On September 1st, SCOPE’S John McCarthy and several others were invited to speak at a luncheon hosted by the Science and Environmental Council and the Argus Foundation. The topic of the luncheon, which was attended by 150 people, was the importance of the environment to the local business economy in Sarasota County. SCOPE distributed the above infographic, illustrating how a healthy economy is connected to a healthy environment.
In Sarasota County our natural environment and our economy are deeply connected, in part because tourism brings $1.5 billion to our local economy each year. According to our analysis of TripAdvisor postings, 40% of activities on “TripAdvisor’s top activities in Sarasota” are outdoor and environmental activities such as nature walks, bike tours, kayaking, and snorkeling. In addition, 5% of activities are “environmental attractions” such as MOTE Marine and Selby Botanical Gardens.
Sarasota County has the unique opportunity to lead Florida into a sustainable future. We are recognized as a leader in the greening of local governments, holding the highest certification score within the FGBC Green Local Government Certification program. We are the first local government to have signed the 2030 Challenge Resolution, which calls for all new buildings to be carbon neutral by 2030. We are also the first local Florida government to gain a LEED building certification, we reduced drinking water consumption per capita by 40 percent, we preserved 16,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land, and we have one of the highest recycling rates in the state. We have come a long way, and there is a lot more to be done.
There is no doubt that citizens in Sarasota County are passionate about preserving the environment. Organizations like Transition Sarasota and the Sarasota County UF/IFAS extension are some of the leaders in the local effort to make Sarasota County a sustainable community. Next week (October 24th-28th) Transition Sarasota will host its annual Eat Local Week with several opportunities for Sarasota Residents to immerse themselves in the local food culture. The Sarasota County Sustainability Department will also be holding a workshop on October 28h on the State of our Food shed, and a Sustainable Community Workshop on December 3rd.
If there is anything I have learned through my involvement in this community, it’s that people, businesses, and government must work together to make significant change. When it comes to our environment: our natural landscapes, mangrove tunnels, beaches, native plants, clean water and air, fish, birds, manatees, dolphins, and sea turtles, I think we can find common ground. These are things that we should preserve for the future of our economy and for future generations. These are the things that bring people to Sarasota, and more importantly, these are the things that make people want to stay.