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Alachua County Government

Sustainability Connection

September 2011

In This Issue... Partnerships Help Fuel The Success Of Alachua County's Downtown Garden . . . . . . . . . . . 2 County Employees Help Facilities Management Save Energy And Water In County Buildings. . . . . . . . . . 3 Read The Rest Of The Ghosts Of Water: Past, Present And Future. . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Learn How To Make Your Tailgating Or Football Party Sustainable. . . . . . . . . 5

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The Ghosts of Water: Past, Present and Future by Stacie Greco Water Conservation Coordinator

I am sure that all of you have heard that you should use less water. It is likely you have even heard this message from me as the Environmental Protection Department’s Water Conservation Coordinator. What is often missing from the pleas to turn off your irrigation system and to take shorter showers is the explanation of why it is so important to conserve water. I am borrowing from a story of greed and redemption that we all know well to illustrate how the past, present, and future can motivate us to value the water that freely flows from our tap.

Springs depend on groundwater- just like us

The Ghost of Water Past- Springs Here in North Florida we are surrounded by so many beautiful springs, rivers, and wetlands that have been tremendous cultural, economic, and recreational resources in the region. Many people don’t realize that when they leave the tap running, over irrigate their yards, or neglect leaky plumbing that they are negatively impacting our favorite swimming holes and tourist attractions. Our drinking water comes from the aquifer beneath us, whether it is from your own well or a municipal source. When we turn on our faucets or sprinklers we are using water that may have flowed to one of our springs, had we not re-directed it for our own use. The groundwater that supports us all (including the critters in the springs, rivers, and lakes) is extremely low as depicted by this map created by the Suwannee River Water Management District (page 4 ). This is a detailed map, but the take home message is that if we continue to use water at a rate faster than it is re-charged by rain, then the springs as we know them will become a thing of the past. Continued on Page 4

The Sustainability Connection is a production of the Alachua County Office of Waste Alternatives, Facilities Management Division, Environmental Protection Department and the Sustainability Program

Office of Sustainability

Alachua County's Downtown Garden: Success Through Partnerships by Sean McLendon Sustainability Program Manager

Gardening at the Alachua County Administration Building program had it’s one year anniversary in July. As an organic teaching garden, this Downtown Farmers Garden welcomes budding green thumbs and good Samaritans alike. Food grown at the Garden is given to local food banks. The Downtown Farmers Garden is leading the way as a demonstration hub of urban agriculture in the following ways. From January to June 2011 approximately 100 volunteer hours were logged, a host of successful community events hosted, international aid assistance given and $500 worth UF Volunteers from our July 30, 2011 maintenance day of produce were donated to charitable groups. The potential of urban agriculture is huge. Growing your own food is part of our heritage in Alachua County, but it’s also an important part of a growing, economic and social movement. Beyond raising chickens and chick peas backyard gardens represent an important investment in localizing our food dollars. Agriculture as a whole for the ten county region around Alachua County represents $4 billion per year in spending. Local food entrepreneurs and growers see recapturing these currently exported dollars as a key objective to reinvigorate the local economy. A Downtown Farmers Garden acts as an agricultural incubator space for the many youth volunteers interested in investing in these opportunities. Managing the garden takes collaboration with local civic organizations, businesses and not-forprofits. Volunteer and partner groups include: Florida Organic Growers, Alachua YouthBuild, Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Americorps, Grow Gainesville, University of Florida Office of Sustainability and the Downtown Rotary Club all make this space a success. Future plans call for an expansion of the edible landscape, cisterns for irrigation and educational signs for self guided tours. Throughout the summer months volunteer gardeners are needed every Thursday at 9 am. To volunteer or host a gardening event please contact Sean McLendon, Sustainability Program Manager. 352 548 3765 or Travis Mitchell, Florida Organic Growers. 352 377 6345 To read all the January to June 2011 accomplishments, please see the full report.


Facilities Management

Alachua County Energy Champions are Energized to Save Energy by Regina Bradley Capital Projects Coordinator Alachua County Board of County Commissioners adopted an Energy Policy in 2008 that directed Facilities Management to develop a county-wide plan to reduce energy consumption by 33% in County facilities.

This policy became one of several major drivers requiring staff to implement various energy conservation measures in County buildings. Over the past few years, Facilities Management has Energy Champions at the Kick-off event been implementing energy conservation measures (ECM) in County buildings. These ECM included lighting and restroom upgrades, HVAC replacements, solar water heaters, dual flush toilets, waterless urinals, occupancy sensors and building automation systems, just to name a few. However, Facilities Management realized that engaging employees in conservation initiatives and changing workplace behaviors is one of, if not the most important, steps that can impact energy usage. Employees’ energy awareness will be key to identifying additional opportunities and sustaining efficiency gains over the long term. The Energy Reduction Policy requires that each County Department or Division appoint an Energy Management Coordinator (EMC) to participate on the Energy Steering Committee and also be responsible for assisting in educating employees on County-wide energy management initiatives and serve as the onsite energy coordinator in each department ensuring that County-wide energy management measures are carried out. Energy Champions are Alachua County employees who are enthusiastic and committed individuals who assist Alachua County in reaching energy goals and improve the performance of County buildings. Facilities also realized that people tend to take energy for granted, and many are unaware of the opportunities they have to reduce energy use in County buildings. One of the goals of the Energy Champions Program will be to help change the behavior of the building occupants. Changing behaviors has been shown to have productive results. Along with helping meet the County’s energy reduction and management goals, saving taxpayer dollars, and protecting the environment, Energy Champions will also learn how to save energy in their own homes. They will also learn about the fundamentals of how buildings lose energy, do-it-yourself opportunities for saving energy and no-cost measures for reducing energy use. Once the Energy Champions were designated, Facilities Management in collaboration with Office of Sustainability, coordinated a kick off training session on May 19, 2011. The initial kick off session refined responsibilities and informed the Energy Champions of the various energy conservation and water savings projects that have already been completed in County buildings. The Session also gave the ECs the opportunity to give input and suggestions. Facilities Management is planning the first follow-up meeting with the ECs since the Kick-off session. These brief quarterly meetings will be at a central location or via GotoMeeting. They will allow the team to ascertain efforts, get feedback and recommendations as well as measure the success of the program.


Environmental Protection

The Ghosts of Water: Past, Present, and Future continued from page 1

The Ghost of Water Present- Money Our water is relatively inexpensive. We are often told that if we use less water we will save money on our utility bills. Unless you are one of the extreme water users, the monthly savings tend to be miniscule because we don’t pay the true costs of clean water. However, the financial savings are real and will kick in if we can avoid having to develop alternative sources for our water needs. The Water Management Districts are required by the State to identify alternative water sources as the Floridan aquifer becomes increasingly tapped. Alternative sources in Florida have historically included desalination of seawater and extraction from surface water sources. These alternative sources can come with a hefty price tag, a large carbon footprint, a healthy appetite for energy, and ecological challenges. Our present groundwater source is inexpensive and we can avoid (or at least prolong) the need for expensive alternative sources if we all work together and make water conservation a priority in our communities, businesses, and homes. Even those of us that use wells will realize savings if we can avoid the cost of having to dig a deeper well to reach dropping groundwater levels. The Ghost of Water Future- Legacy Water does not know political boundaries. I am often asked why the people of Alachua County should use less water so that Jacksonville, Orlando, or Tampa can suck it up for themselves. This is a difficult issue to address because water from one region is affected by the habits of neighboring regions. But before we judge our neighbors, we need to look at our own lifestyles. We are all part of the problem and can all be part of the solution. We can lead by example as we start to value water as the essential resource that it is. For me it is a personal choice to do everything I can do to use less water in hopes that future generations will get to experience the joy of diving into a spring and the security of being able to quench thirst by simply turning on a faucet. Charles Dickens’ ghosts of the past, present, and future helped save Christmas and Scrooge himself. If you are ready to learn how to save water in your daily life, I invite you to visit


Waste Management

Have a Fun and Sustainable Football Season by Carol Davis Waste Alternative Specialist

Gator football is right around the corner, and it’s time to start planning for tailgating and football parties. These events can range from a few dozen friends to a catered affair with hundreds of guests. Along with this fun, comes the responsibility of dealing with the waste generated by the festivities. According to the University of Florida, some 9-10 tons of extra trash is generated from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, and 7-9 tons of trash is collected from other parts of campus during a football weekend. Even the most elaborate tailgate can reduce its waste

So, What can you do to help? • Pack it in, pack it out. Consider bringing your own bags and separate your trash and take it with you. • Reusable Plates/Utensils. If you’re going to be grilling or serving food, think about using reusable or biodegradable plates and silverware. • Bring a reusable water bottle. In 2008, 2,480,000 tons of plastic bottles were thrown away. By bringing a reusable water bottle, you can divert plastic from the waste stream. You can fill up your water bottle at the water fountains and save money too! • Recycle your aluminum cans. By recycling just one aluminum can, you save enough energy to run a television for three hours. When you throw an aluminum can away, it will still be a can in 400 years. • Reuse or recycle plastic cups. When you buy a drink in the stadium, consider keeping your cup to reuse, or place it in a plastic recycling receptacle. Don’t throw it away. It takes over 500 years for plastic to decompose. • Marked Receptacles. Look for marked receptacles in and around the stadium to place your recyclables. There are many great options out there. With a little pre-planning, you can help generate less waste and still have a great time cheering on the Gators.


Sustainability Connection Newsletter  

The Alachua County Office of Waste Alternatives, Facilities Management Division, Environmental Protection Department and the Sustainability...