Green Sheep!

Green Sheep!
The most eco-friendly sheepdog trial to date took place this summer with great success.


By Brenna Fender

Raven OKeefe cares about the environment. We’re not talking about just recycle paper and aluminum cares, or even bring reusable bags to the grocery store cares. We’re talking about having and entirely green sheepdog trial.

That’s a lot of caring.

The concept seems nearly impossible, but OKeefe and her Wolston Farm Sheep Thrillz Sheepdog Trial partner, Ian Caldicott, made it work, and work well, over the July 4th weekend. The group took many extra steps to reduce waste and promote recycling during the event.

_28D4194One major source of ecological problems at large outdoor public events is the use of disposable water bottles, which create excess waste that must be recycled. OKeefe reduced this problem significantly by selling aluminum water bottles at cost ($2) and providing free ice water to those who purchased a bottle or brought a reusable bottle from home. No disposable bottles of water were sold or provided at the event, which was held in Scio, Oregon.

Other products used at the trial were as eco-friendly as possible. OKeefe provided recycled napkins that were compostable, supplied poop scoopers (to avoid using poop bags), and offered snacks only in biodegradable containers. OKeefe also provided information on recycling, composting, and resource availability for competitors and spectators who wanted to learn more.

Competitors at the Wolston Farm Sheep Thrillz Sheepdog Trial knew ahead of time that the event would be different. OKeefe sent out letters to competitors explaining the goal of having a green trial and what rules and procedures would be implemented in order to achieve it. In fact, to start the competition off as eco-friendly as possible, she offered an entry fee discount to all competitors who carpooled with others to the trial.

Thanks to the advance preparation and supportive competitors, the event went very smoothly. OKeefe told competitors after the trial, I was expecting some hassles and negative feedback, maybe complaints over the lack of bottled water, the non-traditional kinds of snack foods, and the lack of any garbage cans. So it was amazing and wonderful to hear nothing but positive comments, to see everyone willingly taking part. Usually during a trial I have to make the rounds a couple of times a day picking up trash, discarded water bottles, and all sorts of other junk. This year, I didn’t have to do it a single time.

Competitor Pearse Ward adds, I think that Ian and Raven are to be commended for taking such an innovative approach. The lack of plastic water bottles was a welcome change. For the price of a couple of plastic bottles of water, we got a souvenir permanent water bottle and ice water on demand. Raven’s use of compostable wrapping for all of the snacks was a definite step forward. The idea that after a weekend of activity, there was no garbage going to a landfill was something that all of the competitors appreciated._28D4408

Far from being an inconvenience or deterrent, the eco-friendly measures both inspired people and encouraged attendance. Ward says, From the point of view of a handler, I could see no downside to the effort and applaud Ian and Raven for taking a step in the right direction. It’s something I hope to introduce at other trials at which I’m on the organizing committee. OKeefe adds, Several spectators made a point of telling me that they came just because they’d heard about it being a green event. Isn’t that wonderful? I’ve also heard from two other people who are hosting sheepdog trials who want to do at least some of what we did, so the ripples really are spreading. That makes me so happy; it’s just what I was hoping for.

Despite the extra effort that competitors and spectators had to expend in order to follow the green trial rules, there were really no problems at the event. Everyone, including participants and spectators, was very positive about putting everything in the recycle and compostable/biodegradable bins we provided, says OKeefe.

The trial went so well that OKeefe plans to repeat the eco-friendly efforts in the future. She says, I absolutely intend to do every trial or other event we hold here on the farm in this same way. The only changes I’ll be making will be trying to find less expensive compostable packaging for snacks and drinks, so I’m not actually losing money in providing those things._28D5676

For more information on how to make your next dog competition more eco-friendly, please see the September/October issue of DogSport Magazine, on sale September 16, 2010.

Brenna Fender is a freelance writer and mother of two young children, a Whippet, and a young Papillon. The Whippet and her canine predecessors were collectively titled in conformation, obedience, agility, rally, hunting, and lure coursing. Brenna lives with her husband and family in Florida, and can be reached at

Photography Credit –
Field and Farm Photography
Bonnie Block