component in mitigating air pollution and climate change. ReTree makes individual donating a little more personal through its interactive map, which allows donors to select from 30 countries they wish to help.
In addition to supporting global reforestation, ReTree is providing its technology to e-commerce companies interested in adding a charitable initiative to their online properties.
“Whether the goal is to increase sales, recover shopping cart abandons, or enhance marketing campaigns, any e-commerce platform can utilize the ReTree technology to enhance its online presence,” said co-founder Martin Tobias. “Together, we can re-tree and plant roots for a better tomorrow.”
Suited up in chest-waders Joanna Ashford stood at the stream edge and frowned at the water. The creek was a little lower than she had hoped, but glancing down the length of the bank she noted several areas of churning water where the stream ran over rocky section of stream bed.
“Who’s ready to catch some bugs?” she said, addressing the group of 5th graders behind her last September.
Ashford is one of seven Kentucky Division of Water Basin Coordinators who go across the Commonwealth educating school-age children on water quality, pollution and best management practices.
During Water Week [PDF], March 19-25, the Energy and Environment Cabinet is highlighting one of the many functions of a basin coordinator.
“One way to learn about your stream’s health is to look at the critters that live in the water,” Ashford said. “Scientists use surveys of aquatic bugs to give us clues as to what problems might be occurring in a creek. We take kids into the water to capture and identify those animals, so that they can see firsthand how healthy a creek or stream is.”
For citizen-scientists interested in learning more about how to sample their creeks and learn about water health, the Kentucky Division of Water and Watershed Watch in KY are organizations that can provide training in water chemistry and aquatic bug sampling, both to individuals and to school groups. For more information, contact your local Basin Coordinator.
In today’s busy world it’s hard enough to keep up with our own personal health, much less the health of a stream. However, our own health is very dependent on stream health, whether it be our physical health through the water we drink or our mental health through water we use for recreation. You might go to a doctor for your personal health, but when it comes to stream health the Kentucky Division of Water (KDOW) has the information you need. There are many ways you can get information about the health of a stream. One very handy way is to get the newly-developed Stream Health Pocket Guide.
What is the Stream Health Pocket Guide? It’s a waterproof brochure that introduces you to a few of the things that can affect the health of our water; it tells you places you can go for more information on the health of your water; it even tells you how to collect your own stream health information, as well as things you can do to protect and improve the health of your stream.
Get one free and learn a lot more at an upcoming Getting to the Bottom of Stream Health Workshop [PDF] during Water Week [PDF] in Kentucky. In addition to learning new and interesting things about stream health, you can become Project WET Certified at one of these workshops if you aren’t already.
University of Louisville faculty from all disciplines and Graduate Teaching Academy participants will be exploring ways to weave sustainability themes into their classes by participating in an upcoming 2017 Green Threads workshop to be held in April.
“Green Threads is a fantastic way to build your interdisciplinary network and discover new ways to integrate all that is happening in sustainability on campus into your students’ learning experience,” said Justin Mog, assistant to the provost for sustainability initiatives.
The UofL Sustainability Council modeled Green Threads after the Ponderosa Project at Northern Arizona University and the Piedmont Project at Emory University. Its aim is to infuse sustainability across the curriculum in existing courses or in newly created courses focused on sustainability. Since its launch in 2009, more than 50 faculty from 30 departments have participated in the workshop and reached thousands of students through new and revised courses.
Participants receive resources – including a $500 honorarium for faculty only – support and inspiration.
“I was able to meet people who were very involved in sustainability here in Louisville, and learn more about folks I already knew,” said Daniel Decaro, who teaches in urban and public affairs, psychological and brain sciences and law. He took part in Green Threads in 2015 even though he was already teaching Behavioral Dimensions of Sustainability and Sustainable Social-Ecological Systems.
“Participating in Green Threads is an excellent way to meet and begin a working relationship with (Mog), Russ Barnett (director of the Kentucky Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Development), Dave Simpson (chair of urban and public affairs and the UofL Sustainability Council) and Margaret Carreiro (a biology professor very active in sustainability education and research). These connections led to many subsequent collaborations in teaching and administration,” he said. “These are people you can go to with questions about sustainable research and teaching, and I found that many were very willing to speak with students or join us on field trips. Green Threads was a gateway to those learning opportunities and broader experiences.”
The workshop was created by the University of Louisville Sustainability Council’s Education and Research Committee. Since it started in 2009, 53 faculty members from across the university have taken part. Among the units represented have been humanities; accountancy; political science; social work; urban and public affairs; law; psychological and brain sciences; biology; peace, justice and conflict transformation; communication; anthropology; geography and geosciences; fine arts; health and sports sciences; philosophy; business; teaching and learning; health promotion and behavioral science; honors; entrepreneurship; sociology; electrical and computer engineering; mechanical engineering; industrial engineering; English; justice administration; women’s and gender studies; economics and mathematics.