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Friday, January 25, 2013

Bluegrass PRIDE: Even with week’s inspiring events, couldn’t help but think about trash

By Amy Sohner
KyForward contributor

I felt oddly patriotic this week. Don’t get me wrong, I love that I live in our wonderful country, and I am usually happy with the direction it is going. I just would not normally call myself patriotic. However, after the pomp and circumstance and real, awe-inspiring peaceful change in power nationally, as well as our own uplifting State of the Merged Government address, I feel even happier to live where I live.

I watched President Obama’s inaugural speech and some of the ceremony on Monday. Despite the fact that the newness of having our first black president has slightly worn off and there was not really a transfer of power since this is Mr. Obama’s second term, it was still an impressive event. The thing I found most exciting were the thousands of people on the Mall waving flags (“Obama’s Flag” as my daughter calls it), cheering (and some jeering I’m sure), and freezing.

While watching all of these people, I couldn’t help thinking about trash. Images of Times Square on Jan. 1 went through my mind because it is difficult to manage the waste produced from thousands of people. I guess that the advantage to the inauguration is that the majority of people were not drunk (or at least I assume that was the case).

As I looked into the greening of the event, I discovered that organizers said that this would be the “greenest inauguration ever.” Because past events were not put together in an environmentally responsible way, there was a lot of low-hanging fruit, and “greenest ever” was not too difficult to reach.

Despite the ease of reaching the milestone, it was still a daunting task. Event organizers decided to sort, recycle and compost all of the waste created. This included everything from the food scraps from surrounding cocktail parties to the horse muck from the parade route. In addition to the waste reduction, inauguration-goers also rode mass transit in droves, many for the first time.

As a focal point of the green-ness of this inauguration, the National Wildlife Federation held its Green Inaugural Ball on Jan. 20. The event boasted the absence of trash cans because of reusable and compostable food service items, and projected “Green Wishes” to the president sent through a Twitter feed. The ball was filled with well-known celebrities (and a visit from Vice President Biden), but the visit from Bill Nye the Science Guy made this Green Ball complete.

Closer to home, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray also gave his State of the Merged Government address this week. Though not marketed as a green event, all of the lunch materials were served on reusable plates, and there were even cloth napkins. However Lexington may be a bit further away on composting food scraps.

Mayor Gray did not specifically talk much about greening Lexington, but much of what he said has environmentally responsible implications. Moving more businesses downtown, bringing Town Branch Creek back to the surface, and building Town Branch Commons will help encourage over 300,000 Lexingtonians to use less energy and feel a closer connection to our local waterways.

Overall, I was reminded this week how happy I am to live not only in the United States, but also in Lexington. I am also happy to be part of a much larger green movement that has both a national and a local audience. Now I am just waiting for the invitation to the 2016 Green Inaugural Ball.

Amy Sohner is executive director of Bluegrass PRIDE and a graduate of the University of Kentucky in Natural Resource Conservation and Management. Sohner has worked with PRIDE 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.



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