Local Spotlight: Green Umbrella

Politics aside, if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we need to take care of the Earth. But environmentalism can feel like such a big, overwhelming thing, and it can feel impossible to truly make a difference.  

However, at Green Umbrella, the key to affecting positive environmental change is through collaboration. Started as a way to preserve local greenspace, Green Umbrella now works on tristate sustainability initiatives, outdoor recreation events and nature awareness campaigns.  

Green Umbrella is perhaps best-known for its hand in Cincinnati’s annual Great Outdoor Weekend, a free, city-wide event to get people outdoors each September. Cincinnati Parent spoke to Green Umbrella’s director of public engagement Rashida Manuel about sustainability, how families can “go green” and why we should care about the great outdoors.  

Tell us how Green Umbrella started. 

In 1998, we were founded as a conservation initiative to build public-private collaboration around greenspace conservation in Greater Cincinnati.  Our mission expanded in 2005 to include outdoor recreation and nature awareness activities for children.  

Run by volunteers for over a decade, in 2011 we partnered with Agenda 360 and Vision 2015 (now Skyward) to become the region’s environmental collective impact backbone organization tasked with drastically improving our region’s environmental footprint. Our service area now includes 10 counties in the tristate. 

What are some local initiatives Green Umbrella has worked on? 

Green Umbrella is a bit of a sustainability incubator in our region. Over the years, we’ve helped launch several organizations, initiatives and programs that play integral roles in our community, including Red Bike, Paddlefest, Kids Outdoor Adventure Expo and others. 

Currently, we have seven action teams that tackle issues ranging from increasing the production and consumption of local foods to eliminating residential and commercial food waste. Additionally, our three staffed initiatives — TriState Trails, the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council and the Cincinnati 2030 District — work to expand the region’s trail system, advance a healthy and sustainable food system and create a network of high-performing buildings in Cincinnati. 

Environmentalism can feel like such a big issue. How can individuals feel empowered to make a difference?  

Environmentalism is a big issue. However, one thing we believe is that collectively, we can make a big impact. That means learning about the impact of climate change and making small changes in your day-to-day routine: taking public transportation or carpooling to work, pledging to shift 10% of your food budget to buying locally, getting an energy audit of your home or business, planting a rain garden at your neighborhood school, using reusable rather than disposable eating utensils and being vigilant about food waste.  

Kids can and should get involved, too! Recently, James Suffield, a local child with a passion for reducing waste, decided to host a fundraiser for Green Umbrella for his 10th birthday. James also created a petition for biodegradable trays at his school, stopped using disposable lids and straws and even asked for a composter for his birthday! There are ample opportunities for young people to take action

What is Great Outdoor Weekend? 

On September 28-29, we will host the 16th annual Great Outdoor Weekend, the region’s largest outdoor activity sampler event. This year’s weekend features nearly 100 free, family-friendly events throughout the tristate. Participants can try out a variety of activities, like hiking along the Whitewater River, paddling down the Mill Creek, tagging monarch butterflies or lighting up the Avondale community on a night walk.    

Going forward, what do you hope the future holds for Green Umbrella and Cincinnati? 

Green Umbrella is primed to lead the region to the next phase of sustainability. We know that each sector has a role to play in making this region more sustainable and we’re supporting them in doing it. Green Umbrella is excited to continue to engage Cincinnati in topics like equity and inclusion and the impacts of climate change. We envision a resilient region in which everyone thrives, and we’re committed to helping our region get there.  

For more information on Green Umbrella or to learn more about Great Outdoor Weekend, visit greenumbrella.org. 

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