Sara's Column: Eco-friendly is a trend worth following

I’m not normally all that interested in trends.
May 2, 2014
Sara McManamy-Johnson

I’m not normally all that interested in trends. 

Not the statistics kind; the “what’s cool” kind. I tend to just find what I like and stick with it, sometimes too long, granted.

But I’m becoming a fan of one fairly recent trend – the eco-friendly movement.

I had the opportunity to speak with Cumberland University biology instructor Kim Atwood Thursday about a rain garden project she and the City of Lebanon’s stormwater inspector R.T. Baldwin spearheaded.

Among the project’s aims are to help reduce flooding along McClain Avenue while also beautifying the area and purifying the stormwater runoff before it reaches the groundwater table.

While we were talking, she mentioned that rain gardens and other similar eco-friendly projects have become almost trendy. I’d never stopped to think about it before, but she’s absolutely right.

It’s become “cool” to go environmentally friendly, and more people are doing so.

You can see it when you walk into a grocery store and see the reusable shopping bags or the ever-expanding organic section (although, I’ll grant that much of that is also a result of the increasing awareness of health ramifications from pesticides).

I was impressed by the university’s and the city’s efforts with the rain garden project, in large part because I’ve seen what happens when you’re not so nice to the environment.

As I’ve mentioned before in here, I’m not originally from Lebanon. I was actually born and raised in Oak Ridge about five to 10 miles from the Oak Ridge National Labs’ K-25 uranium enrichment facility.

Some of my earliest memories include playing in the dirt, like most young kids do. I’d take any leaves and berries I could find and mix them up with a big heaping handful of soil and some water. I called it my witch’s brew. I loved how it had a nice, silvery sheen when I added the soil.

I didn’t realize until years later that most soil did not have that nice, silvery sheen.

Most soil wasn’t contaminated by huge amounts of mercury.

I don’t know exactly how much mercury was spilled over the years in the city, but I know the city, state and federal governments have spent decades trying to clean it up.

And it had been spread far and wide throughout the city by the natural water system.

Fortunately, I believe I’ve escaped the health consequences of the mercury exposure, but it made me more aware of the potential ramifications of environmental contamination.

There’s a reason it’s called an eco-system – it’s all interrelated, even if we don’t necessarily see it.

And if it’s becoming a trend to protect that or at least not abuse it, I say kudos because the more people on board, the more visible the effects.

Sara McManamy-Johnson is the digital content director for The Lebanon Democrat and Wilson County News. Email her at or follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports. 

To learn more about Cumberland University’s and the City of Lebanon’s rain garden, read Sara’s story in Saturday’s edition of The Democrat.


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