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Environmental Efforts - Sustainable Development and Awareness

Leadership and Policy

  • Environmental Policy - Our city has a strong environmental protection culture. This is in part due to citizen-driven improvements, e.g. a 2011 EPA consent decree found LFUCG in violation of The Clean Water Act for waste water and sewage flooding.  Major infrastructure improvements are now budgeted annually and are underway. 

  • The Division of Environmental Quality and Public Works is responsible for educating the public and city employees about these and all environmental issues in the community, including working closely with the Divisions of Waste Management and Water Quality to support recycling and storm water efforts in Lexington.

  • The Division of Environmental Services also spearheads sustainability initiatives, such as Keep Lexington Beautiful; provides guidance to businesses and citizens on environmental practices; and assists in compliance with environmental laws. It works in close partnership with businesses and non-profit environmental organizations to carry out these initiatives.

  • The city has put into place a number of commissions and boards that bring together city and community representatives to help advise decision makers on various environmental issues.  Some of these include The Environmental Commission, Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission, Tree Board and the Corridors Commission. 

  • Preservation of Natural Areas - Lexingtonians have access to two unique natural areas preserved and maintained by the city:

    • McConnell Springs Nature Park is a 26-acre natural area located near downtown.. First settled in 1775, contains one-and-a-half miles of walking trails that take visitors around sinking springs, stone fences and even vestiges of historical buildings. The park contains more than 130 plants species and is home to more than 120 species of birds. There are monthly educational programs at the park, plus special programs for school groups, scouts and other organizations. The park is supported, in part, by the Friends of McConnell Springs, which raises funds and holds special events at the site. 

    •  The Raven Run Nature Sanctuary is a 734-acre area in southern Fayette County, on the Kentucky River Palisades. More than 10-miles of hiking trails give visitors a chance to wonder through woods, streams, meadows and even remnants of early settlement. Raven Run Nature Center, opened in 2010, contains many unique displays and offers visitors numerous hands-on activities. The sanctuary boasts more than 600 species of plants and more than 200 species of birds.  Programs range from Salamander Searches to Stargazing to Butterflies to Creatures of the Night. In the spring, the woods are full of trillium, native larkspur, native Columbine, ragwort, and the dainty Blue-eyed Marys. 

Trash, Recycling, and Reuse Management

  • The Division of Waste Management recycling programs serve the entire county and some adjoining counties as well as private collection firms.

    • About 120 combination landfill waste/recycling receptacles are available in downtown Lexington to encourage proper disposal habits.

    • Curbside residential and business collection yields glass, screw top #1 and #2 plastics, office paper, newsprint, steel and aluminum cans, cardboard, fiberboard, magazines and phonebooks. In 2016 LFUCG processed 36,600 tons of this material. 

    • Additional recycling is provided for by an electronics recycling collection center; progressive single-stream recycling (36,000 tons/year processed); collection of yard waste for composting into mulch (19,000 tons/year); waste reduction programs such as home composting workshops at which participants receive a free “Grubby” for kitchen food scraps (45 events in 2015), and regular free paper shredding, mulch giveaway, and household hazardous waste collection events.

  • Pharmaceutical Take Back Program – For the last five years, Lexington has participated in the DEA National Pharmaceutical Take Back Program and holds events throughout the city in the spring and fall. Additionally, a permanent drop box has been placed in the lobby of the Division of Police for drop off at any time.


  • Compost Partners - A partnership between Seedleaf and the Division of Waste Management, the Compost Partners program is an experiment in decentralized food waste management. Volunteers and Seedleaf staff pick up kitchen waste from 25 area kitchens and restaurants each week, drop that material at seven nearby gardening spaces, stir the compost weekly, and generate a valuable soil amendment that is then made available at no cost to area gardeners. The goal of the project is to demystify small scale home composting and encourage more Lexingtonians to join in this process.


  • The Green Check Program is a green business certification program funded by LFUCG and administered by Bluegrass Greensource that provides businesses and organizations with resources to become more environmentally sustainable and highlight their green efforts and initiatives within the community. Members have the opportunity to earn Green Check certification by undergoing a comprehensive consultation process administered by Bluegrass Greensource Outreach Staff to assess current sustainable initiatives and identify potential areas of improvement. Through this process, businesses earn a specific Sustainability Score on the Green Check Scorecard, creating a baseline for current activities, and a plan of action for meeting future goals. Organizations that earn Green Check Certification can expect to see improvements in their branding and marketing strategies, cost savings, revenue generation, employee retention and consumer loyalty within their communities. Eight businesses have participated in the Green Check pilot program with the official program launch set for summer of 2016. 


  • LEED Certified Buildings – There are 26 LEED certified projects in Lexington, and 38 registered projects (still in progress or finalizing certification). Lexington has the second highest number of projects in the state, but the highest number of higher ed projects (26 at UK alone). 


  • The Klausing Group - a locally-owned landscape business which models and promotes environmentally-friendly practices, starting with their own facility. With funds from an LFUCG Stormwater Incentive Grant and advice from CDP Engineers, the Klausing Group converted an existing parking lot to permeable paving and added a second one. They also installed a green roof and created a storm water collection basin.  They are one of KY's first sustainable SITES certified businesses.


  • Habitat for Humanity ReStore – The Lexington Habitat ReStore is the largest building materials reuse center in Kentucky and is the sixth highest-volume Habitat ReStore in the country. ReStore raises vital funds for Habitat’s mission by selling donated furniture, appliances, cabinetry and architectural salvage. In 2016 ReStore kept nearly 1200 tons (or 7500 pounds a day!) of reusable materials out of our landfills while promoting recycling and reuse in the community. An 8,000 square foot store expansion in late 2016 allows the ReStore to continue to grow its community and environmental impact.


  • ReStore and Good Foods Coop on Southland Drive have cooperated on converting shared parking lots to sustainable semipermeable pavers, two large rain gardens, and LED lighting from solar panels. The goal is to reduce stormwater runoff into Wolf Run Creek which flows behind the buildings. A new bus shelter and outdoor educational panels on sustainability complete the functionality and beauty of the improvements. In 2016 Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore completed a full LED lighting retrofit and further increased its energy efficiency by adding air curtains, automatic doors and other HVAC upgrades.  


  • Energy Efficiency – Kentucky Utilities (KU) is the main supplier of both residential and commercial electricity throughout Lexington. KU offers many options for its customers to conserve energy through appliance recycling and replacement rebates and low cost energy audits that can result in an up to $1,000 incentive for completed energy efficiency projects. 


  • CLUCK (Cooperative of Lexington Urban Chicken Keepers) - CLUCK promotes responsible chicken keeping through education, promotion, and connection. CLUCK offers periodic educational events, a tour each year, and free half-hour consults click here for more information. 


  • Residential Recycling - Of the 93,043 Lexington homes LFUCG’s Division of Waste Management serves each week, 72,683 of them, or 78 percent, have a Rosie recycling container.


  • Micro-Farms Project - Seedleaf, a nonprofit dedicated to urban gardening, owns 7 parcels of land in neighborhoods in north Lexington.  The plan is to use half of the space on each parcel for a free U-pick community garden, and half as a market garden where young entrepreneurs can grow and harvest food to sell to their own neighbors.

Community Involvememnt

  • In 2017, LFUCG began its very first Citizens’ Environmental Academy that helps Lexingtonians gain a much deeper understanding of the city’s environmental efforts.  A year long program, participants attend workshops, tour city facilities, and learn from city and community experts. At the conclusion of program, participants worked in groups to develop lasting projects to help Lexington become a more sustainable community.  Some of the projects included the design and installation of a tree crutch to support a 300 year old Bur Oak at McConnell Springs, design and installation of a pop-up streetscape to improve bike and pedestrian safety in an underserved area of the city, a new resident welcome packet and online recycling guide to inform citizens of recycling options in Lexington for materials that the city doesn’t recycle, and a storm water remediation project to protect one of Lexington’s historical natural features.


  • LiveGreen Lexington School Partner Program – The Department for Environmental Quality & Public Works has an education contract providing assistance with environmental education for every school in Fayette County, public and private. Education about storm water, litter, recycling, composting, urban forestry (water-related benefits), and energy are given to classes by educators, who also assist teachers in developing environment-focused lesson plans that align with KY Department of Education Common Core Standards, Next Generation Science Standards and FCPS curriculum maps. Additionally, schools receive assistance in on-campus recycling and waste reduction, composting, litter prevention and storm water pollution prevention. 


  • The Bluegrass Youth Sustainability Council, a coalition of high school students from all of Lexington’s public and private high schools, works collaboratively with numerous and diverse community partners to improve sustainability in a variety of ways, including addressing solid waste, school gardens, air quality, water quality and conservation, energy conservation and overall awareness. Some of the student-driven committees formed around the following projects:

    • This spring, the council worked with Transylvania University to plan and implement a Student Sustainability Leadership Academy open to all Fayette County high school students.  The pilot program brought students together with city and community leaders and professionals for three sessions focused on student selected topics: Sustainability in Business, Environmental Policy and Law, and an in-depth look at the environmental projects and initiatives in place at McConnell Springs.  The group plans to continue and expand the program in the coming year.

    • With local companies and organizations, the installation of dual-stream recycling bins in each high school football stadium to provide students with more chances to recycle and to spread awareness of the importance of recycling. The availability of side-by-side trash and recycling receptacles forces stadium patrons to consider whether or not what they are about to throw away is recyclable. 

    • Working with The Nature Conservancy to engage youth in TNC’s local and global mission through removal of invasives, interpretive hikes, and beautification of nature preserves.

  • School Garden Coalition – FCPS supports all school gardens through a School Garden Coalition, a cooperative endeavor to share best practices, common mistakes, curriculum integration and business partners to promote school gardens of all types including butterfly, vegetable, rain, sensory, native and flower gardens.  The School Garden Coalition seeks to remove identified hurdles from school garden implementation by providing information on funding, supplies, planting schedules, lesson plans, food preparation guidance and maintenance guidelines. At Edith Hayes Middle School, for example, Science Chair Lana Griffiths implemented a gardening elective course to further utilize the outdoor classroom. 85% (45 out of 56) of all public schools currently host a campus garden. 


  • School Aquaculture Programming – FCPS has twenty-six schools which are using on-site aquaponics setups that provide students insight into the integrated nature of these systems. Initially begun with collaboration from Food Chain, a demonstration aquaculture farm in Lexington’s renovated “Bread Box” (the former Rainbow Bread plant) aquaculture has grown in interest and class engagement. 


  • School Renovations and New Buildings - Native landscaping and low-impact-construction remains a high priority among school renovation and new building projects to allow our schools to be utilized as Living Labs for our students. Examples of sustainability and high-performing components include native plantings, constructed wetlands, daylight and rain water harvesting, permeable outdoor surfaces, and outdoor classroom space for gardening.


  • E=USE2 - Each school in FCPS includes a student-driven sustainability team, or E=USE2 Team (Education leads to Understanding Sustainability, Energy and the Environment).  These teams design and implement a variety of projects to include:

    • Measuring sustainability and energy conservation through investigations such as monthly patrols, light level survey, and plug load survey

    • Raising awareness through patrol feedback, posters, light switch faceplate stickers and awareness videos

    • Investing energy savings into sustainability projects to include bike racks, school gardens, classroom-timed power strips and LED lamps.


  • No Idling - FCPS has adopted a school bus No Idling policy to limit harmful emissions on school campuses and has partnered with KY Division for Air Quality to pilot a student-driven No Idling automobile policy in eight schools. Students collect pre-campaign data; raise awareness through newsletters, posters, permanent signs, and announcements; and collect post-campaign data.  Participating parents are incentivized with car decals, key chains, and pencils.


  • Floracliff - Floracliff Nature Sanctuary was established in 1989 and dedicated as a Kentucky State Nature Preserve on March 15, 1996, the first in Fayette County. Floracliff's uplands and gorges are a prime example of the Inner Bluegrass watershed of the Kentucky River. Its land and native flora and fauna remain a living model and inspiration for understanding and appreciation of the region's ecology, landscape and cultural heritage.


  • The Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission works closely with the LFUCG Division of Environmental Services. As an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, KLB’s mission engages individuals, businesses and organizations within Fayette County to take personal responsibility for improving our environment. KLB has successfully implemented three cigarette litter prevention programs, the most recent resulting in a reduction of 43% in cigarette butt litter outside of restaurants and bars. Another of their signature events, the Great American Cleanup, facilitated 179 events using 3,371 volunteers and cleaning up more than 56,000 pounds of litter. Additionally, KLB received a grant to remove invasive species and plant over 55 native trees and 600 native plants and bushes while reclaiming a nature trail behind two schools. The Commission has also adopted a planting bed to showcase native plants on the Legacy Trail, an 8-mile long shared-use trail that runs from near the downtown area to the Kentucky Horse Park. KLB also helps sponsor local events such as Reforest the Bluegrass, Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day and Arbor Day.

  • Stream Rehabilitation – partnering with local organizations EcoGro, Bluegrass Greensource and others, FCPS completed two stream rehabilitation projects (Millcreek Elementary and Clays Mill Elementary) with the goal to improve water quality and aquatic habitats, reduce downstream flooding, educate the school and community about storm water quality and stream restoration with a riparian buffer, a constructed ephemeral wetland, rain gardens, bioswale and walking pathways to engage and encourage outdoor classroom learning. These projects were funded through LFUCG Stormwater Quality Incentive grants.

Stream restoration project at Clays Mill Elementary - Photos by Russ Turpin

  • Habitat-led Street Cleanup - Beyond assisting individual families, Lexington Habitat has coordinated four ambitious park and street clean-up projects. As part of the Douglas Park Centennial celebration in partnership with Lexington Parks and Recreation, Habitat volunteers planted new trees and flowers, mulched, and assisted in brush and invasive plant removal. Habitat volunteers also provided brush removal and beautification efforts in Martin Luther King Jr Park and in related streetscape and neighborhood beautification projects.  Brush and invasive removal improves the environment, boosts neighborhood pride and increases safety for residents by opening sightlines and increasing visibility. 


  • Habitat-led neighborhood improvement - In partnership with the LFUCG Stormwater Incentive Grant Program during 2016, Lexington Habitat for Humanity repaired a non-functioning retention area adjacent to its main office, added below-ground stormwater storage tanks and added a large permeable paver parking area, thus allowing Habitat to host larger community and educational events.  Several new raised-bed gardens were incorporated into the project, and Habitat staff now can garden and compost on site.


  • SEEDS (Service Education and Entrepreneurship in Downtown Spaces) - SEEDS is a summer youth program sponsored by Seedleaf Inc. It targets 5th – 11th grade students living in areas of Lexington identified as food deserts. In an attempt to connect youth with healthy fresh food, participants are involved in all aspects of growing food in an urban setting. Students gain hands-on experience in growing and caring for a garden, meal preparation, and nutrition basics. Participants also learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship as they develop a business venture that involves selling their healthy products in their community. The goal of this project is to help young Lexingtonians become healthy food ambassadors in their neighborhoods.


  • Bluegrass Greensource – Bluegrass Greensource (BGGS) is an environmental educational nonprofit whose mission is to empower the Bluegrass to create a sustainable environment. that helps the citizens of Central Kentucky understand that small changes can have a big impact on our local environment. In 2016, staff had more than 150,000108,000 contacts in Lexington alone focusing on water quality, litter abatement, recycling, energy efficiency and urban forestry. Greensource also assisted in building 37 rain gardens and 179 rain barrels, in repairing 13 septic systems; connected with over 4,500 classrooms; and invested over $105,000 in local water quality projects.


  • GreenFest, an annual sustainability fair hosted by BGGS with workshops and vendors. 

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