Corporate Rain Garden Makes Its Mark

Dec. 4, 2008

About the author: Russ Turpin is environmental specialist for EcoGro and commercial/professional team co-coordinator for the Bluegrass Rain Garden Alliance. Turpin can be reached at 859.231.0500 or by e-mail at [email protected].

With the current financial disaster that is plaguing many businesses, it is hard to look beyond the day-to-day crisises and establish a commitment to long-term improvements to our communities. Issues like storm water runoff, water quality and environmental stewardship rarely come into consideration as companies look for strategies to stay competitive. However, these issues are key to healthy, vibrant and sustainable communities. What’s the payoff? Making, literally, a big impression on your watershed and identifying your company as a leader in clean water.

Imagination & Implementation

In January 2008, representatives from EcoGro, Coca-Cola, Lexmark Intl., University of Kentucky Tracy Farmer Center for the Environment and the Bluegrass Rain Garden Alliance met to discuss an innovative idea: rain gardens. The city of Lexington, Ky., has been looking for new ways to address its water quality and storm water problems. The Coca-Cola rain garden was a design/build project that was built to launch a new paradigm in addressing storm water runoff from industrial and commercial properties.

Although not the first, this is the No. 1 rain garden registered in the Alliance's 2,010 Rain Gardens by 2010 initiative. The mission of the Bluegrass Rain Garden Alliance is to work with central Kentucky cities (especially National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Phase I and II communities), organizations and indivual property owners to educate and advocate “greener” storm water solutions. The group’s goal is to have 2,010 rain gardens registered on its website,, before the year 2010. This is an auspicious date because Lexington is under a consent decree to have a storm water utility fee by 2010. In addition, Lexington will host the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games and have many international guests flying into the Bluegrass Airport.

An aerial view of this new Lexington landmark.

As viewed from the landing approach, this 3,000-sq-ft rain garden will be easily recognized as the iconic Coke bottle shape. Like most water quality structures, this rain garden was built to capture storm water runoff from a 0.75-acre parking lot during a 1-in. rain event. Sediments, oils, greases and pollutants that collect on the asphalt will wash into the basin rather than into South Elk Horn Creek. The water will soak into the soil and nurture the native wildflowers and grasses rather than rush into the city storm sewer.

What makes this project really stand out is that it is a deeper shade of green. Nearly 90 percent of all materials used to create this rain garden were either recylced, reused or salvaged. Lexington’s recycling center donated 28.5 tons of crushed glass, used as both a drainage medium and a decorative mulch. Wood chips from a local arborist were composted by EcoGro to create 40 cu yd of soil amendment. More than 350 brick pavers and three tons of limestone rock were salvaged from local construction projects and used to create borders along the bottle outline, label and iconic “wave.”

Representatives from participating organizations attended a dedication event.

Competitive Edge

The Coca-Cola project will act as a beacon for creative approaches to address many of the water quality concerns in central Kentucky. This project will be used as a case study for future green infrastructure projects, as well as education and research on water quality devices. This project has already received recognition and awards from the city of Lexington and identified Coca-Cola as a leader in watershed stewardship.

Not only on a local level, but also in the international market, Coca-Cola has initiated several programs to ensure better water resource management. After all, water is the company’s primary ingredient. The ideas of sustainability, stewardship and corporate responsibility will create a competitive edge amid current financial troubles and support those businesses that strive for brighter, greener days.

About the Author

Russ Turpin