2023: A Year of Ambition, Action, and Impact

This last year, Sarasota County Sustainability turned bold ambition into action and action into impact. Our ambition is fueled by our purpose — we recognize the interconnection between sustainability and equity and act to comprehensively address them through our programs, projects, and initiatives. Throughout the year, we made significant progress on our sustainability goals and are proud to share the substantial steps we have taken to build an equitable, sustainable, and resilient community for all.

2023 Highlights

2023 Highlights2,000 attendees at the Green Living Expo & EcoSummit. 6,963 individuals reached with sustainability programs in 2023. 306,368 Kilowatt Hours of energy saved for families facing financial hardship. 79 classes and events about energy efficiency, green living, solar energy, and more. 38,776 Individuals reached with sustainability programming since 2012. 845,600 gallons of water saved through distributing efficiency devices. 32 energy upgrades or in home installs of efficiency items for underserved families. $42, 816 dollars saved for families in need. 13 partnerships with community based organizations in 2023. 39 appliances upgraded to ENERGY STAR high efficiency alternatives.
[CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County]

In 2023 our sustainability goals transformed into awesome victories, and these metrics proudly show off our accomplishments! These wins aren’t just numbers; they’re proof of our dedication and the effective strategies we’ve used to make our community more sustainable and resilient.

Working With Partners to Drive Long-Term Sustainability

Collaboration with community-based organizations accelerates our progress toward our sustainability goals by better aligning the visions and needs of all stakeholders. We’ve always considered partnerships an important part of our sustainability efforts and we continuously work to strengthen our relationships and build trust in the community. In 2024, we look forward to working with even more community-based organizations and deepening our relationships with established partners.

Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean. — Ryunosuke Satoro

LEED for Cities and Communities

Sustainability staff holding LEED Gold Certificate at a county board recognition event in October 2023.
[CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County]
In 2023, Sarasota County achieved a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) “Gold” certification and national accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council, an honor recognizing an array of efforts to increase sustainability and resilience across the county. This certification process and data will help us to better understand our performance in different areas and identify opportunities for improvement. Enhancing current efforts, determining new initiatives, and collaborative planning will help us continue intentional projects that will strengthen Sarasota’s reputation as a sustainability leader, while also improving the overall quality of life for our residents in 2024 and beyond. Learn more about our LEED certification.

Addressing Energy Equity

Energy Upgrade

Sustainability staff and interns installing a water efficient low-flow faucet aerator at a low-income housing unit.
[CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County]
Our Energy Upgrade program educates residents in various ways on water and energy conservation strategies, efficiency technologies, and financial assistance resources and incentives. This year the program has reached approximately 1,906 residents with water and energy efficiency devices and information, saving low-income households an estimated $42,861 in utility costs or over 306,368 kWh of energy. Learn more about the Energy Upgrade program.

Low-Income Residential Energy Efficient Grant Program

A maintenance working installing a high efficiency ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator at an affordable housing unit.
[CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County]
Sarasota County Sustainability received a $100,000 grant from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (FDACS) Florida Counties Low-Income Residential Energy Efficient Grant Program. Funding from this grant was used to provide rebates for low-income and affordable housing units to purchase energy and water efficient appliances and HVAC systems that will help lower utility bills for residents.

The grant was completed in 2023 and in total, three housing providers were selected to receive rebate funds for their projects. Recipients were selected based on greatest need, energy, and cost savings. In total, 20 refrigerators and 19 HVAC systems were upgraded. These appliances consume the most energy, so we anticipate a reduced energy burden on low-income households and improved health and lives of these individuals through deployment of energy efficient technology.

Annual Sustainable Communities Workshop

Scenes from the 2023 Green Living Expo. Collage of exhibitors, attendees, demos, floorplan, and products.
[CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County]
Every year since 2005, Sarasota County Sustainability has hosted an annual workshop to gather the community to discuss our region’s most pressing challenges and solutions. In 2023, we teamed up with the Science and Environment Council to host a two-day Green Living Expo and two-day EcoSummit . From film, panels, storytelling, and music, to hands-on demos and family-friendly activities, there was a way for everyone to connect over the week-long series of environmental events. Our 2024 Annual Sustainable Communities Workshop is set for Nov 7, 2024. We hope to see you there!

Inclusion in Action

Sustainability staff and a resident of a low-income housing resident that received efficiency upgrades.
[CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County]
We are committed to serving everyone in our community equally and recognize the need for all audiences to be heard and engaged. Sarasota County Extension works to ensure access to our programs and to connect all residents to vital learning opportunities by making educational materials more accessible. In 2023, we translated some of our educational materials to Brazilian Portuguese after we learned there is a large population of people who speak that language in Sarasota. Last year, we translated additional educational materials into Haitian Creole, Russian and Spanish to better serve residents based on county demographics. We just learned that there is also a large Polish population here and are always looking for additional ideas. 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 additional ways we can make our programming even more equitable and accessible, please let us know!

Engaging Employees in Sustainability Actions

With more than 39 buildings and over 2,000 employees, Sarasota County recognizes the important role that staff play in making Sarasota a leader in sustainability. Through our series of Green Champion courses on our online learning platform, Sarasota County employees can learn simple things they can do to be sustainable at work and home. The full set of Green Champion curriculum teaches staff how to reduce their environmental footprint, be responsible stewards of the county’s resources, contribute to Sarasota County’s sustainability goals and commitments, and build a greener and more sustainable community.

Focused on Execution in 2024

Strategic Planning for Urban Heat

Heat waves are becoming increasingly common in Sarasota as a direct result of climate change; with an increase in high-heat days, going from 35 to 81 annually since 1950. Because heat waves are growing in frequency, Sarasota County will partner with NASA in 2024 to quantify urban heat across the county and explore various heat mitigation strategies.

Climate Pollution Reduction

Climate Pollution Reduction Grants (CPRG) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency logo with yellow flower.
[CREDIT: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]
In 2023, Sarasota County secured federal funding for the EPA Climate Pollution Reduction Grant (CPRG) program, marking a pivotal step towards spearheading our region’s efforts in addressing climate change. Our dedicated team has assumed a leadership role in executing a comprehensive climate action planning project that has a generous allocation of $1 million in funding to facilitate potential project success.

Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan

Florida Department of Environmental Protection logo with sunset, tree, and a body of water in the center.
[CREDIT: Florida Department of Environmental Protection]
In 2023, Sarasota County began a comprehensive vulnerability assessment and resilience plan project funded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection through the Resilient Florida Grant Program. The vulnerability assessment will identify and address the risks of flooding and sea level rise on county assets. The resilience and adaptation plan will identify projects that can be implemented to reduce risks and apply for additional funding for the recommendations.

Supporting Affordable Housing and Health through Energy Efficiency

U.S. Department of Energy logo
[CREDIT: U.S. Department of Energy]
In 2023, Sarasota County applied for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) funding from the Department of Energy (DOE), marking a pivotal moment in our commitment to fostering sustainable practices. As we transition into 2024, this grant funding will be instrumental in bolstering our efforts to promote residential energy efficiency programs within the county. This funding will allow us to continue to provide energy efficient equipment to our residents that are most in need. The utilization of the EECBG funding underscores our dedication to creating a more energy-conscious community while addressing the critical need for reducing energy consumption and minimizing our environmental impact.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead to 2024, Sarasota County is committed to advancing our community sustainability goals with renewed vigor and determination. Building upon the foundations laid in previous years and the increased urgency needed, our focus remains on fostering a more resilient, environmentally conscious, and sustainable community. Through collaborative efforts, innovative strategies, and community engagement, we aim to make meaningful strides towards a brighter, more sustainable future for all. With dedication, inclusivity, and innovation at the forefront, we eagerly anticipate the collective impact and positive changes we can create together in the pursuit of our community sustainability goals in 2024.



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Posted: January 3, 2024

Category: Conservation, Work & Life
Tags: Green Living, Newyear, Pgm_Sustain, Sustainabiility, Year In Review

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