Green Umbrella in the News

  • April 02, 2019 2:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: UC News Record
    By: David Rees

    Green Umbrella, a nonprofit organization that aims to maximize environmental sustainability throughout the city, is working with the nonprofit advocacy group backing the Wasson Way project to extend a mixed-use trail and bike path from Uptown to Cincinnati’s East Side.

    Wasson Way is being built in four main phases. The first, which is already complete, runs from Madison Road to Tamarack Avenue in Hyde Park. Phase two is funded and will continue from Tamarack Avenue to Montgomery Road later this year.

    The third phase will connect the trail to Marburg Avenue, and the fourth phase will connect the trail to Ault Park.

    Tri-State Trails, an initiative of Green Umbrella, is working to prioritize extending Wasson Way from Montgomery Road and Xavier University to Uptown, said Wade Johnston, director of Tri-State Trails.

    Through the Cincinnati Riding or Walking Network (CROWN), Tri-State Trails aims to create a 30-mile trail loop that will link Wasson Way, Ohio River Trail, Mill Creek Greenway and Little Miami Scenic Trail with a network of regional trails and on-road bicycling facilities.

    “We have been leading the effort to connect Wasson Way to Uptown and UC in partnership with the Wasson Way nonprofit,” said Wade Johnston, director of Tri-State Trails. “Our CROWN plan identifies an ideal route that would connect to the shared-use path along MLK Drive near the I-71 interchange.”

    For students without cars, bicycles can provide an affordable alternative to connect students to the amenities that surround the University of Cincinnati’s main campus. Yet many areas around the university — particularly MLK Drive — are car-dependent, said Johnston.

    “Wasson Way will enable students who live east of UC in Hyde Park, Norwood, Oakley and other nearby neighborhoods to have a safe route to ride to school without needing a car,” he said.

    “Many other urban campuses around the country are connected with a robust bicycling and transit system to encourage students and faculty to not drive to campus,” said Johnston. “UC must continue investing in making its campus more accessible to bikes if it wants to remain competitive.”

    Student can experience the route for themselves at 6 p.m. April 18 in a community bike ride jointly hosted by Tri-State Trails and UC Sustainability. The route will span roughly five miles, beginning at UC and ending where Wasson Way will eventually connect to MLK Drive. Students and community members alike are encouraged to attend.

    “Let’s be clear though, one trail along MLK Drive is not going to transform UC into a bicycling hub on its own,” said Johnston. “The trail will be the starting point that encourages more people to ride, and [it] builds momentum for investing in more infrastructure like trails, protected bike lanes, additional bike parking, and more.”

    Click or tap here for a map of the proposed trail.



  • March 15, 2019 9:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Cincinnati Magazine
    By John Stowell

    View the original article here.

    Cincinnati’s certification as a 2030 District starts the city on the path to a less polluted future. It might also save downtown building owners a little green along the way.

    They stand like soldiers and define our downtown. The staircase roofline of Atrium Two. Procter & Gamble’s iconic twin towers. The majestic skyward march of Carew Tower. WKRP’s “Central Trust Bank” building. The glowing tiara that adorns Great American Tower. We love them all…but they pollute.

    When Ed Mazria, one of America’s most notable architects, presented data more than a decade ago showing that roughly 50 percent of a city’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, not cars, buses, and trucks, well, the architectural world was turned upside down. “We are trained as architects to make our buildings a better place for the health and the safety of their occupants,” notes Chad Edwards, a principal at emersion DESIGN. “So Ed’s presentation sent shock waves through our industry. We realized we had to fix this.”

    That “fix” is now arriving in Cincinnati. In late December, our downtown was certified as the nation’s 21st urban core committed to become a so-called 2030 District. That means building owners, managers, and tenants who agree to participate pledge to cut their energy use, water consumption, and transportation footprint in half over the next decade-plus. They’ll also develop a plan to promote healthier workplaces with the goal of improving each building’s indoor air quality.

    The 2030 movement began in Seattle a decade ago, when a group of public- and private-sector leaders came together to brainstorm ideas to make their downtown carbon-neutral. Today, cities as small as Grand Rapids, Michigan, and as large as Los Angeles have adopted 2030 plans, targeting more than 455 million square feet of commercial office space.

    Cleveland, the second city to join the 2030 movement, has already reduced its energy, water, and transportation consumption by 20 percent with nearly 60 million square feet participating. Pittsburgh may be the most successful 2030 district in the U.S., with 82 million square feet participating, which represents 75 percent of its downtown buildings.

    The 2030 efforts in Cleveland and Pittsburgh have expanded to other neighborhoods as they’ve matured, but, like them, Cincinnati’s initial focus is downtown. Specific borders haven’t yet been determined but will likely run from Central Parkway to the river and from Jack Casino to I-75. The 2030 pledge is voluntary and the goals are cumulative, meaning buildings falling short won’t be “outed” and, hopefully, their numbers will be covered by structures that reduce more. Cincinnati 2030 is designed to be a team sport, and so, even though downtown developers and commercial real estate managers are cutthroat competitors, the need for collaboration and information sharing will be critical.

    The effort already has financial support. Funds received from a recent class action lawsuit settlement with Duke Energy allowed supporters to hire a professional director and set up an office. Undoubtedly, the $2.5 million grant the city received from Bloomberg Philanthropies in late October to purchase renewable energy technology will help as well. “There’s a lot of momentum,” says Cincinnati 2030 Director Tremaine Phillips. “Our goal was to have 10 members by the end of 2018, and we got 18. We will have 50 members on board by the end of 2019.”

    There’s a lot of momentum. Our goal was to have 10 members by the end of 2018, and we got 18. We will have 50 members on board by the end of 2019.

    The local 2030 District organizers envision a city saving energy and money and transforming into a bustling downtown that leaves only the lightest environmental footprint. Might there be solar panels on every rooftop? Rain barrels catching runoff for use in toilets or for watering plants? Natural light filling offices and abundant gardens catching and storing pollutants? How about electric cars and Metro buses running off of renewable energy, with charging stations everywhere? It’s all possible, but is it possible in 11 years? It sounds like the future, but 2030 really isn’t that far away.

    When you crest the cut in the hill or feel dwarfed by concrete and steel as you descend into the Ft. Washington Way canyon, pollution rarely comes to mind. If you think about it at all, you’ll blame your car’s tailpipe—or the black exhaust pouring out of that 18-wheeler in front of you—and the power plants along the river. After all, you can see that pollution, right?

    There are no smokestacks hovering over Fountain Square, but the electricity running our buildings comes mostly from fossil fuel power plants. So 2030 will focus on encouraging more efficient use of energy and replacing those fossil electrons with renewable ones.Of course, electrons are funny things that follow the path of least resistance through power lines. While you can claim your building or your city operates on 100 percent renewable energy, the reality is that once those green electrons leave the power plant and enter the wires, they travel to your wall plugs along with the brown ones already there. A building becomes “100 percent renewable” only when all its energy needs are met with a combination of self-generated renewable energy, such as rooftop solar, and power purchased from remote zero-emission sources.

    Large-electric-load customers who buy only green energy will, as others join in, decrease the demand for fossil fuels and encourage the development of more clean energy sources. Over time, that party in the wires should get greener and greener, especially as renewable energy becomes cheaper and cheaper.

    The idea to launch Cincinnati 2030 started in late 2017, and the effort scored its first win in September when the 80,000-square-foot Contemporary Arts Center signed up. In early October, the local organizers, led by Edwards and others from Green Umbrella, a collective of local organizations, businesses, and government entities focused on environmental sustainability in our area, held a half-day seminar at Xavier University and invited dozens of downtown building owners to hear the pitch.

    “They asked us to speak and explain why we joined,” says Aly Laughlin, the CAC’s assistant administrative director and environmental sustainability leader. “Then, after we finished, they walked around the room with a paper and pen.” CAC Director Raphaela Platow remembers the not-so-subtle sales job with a laugh, but says joining the 2030 project was a no-brainer. “We are a learning center first and foremost, and so many of our artists think about the planet and how we have impacted it. This fits well with our vision and our mission to open people’s minds.”

    The CAC’s plan is still in the works, but the organization has a real opportunity to showcase its commitment via the $6 million renovation of its top floor, which has housed the UnMuseum education center. Platow says the ceiling will be opened to bring in natural light, meaning plants can be added to help improve indoor air quality. Already one of the newer and more efficient downtown buildings, the CAC is looking to install rooftop solar panels, buy more efficient air handlers, and add water chillers and rainwater collection barrels. The 2030 commitment, Laughlin says, makes you focus on squeezing every drop of waste out of your building.

    “We’re a bit of a wasteful industry,” Platow acknowledges with a sigh. Few museums have focused on environmental sustainability, especially since their first mandate is protection of their art collection, which requires consistency in temperature and humidity. Determined to become a sustainability advocate in the museum world, she’s set her sights on the aggressive packaging that protects traveling art exhibits. “It’s all non-recyclable material, and we need to do better,” Platow says.

    After Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring sparked the beginning of the environmental movement, it took another 25 years before the business world began looking seriously at how economic growth and environmental responsibility could be co-managed. The theory was developed at the United Nations, whose economic development arm coined the term “sustainable development” as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Today, you can buy socially responsible mutual fund investments from most Wall Street firms; according to the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, they accounted for almost $12 trillion of business in 2018.

    Sustainability has also fostered new careers, such as Jeremy Faust’s at Fifth Third Bank. It’s one of the few banks in the country embracing sustainability, hiring Faust three years ago to develop and implement an industry leadership position. Fifth Third has set five corporate environmental goals that he says align well with the 2030 commitment.

    Faust calls himself a bona fide environmentalist, but he emphasizes the importance of “talking the talk” in business terms. While saving the planet is a noble goal, he says you probably won’t get past the first layer of company bureaucracy if you can’t show your efforts make a positive contribution to the bottom line. “Our internal goals are designed to reduce our operating expenditures,” he says.

    Those goals are measurable, but there are also the harder-to-measure intangible benefits that Faust says are important to Fifth Third as well. Environmental leadership, he maintains, fosters active employee engagement and improved morale, leads to positive recognition by investors and customers, and offers an inviting workplace for smart, young millennials. “We’re building a narrative inside and outside the company while creating a culture that connects with the communities we serve,” Faust says.

    That might sound like corporate-speak, except for one thing: Fifth Third has put its money where its sound bite is. In late 2017, the company signed a long-term contract with a developer who’s building an 80-megawatt solar farm in North Carolina. When the farm comes online, Fifth Third’s entire corporate electricity needs will be covered by that power plant.

    “You know, I don’t think people, even in our own community, understand what a leader Cincinnati is in environmental sustainability,” says Andy Holzhauser, a long-time leader in the region’s energy and environmental community. Holzhauser, a partner at Donovan Energy, is the new president of Green Umbrella. “No one tells the story holistically, but I think the 2030 plan can pull the threads together and tell the story of Cincinnati’s leadership.”

    In fact, Cincinnati was recently chosen by Site Selection magazine—for the second straight year—as America’s most sustainable city. The Green Cincinnati Plan, now in its third iteration, maps out a path for the entire city to be served by renewable energy. And since everything in Cincinnati seems to eventually circle back to our most famous resident, Fiona, did you know that the Cincinnati Zoo’s Hippo Cove has attained Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum status, the highest award given by the U.S. Green Building Council? The zoo’s painted dogs exhibit has gone one step further, recognized globally as meeting the standards of the Living Building Challenge. To qualify, the building must create more energy that it uses and collect and treat all of its water on-site. The zoo’s business plan calls for the entire property, from aardvark to zebra, to be “zero waste” by 2025.

    The green wave has splashed Over-the-Rhine, too, where developers such as Daniels Homes are achieving LEED certification in renovations of historic townhomes near Findlay Market and Washington Park. Cincinnati is home to the greenest police station in the country, and solar farms are now operating in Northern Kentucky. So environmental sustainability, it seems, is already in our collective DNA.

    Phillips, director of the Cincinnati 2030 effort, says a key goal is to market this citywide green disposition to the outside world. He marvels at the quick start Cincinnati 2030 has made from the germ of an idea to 18 members, 23 buildings, and national certification in just a year. “It took Detroit three years,” notes the Warren native, who clearly relishes the competition.

    Before marketing, though, he needs to organize. Like all new initiatives, it’s going to require both innovative thinking and mundane cat-herding. There is a lot of work to do: establishing a partnership infrastructure; determining baselines; figuring out how to measure progress; working with building owners, property managers, and tenants on individual action plans; learning what works and doesn’t from some of the more mature 2030 districts; and, of course, signing up more downtown buildings.

    It sounds daunting, but Phillips says he can rely on the full force of the Green Umbrella organization to help. He’s an energetic and convincing advocate whose elevator pitch emphasizes the money-saving attributes of 2030 membership as much as the environmental.

    Has there been some pushback so far? A little, Phillips admits. “Some have been hesitant to come on at this time,” he says. “They may have projects in the pipeline, but they don’t know when they can do them, so they worry about the deadlines. It helps to say this is an aggregate effort, but the fact is that, for older buildings, you won’t do a lot of these things unless you’re doing them as part of a planned renovation. Otherwise, they just don’t make sense from a cost standpoint.”

    Phillips looks at the 2030 goals as the tracks that keep Cincinnati on its green journey—more importantly, on an innovative green path. Cincinnati 2030 isn’t just about sealing a leaky window, adding LED lighting, or buying green power, and it certainly isn’t about energy deprivation. The movement is largely about electrifying your life at home and on the road while ensuring those electrons are green.

    Tim Donovan, founder and partner at Donovan Energy, sees a city bathed in quick-charging electric charging stations in public garages, shopping center parking lots, hospitals, libraries, and even on the street. He sees the electric vehicle market on the cusp of rapid growth, particularly as the major car manufacturers race to produce more affordable cars and SUVs. “The one millionth electric vehicle was sold last July,” Donovan says, “and the growth rate is running at 40 percent. Tesla sold 33 percent more electric cars in the fourth quarter of 2018 than Toyota sold Corollas. Our problem now is that the cars have superseded the infrastructure we have to charge them.”

    Donovan, whose company installed eight two-port charging stations in the new downtown Kroger garage in January as construction workers hammered above, looks forward to the day when gawkers will no longer see these stations as novelties but instead wonder if the owner of that Nissan Leaf is buying power or selling it.

    Yes, your car could become a mini power plant, because that port can work both ways. Let’s imagine your car is fully charged but you need only a quarter of a tank of electrons to run all of your errands. You check your phone and discover Duke is buying power right now at 14 cents per kilowatt hour. You know electricity will be cheaper after 10 p.m., so, while you’re inside the Kroger store, you hook up to the charging station and sell half your tank; you then recharge at home that night when the price is down to 9 cents. You made a profit, and maybe paid for that impulse grocery buy.

    Donovan thinks school districts could be a great beneficiary of this strategy. “School buses run, what, five hours a day? When they’re not running, they could be a giant battery system that takes or receives power and, if it’s done right, make a profit for the school district.”

    One day, might you see a driverless car pull up to an electric vehicle charging station near Fountain Square and watch its automated arm snake out the back and plug in for a quick charge? Donovan thinks so, and says Cincinnati 2030 can accelerate the deployment of these developing technologies.

    With the federal government either denying climate change science or sitting silently by, the business community has carried the innovation fight forward as much for economic and brand-enhancement reasons as environmental. Cincinnati 2030 is a private-public partnership, not the other way around. But Mayor John Cranley is on board and isn’t shy about saying he’s focused on the environment.

    Cranley, who personally recruited Kroger to the 2030 cause during a stroll down the under-development Wasson Way bike path with CEO Rodney McMullen, says the city will meet a quarter of its 100 percent renewable energy commitment by the time he leaves office in 2021, “but my successors will have to figure out the other 75 percent.” It’s important to do, he claims, because the planet is at stake. “Science is science, and the threat is real,” Cranley says. “This is a moral issue, an existential threat to our existence.”

    Venerable but woefully energy-inefficient City Hall is committed to 2030, as is the 75,000-square-foot Duke Energy Convention Center. Cranley says the city will also investigate electrifying its fleet of vehicles and that modernization of the Metro bus system, already a priority for other reasons, fits perfectly into the Cincinnati 2030 goals.

    Funding could come from the Bloomberg grant. The mayor already has said the 2030 plan will receive some of the dollars from this award, but there are no specifics yet. “When President Trump pulled out of the Paris climate treaty, we realized we need to act locally and be accountable,” he says.

    Melting glaciers in Greenland aside, Cincinnati 2030 is really about business. If done correctly, the effort will improve efficiency, reduce waste, lower operating costs, improve work productivity, attract the next generation of talented employees, create a climate for new technologies, burnish the brand and—just as important—beat Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Columbus to the punch. Everyone I interviewed for this story agreed: Being recognized as an environmental leader is good for Cincinnati’s national brand and can be the launching pad for new growth opportunities.

    Businesses will start up and grow where their employees want to live, Phillips maintains, and younger generations want to live and work in a place that embraces sustainability. Cincinnati 2030 is another chapter in the marketing plan the city is writing to attract their attention and their brainpower.

    Donovan, who grew up in Chicago but honed his energy expertise in England and on the west coast, points to the city’s multi-generational family make-up that makes us unique. “You raised your kids here and you want them to come back after college to jobs that are here in Cincinnati, right?” he says. “Well, this is what they want, and they’ll go to where they can get it.”


  • March 14, 2019 11:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Northern Kentucky Tribune
    By Northern Kentucky Health Department

    View the original article here.

    Students at 26 schools in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton Counties are participating in the annual Healthy Challenge for a designated week between March 4 and 22.

    The Challenge encourages students and school staff to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables and get at least thirty minutes of physical activity five out of the seven days of their Challenge week.

    This year, there are also several new opportunities for schools to earn extra points, including:

    • Providing a cafeteria share-table and conducting a food waste activity sponsored by Green Umbrella Waste Reduction Action Team

    • Produce Pop-Ups at participating school campuses providing rescued produce by the Freestore Foodbank

    • Serving locally sourced produce in partnership with The Ohio Valley Food Connection

    • Providing school staff the KY Nutrition Education Series offered by the UK Extension Office

    To help excite students about eating fruits and vegetables, Produce Man, the Health Department’s mascot, will visit several of the schools during their Challenge week.

    Produce Man is a colorful character with more than 135 servings of fruits and vegetables attached to his body, who uses music and interactive games to promote eating more fruits and vegetables.

    Produce Man will be accompanied by registered dietitians and health educators from NKY Health.

    For more information on the Healthy Challenge, a list of schools participating in the Challenge and organizations sponsoring the program, click here.

    The Northern Kentucky Health Department provides public health services to more than 400,000 residents of Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton Counties, with a goal of preventing disease, promoting wellness and protecting against health threats.

    The Health Department seeks to be a nationwide leader in public health, and was one of the first in the country to earn national public health accreditation. For more information, click here.


  • March 06, 2019 11:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Xavier Newswire
    By Charlotte Creek

    View original article here.

    The World Wildlife Fund is a non-governmental organization widely known for advocating wilderness preservation and the reduction of human-caused environmental impact. Its logo? A panda, an animal most commonly found in Asia.

    The selection of a panda logo subtly implies to audiences that wildlife and environmental destruction are separate and far away from our everyday lives. For example, had they chosen to represent the organization with a cow, consumers in the United States would have a harder time separating nature conservation and environmentalism from their daily lives, ranging from the food they eat to the clothes they wear.

    Because of the notion that climate change is a distant concept, disconnected from our lives, people have a skewed perception of its implications. Often times when people think of climate change, images of sea life struggling to survive because of trash in the ocean and distressed polar bears floating on broken ice caps flood their minds.

    Although these issues encompass some of the effects of climate change, they do not paint the full picture. It’s easy to think of climate change as an unfamiliar issue — as though it’s only affecting people you don’t know and places you’ve never been to. But this is not the reality.

    Climate change impacts every corner of the world, Cincinnati included. In the Midwest, the primary effects of climate change include extreme heat, heavier rainfall and flooding. These have direct negative impacts on air and water quality, human and environmental health, agriculture, forestry and more.

    Throughout the last few years, Cincinnati saw all of these. The damages caused by these occurrences are likely far more widespread than you might imagine. Moreover, the poor disproportionately face the risks implied by these issues.

    When extreme heat strikes in the summer, some people are at higher risk of adverse effects than others. The Green Cincinnati Plan — a plan for the city to become a leader in environmentalism founded on sustainability, equity and resilience — highlights the relationship between one’s income, their neighborhood and their physical health.

    Heat stroke can set in when an individual is exposed to extreme heat for extended periods of time. The City of Cincinnati states those most at risk for heat stroke include infants and young children, people over age 65, people with a mental illness and people with chronic medical conditions. According to the Green Cincinnati Plan, extreme heat causes more fatalities and hospitalizations than any other weather event. In fact, the dangers of heat stroke are so severe that on days of extreme heat the city opens “Cooling Centers,” where people without access to air conditioning can go and rest.

    Although air conditioning might seem like a common amenity, many go without it due to financial constraints. As climate change intensifies nationwide, those most at risk of heat stroke will become increasingly vulnerable. While some can afford to turn to their air conditioning, their neighbors may be suffering. As air conditioning users turn up their units and enjoy the cold, they flood the air with emissions, which contribute to climate change and widen the gap between themselves and their low-income neighbors.

    While days of extreme heat can go unnoticed by those unaffected by the heat, other aspects of climate change refuse to be ignored. For instance, heavy rainfall and flooding are beginning to occur more regularly in Cincinnati and have the potential to wreak havoc on the city.

    Cincinnati, located on the banks of the Ohio River, frequently experiences heavy rainfall and flooding. While flooding impacts human lives by causing damages to homes and inconvenient and dangerous road closures, there are also adverse environmental effects.

    Cincinnati is a city with combined sewers. Combined sewers collect rainwater, household sewage and industrial waste in the same pipes. The sewage is sent to a water treatment plant and then discharged back into the river. However, when there is extreme flooding, the sewers overflow, and untreated waste water goes directly into the river.

    Combined sewer overflow poses risks to human and environmental health, as the ecosystem is exposed to bacteria and chemicals. For example, excess nitrogen in untreated wastewater causes algal blooms in the Ohio River.

    When the ecosystem suffers from the waste water, Cincinnatians do, too. The flooding increases risk of exposure to harmful substances. In fact, many of the city’s youth soccer fields lie in flood plains, making them subject to potential contaminants from sewer overflow.

    The reality of climate change is inescapable. We cannot think of climate change strictly in terms of melting ice caps, rising sea levels and suffering wildlife. The reality is that we are at risk, too, and we must be aware of these issues and how they affect our community.

    To learn more about the impacts of climate change in Cincinnati and how the city plans to address it, visit greencincinnatiplan.org.

    Charlotte Cheek is a senior Economics, Sustainability and Society (ECOS) major. She is a guest writer from Louisville, Ky.


  • February 28, 2019 11:51 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: BobVila.com
    View original content here.

    The terms "environmentally friendly," "ecological," and "green" are thrown around a lot these days, but there is no denying that many Americans are earnestly searching for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and achieve a healthier lifestyle. Those who are especially eco-eager may want to consider moving to one of the many cities in the United States where it's just easier being "green." Fortunately, many trusted organizations have done the legwork for you, weighing factors like the number of parks and open spaces, safe and easily accessible bike lanes, the availability and usage of public transportation, recycling and waste-reduction programs, municipal initiatives to use and promote renewable energy sources, and the prevalence of environmentally certified building practices. The cities listed here—some of the "greenest" in the country—are derived from sources that include a 2018 study by the personal finance website WalletHub that compared the 100 most populated cities in the United States; studies from the National Geographic Society's Green Guide, and statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.

    #22 - Cincinnati

    The Queen City is focusing on sustainability and renewable energy as part of its Green Cincinnati Plan. In pursuit of these goals, the city signed a contract with Houston-based electric company Dynegy Inc. to purchase 100 percent green energy for nearly all municipal buildings through 2021. The city hopes to have the largest municipal solar array in the country by the end of 2019. The eco-conscious city also ranks in the top 20 of LEED-certified buildings, including both residential and commercial spaces.

  • February 26, 2019 11:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Civil Eats
    By Lela Nargi

    View original article.

    Nine years ago, Robert Eversole, a clinical lab manager, and his husband, Thomas Sargent, decided to turn their quarter-acre garden into a farm. They researched best practices, formed an LLC, and took the plunge, using the community supported agriculture (CSA) model as their template.

    By 2015, their operation, Crooked Row Farm, was growing more than 60 kinds of fruits and vegetables—from strawberries to celtuce to Jerusalem artichokes—on two acres in Lexington, Kentucky. “It takes a lot to keep CSA customers happy,” Eversole explains. And with the vagaries of climate change making crop failures “a given,” he says, the couple was glad for the chance to understand the ins and outs of their land.

    By 2016, they were both working on the farm full time and ready for “a pivot” and a little more security, says Eversole. They joined a food hub in Cincinnati and became one of six small Kentucky farms sending fresh vegetables to the dining halls at the University of Kentucky (UK) in Lexington through the large food service company Aramark. The university had hired Aramark in 2014 to provide its 2.2 million annual student meals with a contract that mandated that about 20 percent of sourced food come from local producers.

    Although many institutions—from the University of Vermont’s Medical Center to Head Start preschools in San Diego—have begun sourcing food from nearby farms over the last decade, the word “local” doesn’t always have a globally agreed-upon meaning. Case in point: In August of 2015, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Aramark had spent nearly half its first year’s local food budget for UK on Coca-Cola beverages; a bottling plant in Lexington allowed the order to qualify under the terms of the contract—a carry-over from when UK ran its own food operation.

    At the time, the news “caused letters to the editor and all hell broke loose,” says Louisville-based food consultant Sarah Fritschner, whose job then, paid by a fund overseen by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board (KADB), was to increase the amount of Kentucky-grown food served across the state, including at institutions like UK.

    Out of that outcry was born an important renegotiation between UK and Aramark, in an effort to more rigorously define “local.” In truth, however, this work began 20 years earlier, among a broader coalition of partners bent on building the infrastructure for a food system that would support farmers all across the state of Kentucky.

    The Beginnings of Local Sourcing—and a Formalized Commitment

    UK is a land grant university with a robust agriculture program and strong ties to central Kentucky’s farmers—many of whom send their sons and daughters there to study. When it handled its own dining services in-house, the arrangement included local food purchases and also gave ag students the opportunity to learn from UK chefs how to do things like make sausage. “That was integral to their complete education,” says Fritschner.

    When UK started looking to outsource its dining in 2013, Fritschner says, ag students and faculty, farmers, and other community members protested. That’s because most institutional food service contracts are closed-circuit monoliths. They reward large-scale distributors by purchasing from them exclusively, taking minimum purchase rebates—which Fritschner says are “reputed to be worth more than the institutional contract” itself—in return.

    Such a contract often limits the number of distributors that can supply an institution like UK and, says Fritschner, “it freezes farmers out”—farmers like Eversole and Sargent, and others who were already supplying UK with beef and pork. The ag faculty was also worried that the contract would bring an end to their collaborations with UK chefs.

    The clamor was acute enough that “I believe it made someone, somewhere, more attentive,” says Fritschner. As a result, the contract UK eventually hashed out with Aramark mandated that a certain percent of the budget (currently at 18 percent and incrementally increasing to 20 percent) be earmarked for food grown or processed in Fayette and six contiguous counties—with a penalty paid to the university for non-compliance.

    The contract also helped fund an on-campus center called The Food Connection. Among other things, the center, with a fulltime staff of four, sends out its extension agent to help farms like Crooked Row get Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) safety audits, so they can sell their produce to food hubs—then onward to the likes of Aramark.

    Without this kind of “co-op approach to aggregation,” says Eversole, access to large outlets like Aramark—which guarantees him income from about 70 pounds of crops a week in season—“is off limits to small- and medium-sized farmers.”

    In 2014, there were only six USDA GAP-audited farms in Kentucky, according to Food Connection executive director Lilian Brislen, making this service essential to the success of UK and Aramark’s local commitment, as well as to Fritschner’s, to expand the impact of local food.

    Today, 30 farms are audited. Six of them supply UK’s salad bars with 24,000 pounds of fresh vegetables per year, including baby kale, romaine, bok choy, cherry tomatoes, and carrots. An additional 35,000 pounds of produce from another six local farms goes into UK’s soups and sauces.

    Hashing Out the Meaning of “Local”

    While the Real Food Challenge has been working to shift budgets at universities toward more “community-based” foods, and the Bon Appétit Management Company committed to local sourcing in 1999, more cynical permutations of “local” have emerged. Frito-Lay caught flak in 2009 for its “Lay’s Local” tracking tool, which critics said was intended to fool consumers into believing they were supporting small local farms. In 2016, the Tampa Bay Times reported on the falsehood behind the farm-to-table claims of a slew of area restaurants.

    Aramark’s interpretation of “local” was not an attempt to deceive or mislead UK, according to numerous sourcees. But there were some early, known challenges to fulfilling the terms of its contract with the university in a way that satisfied the most stringent definition of the word. Farms in Kentucky weren’t just un-audited. In a state that before 1999 generated about 25 percent of its agricultural income from tobacco, many small farmers were inexperienced with growing produce.

    The Master Settlement Agreement against the cigarette companies in part helped precipitate a drop in the number of farms raising tobacco from 60,000 to roughly 4,000 today, but getting other crops on the market has taken time. Few farms raised enough produce to sell wholesale, according to KADB’s deputy executive director Bill McCloskey. And they were unwilling to commit to the task without knowing they had a market.

    But before these challenges, and their practical implications to the UK dining contract, could be fully addressed, the proverbial manure hit the fan, in the form of the Coca-Cola furor. After that, says Brislen of Food Connection, “Everyone came back to the table and said, ‘How can we better refine this to meet our shared goals’” of increasing locally grown, and healthy, food purchases?

    Despite the slipperiness of the local definition, “There are a few key things that could be agreed upon by everyone,” says Aramark sustainability manager Carolyn Gahn, who now oversees purchasing for the UK account. “Less fuel to get there, reduced food waste, that connection eaters have with the source of their food, and economic development for the community.”

    Both parties decided that, yes, this meant development for producers such as a Midway-based mill that creates custom muffin and cake mixes for UK. But it also explicitly meant development for small in-state farmers.

    Growing Kentucky’s Local Food Economy

    UK’s salad bar program came a couple of years after this renegotiation. So did its whole animal program, for which 57,000 pounds of cattle and hogs are sourced from 18 Kentucky producers. This was enabled in no small part by KADB, which grants money from the Master Settlement Agreement— $595 million and counting—to farmers’ markets, farmers’ greenhouse purchases, and food consultants like Fritschner, to help wean the state off its dependence on tobacco revenue.

    Kentucky ranchers have traditionally sent their cows to the Midwest for finishing, but truly “local” meat has to be locally raised and processed. This means facilities for that must exist in-state, and until recently, there weren’t many of them. KADB has at least partially funded a number of slaughterhouses, including one for Marksbury Farm, which last year began sourcing Global Animal Welfare-certified step 4 whole animals for UK.

    Even here they faced a hurdle. Purchasing whole animals is cheaper than buying just chops or ribs, because a farmer isn’t left with steaks and loins to sell separately. However, says Marksbury partner Preston Correll, “The various possible permutations of dividing a carcass into cuts [for UK] was a logistical nightmare.” He devised a better way: dividing varieties of cuts into specialty boxes, marked for roasting, grilling, and smoking. This also encourages UK chefs to be more creative, says Brislen—a win for everyone.

    Four years into UK’s 20-year contract with Aramark, many of the farmers, aggregators, and other entities who’ve helped grow Kentucky’s local food economy up around the university are elated about what they’ve accomplished.

    “We’ve changed the supply chain,” says Brislen; 98 local businesses currently supply UK’s dining rooms and retail food venues. Now, she wants to convince other Kentucky universities to follow in UK’s footsteps.

    According to Aramark’s Gahn, the University of Louisville, Morehead State University, and both Eastern and Western Kentucky universities have expressed interest in adding more local food to their dining programs. Figuring out how to make that easier and more cost-effective for them is next on the agenda.

    “There’s a value proposition beyond the bottom line—an expectation of quality and a commitment to the communities that we serve,” Brislen says. “Hopefully, that will become the norm for institutional dining.”

  • February 13, 2019 2:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WCPO Cincinnati
    By Pat LaFleur

    View the original article here.

    A grassroots movement is growing on the Ohio River's south banks to make Northern Kentucky safer for people walking and riding bikes, and it's a movement that couldn't come soon enough.

    "We wanted to try to dispel some of the misinformation that was out there about bicyclists and how they're 'bad' for communities," said Wade Johnston, director of the local active transportation nonprofit Tri-State Trails. Johnston and his team this week unveiled Connect NKY, a contest for people in Northern Kentucky communities to propose "easy-to-implement, low-cost solutions" for making the Commonwealth's northernmost counties more accessible to people traveling by foot or by bike.

    The project grew out of an uncomfortable moment for Johnston and Greater Cincinnati's cycling community when last fall a Facebook group called "NKY Hates Bicyclists" surfaced, with members sharing posts that seemed to wish violence and injury on cyclists using Northern Kentucky roads.

    "When you have a group of individuals bashing another group of individuals for an activity like bicycling, to live a healthy lifestyle, and live in a community that's focused on people, it's really disappointing," Johnston said. "We think that bicyclists are great for communities because it shows that your community is safe and accessible to people to not have to drive everywhere, to be able to bike and walk to get around."

    Facebook quickly shut down the group last September, but Johnston and his team saw the stir as an opportunity to engage what they described as an active but underserved community.

    "A large number of riders brave the current conditions (in Northern Kentucky)," Tri-State trails wrote in a news release last week. "They ride both known and hidden routes on streets with cars, through alleyways, across parking lots, and along sidewalks."

    Johnston hopes the $30,000 grant Tri-State Trails is offering will help encourage walkers and cyclists, local business owners and government officials to bring ideas to the table that cities can test before making them permanent.

    "The whole premise is that we'll test a project that will be a temporary installation of a bike or pedestrian connection, and we'll see how it works for a few days," Johnston said.

    When it comes to investing in Northern Kentucky's bike infrastructure, few outpace Richard Hunt. Hunt owns Roebling Point Books and Coffee on Greenup Street in Covington -- a stone's throw from the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. The bookstore and coffee shop operates in what used to be Roebling's offices while he built the bridge in the mid-19th Century.

    Hunt said his business -- open for going on eight years now -- would not be what it is today without Northern Kentucky's cycling community.

    "We have found this to be a really active community," Hunt said. "There's certainly people walking all the time. There's a lot of bicyclists, and access to Downtown is fantastic. So the combination of all those things made it a great place to be."

    Hunt is an avid cyclist himself, who typically rides to work from his Hyde Park home three or four times a week. His shop frequently hosts cycling group events, and right outside their front door sits one of Northern Kentucky's first Red Bike stations, three bike racks and a frequented Southbank Shuttle bus stop. The in-progress, 11-mile Riverfront Commons trail project will connect just two blocks away, and most of his staff walk or bike to work.

    "We have seen here, more than anywhere else in the Greater Cincinnati area, that multitude of different ways that people transport themselves, whether it's commuting to work or recreation," he said.

    While Hunt didn't directly finance the Red Bike station on his doorstep, he did sacrifice three premium parking spaces. To him, the decision was a no-brainer.

    "We can fit 25 bikes out front. We can fit three cars," he said. "So in terms of having people have a way to be able to get over here on their own, feel safe at the same time in doing it, and being able to negotiate the streets, that’s a great way to do it."

    But Hunt agrees Northern Kentucky is still wanting when it comes to practical, everyday bike facilities.

    "Certainly, I think, we are in need of real infrastructure here," he said. "There's no bike lanes aside from the stand-alone trails. Trails are great, but they're a lot more costly than if, when a street is being repaved, if a bike lane would be striped onto it.

    "There's a way I think we could get a lot more people on the street."

    Johnston is hoping to engage more people in Northern Kentucky like Hunt, and -- with tight budgets and disparate city governments across the region -- he's relying on the grassroots, bottom-up approach to make it happen.

    It's a model with which Dave Huff, founder of the cycling nonprofit Riding Forward, has seen success.

    "I think Connect NKY, they're doing something really progressive," Huff said. "Something that they know has worked in other states, cities, countries even."

    Riding Forward made its biggest mark on Northern Kentucky's bicycling community in 2015, when they recruited volunteers of all ages to donate hundreds of hours to build the region's first bike park at England-Idlewild Park in Burlington, Kentucky.

    "It was a joint-effort of about four months of volunteer work," Huff said, in partnership with Boone County Parks. Now the Boone County native has been commissioned to work on similar projects in other cities across the country.

    Soliciting the community's input takes a lot of the guess work out of planning future projects, Huff said.

    "They're allowing the citizens and the local community to start by organizing their thoughts and submitting them, as to where they think the paths should be, where do they ride daily, those kinds of things," Huff said.

    It doesn't just take out the guess work, but it could actually speed up the process. And the fact that Connect NKY will only test the proposed idea initially means they can make a stronger case toward making permanent changes later down the road.

    "Historically, the way that infrastructure is planned and implemented is through a planning process where you have public meetings and people weighing in, and then you try to secure funding for a project, which sometimes can take multiple years before you can actually see what it looks like in the real world," Johnston said. "This process takes the reverse approach. Hopefully that will build support to make that type of project permanent."

    Connect NKY is accepting proposals for bike and pedestrian projects through March 1 and hopes to begin implementation by the summer.


  • February 12, 2019 10:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Local 12 aired a feature segment on Cincinnati Parks, which includes Green Umbrella staff at the 15 minute mark. View the original post here.


  • February 04, 2019 2:24 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Good Food Cities
    View the original article here.


    On January 28th 2019, the Cincinnati School Board unanimously voted in favor of a resolution adopting the Good Food Purchasing Program in Cincinnati public schools. In 2017, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) spent more than $7.7 million on food. By adopting this resolution, the school district takes an important step toward making sure those millions support not only healthy and delicious food for students, but also a strong local economy, fair working conditions for food sector workers, and sustainable and humane farming practices.

    Last week’s resolution was the result of a two and a half year process led by a robust and diverse community-based coalition advocating for the Program. The coalition roll call included 33 different groups and organizations represented at the meeting. Close to 100 local residents filled the auditorium—including many students, parents, food industry workers, civil rights activists, and environmentalists. Among those donning orange armbands in support were Board of Education members Ozie Davis III, Ryan Messer, and Mike Moroski, who introduced the resolution. Davis III remarked, “There’s not often a coalition of this might for any subject matter; your commitment to the children of our district is commendable.”

    A large number of participants signed up to speak, with 19 commenters and 50 minutes of public comment. Community members gave compelling testimony, speaking to the many facets of the Good Food Purchasing Program, why they support it, and how it would affect them and their communities. It was a powerful example of democracy in action, as the community played its part in shaping how our public resources are used.

    The public comments period included comments from a student about the crushing effects of hunger that many students experience daily. Another participant, delivering her remarks in Spanish with help from an interpreter, spoke about her injuries as a result of negligence at a food packing plant where she worked for a company that has a contract with CPS for thousands of dollars. Another worker—identifying herself as a proud union member and a product of Cincinnati Public Schools—emphasized the importance of the participation of people of color, specifically African Americans, in the purchasing process. Area farmers, environmental sustainability advocates, and public health experts also spoke about how the Good Food Purchasing Program helps to support local, organic farmers and provide kids with the nutrition they need for healthy development. (A recording of the full session is available at https://youtu.be/B6qbGzKvrbg, with public comments starting around 47:00.)

    In a statement, UFCW Local 75 President Kevin Garvey commended the Cincinnati Board of Education for passing the Good Food Purchasing Policy: “The board took a strong step towards providing strong incentives for food companies receiving taxpayer dollars to pay their workers a living wage, provide strong protections against workplace hazards, and otherwise move towards adopting more sustainable food production practices in a manner that bolsters Cincinnati’s local economy.”

    “The Good Food Purchasing Program has energized food justice activists in Cincinnati,” says Brennan Grayson, director of the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center. “It brings a bold vision to food justice activism, one that brings people from all parts of the food chain together. And togetherness is what people need to make changes in the food system.”

    Many thanks to the CPS Board, the food purchasing staff, and the Cincinnati Good Food Purchasing Program coalition members for their work advancing good food in Cincinnati.


  • January 29, 2019 12:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Policy Matters Ohio
    Author:
     Hannah Halbert

    In 2017, Cincinnati Public Schools spent more than $7.7 million on food for their kids. That’s $7.7 million of leverage over a food supply chain that runs from farm to factory to cafeteria. Last night, the Cincinnati School Board chose to use that leverage to do some good. By adopting the Good Food Purchasing Policy, the district will direct more of those millions back into the Cincinnati regional economy, creating good jobs that stay in the community, prioritize employer practices that provide workers dignity at work, promote sustainable and humane farming practices, and put healthy, fresh and delicious food in cafeterias for kids to enjoy.

    When big public institutions commit to values-based purchasing practices, suppliers have good reason to adopt those values too. The more we spend on suppliers who share our values, the more we strengthen their supply chain, and the more we drive down costs. That makes it easier for other institutions to get on board. The state of Ohio spent $2.1 billion on goods and services in 2016, and just three-fifths went to in-state vendors. Shifting more of that spending to Ohio-based, high road vendors would support an economy that works better for all of us. In absence of values-based purchasing practices at the state level, more local institutions should adopt these innovations.

    Ohioans don’t want public policy experiments; we want evidence-based plans that produce real benefits. GFPP fits the bill. Since the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) started the program in 2012, it has redirected more than $12 million to local fruit and vegetable growers. Los Angeles County has added 150 new well-paying food chain jobs as a direct result of the program, and 160 truck drivers along the district’s food supply chain have seen higher wages and improved working conditions. School lunches now contain less sodium, less high fructose corn syrup, and less red meat, and the district saves nearly 20 million gallons of water each week. Thanks to GFPP, public schools in Austin, Texas now spend nearly half their food budget in-state. The University of Texas at Austin now sources more than 525,000 pounds annually from community gardens and local growers. Cincinnati is part of a growing wave of support for good food purchasing policy: Good Food coalitions are working in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago, Oakland, Washington, New York and San Francisco.

    The City of Cincinnati is leading the way on innovative worker protections. In 2016, the city adopted a wage theft ordinance – the first of its kind in Ohio – to ensure workers are paid for all the hours they work. Now, the Cincinnati Public Schools will be a leader in high-road purchasing by adopting the Good Food Purchasing Policy. Policies that encourage healthy food, sustainable development and worker protection are being eroded. Local governments and other anchor institutions like hospital systems, universities and sports arenas have the ability to use procurement as a way to advance smart policy. We applaud Cincinnati Public Schools for their innovative approach and hope more local governments do the same.

    Visit the original article.

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