Updated: Jul 10
By Marty Bauman Featured in The Competitive Equestrian
What if you planted a seed and it grew? That is exactly what is happening with Green Is the New Blue - and perhaps a lot more quickly than even Stephanie Riggio Bulger, founder of the equestrian environmental organization, might have expected.
Green Is the New Blue, a registered 501c3 not-for-profit organization, is dedicated to preserving the planet by helping horse shows, equestrian facilities and individuals reduce waste and promote sustainability. In addition to educating staff, riders, trainers, vendors, and spectators on simple, yet effective ways they can make a difference, the organization provides tools to make it easy to implement changes.
"Our goal with Green Is the New Blue is to affect change in the horse show industry," said Bulger. "We are trying to demonstrate best practices and provide tools for environmental stewardship that will help everyone in our industry adopt practices that can have a real impact on protecting our world. We try to help educate and provide the resources that are needed.
Most people want to be able to do something, and hopefully a program like ours can help them take steps that will make horse shows and facilities more environmentally responsible. This will benefit the animals we love and their future riders. Our goal is to empower and inspire equestrians to join us in our mission to clean up horse shows and lessen their environmental impact."
Bulger was inspired to start the organization when she realized the negative impact horse events and equestrian venues were having on the environment. One day she was hand-walking one of her horses around the grounds of a major horse show and was struck by the litter she saw. "I couldn't find any grass that wasn't littered with cigarette butts, bottle caps, snack wrappers or plastic water bottles," she said. "Then I noticed that there were not recycling bins and no options to refill water bottles or coffee cups. i knew something had to be done to change this."
Bulger recognized how little the horse show world was doing. She knew it could do better. "looking deeper into the industry, it became clear that our sport generates a tremendous amount of waste and is negatively impacting the environment. I just knew that it didn't have to be that way."
Once she established Green Is the New Blue, Bulger enlisted the help of longtime friend R. Scot Evans as the organization's Creative Director. Evans has an extensive background in the equestrian world including being a founding board member of the Equestrian Aid Foundation, with several years as its president. He has been an "R" judge in the hunter, jumper, and equitation disciplines for many years, judging such major events as the ASPCA Maclay Finals. He has worked in Sponsor Relations for Stadium Jumping, Inc. and the Hampton Classic and is also a well-known and respected trainer and clinician.
"Scot was the perfect person to help enlist partners and turn our ideas into reality," said Bulger. "He is so well known and is highly respected by all who know him. There was no doubt in my mind that he was just the right person to take our organization to the next level!"
One of Green Is the New Blue's core strategies is to enlist "Green Partners" to help implement sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. To be a Green Partner, all an event or facility has to do is pledge to do something in support of the organization's mission.
Some significant partners joined immediately and in its first year, Green Is the New Blue successfully launched programs at several partner horse shows including the Upperville Colt & Horse Show, Brandywine Horse Shows, Aiken Charity Horse Show, Pennsylvania National Horse Show and Washington International Horse Show. Joining as partners in the first part of 2020 were the Desert Circuit, Palm Beach Masters Series and Split Rock Jumping Tour. Efforts are ongoing to greatly expand this list and to broaden the effort to equestrian facilities throughout the country.
"The Desert Circuit was such a success story," said Evans. "They were so excited to work with us. They eliminated single-use plastic bottles and placed stations for refilling water bottles - which we provided to all exhibitors free of charge - all around the grounds. They greatly expanded the number of recycling bins on the grounds and placed signs - in both English and Spanish - at all the wash racks in the stabling area encouraging grooms not to waste water.
"That success at the Desert Horse park made us realize how much more we can accomplish by working with facilities and not just with individual events," Evans continued. "The Aiken Horse park was also quick to jump on board and having these two as partners is helping to open doors with other facilities as well."
Green Is the New Blue is also working to motivate individuals to get involved through its "Green Society." The Green Society invites anyone from the horse show world to share on the Green Is the New Blue website their ideas and any things they have done to incorporate sustainability into their stable management practices or equestrian lifestyle.
"The thinking is that the more we learn about what others are doing, the better we all can do," said Evans. "You never know what might hit home with someone and move them to do something. By involving as many people as possible, we can build a vibrant movement with a truly significant impact.
Green Is the New Blue is also developing a custom green products list from a variety of partners for everyday use that can help limit the effect on our environment. That list will also be posted on the Green Is the New Blue website.
The Seed is Growing
"It can be difficult sometimes to look at problems like pollution and climate change and think that anything we do as individuals can actually make a difference," said Bulger, "but there is so much we can do together as a community. Green Is the New Blue started as an idea, a seed we planted, and it makes me so happy to see how quickly it is growing. People are joining our effort and doing what they can to help."
"I truly believe that it is just the beginning and what we are seeing is the growth of a movement that will bring greener practices into the equestrian world and help make our world a better place to live for everyone!"
More information on Green Is the New Blue, and on how to join to help make horse shows more environmentally conscious and sustainable, is available at www.greeisthenewblue.org.
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