Tech entrepreneurs save the planet with rare whiskey

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 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.”

To learn more about how ReTree plans to accomplish its mission, read the full article on The Daily Meal website.


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What bugs tell us about a stream’s health

SSP-jpeg-KY-Energy-LogoSuited 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.”

View the full article for more information on stream health in the Land, Air & Water webzine by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

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.

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‘Getting to the Bottom of Stream Health’ workshops announced

SSP-jpeg-KY-Energy-LogoIn 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.

View the full article for more information on the Naturally Connected blog by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

Go directly to the workshop registration form. [PDF]


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Green Threads workshop offers opportunity to weave sustainability into the classroom

UL_logo_fullcolor-pngUniversity 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.


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STEM Award nominations now open

Million Women Mentors Kentucky announce the 2017 MWM Stand Up for STEM Award [PDF] to recognize and elevate the work of incredible mentors, companies and organizations within Kentucky. Now is the time to identify the STEM mentors, both individuals and organizations, in your midst that deserve this distinguished honor.

The award will be presented at the 2017 Kentucky Association of Manufacturers Conference & Trade Show, “Manufacturing Makes our Future,” on May 31 at the Lexington Convention Center. A 3D printed trophy created by Stratasys and a MWM award certificate will be presented to the winner by Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton, honorary chair of MWM Kentucky.

For consideration, please submit a nomination form [PDF] and letter supporting your nominee by April 30.

Million Women Mentors supports the engagement of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) mentors (male and female) to increase the interest and confidence of girls and women to persist and succeed in STEM programs and careers.


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Kentucky Water Week events planned

SSP-jpeg-KY-Energy-LogoKentucky has a long history of caring for and protecting its abundant natural resources and one of the most important of these is water. The Commonwealth boasts a network of lakes, streams and rivers that are a vital source of drinking water, as well as a source of recreation for its citizens.

In celebration of these abundant natural resources, and as an observance of the value of water to each of us in our everyday lives, Gov. Matt Bevin has pronounced the week of March 19-25 as Water Week [PDF] in Kentucky.

“Kentucky is home to some of the most beautiful and most biologically diverse rivers in the country, and residents in our communities have an important and celebrated connection to rivers, lakes, streams and waterways,” Gov. Bevin said. “We are all stewards of the water quality upon which future generations depend.”

A series of events meant to show how water health and conservation impacts each of us in our daily lives will highlight Water Week. Kentuckians can get hands-on with projects to protect or improve Kentucky’s water resources or simply learn more about subjects such as conservation and stream health.

The following are some events open to the public:

  • Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute (KWRRI) Annual Symposium (March 20)
  • Rain Barrel Workshop, Campbell County Cooperative Extension (March 20)
  • Project WET Educator Workshop: Getting to the Bottom of Stream Health (Lexington) (March 21)
  • Project WET Educator Workshop: Getting to the Bottom of Stream Health (Hopkinsville) (March 22)
  • Project WET Educator Workshop: Getting to the Bottom of the Stream Health (Stanton) (March 22)
  • Rain Barrel Workshop: Kentucky State University (Frankfort) (March 22)
  • Yamacraw River Cleanup (March 25)


For more information, please visit the Water Week website. [PDF]

View the full article for more information on the Naturally Connected blog by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.


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Eastern Kentucky University plans carbon neutrality by 2036

eku-logo-jpgEastern Kentucky University has completed a comprehensive Climate Action and Resiliency Plan to strategically and economically reduce its carbon footprint to zero by 2036, in accordance with the Second Nature Climate Commitment.

The plan calls for the University to reach its goal via a variety of mitigation strategies, including:
• implementation of geothermal heating/cooling throughout campus;
• improvements in central plant and building efficiencies through Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPC);
• greater efficiencies in steam and chilled water;
• energy efficiency guidelines for new buildings;
• the purchase of renewable energy credits and carbon offsets; and
• reduction in water consumption.

According to Sustainability Manager Patrick McKee, EKU’s plan is the “most aggressive” of any public university in the Commonwealth, yet cost efficient. The plan requires an initial investment that will be paid back over 15 years, with an additional savings of $5.2 million by 2036.

EKU “is seeking to work toward carbon neutrality with a reasonable, financially sound model that incorporates as many existing processes and facilities as possible,” said Barry Poynter, vice president for finance and administration. “In fact, when considering our key mitigation strategies, this plan makes sense for our University independent of the carbon savings.

“Our approach is sensitive to the current budget realities,” Poynter continued. “As noted in the plan, investments toward achieving carbon neutrality can have a relatively short payback period, and can continue earning and producing additional savings. I think this approach is an excellent example to set for our community as we commit to being even better stewards of our resources.”

In a “Letter from the President” that prefaces the plan, EKU President Michael Benson said that sustainability is “sometimes defined too narrowly or wrongly viewed through a lens of political partisanship. The truth is that rethinking and retraining to accommodate sustainable behaviors is more than just an environmental win; oftentimes, it simply makes good fiscal sense.

“Given the budgetary challenges we now face in public higher education, it is more important than ever that we meet our current resource needs without hindering the ability of future generations to do the same.”

One challenge at Eastern is aging buildings that are typically not energy efficient. The University is in the midst of the most ambitious campus revitalization initiative in its history, including new academic buildings, residence halls and other student-centered facilities, several set to open in 2017 and others within the next few years. The new structures are constructed with energy efficiency in mind; older buildings must be retrofitted to achieve similar results.

“We continue to push ourselves to make buildings more energy efficient and sustainable,” said Paul Gannoe, associate vice president for facilities services and capital planning. “HVAC renovations at Telford Hall (built in 1969), the use of insulated concrete forms on the new residence halls, and building automation improvements in dining and the new wellness center are a few examples of how we can build greener, more sustainable environments for our students. These improvements not only help us conserve energy, but they provide a more pleasant, comfortable environment for living and learning on campus.”

Read the full article on the Eastern Kentucky University website.


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Kentucky Division of Water announces new initiatives for Groundwater Awareness Week

EEC LogoMarch 6-10 is Groundwater Awareness Week and the Kentucky Division of Water (DOW) is launching a new field survey project to view Groundwater Protection Plans (GPPs) across the state.

“If you have a facility or project with activities that have the potential to adversely affect groundwater, you need to have and implement a GPP,” said Groundwater Section Supervisor David Jackson. “Even if you just have a well or septic system, you need to be aware of potential impacts to groundwater and have a plan to protect it.”

Jackson said that the DOW staff will provide assistance in developing a GPP as part of the statewide survey, and said that all interested individuals and facilities are encouraged to call to schedule a field survey.

According to Watershed Management Branch Manager John Webb, this will be a great tool to spread the word about the Groundwater Protection Program, which has been a Kentucky requirement since 1996.

View the full article for more information on the Naturally Connected blog by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

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Kentucky Envirothon Competition training locations, dates announced

EEC LogoStudents all across Kentucky are learning about our natural resources through the Envirothon program. They are preparing to compete against other teams on knowledge of natural resources-related topics, including soils, forestry, aquatics, wildlife ecology and a current environmental issue. This year’s current issue is “Agricultural Soil and Water Conservation Stewardship.”

Two training days are currently being planned to give students an idea of the types of questions and activities that they will see in the competition. The training day for the western half of the state will be held at Saunder’s Spring in Radcliffe on March 24. The training day for the eastern half of the state will be held at Morehead State University on March 31.

At the training days, the teams will rotate among the five topic stations to learn more about the test for that topic. They’ll get hands-on experience which will help them understand the topic better. For instance, at the forestry station, the students will learn how to correctly identify and measure trees.

View the full article for more information on the Naturally Connected blog by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

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Henry County schools recognized for energy efficiency

epa-energy_star_logo-jpgOn Feb. 23, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) recognized the Henry County School District for earning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) ENERGY STAR certification in all of the district’s five school buildings. Certificates signed by Governor Matt Bevin and Cabinet Secretary Charles Snavely were presented to school officials during the Feb. 23 meeting of the Henry County Board of Education.

Henry County became the 18th school district in Kentucky to have 100 percent of its schools certified ENERGY STAR. Schools recognized during the board meeting were: Campbellsburg Elementary, Eastern Elementary, New Castle Elementary, Henry County Middle and Henry County High.

Management of building operations and energy efficient geothermal heating and cooling systems, LED lighting and participation of student energy teams are credited for the schools earning the ENERGY STAR label.

View the full article for more information on the Naturally Connected blog by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

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