Sarasota County Sustainability wishes you a happy, healthy, and sustainable new year! We’re taking some time to reflect on 2022 and all of the work we accomplished with your support. It’s also an important time to take stock; learn from the experiences we had in 2022; and continue to improve our programs, services, and partnerships. Below are a few highlights of our accomplishments as well as priorities for the year ahead. 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 at 2022
Celebrating 20 Years of Sarasota County Sustainability
Sarasota County has a long history of commitments to sustainability for both its own operations and the community. Twenty years ago, Sarasota County formed the Sustainability Program to implement changes and improvements for a more sustainable future. Making us the first county sustainability office in Florida and one of the first in the nation at the time according to records kept by the Urban Sustainability Directors Network. Check out our Celebrating 20 Years of Sarasota County Sustainability blog to learn more about the many ways we’ve invested in our community and our planet thanks to the collaborative efforts of our staff, volunteers, foundations, businesses, and residents.
Our path to meaningful inclusion
This year we’ve made some important progress in inclusivity and accessibility. But this is a continuous effort that we strive to improve on. Many of our education and outreach materials were translated to Spanish, Haitian Creole and Russian this year based on the top languages in our county. Our web materials are also designed to be ADA compliant, so that our online information can be read with a screen reader. Additionally, we make sure to provide closed captions on our videos. If you have any suggestions of ways we can make our programming even more equitable and accessible, please let us know!
In 2022, the Energy Upgrade program has reached approximately 900 residents saving households an estimated $22,174 in utility costs, over 158,436 kWh of energy and about 367,836 gallons of water. Energy Coach volunteers also resumed “energy sweeps” at Sarasota Housing Authority for the first time since 2019. During sweeps, Energy Coach volunteers offer education on simple actions for energy savings to tenants. Our coaches also perform minor installations, such as changing out air filters and upgrading to efficient light bulbs.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Grant
Our program also received a Low-Income Residential Energy Efficiency grant from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences (FDACS) to provide rebates for energy efficient appliances to affordable housing providers. In total, 19 HVAC systems and 20 refrigerators were replaced with more efficient models across three affordable housing providers in 2022. The project will help alleviate the disproportionate energy cost burden experienced by these families, while also having a positive impact on their health and well-being.
Partners for Green Places Grant
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. In 2022, additionally funded projects at Conservation Foundation, The Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Services Center, Save our Seabirds, and Marie Selby Botanical Garden’s Historic Spanish Point Campus were completed. Educational content such as signage and factsheets were also created for all of the participating grant program nonprofits. The program is expected to re-launch with new funding in 2023, so additional education sessions will be scheduled. The savings that the nonprofits will experience from the upgrades will be directed toward furthering their important environmental and human services missions.
17th Annual Sustainable Communities Workshop
The 17th annual Sustainable Communities Workshop, “Advancing Climate Solutions,” was a great success with approximately 200 people joining us in-person and online. The event was held on November 01, 2022 at the New College of Florida Harry Sudakoff Conference Center in Sarasota. This day-long hybrid event brought together the community to discuss a variety of relevant sustainability topics presented by expert speakers. Speakers focused on climate change, carbon sequestration, energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, local food systems, accessibility, reducing food waste, resilience and more. Children, teens, and young adults interested in sustainability were also invited to share their thoughts on video in a creative contest. View the contestant’s videos. Video recordings of the 2022 Sustainable Communities Workshop can be found on our webpage and YouTube channel.
Our program has always valued relationships – with our residents, partners, volunteers, nonprofits, and foundations. This remains true as ever. Here are a few examples of partnerships forged in 2022: Senior Friendship Centers, provided opportunities to conduct 1:1 education and distribute energy saving devices to low-income senior citizens. Another partnership with Mothers Helping Mothers allowed staff and volunteers to reach low-income mothers with efficiency devices and educational information through classes at their facility. We also worked with low income and affordable housing providers to install energy and water efficient appliances to save their residents money on utility bills.
Our hard work on these 2022 projects has placed Sarasota County Sustainability in an ideal position to execute new goals in 2023, such as completing the LEED for Cities certification, continuing the Energy Upgrade program, implementing our Resilient Florida grant projects, and more.
Sarasota County Sustainability is grateful for our partners in city government, other government agencies, non-profits, neighborhood groups, business partners, and community councils who helped us move forward with our sustainability goals throughout the year.
We’re looking forward to working together in 2023!