Sarasota County Sustainability: 2019 Year in Review

2019 Year in Review

Sustainability Assistant, UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County

This month, we are not only celebrating the excitement of a new year and decade, but also the many accomplishments of Sarasota County Sustainability in 2019. We’ve summarized a few of our greatest accomplishments from 2019 in the graphic below. We could not have achieved these successes alone. Thank you to our partners, volunteers and community members for staying engaged with us.

Let’s take a moment to look back on 2019…

In 2019, we reached more individuals than ever before. 6,276 individuals to be exact. We did this through the 133 Sustainability classes, events and workshops in 2019. Since Sarasota County Sustainability was established in 2012, we have reached almost 23,000 individuals in our community.

Last year, we continued to grow our Energy Upgrade program. We completed 100 Energy Upgrade sweeps, where we upgraded low-income public housing units with energy and water efficient devices. Through the Energy Upgrade program alone, we reached 978 individuals at 21 events with energy and water reduction strategies and devices. In 2020, we plan to do even more and complete another Energy Upgrade Coach training program, which will grow our volunteer numbers and support.

Partners for Green Places has been a very impactful nonprofit grant program throughout 2019. Through this program, Sarasota County Sustainability, in partnership with City of Sarasota Sustainability, Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Selby Foundation, DreamLarge, and many others, has reached 16 local environmental and human service nonprofits with energy and water efficiency grant funding. Combined, these 16 nonprofits reach thousands of individuals in the community each year.

In addition, Sarasota County Sustainability has added its first all-electric vehicle to the county fleet. We hope to see more electric vehicles on the road in 2020.

The 2019 Sustainable Communities Workshop was also one of our greatest accomplishments from last year. Read the event recap below to look back on its successes. We can’t wait for this year’s event!

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website, sign up to take a class, or contact us at

2019 Sustainable Communities Workshop Recap

The 14th annual Sustainable Communities Workshop, “Growing Greener Generations,” was a great success with record breaking attendance of over 200 people. The event was held on November 14, 2019 at the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida Event and Conference Center in Sarasota. This all-day event is held each year in Sarasota County to bring together the community to discuss a variety of relevant sustainability topics presented by expert speakers. Residents, business leaders, institutions, government agencies and organizations gather each year to meet with speakers, visit exhibitors, learn, network, enjoy organic and local food, and help build a better future for our community.

Inspired by the theme “Growing Greener Generations,” there were speakers from all generations during the 2019 Workshop. Topics discussed by the more than two-dozen speakers and three keynotes during this year’s event included sustainable food systems, renewable energy, social equity, climate change, regional sustainability, youth initiative, and more. The 2019 keynote speakers were Josh Tickell, Chris Castro and Syd Kitson. You can read about all the speakers, including the keynotes, here and see the full agenda from the 2019 event here.

Youth Involvement

The 2019 event was the first Sustainable Communities Workshop to have a Youth Panel, which featured nine youth speak about their sustainability-related projects, concerns, and ambitions. Sean Russell, the director of the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, was the moderator for this panel. The panel was an inspiring and impressive set of youth aged between 12-18 that left many audience members motivated to involve more youth in their organizations and work. You can watch a video recording of this session here.

The 14th Sustainable Communities Workshop also featured youth exhibits, the “Growing Greener Generations Youth Project Showcase,” for the first time. Workshop attendees were able to visit the youth exhibitors during conference breaks to view and learn more about their work. Two of the exhibitors, Bear Mancinni and Christiana Guan, were finalists from the recent New College of Florida Social Entrepreneurship Incubator Competition and gave a short overview of their work. You can view their project presentations and more about the Growing Greener Generations Youth Project Showcase here.

One attendee mentioned that they loved the “focus around solutions” and expressed how important youth engagement is.

Sustainable Event

Sustainability is the primary focus and priority of the Sustainable Communities Workshop from the speakers and topics chosen to the entire event planning process. In 2019, the event received the highest sustainable event rating, Green-Certified, from the University of Florida’s Office of Sustainability.

Below is a list of many of the sustainability efforts taken during the 2019 event. Each year, more efforts are done to conserve resources and decrease impact on the environment.

  • Carbon Neutral Event: Schneider Electric donated Carbon Credits for 5 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent to ensure the full event is Carbon Neutral.
  • Zero Waste Event: The tableware is biodegradable and compostable. All food waste and serving ware was composted.
  • Limited Paper Impact:
    • Registration, presentations and speaker biographies are available through the website.
    • Shared and electronic agendas significantly reduced use of paper and eliminated the need for folders.
    • The few agendas printed are on 100% post-consumer; tree free, acid free, processed chlorine free, EcoLogo and FSC certified paper.
    • Other materials were printed on 30% post-consumer recycled content paper with bio-based inks.
  • Local Food: Most menu ingredients were sourced from local farms. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options were provided. The coffee was fair trade organic. Food was provided by a local Certified Sarasota County Green Business Partner.
  • Green Building: The event is held in a beautiful USGBC LEED certified building. The property includes a wetland preservation and habitat restoration area that serves as a living lab for the scout troops.
  • Alternative Transportation: Attendees who biked or took the bus to the event received a free bag of biking supplies. Electric vehicles are on display to demonstrate that technology.

Community Impact

Each year, an evaluation survey is presented to attendees to voluntarily fill out after the workshop ends. The results help inform the planning committee what attendees enjoyed, learned, and took away from the day. Here are a few positive testimonials from the 2019 Sustainable Communities Workshop:

“I feel more inspired and reenergized to address the climate crisis.”


“For me, it’s an event that lifts me out of a lone-wolf mentality and into an environment of hope and renewed energy that sustains me in the interim. It helps so much to re-learn that there are others that care and are working hard, too. I absolutely love and am re-inspired by all the innovation being generated by my fellow neighbors.”


“Individual actions have a collective impact, and events like this one are an effective way to educate and empower the community to act on the climate crisis.”


“This is a great event that brings together all the players — professionals and activists — into a session that creates positive energy and galvanizes our community.”


“It was an outstanding collaboration opportunity!”

We are pleased to host an event with such a positive impact each year. Thank you to all stakeholders for your support over the years. We look forward to seeing you at this year’s 15th annual Sustainable Communities Workshop!

More Information

Please visit the Sustainable Communities Workshop webpage to view the 2019 sponsors, organizing partners, video recordings and to learn more about the annual event.

Subscribe to our quarterly Sustainability newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive information about Sarasota County Sustainability classes, programs, and events like the 2020 Sustainable Communities Workshop.

You can view the full event video coverage on our YouTube channel here.

Speaker presentations from previous Sustainable Communities Workshops can be found here.

Contact for additional information about the Sustainable Communities Workshop.



Posted: January 31, 2020

Category: Community Volunteers, Natural Resources, UF/IFAS Extension, Work & Life
Tags: 2019, Accomplishments, Energy, Energy Upgrade, Environmental Sustainability, Pgm_Sustain, SCW19, Sustainability, Sustainable Communities Workshop

Subscribe For More Great Content

IFAS Blogs Categories