Community Spotlight: Sustainable Sarasota
A Key Partner in FPL's Sunshine Energy Solar Electric Array
Imagine your job is to make life better for the people living and working in your community. That’s precisely the mission of Sustainable Sarasota.
Sustainable Sarasota was created five years ago by the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners to foster sustainability within the County Government and throughout the community. The goal of Sustainable Sarasota is to facilitate awareness and behavior change to move towards sustainability in lifestyles, business practices and government policies. “Sustainability is the balance of environment, economics, and social equality to satisfy our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs,” explains Jodi John, manager of Sustainable Sarasota. “Sustainable Sarasota strives to find common ground between clean air, clean water and a healthy economy.”
Sustainable Sarasota was the first county office of its kind in the state. Jodi, along with education specialist Nina Powers and staffer Belinda Chase see themselves as “idea bringers” and facilitators, guiding all County agencies toward incorporating sustainability in goals and projects. The office serves as a resource center for the County on sustainable practices by developing outreach programs, conducting research and making recommendations to the Board of Commissioners, and fostering partnerships between government, non-profit organizations and businesses.
Among the many accomplishments of Sustainable Sarasota is the fast-track incentive program to encourage developers to use “green” practices in building houses and commercial buildings, by cutting their permit review and approval time in half. Through the leadership of Sustainable Sarasota, the County was the first in the nation to commit to the American Institute of Architects “2030 Challenge” to make all government facilities and operations carbon neutral within the next 23 years. In 2005 Sustainable Sarasota helped launch the first EFest in the County, an annual community festival for sustainable living. More than 100 businesses participated in the inaugural event that attracted over 7,000 people. And one-third of the land in Sarasota County is now preserved as green space, thanks in part to the efforts of Sustainable Sarasota.
Sustainable Sarasota was a key player in bringing Florida Power & Light Company’s Sunshine Energy solar electric array to Rothenbach Park in Sarasota. When completed this fall the 250 kilowatt project will be the largest solar generating facility in Florida. The solar panels will be installed on the side of a closed landfill, which is also being developed as a park, complete with walking trails and a nature center. “People will be able to walk near the FPL solar array and see for themselves how the sun’s rays are converted into pollution-free electricity. It’s a wonderful educational opportunity,” says Jodi. Sustainable Sarasota is helping make Sarasota County a showcase in Florida for environmental and economic balance.