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    This originally appeared in the 2019 Best of Louisville issue of Louisville Magazine.

    It’s easy to spot Sarah Lynn Cunningham’s Tyler Park home, which has a gleaming red Tesla Model 3 parked out front and solar panels on the roof. She’s tidying up sheet music at her piano when I enter. I ask her how long she has played. Her response: “Ever since I blew the whistle on extortion at MSD and got fired (in 2004) and was home all by myself during a dreary winter, complaining to my attorney about how long everything was taking and he said, ‘You need to find a way to cope with this.’”

    In 2007 Cunningham, an environmental engineer/historian/educator, founded the Louisville Climate Action Network, which has worked with people and organizations to cut down on energy usage and better manage their consumption and waste, though she believes focusing on changes in public policy is a stronger strategy than consumer education. She pulls out a pamphlet full of tips (from obeying speed limits to contacting elected officials), printed on 100-percent post-consumer recycled paper, without chlorine bleach, made using a wind-powered factory, and printed by a local family-owned union print shop. She takes a pen and scratches out one of the tips. “As soon as we got this printed, we found out that LG&E was gonna try to kill these (energy-efficiency) rebate programs, and they succeeded,” she says.

    She discovered her passion during her freshman year at Ballard High School, when she founded an ecology club and enlisted more than 100 members. “I believed that we would be finished by the time I was 30,” she says. She’s 62. “I think I have been blessed with enough victories that I just keep on going.” She mentions when then-Mayor Jerry Abramson backed off of his idea for a garbage incinerator. “If you are strategic and you arm yourself with the facts, and you don’t mouth off like a dumb shit, you can get a fair amount done,” she says.

    This originally appeared in the 2019 Best of Louisville issue of Louisville Magazine. Read more.

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    Photo by Mickie Winters,

    Mary Chellis Nelson's picture

    About Mary Chellis Nelson

    Mary Chellis Nelson is the managing editor of Louisville Magazine.

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