Rural County Aims to be Most Sustainable in Kentucky

New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future, a community non-profit “working to create positive change in rural Kentucky counties” has helped to position Washington County, Kentucky to become the most sustainable county in Kentucky.

Recently profiled by UK’s College of Agriculture news, their efforts have included a series of small steps, beginning with the clean up of 27 illegal dumpsites in 2001. By building consensus and working with stakeholder groups throughout the community, Washington County’s Pioneers have created a sustainability ethic that includes curbside recycling, energy efficiency and lighting improvements, support for local food and a county-wide master plan that promotes farmland preservation while encouraging growth.

The County has drawn on support from the UK College of Agriculture and Cooperative Extension, including Professor Lori Garkovich. “What I find in the community are a lot of creative thinkers and leaders,” she said. “This is a community with elastic boundaries between different organizations, both public and private. They reach out to each other. They explore collaborations that are public-private or unique public-public ones.”

Speaking about the source of motivation for Washington County’s sustainability efforts, Dennis Morgeson, a horticulture extension agent for the county, said, “It all comes back to the people here in the community. They want to keep it the way it is. They have connections to the land, and they want future generations to have that connection. The only way to have that is to preserve it.”

By taking a small-steps approach, and building a wide base of support throughout the community, Washington County is making progress towards becoming a model of sustainable rural living.

Kristin Tracz

About Kristin Tracz

Kristin Tracz served MACED’s Research and Policy team from 2009-2012 working on clean energy policy, energy efficiency programs and the Appalachian Transition Initiative. She joined MACED after finishing her Master of Environmental Management degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She now lives and works in Washington, DC.