Southwest Florida’s Green Initiatives : How Cumulative Acts Are Making a Difference
Sep 30, 2011 11:36AM
● By Linda Sechrist
It is not given to us to know which acts, or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What’s needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts… We know that it does not take ‘everyone on Earth’ to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second or hundredth gale.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes
In 2007, seasonal Naples resident Dianne Rhodes hosted a screening of the Oscar-winning climate-change documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, for MoveOn.org, a family of organizations that helps concerned citizens find their political voice. Then, in 2008, she organized the Naples Network for Climate Action, in conjunction with 350.org, a global grassroots movement founded by activist and author Bill McKibben to solve the climate crisis. Ever since, the small group of concerned local citizens that were attracted to Rhodes’ efforts to help the planet has been tirelessly working to promote green initiatives within their Southwest Florida communities.
Since 2008, other than several public events, the accumulation of small acts intended to tip Southwest Florida towards sustainability has occurred behind the scenes. Activities to build public awareness included two events in 2009: Naples Leading the Way to Sustainability, held at Fleischmann Park in conjunction with 350.org; and Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream, a symposium. Hands Across the Sand took place in 2010, along with the U Gotta Go Green! Eco-Extravaganza at Mercato, in North Naples; and No Impact Challenge week, which helped Eco-Extravaganza attendees make good on their promises for eco-action.
In April 2011, a joint effort between CommuterServicesFL.com, the Smart Growth Coalition of Collier County, BikeWalkLee, the Fort Myers Office of Sustainability, Lee County Sustainability Office, UGottaGogreen.com and private citizens resulted in a successful, 10-day “Taking It to the the Streets” Transportation Transformation campaign. Collier County will follow up with a Commuter Services Day on October 20.
“Our most recent 350.org event, the Moving Planet event, at Lakes Park, in Fort Myers, as well as a second annual No Impact Week this month, helps to keep local momentum going,” says Marjorie Ziff-Levine. She is the founder of U Gotta Go Green!, a hyperlocal eco-networking web portal and green business directory, and also serves as a volunteer member of the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Collier task force.
PACE Collier Project
PACE, a citizen’s panel created by Collier County Commissioner Jim Coletta, is a public-private partnership opportunity for communities and local governments to reduce energy use and create jobs. Volunteer panel member Steve Hart says, “The task force, initially formed in 2010, has been exploring a commercial PACE initiative while waiting for the elimination of roadblocks from residential PACE initiatives.”
PACE’s city- and county-run programs will enable property owners to invest in new energy technologies without taxpayer subsidies. They will be able to “choose” to participate and repay the costs of their projects through an assessment on their annual property taxes over a fixed period. This eliminates the greatest barrier to these investments: significant upfront costs.
After Florida’s 2010 legislative session authorized the program for energy retrofits on residential and commercial properties, more than 12 Florida cities and several counties been developing their own PACE programs to support energy bill savings, green job growth and the foundations of a new energy economy in their communities.
“PACE’s commercial program will particularly benefit Florida schools with flat roofs that are perfect for solar panels,” advises Marie Barnett, an environmental architect and owner of Barnett Design Studio, who is also a PACE volunteer panel member. Barnett says older schools will also be able to retrofit with more energy-efficient, wind-resistant windows.
Cloe Waterfield is the founder of Twentyfifty, LLC, a scientific research and consulting company that helps organizations and individuals optimize the environment in their daily operations and long-term business goals. The sustainability and environmental consultant’s latest outreach program for the City of Naples is NPower, made possible by grant money from the federal government’s stimulus program.
NPower’s website, NPowerNaples.com, allows residents and businesses to stay informed about sustainability initiatives and new criteria for achieving a green certification. “Our Green Business Certification Program has four focus areas: general, waste, water and energy, and we provide lots of action ideas,” says Waterfield, who explains that the Naples program is a simplified adaptation of the successful Sarasota County model. The website also includes actions that make a cumulative difference in a homeowner’s budget.
Sustainable Business Management
According to Gerry Segal, associate professor of management at the Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) College of Business, his new Sustainable Business Management course has attracted 25 FGCU students that enrolled in the 2011 fall semester, three-credit class.
“Students are working on their class project, which is a Sustainability Audit Report for the Bamboo Café, a Naples restaurant that volunteered to participate,” says Segal. Segal and Waterfield are hopeful that Bamboo Café, which buys organic produce locally, will be the first certified green business in Naples.
Singer, songwriter and storyteller Rosie Emery is the Curious Kids Ambassador and Producer of WGCU’s Curious Kids half-hour TV show, hosted by kids, for kids. Committed to teaching children about the interconnectedness of all life through the mediums of music and the arts, Emery believes that without a profound understanding of their integral connection to the natural world, children are not moved to protect it when they become adults. “Written and produced from a child’s perspective, my lyrics and the show are about them, their backyard, and their world,” advises Emery.
LeeTran LinC Bus Service
LinC, LeeTran’s new commuter bus route, now travels from its southernmost Lee County transfer center at U.S. 41 and Bonita Beach Road, where it previously stopped, to Collier County’s northernmost transfer point, at U.S. 41 and Immokalee Road.
“Collier Area Transit provides the bus and covers the operational costs, and Lee County provides the people to operate it,” stays Stacy Revay, healthy communities coordinator and chairwoman of the Smart Growth Coalition. She intends to take full advantage of the new service, which began this month. “I’m definitely riding the bus to work instead of driving an hour in traffic,” says Revay.
Every month since its inception in 2009, more individuals interested in sustainability have been finding valuable social networking opportunities at Southwest Florida Green Drinks, hosted by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Gulf Coast Chapter. The group meets on the second Tuesday of each month, at the Tarpon Bay Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Pointe Resort and Spa, in Bonita Springs.
“It’s the place to not only meet up with approximately 50 people from non-government organizations, academia, government and business, but also to learn more about sustainability topics from different presenters,” says Ziff-Levine, who has her own U Gotta Go Green meet-up group to promote initiatives that will preserve and protect Southwest Florida’s environment and natural resources for future generations.
“I’d like to believe that in the time between every event since 2007, hundreds of people have been taking small, unrecognized actions, which are accumulating to bring about a more visible change in moving the entire sustainability movement—from the health of the individual to the health of the planet—forward,” says Ziff-Levine.
She adds that 2011 local efforts will continue with a Transition U.S. Training course on October 15 and 16, as well as the Cela Tega: Conservation Lands’ Economic Value symposium, November 2, at FGCU. The conference will identify and discuss the economic benefits of conservation lands in the Estero Bay watershed.http://[email protected]
The Transition U.S. course, an in-depth experiential introduction to the ideas, process and practices that have inspired tens of thousands of people in hundreds of communities, has catalyzed a rapidly growing global network. A participatory two-day Transition Florida workshop in Ybor City is open to anyone interested in exploring the dimensions of transitioning, resilience and supporting local action and collaboration in their community.
Determined to persevere far beyond the hundredth gale, these dedicated individuals and groups continue to grow in number as they actively pursue eco-initiatives and accumulate green acts. They know that small change is the true currency of a new, green world.
For more information about the local organizations mentioned, see the sidebar. For information or to register for the Estero Bay Watershed Economic Value of Conservation Lands symposium, visit Tinyurl.com/3cju8jw.