Inspiring Change to Save our Earth

By Bernheim

Wendell Berry once said, “The Earth is what we all have in common.” Plants, animals and humans alike are sustained by it. We are deeply moved by its mysterious natural beauty and in awe of its wonders. We explore and find rest in its great outdoors. Yet, our actions are leading to rapid climate change, destroying this magical place we call home. Recent reports have shown a significant decline in species populations, air quality, and more. If left unchanged, climate change poses an unprecedented threat to human civilization and the planet’s ecosystem.

Protecting our environment is of utmost importance. Large forest blocks like Bernheim are an essential part of the fight to combat climate change. Forests are home to trees, which absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, reducing carbon emissions. They also regulate waterways, protect soil, and cool cities and entire regions.

“We actively strive to offset climate change and to be a leader in sustainability. We believe the actions we take can create ripple effects that inspire and motivate change across our region, state, nation, and the world,” said Bernheim’s Executive Director Mark Wourms.

At Bernheim, we promote and are engaged in several efforts to help offset climate change:

Bernheim's LEED Platinum Visitor CenterBUILD LIKE A TREE
Cityscapes and urban areas need the oxygen and shade that trees provide. Green roofs bring a breath of fresh air to the concrete jungle, mitigating the urban heat island effect, saving on heating and cooling, improving air quality, and providing habitats for wildlife. The water runoff is cleaner, as rain drains through plants instead of tar, and those who visit can find a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. Bernheim has been pleased to install several rooftop gardens around Louisville, including the American Life Building and the Novak Center for Children’s Health.

Our Visitor Center, equipped with its own green roof, was the first LEED Platinum certified building in Kentucky and the surrounding region, and has positively contributed to the local, national, and international sustainable design movement. We hope it inspires our visitors to consider sustainable design that incorporates nature, literally embodying the idea of a “building like a tree.” Our Visitor Center creates oxygen, sequesters carbon, filters water and changes with the seasons. It is also a dynamic teaching tool, and we have been privileged to provide hundreds of tours to architects, designers, and city planners from all over the world.

In a world with a changing climate, we have to protect our large forest blocks and fight against forest loss. If forests are cleared or disturbed, carbon is released as carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, causing global warming. This threatens the very existence of plant and wildlife species. From the tiniest snail to the curious black bear, our planet’s plants, insects, and animals need the habitats that giant forests provide. We must respect conservation land and honor the easements that are set in place to protect areas like Bernheim if we are to enjoy a healthy planet.

Additionally, and in true giant fashion, our Forest Giants in a Giant Forest have brought larger-than-life attention to the use of recycled and repurposed materials. Using materials that would have otherwise been thrown away, world-renowned artist, Thomas Dambo, built the whimsical creations to demonstrate that trash can be a valuable resource. The Giants inspire us to recycle and think more deeply about
the impact our lifestyle choices have on the planet.

Art is not the only way we reuse and recycle. In addition to recycling stations throughout Bernheim, we repurpose lots of natural “trash.” Fallen trees are turned into tree cookies for kids to play with at our Children’s Play Garden or for mulch to beautify the arboretum. Water runoff is reused in our irrigation systems to keep our thousands of plant species vibrant and healthy. At Isaac’s Café, food waste is composted for use in the Edible Garden.

To truly grasp the impact of our choices, we must study our environment and the world around us. Over nine decades ago, Bernheim began a tradition of research. Our studies help to understand the effect of climate change and how to best manage our land. We are actively monitoring species, conducting bird research, and studying plant and animal lifecycles to understand how they are influenced by variations in climate and habitat factors – a study known as phenology. Research is crucial because it allows decision-makers to place climate change in the context of other significant challenges facing the nation and the world.

It’s always encouraging to see corporations joining the effort. Working together, Bernheim and Beam Suntory established the Jim Beam
Natural Water Sanctuary Alliance as an effort to protect ground and surface water, preserve wildlife habitats, and increase our water and
environmental education activities. These habitats support a wide array of wildlife, clean air, and water for surrounding communities as well as the water used to produce Jim Beam Bourbon. Clean water is essential for wildlife, human life, and our economy.

Part of our vision is to inspire the public towards more sustainable practices. By demonstrating best practices, we reduce our carbon
footprint by limiting the use of fossil fuels such as oil, carbon, and natural gas, and replacing them with renewable and cleaner sources of energy. These actions shrink our greenhouse gas emissions and encourage other to do the same.

How can we do this? One of the easiest ways is by eating a low-carbon diet. Our on-site Edible Garden is the primary source of ingredients for Isaac’s Café. We keep our menu plant rich with in-season food, avoiding processed foods.

Another is to make the switch to an electric car. We were one of the first organizations in Kentucky to install a public charging station so visitors can stop in and recharge their car while they take a hike and renew their mind, body, and soul.

At Bernheim, we want everyone to connect with nature, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or social status. We are firm believers that children are never too young to help save our planet. Through field trips, homeschool hikes, the Children at Play Network, ECO Kids Discovery Days, and many other programs and activities, we are investing in our youth to become the caretakers of the Earth. As children’s voices and laughter echo through our forest and the city streets, we are humbled to help inspire the next generation of environmental stewards.

“We all have the power to halt the catastrophic impacts of climate change, and our hope is that Bernheim’s actions will inspire you to begin today. We are responsible for the health of our land – there is no planet b. Let’s make 2020 the year we consume less, waste less, and respect our planet a little more. Spend time in nature. Become aware of the world around you and its beauty. This land is our land. Do your part to protect what we all have in common – this big, beautiful, mysterious Earth,” said Wourms.

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