People's Choice Award

It's official! We have now been given word that Nashvillians are not the only ones who love the Mobile Lab!

We were recently recognized at the BRIC (Building Recognition in Chattanooga) awards as the Sustainable PROJECT OF THE YEAR - PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD!

We were nominated for this award by Tennessee Solar Solutions (TSS), who generously volunteered their time and energy to install the six 300 watt solar panels on top of our Mobile Lab. Our solar power is enough to power the entire contents of our Mobile Lab for a majority of our school visits.

Thank you BRIC and TSS for the exciting award! We are so happy to be recognized as a sustainable favorite! 


Bigs, Littles and their "People Power"!

This week we had the pleasure of hanging out in the Mobile Lab with our friends over at Big Brothers Big Sisters!

This was special for many reasons (aside from having to find a parking spot for our GIANT, oversized Mobile Lab in a SMALL urban parking lot) :

One - Instead of the usual single age - group of students, we had students ranging from 4th through 9th grade in one group.

Two - We also had these students mentors, otherwise known as their "bigs"

And Three - Instead of being on a strict time schedule - everyone had time to roam and explore and discuss the activities with their mentors.

It was a beautiful thing to see. The discussions and questions and curiosity exhibited by the pairs was really reassuring for what our Mobile Lab brings to the communities we serve.

We ended the night by making "people powered" salsa with the blender bike and eating and chatting about sustainability.  Thanks for a great night BBBS!

Engage Green: Saving April Showers

Last night it rained, and then it POURED. Negative as that sounds - it was the perfect backdrop for last night's monthly Engage Green event that we put on with Lightning 100's Team Green Adventures at Cumberland River Compact.

Cumberland River Compact does a lot of cool things, but one of the things they are most known for (and that we are super thankful they do!), is their rain barrel program. They offer 55 gallon rain barrels at a small cost, in addition to educating our community on the benefits they offer! 

At the workshop we not only learned how these rain barrels are constructed (the original plastic barrels are actually donated by Coca Cola!), but also all the benefits that utilizing rain barrels can have!   

Rain barrels reduce the amount of runoff into our streams, provide plants with water that has not had to be sent through the drinking-quality water processing, provides water during a drought AND saves you money on your water bill. A win-win-win-win.

Thank you for those that came out and talked rain with us! 

Bill Nye the Science Guy!

Have you ever seen kids (and adults alike) get so giddy after seeing a scientist that they are literally shaking with excitement and disbelief? Urban Green Lab can now answer that with a confident, YES. 

Today, Urban Green Lab's Executive Director, Jennifer Westerholm, had the honor of introducing the infamous Bill Nye the Science Guy for his book signing at Vanderbilt's Barnes and Noble. The event had an expected 400 science enthusiasts in attendance, many of them teachers from around the country in town for the National Science Teacher's Conference. 

A Caffeinated Adventure: Bongo

The first Wednesday night of every month is an exciting one. It is the monthly time for Urban Green Lab to come together with Lightning 100's,  Team Green Adventures, for the monthly sustainability workshop called "Engage Green".

This month's workshop was centered around everyone's favorite morning addiction: coffee.

Tom, the Head Roaster at Bongo Java's roasting and packaging facility was nice enough to let us explore the space and ask him about 18 too many questions. The talk was fascinating, and really got people's thoughts brewing over all things coffee. Did you know that coffee can be labeled from a particular region if a single bean from that region was placed in the bag? That co-ops are much more fair than "fair trade" and that "fair trade" can be hardly fair? So many aspects to the world of coffee that most of us had no idea about! 

The Bongo labels ready to be processed onto coffee bags.

The Bongo labels ready to be processed onto coffee bags.

Thank you to all who came out to this fascinating look at coffee and of course to Tom, for being an amazing host and coffee expert!

Oh, and tip for the easily over-caffeinated: eat a banana and drink a glass of water. The potassium and water will flush the caffeine out of your system. If only that were common knowledge ...

Tom standing next to the OFFICIAL Bongo Java coffee roaster.

Tom standing next to the OFFICIAL Bongo Java coffee roaster.



Bigs, Littles, and lots of Reusable Bags!

When you combine Turnip Green Creative Reuse's space and materials with lots of eager, crafty girls - you've got quite the equation for awesome creations!

Last Tuesday we had a blast teaching Big Brothers Big Sisters (in this case only sisters) of Middle Tennessee about how plastic bags and old clothes can be hard on the environment. The girls learned how reusable bags can be best for the elimination of plastic ones, and how easy it is to "upcycle" old t-shirts. With that knowledge, the girls set to work to make crazy-designed, practical reusable bags out of old t-shirts. Everyone had an awesome time, and will definitely think twice before taking that next plastic bag at the grocery store! 

Out For a Spin: First School Visit

Within 24 hours of unveiling our Mobile Lab to the public, we were parked and ready to go at Stratford STEM Magnet High School for our very first visit. On that first day we were able to open 74 students' eyes to the importance of sustainability and what small changes they could do to save money and live healthier lives while helping our world become more sustainable. One school down, 18 to go for our current schedule! If you know of a summer program or camp that would like a visit from the Mobile Lab contact us at engage@urbangreenlab.orgSummer will be here before we know it!


... and we're off! 

There are few things more exciting in the world of non-profits than seeing a project that has been the culmination of years of hard work take off and officially LAUNCH. Yes, that's right, our Mobile Lab is now pounding pavement and already changing students' lives as of last Tuesday, February 16th. We cannot thank the countless sponsors, board members, supporters and positive energy that so many people and organizations have offered us. 

Our launch had an estimated 150 attendees along with numerous members of the press. Be sure to check out our story from The Tennessean, our Segment on Channel 5, the MNPS blog, and Nashville Banner's video. We were also interviewed on Nashville's Independent Radio Station Lightning 100, as well as mentioned on NPR! 

Thank you to all who attended the launch, with a special thanks to W.O. Smith School, for hosting and to our speakers for inspiring the audience. 

Engage Green: Music City Center Tour

Thank you to all who came out to Engage Green's February workshop and participated in our Sustainability tour of Music City Center! For sustainability lovers, Music City Center is 2.1 million square feet of green building goodness. With a 175, 000 square foot green roof, 360,000 gallon rain water cistern and 845 solar panels, Music City Center was not only beautiful but also impressively sustainable.

Welcome Mobile Lab-ers

Today was a big day in the life of the Mobile Lab. We met (most) of the volunteers that will be helping us out when bringing the Mobile Lab to schools every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday starting in just a couple weeks. Each volunteer brought a sustainable educational activity to share and everyone left inspired, excited and curious about everything to come. Next stop: Mobile Lab Volunteer Training Part 2 WITH the Mobile Lab!

We're Growing! Meet Catherine!

Catherine Walker, our Educator, started work last week. She will lead our Mobile Lab programming in schools and the community, drawing on nearly a decade of experience educating in both nonprofit and corporate settings. We feel incredibly lucky to have her! Read her bio on our website, or get her vital stats below:

Graduated from Davidson college in 2006
Worked with Appalachian Sustainable Development as an instructor in Abingdon, VA
Managed a farm in Asheville, NC
Lived in NYC to work as a corporate trainer at Whole Foods
Can usually be found growing, cooking or eating great food with her better half, Adam (her words not ours)
Is THRILLED to bring sustainability education to life with the Mobile Lab

That's a Wrap

2015 was a great year for Urban Green Lab: 

Secured a major grant from U.S. EPA, 

Built the Mobile Lab,

Forged official new partnerships with MNPS, Lipscomb, and Vanderbilt, to name a few!,

Our inaugural class of VISTA volunteers completed their service and three excellent new volunteers began,

Mentored 6 college interns,

Launched a training to help the business community be more green and healthy,

Had a successful Indiegogo campaign (thanks to you!), and

Held 62 workshops with 2,079 attendees at schools, businesses, gardens, tiny homes, and the occasional brewery.

With so much momentum from 2015, we couldn't be more excited about 2016: The Year of The Mobile Lab. (That's what your ancient Chinese calendar says, right?).  In just a month and a half, our Mobile Lab will be on the road teaching the students of Davidson county about sustainability -- something we have had in the works for a long time and couldn't be more excited about!

We wish you and your family all the best in 2016 and can't wait to see you at a workshop, school, or just around town!



Engage Green: Sustainable Gift-Giving

Thanks to everyone who came out to Urban Green Lab and Team Green Adventures' "Engage Green" December workshop filled with the magic of Sustainable Gift Giving!

Thanks to sustainability-guru Haleigh Doyle of sustainable waste management company Eternal Returns, we learned the art of candle-making in a way that is completely sustainable with hemp wicks, locally sourced beeswax, coconut oil and upcycled glass! 

Thanks Atmalogy for the perfect atmosphere!

Saying Hello...

Three new Americorps VISTAs are already knee-deep in Urban Green Lab goodness and will be serving the organization for the next year. From left to right, Charlotte McGoldrick is the new Development Associate, Grace Parker has taken over Program Evaluation and Mobile Lab Logistics, and Devon Barnhard is handling Communications and Community Engagement. Bios and photos (that don't include people in the background) will be up on the website shortly. Thank you to everyone who has so graciously welcomed these three bright spirits so far!

Solar Excitement

There's nothing quite like coming home for the holidays - and our Mobile Lab Trailer did exactly that! Now that the trailer is safe and sound in Nashville, all of the Mobile Lab transformations we have up our sleeve can begin. 

First things first... let's get this puppy powered by renewable energy. Thanks to Tennessee Solar Solutions for installing the Lab's 1.8 MW solar array, which will provide for 90% of the Lab's energy needs.

On the Road Again

The LED lights are in, the finishing touches have been made, and our custom trailer is on the road today, headed to Nashville. With the trailer shell complete and functional, the next several weeks will see the transformation from empty trailer to long-dreamed-of mobile learning lab. First up? The installation of solar equipment and panels this Saturday, thanks to Tennessee Solar Solutions! Our friends at TSS are coming up from Chattanooga to donate their extensive talents to the cause and help us make the lab nearly 100% solar powered! Stay tuned for more pictures and updates.


Our partners at CTS Trailers are blazing ahead with mobile lab construction. After the frame was completed in September, they forged onwards into the "options" phase. This included installing energy-efficient lighting and other technical aspects of the lab. Apart from the interactive panels and matching activities, the lab itself is a teaching tool; every piece offers a chance for educating students on the endless possibilities in sustainable design. Thanks also to Lightwave Solar and Owen Design for help with panel design and solar panel selection and installation. This month, the mobile will arrive in Nashville where 1220 Exhibits will install the panels. Next comes an artfully-designed exterior wrap application, and the mobile lab will be ready for it's debut! Stay tuned for more pictures.

Au Revoir and Happy Trails to our VISTAs

Such a bittersweet - but delicious night of celebration as we said Au Revoir and Happy Trails to the amazing Eileen, Lexie and Erin as they ended their year of service as Americorps VISTAs. Volunteers, Board Members, and friends of Urban Green Lab enjoyed wood-fired pizzas in the perfect backyard setting thanks to Jeffrey Orkin and his fiance' Julia Duchon. and his wife and their impressive hosting skills. Thanks to everyone that came out and MANY, MANY thanks to our tireless and compassionate VISTAs this year. We will miss you!