By Carrie Searcy
Office of Communications
Earth Day 2017 for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet took on an energy efficient theme as the Cabinet hosted the celebration of environmental awareness at its LEED certified building, 300 Sower Boulevard in Frankfort, Ky.
Director of Communications John Mura welcomed employees gathered in the first-floor training space at 10:30 a.m., while more than two dozen exhibitors lined the hallway outside.
“As Kentuckians, we live in one of the most naturally beautiful and diverse places in the world,” Mura said. “Thanks to your efforts, Kentucky has made great progress in becoming a cleaner, healthier state.
“Did you know, for instance, that we’ve cleaned up more than 1,200 waste dumps across the Commonwealth in the past five years? Or removed pollutants from 130 miles of Kentucky streams and rivers? Or have seen the air get dramatically cleaner in places such as Louisville and Northern Kentucky where in the last 16 years, the state has cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 86 percent?”
Following Mura’s remarks, Amy Sohner, executive director of Bluegrass Greensource, a nonprofit environmental education organization serving Central Kentucky, spoke about taking personal responsibility for the environment.
“It is so important that we all get involved in not only Earth Day, or Earth Week, but make it Earth Day every day,” said Sohner. “We all need to change the way we think about our actions and thoughts that we each see how much everything we do impacts our environment.”
Haley McCoy, executive director of the Office of Legislative & Intergovernmental Affairs for the Cabinet, presented the student winners of the ‘Capture the Earth’ photo and video contest. They were:
Meghan Grace Ratliff, 13, a Johnson County Middle School eighth-grader, who won the seventh-annual “Capture the Earth” photography contest for middle school students. Ratliff’s photograph, “Sunrise at Jenny Wiley State Park,” was chosen over dozens of other student-generated entries.
In the text that accompanied her winning photo, Ratliff wrote: “This photo, shot at sunrise over Jenny Wiley State Park’s Dewey Lake, highlights all that is good here in Kentucky. From the tranquil sunrise, to the calm, clean water, to the towering hills that make East Kentucky my home, this photo encompasses a strong effort to conserve and protect these resources by our community, park officials, and all who frequent and visit Dewey Lake. Whether to boat, enjoy a sunrise or sunset, have a picnic, catch a fish, hike a trail or play at the many play areas, visitors to this park and others like it in KY must take pride and take part in keeping it a clean, safe space for recreation. And when I look into my crystal ball, I see the positive outcomes of these efforts, and I can see that at least in my part of the earth, that the sun will always shine bright on my old Kentucky home.”
Olivia Halfhill, 13, a seventh-grader also from Johnson County Middle School, received an Honorable Mention for her photo that captured a Paintsville, Ky. pastoral scene.
Halfhill wrote in her description: “…You do not have to travel far to be amazed by nature’s beauty, it’s all around you in Eastern Kentucky. In this picture, spring brings a new beginning of the year with trees swaying in the gentle calming breeze while walking through the dew-covered grass. Going to the barn is like stepping into another world! There you can learn and explore new things in nature and make bonds with animals you never knew could be so incredible.”
Diana Lila, a senior at Eastside Technical Center, Lexington, Ky., meanwhile, won the “Capture the Earth” videography contest for high school students, for her video, “Let’s Keep it Beautiful.” Her winning video may be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2Lqtd8P9AU. The video features gorgeous shots of nature set to music.
Ratliff and Lila will receive a two-night stay with their families at a Kentucky State Resort Park of their choice, compliments of the Kentucky Department of Parks. Halfhill will receive an elk tour for two at Jenny Wiley State Park, courtesy of the state park.
The annual “Capture the Earth” photo contest was initiated in 2011 and has attracted a number of submissions each year. Fifty-nine photographs were entered into this year’s contest.
Also honored were winners of the Cabinet Earth Day employee photo contest. There were three competition categories: Native Kentucky wildlife, native Kentucky plants, and native Kentucky landscapes.
Chris Oelschlager, Division of Forestry, West Region field office, won in the native plant category for her photo of a budding Shellbark Hickory blossom.
Chuck Porter, Division of Forestry, West Region field office, won in the native animal category for his photo of a pair of Canada geese.
Robert Miller, Division of Water, London Regional field office, won in the native landscape category for his photo of Bolthouse Ridge.
Each of the winner’s photos were selected for inclusion in an Earth Day poster, given out to attendees at the ceremony.
Prior to the event, building employees were encouraged to seek out and document thorugh photos the energy efficient qualities of the building prior to the ceremony for a chance to win one of five small prizes.
Billy Bennett, executive director of the Kentucky Environmental Education Council (KEEC), which co-hosted the event, oversaw the drawing to award the prizes. Among other things, KEEC operates the Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools program and the Professional Environmental Educator Certification course.
Bennett thanked all those who participated and was assisted in the drawing for the prizes by Roberta Burnes, a Policy Analyst III for the Kentucky Division for Air Quality and an event coordinator.
During the event, which ran from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., employees enjoyed the chance to test drive one of several Chevy Volt electric cars that the Cabinet uses as fleet and teaching vehicles. Also on display was the Tesla S.
Some of the biggest hits of the events were displays of live raptors, snakes and an owl.
Lissa Doss of the Division of Water and Paul Fitch of the Department of Environmental Protection commented later on how much they enjoyed them and the event itself.
“The entire event was just awesome,” said Fitch. “I liked the raptors and the Tesla. It was all pretty neat.”
“I thought it was a wonderful day and I liked the birds,” said Doss. “I thought it was so interesting to be up so close to them.”
Other exhibits were on display courtesy of: Kentucky State Nature Preserves, the Division for Air Quality, the Division of Forestry, the Division of Water, the Division of Waste Management, the Kentucky Environmental Education Council, Kentucky State University, Franklin County Solid Waste, the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education, Bluegrass Greensource, the Salato Wildlife Center, the Raptor Center, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, and Glean KY.
“I thought Earth Day was very well displayed and a great deal of free information that people could benefit from was given out,” said Brenda Harlow with the Division of Waste Management, who also attended the event. “I just can’t wait until we do it again next year!”
To see more photos from the Earth Day event at 300 Sower please go to https://landairwater.me/2017/04/21/energy-efficiency-celebrated-at-earth-day-2017-photo-gallery/.