Stephanie Bulger was trying to find a patch of grass to graze her amateur-owner hunter at a horse show when she first started thinking about how competitions could do better by the environment.
“I couldn’t find any grass that wasn’t littered with bits of trash and cigarette butts,” Bulger said.
Bulger’s husband, Mike Bulger, is an avid amateur surfer and participates in programs that help clear trash from the oceans and beaches he frequents. Stephanie thought: Why not kickstart an effort to get amateur riders to do the same for their sport?
“It can be hard sometimes when we look at a problem like climate change, and it just feels too big for anything we do individually to make a difference,” Stephanie said. “But I thought: What if I could do something to change the little horse show world I am a part of?’ ”
So at the end of the winter show circuit, the New York City native sat down and drew up plans for Green Is The New Blue, an environmental program geared toward helping horse shows be more eco-friendly.
“We want to help educate horse show managers and give them resources and tools to help horse shows lessen their negative impact on their environment,” Stephanie said.
Green Is The New Blue will partner with its first show at this year’s Upperville Colt and Horse Show (Virginia), June 3-9.
“Our philosophy is to do a few things well instead of trying to do everything at once, so we’re starting off with a recycling program,” Stephanie explained. “We’re going to have volunteers at Upperville who will go around to the barns and collect things like shavings bags and twine and other things that can be recycled, and they’re going to make sure they get sorted and recycled properly.”
Stephanie is putting together packets of information for horse show managers with sustainability ideas and information on how to recycle different waste materials. The program encourages shows to find food vendors who will offer eco-friendly alternatives to plastic utensils and cups. They also hope to get sponsors for initiatives like water coolers and biodegradable cups in place of single-use plastic water bottles.
“We want to make it easy for horse shows to go somewhere and find this information because it can be really confusing,” Stephanie said. “The rules for recycling differ from state to state and even county to county. Programs like the one we will have at Upperville will really take the guesswork out of it, and we want to be able to give horse shows across the country access to information on their own local recycling protocols.”
In the two months since she started Green Is The New Blue, Stephanie has been floored by the response she’s gotten from horse shows and fellow competitors. There are already plans to include this year’s Brandywine Horse Show summer circuit (Pennsylvania) and the Washington International Horse Show (District of Columbia) in the fall.
“This is really something that is on people’s minds right now,” Stephanie said. “They want to be able to do something, and hopefully a program like this can help them take those small steps that will make our horse shows greener.”