Written by: Jen Barker Published: 08 February 2020
Plastic shavings bags, gas guzzling transportation, baling twine, manure mountains—equestrians are no doubt making their mark on the environment. So where do we even begin to reduce our “carbon hoofprints?”
“Pick one thing that seems achievable, doable, and easy. Start there,” Says Stephanie Bulger, founder of Green is the New Blue, an organization dedicated to helping equestrians lessen their impact on the environment. “Make a small change in your day to day and that will have a huge impact.”
For Bulger, that one small change was to give up plastic straws. Simple enough. Then, while looking for a place to graze her horse at a show, Bulger was disheartened to find that most of the grassy areas were littered with trash. That fateful walk, and the realization that environmental issues are often overlooked within the horse community spurred Bulger into action and Green is the New Blue was born.
“It felt almost like a calling. It all clicked into place for me in that moment,” Bulger says. “My son was two at the time, and I thought, this is my duty to do this for him and also the animals. The animals deserve the best the world has to offer. (Green is the New Blue) came from them.”
Green is the New Blue provides information and tips for all equestrians, and also partners with horse shows, including the Aiken Charity Horse Show, to help find ways to become more environmentally friendly. Bulger applies the same “pick something achievable and doable” philosophy when she consults with show organizers, and helps guide each horse show on a case by case basis, taking resource and space constraints into consideration.
Still not sure where to start? Reduce. Refuse things you don’t need, like straws or the paper cups that may be delivered with your barn’s water cooler. If you’re still buying bottled water, opt for a reusable bottle instead, so that you aren’t contributing to the 38 million plastic water bottles that are thrown out each year.
“We told our water service not to bring paper cups to put in the little sleeve. It wasn’t long before people realized they needed to bring their own reusable bottle,” Bulger says. “A good example is contagious. After that one small change, I noticed my barn manager bought a reusable iced coffee cup and started using that every day when she got her latte from Dunkin’ Donuts!”
Green is the New Blue encourages equestrians to share their creative ideas for reusing potential barn waste. Examples include floor mats made from baling twine and shelves hung with old stirrup leathers, but the possibilities are endless!
- Paper shavings bags can be reused to wrap gifts, poultice legs or pack hooves.
- Baling twine is great for quick repairs around the barn, packing horse show equipment, or even tied around that gift you just wrapped with a shavings bag!
- Horse shoes, stirrups and bits make great home décor once they’ve outlived their usefulness in the barn. Think windchimes and napkins holders!
It’s impossible to completely eliminate waste, so make recycling a priority. If a horse show doesn’t provide a recycling bin, collect recyclables in your car or trailer to take home to recycle. Also, make sure you know the recycling guidelines in your community. Much of what is placed in recycling bins ultimately ends up the landfill because consumers are unaware of their recycling requirements. For example, items must be clean to be accepted by a recycling center.
Bulger also notes that not all plastic is created equal and very often, plastic shavings bags are not recyclable.
“Source shavings that are packaged in paper instead of plastic,” Bulger says. “Materials have a cost no matter what, but paper is compostable and infinitely more disposable than sheet plastic.”
Most importantly, remember that small changes can make a huge impact.
More tips on going green
- Keep pastures well maintained to maximize healthy grass growth and reduce runoff.
- Leave the golf cart at home and ride your bike or walk at horse shows.
- Buy second hand items from your local tack shop.
- Purchase items like fly spray, shampoo and detangler in bulk and refill smaller bottles as they run out.
- Carpool to the barn and horse shows.