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Sarasota County Sustainability: 2021 in review

Sarasota County Sustainability wishes you a happy, sustainable new year. We hope you had a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. We’ve navigated through a lot of unknowns the past two years, with more on the horizon. As we’ve learned how to continue our sustainability work in the shifting conditions of the pandemic, we’ve also found new ways to come together and foster sustainability in our community. It hasn’t been easy, but this is has also given us an opportunity to step back and think about what we’re doing and why, and determine how best to move forward.

We took some time to reflect on the past year and highlight positive outcomes and successes. 2021 was filled with new collaborative projects, partnerships, educational events, and resources for underserved citizens. We could not have achieved these successes alone. Thank you to our partners, volunteers, and community members who made sustainability a priority this year!

A look back on 2021

PHOTO CREDIT: Alia Garrett UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability

In March 2021, four of our dedicated past Energy Coaches and thirteen new volunteers successfully completed our second volunteer training. Since then, Energy Coaches have been working to help low-income families by distributing Do-it-Yourself (DIY) energy kits and conducting education sessions at human service non-profit organizations that serve these communities. This allowed us to meet those in need right where they are at and equip them with efficiency devices to start saving money right away. This year, we reached approximately 1,200 residents and saved them over $42,000 in utility costs or over 377,000 kWh of energy.

Partners for Green Places continues to be an incredibly impactful nonprofit grant program for our community. Detailed energy and water audits were delivered to 16 nonprofits, and 13 pursued project implementations. The savings that the nonprofits will experience from the upgrades will be

PHOTO CREDIT: Alia Garrett UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability

directed toward furthering their important environmental and human services missions. Several of the nonprofits have participated in a Solar Loan Fund to finance solar photovoltaic systems for their facilities, further decreasing their carbon footprint. Four solar photovoltaic projects, 167 kW in total, have been completed and are expected to produce 250,000 kWH annually. 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.

PHOTO CREDIT: Alia Garrett UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability

In reflecting on this last year, I’m grateful and humbled by the work our program has done to center equity, diversity and inclusion in the work we do. To make our educational materials more accessible last year, we worked with a translation service to convert some of our education and outreach materials to Spanish. This will be an ongoing effort, as we would also like to get these materials translated into Haitian Creole and Eastern European to better serve residents based on county demographics.

2021 Sustainable Communities Workshop

PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin O’Horan UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability

The 2021 Sustainable Communities Workshop, “Roots of Sustainability,” brought together residents, students, community members of all ages and sectors, to learn about sustainability. Held virtually again this year, the online venue provided an interactive and engaging experience, including the ability to network via video meetings, chat with other attendees and speakers, make connections with others, visit virtual sponsors and exhibitor booths, and more. The format was well received by many participants, reaching 199 attendees.

Speakers

Inspired by the theme “Roots of Sustainability,” speakers focused on climate change, indigenous perspectives, water quality, sustainable living, canopy science and urban agriculture. 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 2021 Keynote speakers were Rob Greenfield, Meg Lowman, and Tai Simpson. You can read about all the speakers, including the keynotes, here and see the full agenda from the 2021 event here.

Learn More

Thank you to all our sponsors, organizers and, of course, the participants who joined us! We’re looking forward to this year’s 17th annual event! Please visit the Sustainable Communities Workshop webpage to view the 2021 sponsors, organizing partners, and to learn more about the annual event. Video recordings of the 2021 Sustainable Communities Workshop can be found on our webpage and YouTube channel.

Goodbye, 2021.

PHOTO CREDIT: Emily Grant UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability

Now that we’ve looked back on 2021, 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 2022 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.

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