FROM BLAH TO BLOOMING: REVAMPING A WATER AND ENERGY EXTENSION PROGRAM WITH FLORIDA-FRIENDLY LANDSCAPING™
Y. Zhuang, UF/IFAS Extension, Marion County, Ocala, FL and A. Marek, UF/IFAS Extension, Marion County, Ocala, FL.
Situation: Nearly 1,000 people move to Florida every day. A large portion of them are unaware of the different environmental features of Florida and are using out of state practices in their homes and landscapes. These practices contribute to high water and energy consumption and nitrogen increase in springs. A program targeting these new homeowners was developed in fall 2015 but gradually reached saturation. Objective: Redevelop the program and recruit more participants to increase the knowledge of homeowners who are new to Florida about water and energy conservation as well as Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM to help them cohabitate with Florida’s environment. Methods: The program has been offered at On Top of the World Communities since 2015, which is a 55+ adult retirement community. The primary interest of this group is gardening. We shifted the class description and title to landscaping to recruit more audience. The program consisted of three sessions that homeowners commonly deal with: water, landscaping, and energy. Each session featured in-class presentations and a field trip. The participants that completed all sessions received a water and energy conservation tool kit and a certificate of completion. Results: The program was evaluated using a post-program survey to measure knowledge gain and program impact. Twenty-two new homeowners participated in the revamped program in fall 2017 and 18 completed the surveys. All of them were satisfied with the program overall and would recommend this program to others. The overall knowledge for water, landscape, and energy increased from approximately 25% of the topic to approximately 75% or more of the topic, respectively. Conclusion: Newcomers are unaware of the importance of water and energy in Florida. Developing a water and energy conservation program centered around landscaping can appeal to more participants and hence increase knowledge and adoption of practice change to save natural resources.