Sustainability In Your Community

I attended my first sustainability meeting recently, Brevard County’s first Sustainability Summit. Went in with an open mind, ready to learn and become involved. To break it down into takeaways I had learned a whole new set of acronyms, there is a lack of development of youth involved programs, we need more electric car charging stations and that business contribution is necessary to achieve results. Yes, a simplistic view but it’s a start.

When I left the summit, this question followed me home. Who is interested in Sustainability? This includes those that have no idea what it is or never heard of it but may get interested in it. The attendees were very interested, passionate, knowledgeable (from what I could tell by the Q&A) a cross-section of society and I am learning more about this every day. Cities and citizens are getting involved across the country.

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One of the up and coming cities in this movement is Orlando, FL,  one that falls behind Boston, NYC, Washington DC, Portland, and Seattle.  The keynote was Chris Castro, Sustainability Director, City of Orlando. A graduate of UCF he has started many companies, non-profits and is a key player in the central Florida movement. He envisions a collaboration and coalition that includes Brevard County and others with Orlando. Mr. Castro has raised the level of Orlando sustainability up to a level more comparable to those mentioned above.

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The event was hosted by one of the most advanced sustainability cities in Brevard County, Satellite Beach. Other Brevard municipalities participating in the summit were Cocoa Beach, City of Cocoa, Melbourne Beach, Palm Bay, and Indialantic. All are barrier islands cities except for Palm Bay. Other cities who are working on their own Sustainability program are Titusville, Melbourne, Melbourne Beach and Cape Canaveral.

 

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Photo: BBC

This particular summit was geared towards setting up the local organization (including local government), create a board, putting together an assessment report, and finalizing an action plan. To arrive at the action plan you may expect up to 2 years to complete. Well, finalizing truly is about getting people to invest time and money and stay with it, that is the greatest challenge to achieving real sustainability action.

The Five (5) key areas of focus are (In Satellite Beach’s Action Plan);

Built Environment

Primary stressors in regards to sustainability in the built environment include stormwater events, hurricanes, and sea level rise, each with secondary effects and problems. Other stressors include providing a proper mix, mass, and mesh of land usage to support the community’s needs for goods and services in close proximity. Additionally, there is a need to create the right mix of land uses to support the City’s tax base and not
stress one category (e.g., all on the residential lands) and enable the City to provide for the needs of all citizens.

Land and Water Systems

Natural land and water systems are ever changing due to biophysical forces of the planet. Human population growth, urban development, industry, and agriculture have altered many of these natural land and water systems with little regard for
ecosystem wellbeing. Land and water systems encompass terrestrial and aquatic environments around and within a city that must interact and deal with human intervention and stressors. These systems are highly interconnected, with a change in one having the potential to greatly affect the others.

Energy and Transportation

Promoting the use of alternative energy use in municipal, business, and residential buildings for new construction and retrofit. Creating “complete streets”.  Promoting alternative vehicle usage and safety. Encourage densities and intensities of land use that will foster transit, or enable people to walk, bike, or use golf carts/electric vehicles to nearby shopping and restaurants. Identifying ways to operate, manage, and replace municipal fleets for public works, building, code compliance, administration, and non-safety related departments. How do we promote and encourage mixing of land uses to reduce drive times, create job opportunities near homes, and reduce vacancies creating a sustainable economic structure.

Community Outreach

Community outreach involves the offering of education, social planning, and support of activities to community residents freely and openly. In terms of sustainability,
community outreach allows citizens opportunities to get involved with their city in ways that allow them to choose and act upon the ways in which they believe are most fulfilling to themselves and their neighborhoods.

Quality of Life

Quality of life recognizes the basic needs of all citizens. All citizens have the right to a decent and just quality of life and the City government must uphold this right for its residents, visitors, and workers. Some of these basic needs include quality education, employment, recreational access, healthcare, and a sustained environment.

The Genesis

The Brevard County initiative grew out of a Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) program led by Dr. Ken Lindeman and grad student Zachary Eichholz who now works for the City of Satellite Beach. Dr. Lindeman is the Academic Expert on Sustainability he is a resource to help get your program started. On the Space Coast, the Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition among others is working hard and diligently to fix our waterways and our groundwater. Another active group is Keep Brevard Beautiful. Reach out and follow them.

There are a plethora of people and groups that are more than willing to bring their passion to help your Sustainability Program to hit the ground running. In cities and towns where there is no formal sustainability organization, there are groups who are working towards a common goal, i.e. beach, park and common area cleanups, removing plastics from our dining wares, adding solar to their homes and businesses, using recyclable bags at the grocery store, and so on.  ARE YOU IN?

Note: Solar, Wind, and Hydroelectric Energy Sources are the wave of the future, to eliminate carbon emissions, will be discussed at a later time.

 

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