EnergyFoodWasteWaterNatureWhat steps can I take to make my business operations more sustainable and earn Green Certification?

Here are 10 steps you can take to improve the sustainability of your business:

  1. Energy Efficiency: Install programmable thermostats, Energy STAR appliances, and LED lighting throughout your facility and set a goal to reduce energy consumption by 15% within the next year. Consider investing in solar panels to generate renewable energy onsite.
  2. Water Conservation: Upgrade to low-flow faucets and toilets in your bathrooms, install drought-resistant landscaping, and aim to reduce water usage by 20% within the next six months. Implement a rainwater harvesting system to collect water for landscaping purposes.
  3. Waste Reduction and Recycling: Introduce a composting program for organic waste generated in your break rooms and cafeteria, with a goal to divert 50% of organic waste from landfills within the next year. Switch to using recycled paper products and provide reusable water bottles and utensils to employees. Set up a comprehensive recycling program for paper, plastic, glass, and other materials.
  4. Sustainable Procurement: Source office supplies from suppliers that offer eco-friendly options such as recycled paper and non-toxic ink cartridges. Aim to have 50% of your office supplies sourced from sustainable vendors within the next six months.
  5. Green Cleaning Practices: Switch to environmentally friendly cleaning products that are certified by organizations like Green Seal or EcoLogo. Set a goal to eliminate the use of chemical cleaners containing harmful substances within the next three months.
  6. Transportation: Offer incentives such as subsidies for public transportation passes or bike-to-work programs. Install bike racks and designated carpool parking spaces to encourage alternative commuting methods.
  7. Employee Engagement: Launch a sustainability awareness campaign among your staff, offering incentives for eco-friendly behaviors such as carpooling or using reusable containers for lunches. Organize monthly sustainability workshops or lunch-and-learn sessions to educate employees on green practices.
  8. Community Engagement: Partner with local environmental organizations or schools to participate in community clean-up events or tree planting initiatives. Sponsor a local sustainability fair or workshop to engage with the broader community and raise awareness about environmental issues.
  9. Continuous Improvement: Establish a sustainability committee within your organization to regularly assess and improve your green initiatives. Set quarterly goals to track progress and identify areas for further enhancement.
  10. Certification Process: Review the Sarasota County Green Business Partner certification requirements and create a checklist to ensure compliance with all criteria. Set a target to complete the certification process and become officially recognized as a green business partner within the next six months.

By setting specific goals and implementing targeted initiatives, you can make meaningful strides towards sustainability while working towards becoming a Sarasota County Green Business Partner.

Learn more and get certified

EnergyDoes a solar system need maintenance?

A solar system is no- to low–maintenance once it is installed because it does not have any moving parts. Regular rainfall tends to help keep the panels free of dust, salt deposits, and other debris. Otherwise, periodic cleaning may be needed to make sure the panels are clear and able to capture as much sunlight as possible. Some installers offer maintenance services with the purchase of a solar array. Many also allow you to monitor how much electricity your system is producing online in real time, so any changes in normal production levels may help you detect problems. More FAQs on solar PV

Get Started with Solar

EnergyWill LED lights save more money than just turning lights on and off when needed

LED bulbs are 75 – 80% more efficient than incandescent bulbs, which means in order to save the same amount of money by turning off incandescent bulbs, you would need to have your lights off 75 – 80% longer than you would if you had LEDs. For example, having an LED light bulb on for 4 hours uses the same amount of energy as a traditional incandescent bulb does in just 1 hour.

Calculate What You Would Save by Going Green

WaterIs rip rap enough to prevent erosion in our stormwater pond? How will a higher no mow zone help?

Rip rap is a hard barrier that will prevent erosion, but it does not help maintain a healthy pond. If you have turf grass down to the water line, then a No Mow Zone is a good start in preserving the shoreline, because it restricts heavy mowing machinery from compacting and eroding the bank. Still, when the grass is trimmed with handheld trimmers, care must be taken to keep the grass clippings out of the pond. Ideally the No Mow Zone is densely planted with a variety of native shrubs and grasses which have root structures that are better able to hold the bank and can “clean” runoff from adjacent yards and roads. A No Mow turf buffer is a first step (good) and planted buffers are the next step (better). See the Healthy Ponds Guide for details.

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WasteWhere can I recycle old electronics?

Several retailers, like Best Buy, Staples, and Amazon, offer free recycling programs and/or drop off locations for many types of electronics including cell phones, TVs, computers, cameras, and other equipment. If you are replacing a larger item, like a TV or major appliance, sometimes stores will haul out and recycle the old one for a small charge. If the item still works, consider donating it to a local Goodwill or other charity. For example, groups like 911 Cell Phone Bank, Medic Mobile, and Cell Phones for Soldiers accept cell phone donations.

Recycle Your Electronics

FoodHow do I start composting?

There are a couple different ways to get started with composting. If you live in an apartment or condo without a lot of outdoor space for a compost bin, your best bet would be to join a community composting program offered by groups like Sunshine Community Compost. They provide all of the training and supplies and they also manage the compost pile for you. All you have to do is collect your food scraps at home and drop them off at one of their compost stations. Plus, you get the added benefit of being able to take home fully processed compost to enrich the soil of your patio plants! If there is no compost station near you, you can also work with the organization to get a compost station started at your building. If you are looking to start a compost bin or pile in your own yard, there are several discounted starter kits and “composting 101” classes to help you learn what you can compost and how to maintain your compost pile in a way that is odorless, pest-free, and makes “black gold”!

Start Composting

FoodWhere can I find a local farmers market near me?

There are numerous farmers markets, seafood markets, and local farms and ranches up and down the Suncoast that feature locally grown fruits, vegetables, seafood, and meat year round. Visiting a nearby market or farm is one of the best ways to find what produce is in season and support your local economy.

Find Local Food

FoodIs there a way to keep pests out of my garden without using harsh chemicals?

As many gardeners could tell you, Florida’s climate is very welcoming to pests, which can make gardening a challenge. However, there are a few tricks that can help you avoid resorting to harsh chemicals:

  • Your presence is first and foremost. Check your plants regularly so you can detect and treat those early warning signs. Learn to detect when your plants are thirsty or low on nutrients. The healthier the plant, the more ability it will have to ward off pests and disease.
  • Look for pest-resistant varieties of your favorite plants
  • Know your good bugs from your bad bugs and allow the good ones, like ladybird beetles, lacewings, praying mantids, ant lions, hover flies, assassin bugs, predator wasps, dragonflies, and spiders to do their thing. Birds and frogs can help reduce pests too!
  • If you determine that pests are causing damage, deter or remove them by hand, with natural products like water, horticultural soaps and oils, or natural odors.
  • For tough pests, consider planting a “sacrificial plant” that attracts them away from your cash crops.
  • Take steps to manage your soil. Rotating crops, solarizing, or adding organic matter can help keep soils healthy and discourage pests like nematodes.

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WaterHow do I get rid of mosquitoes in our stormwater pond?

While there is no solution to completely eliminate mosquitoes in Southwest Florida, there are things you can do to keep populations a bit more under control. Adding fish, tadpoles, or copepods (tiny crustaceans) that eat mosquito eggs or larvae can help reduce overall numbers. Adding pond vegetation that provides shelter for these animals will also help them thrive and consume mosquito pests. When selecting plants for your pond, consider avoiding those that encourage mosquitoes, like cattails, water lettuce, and water hyacinth. Choose plants, like pickerelweed, duck potato, tapegrass/wild celery, or swamp milkweed, that attract dragonflies, which eat mosquito larvae.

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WaterIf I try to keep more water on my landscape, won’t I attract more mosquitoes?

No. Many mosquitoes need standing water to lay eggs. If you landscape in a way that allows water to soak into the ground or into a planted area, like a rain garden, the conditions will not be favorable for them to breed. However, it is important to keep an eye on potential areas that do collect standing water, like a bird bath, empty tire, or watering can. Flip these over after a rain or empty them out every 5 days. Bromeliads are a particular favorite for mosquitoes as well because they can hold water for several days after a rain. Flush them out every 5 days or treat them with Bacillus thuringiensis israeli (i.e. BTI mosquito bits) to get rid of larvae. Make sure your gutters are cleaned out and do not store water either. Keep yard material away from clogging storm drains and report standing water in areas, like roadways, that usually do not have water.

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FoodEat Local sounds nice, but isn’t small-scale local farming an inefficient way to try to feed everyone?

Eat Local is not a panacea for feeding the world. People living in many places must import their food. Florida is fortunate to have great growing conditions for many types of crops, though not everything we like to eat. In Florida, supporting existing local farms and ranches helps keep those lands in agricultural production providing green space rather than converting to suburban sprawl. Farms and ranches can provide valuable ecosystem services like water storage and filtration, wildlife habitat, and sequestering carbon. Eating locally produced food also contributes to the local economy, builds resilience, and community. But, in order to feed the world’s burgeoning population, we need to increase efficiency and intensity of food production globally and optimize distribution and storage. Increased efficiency and intensity can decrease the total production acreage needed and help protect natural lands from being converted to farmland.

Ultimately, the net environmental impact of where we get our food depends on i) the local growing conditions and the intensity of practices needed to make that farmland productive, ii) how far the food must be transported to market, and iii) what the alternative land use would be for that farmland if it weren’t under production. A full life-cycle analysis is needed to thoroughly understand the dynamics of our local and global food systems. Whatever the calculations, the bottom line is that sustainable agriculture practices are needed on farms large or small, close or far.

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WaterHow do I know if my landscaping contractor is doing things right?

The Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMPs) are a science-based training program for members of the lawn care and landscape maintenance professions, collectively known as the Green Industries. Developed by the UF/IFAS Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program, the GI-BMPs teach environmentally safe landscaping practices that help conserve and protect Florida’s ground and surface waters. These practices cover both the establishment of new turf and landscapes and the care of existing turf and landscapes, including construction activities, irrigation, nutrient management, and pest management. All lawn or landscape professionals who apply fertilizer as part of their business must complete the BMP training and be certified in fertilizer application. Look for the GI-BMP certification sticker on their trucks, and if you don’t see it ask.

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