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Sarasota County Sustainability: 2020 Year in Review

2020 brought us the challenge of finding new ways to come together and bring sustainability to our community. We took some time to reflect on the past year and highlight positive outcomes and successes, despite a year full of challenge and adversity. We could not have achieved these successes alone. Thank you to our partners, volunteers, and community members for staying engaged with us – even from home!

A look back on 2020

Let’s take a moment to let this sink in, before we let 2020 go.

In 2020, we had to get creative and quickly adapt to a virtual world. We faced the new challenge of figuring out how to bring our regular (and new) programs and services to the public in a contactless world. During last year’s 58 classes, events, and workshops, we were able to reach 2,025 individuals with sustainability programming. We hope to grow this number in 2021.

Prior to COVID-19, we completed 20 Energy Upgrade sweeps, where we upgraded low-income public housing units with energy and water efficient devices. Due to the pandemic, we paused our in-home upgrade volunteer work. This gave us the opportunity to develop new ways to achieve one of our program goals of addressing energy equity. Despite the circumstances of 2020, we were able to reach 687 individuals with energy and water reduction strategies and devices through the Energy Upgrade program. Events were contactless or virtual.

Energy Program Specialist, Alia Garrett, assisting clients.

In 2021, we plan to hold virtual consultations with residents of low-income public housing units, provide DIY kits to upgrade home energy and water efficiency, and more. We will train a new class of Energy Coach volunteers to assist us in carrying out these new goals and grow our Energy Upgrade program. Click here to learn more about our Energy Coach Volunteer Training in March.

Partners for Green Places continues to be an impactful nonprofit grant program. In 2020, ten participating nonprofits received $161k in grant funds for facility energy and water efficiency upgrades. The savings that the nonprofits will experience from the upgrades will be directed toward furthering their important environmental and human services missions. Several of the nonprofits will also be participating in a Solar Loan Fund to finance solar photovoltaic systems for their facilities, further decreasing their carbon footprint. We are excited to see how Partners for Green Places benefits these organizations and how it continues to grow as a movement of climate action in coming years.

Sarasota County Sustainability was fortunate enough to receive several grants in 2020 to enhance our existing programs and offer new programs that support fostering a sustainable community. We are grateful to the organizations involved in supporting our new grant programs.

Bringing the 15th annual Sustainable Communities Workshop to our community was one of the greater challenges we faced last year. Read the event recap below to look back on its successes and challenges with us.

2020 Sustainable Communities Workshop recap

The 2020 Sustainable Communities Workshop, “Transforming to New Ways Forward,” presented its greatest challenge in its 15th year. For the first time, the annual community workshop was shifted to an online setting to enhance safety and access during the pandemic. Despite the many new challenges the planning team faced, the October 29 event was a success with 194 people in attendance. The new format was well received by the many attendees.

Historically, this all-day event is held in-person each year in Sarasota County to bring the community together to discuss a variety of relevant sustainability topics presented by expert speakers. Residents, business leaders, students, government agencies and more gather each year to meet with speakers, visit exhibitors, learn, network, and help build a better future for our community.

Speakers

Inspired by the theme “Transforming to New Ways Forward,” speakers focused on circular economy, youth activism and involvement, social equity, climate change, economic value of natural resources, local ways to get involved, and more. Once again, the event featured youth speakers and exhibitors throughout the day providing insight on their experience and thoughts on the various sustainability topics. The 2020 Keynote speakers were Leyla Acaroglu, William McDonough, Dr. Cheryl Holder, Alice Hill, and Leonardo Martinez-Diaz. You can read about all the speakers, including the keynotes, here and see the full agenda from the 2020 event here.

Unexpected benefits

Although there are many qualities of an in-person event that can’t be replicated through a virtual setting, we found that the virtual platform provided many new benefits that were not previously possible. To name a few, attendees and expert speakers joined us from around the world, the event fee was lowered, and accessing the event was made easier by eliminating travel. There was even a virtual yoga session!

Learn more

Thank you to all stakeholders of the Sustainable Communities Workshop for their support over the years. We’re looking forward to this year’s 16th annual event!

Please visit the Sustainable Communities Workshop webpage to view the 2020 sponsors, organizing partners, and to learn more about the annual event. Video recordings of the 2020 Sustainable Communities Workshop can be found on our webpage and YouTube channel.

Goodbye, 2020.

Now that we’ve looked back on 2020, we can put it to rest and look ahead at another year full of new opportunities. We hope you will join us in making our community more sustainable.

You can stay connected with us through 2021 by subscribing to our quarterly sustainability e-newsletter or following us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our website, read our other blogs, and view our virtual content on our YouTube channel. For additional information or questions, please contact SustainableSarasota@scgov.net.

Sustainability Outreach Coordinator, Sophia Moundous, teaching virtually.

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