Sustainability Enthusiast

Welcome to Sustainability Enthusiast, intended to keep you informed on all things sustainable in our world, in design, construction & development and in your daily life.

REGIONAL CLIMATE ACTION

It’s past time to get serious about reducing emissions

When discussing resilient cities, climate action (the steps to reduce emissions) must be a top priority.  Addressing climate provides the needed steps to affect critically important aspects of overall community resilience including preparedness, safety, health, poverty, and environmental justice.

There are many resources cities and county governments can utilize to map out a path to significant and meaningful reductions that would include reducing building emissions, increasing renewable energy sources, and electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, to name a few. 

One such resource is the American Cities Climate Challenge, which provides procurement guidance, tools & resources, and tracking for action taken by local governments concerning renewable energy sources needed to reduce emissions.  It also tracks engagement. 

Moreover, the site provides tools that interested stakeholders can use to inform themselves on what their area leaders are actually doing in the area of renewables and serious climate action.  The map provides a good look at regional efforts as well as performance across states.  In our region of Northeast Florida, Jacksonville Beach is the only municipality listed.  Alachua County, Ocala, New Smyrna Beach, Mount Dora and Orlando are notable and close to our market. 

If your local government is engaging on these issues but is not represented on the map, you also have the opportunity to provide the relevant information to make the tracking more accurate and informative.

US Climate Action Week

Next week is US Climate Action Week.  In a recent RMI post, Jake Glassman states that Despite the United States’ renewed commitment to the Paris Agreement, it has never been more important for governments at all levels to keep working toward a zero-carbon future. He goes on to provide many valuable resources.  Read the full post and find these resources here.   

I encourage our leadership, here locally and around the state, to take an all-embracing approach to immediately reduce emissions. It will benefit all of us by providing a thriving economy, and a healthy and safe place to live and work. 

SUSTAINING PEOPLE

Sustainability is often framed as pursuing the ‘triple bottom line’ of people, profit and planet. The ‘people’ part can be overlooked by those seeking data driven results or even by those focused on saving the planet.  I was inspired this week by one of my specialty contractors, who is taking extra steps to protect the health and wellness of his employees, during one of the most unique times in our current history. 

I listened intently as this business owner described his efforts to seek out the necessary protective equipment & supplies, how he had a backup plan if those items ran out, the processes he put in place for his employees and how each had been instructed.  I paid attention as he described the concern of the people living in one of the properties they service and how they are considered in these processes.  Items such as face coverings and hand sanitizer for company and employee vehicles were all carefully considered.  Finally, I listened to his genuine concern for the health and well-being of his employees and his family when he arrives home in the evening. 

Those of us in the commercial construction industry already engage in a significant commitment to the safety and health of our employees and those who are on our project sites.  However, COVID-19 has made everyone more acutely aware and will make us better for it. 

Contractors are considered essential in Florida and for that, we are extremely fortunate.  Here in Duval County we are well supported by local government making it possible for us to continue to pursue and perform most work, although there are exceptions and challenges. This privilege comes with a great deal of responsibility that we do not take lightly.  Being essential does not exempt contractors from the requirements being set forth by officials.  In fact, it amplifies the obligation and necessitates additional levels of thoughtful consideration and planning of our work every moment of every day. Our industry is also facing shortages of essential safety equipment in use prior to the pandemic, and now all of the additional items needed to work safely.   

The steps this business owner is taking reach far beyond his employees.  These actions protect the circle of clients, their clients’ customers, his employees’ families, his family and all those they may come in contact with.  In other words, ‘the people’. 

I am always proud of my industry, the work we do and the service we provide to so many.  This week my pride is strengthened.

U.S. Seeks Help from Small Business to Stop Food Waste

If you own a local farm, grocery, restaurant or cafe, you have struggled with how best to handle food waste, for a variety of reasons. The EPA is looking for small businesses to provide solutions to our food waste crisis. Here is the summary from the SBA and a link to the EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR). Would be great to see local Jacksonville businesses apply. Good luck!

EPA Small Business Research Program Funding Opportunity

Did you know that 30–40% of all available food in the U.S. is wasted? The Environmental Protection Agency is funding innovative tech ideas to stop food waste through the Small Business Innovation Research Program. Apply for up to $100K in research and development for your small business solution by July 31, 2019.Get started

Another River City Engages on the Issue of Climate

Many of us in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida have been involved in efforts to make our city, and our region, more sustainable and resilient.  Examples of success are available to us, even if not widely acknowledged or recognized.  But we long for bold leadership that will make us a truly sustainable city.  A vision that provides for aggressive targets to lower emissions, protect our natural resources, improve air and water quality, to grow our economy through support of green business and to enact policies that positively affect the health and well-being of all of those in our community. 

As we move closer to our local elections, and during a time of joy and hope, I put forth the wish of a true sustainability vision and policy originating from City Hall.  What a gift that would be for the citizens of Jacksonville!  While we continue our work, here is an excellent example of a river city making great strides in this effort.  Take a look at this video series, compliments of CDP, which includes the actions of Memphis, Tennessee, a member of the Global Covenant of Mayors.   

Jacksonville Rejects Resiliency

To say I was proud when Jacksonville was named one of the world’s most resilient cities is an understatement.  This was a huge accomplishment for Mayor Alvin Brown’s administration.  Few residents knew about it but I was certain that would change.  I was excited to think how I, and others in Jacksonville who are passionate on this issue, could be assets and resources to the incoming Resilience Officer.  I knew that we had a lot of work to do to truly earn and maintain this distinction, but what an amazing opportunity not only to make Jacksonville a safe and resilient city but an opportunity to draw talent to our area through the process.  Would the new administration see it the same way?

I became concerned when a separate position was not created and a job search wasn’t conducted.  After all, this is a very big task that by definition prepares cities to be resilient through physical, social and economic challenges.  That encompass preparation for and recovery from  the effects of sea level rise, groundwater infiltration, salinity, ecology, severe weather events, air quality issues, health and well-being and  economic downturns, just to name a few.  This role would address the infrastructure and emergency management needed to do so.  As a contractor, I can clearly see the public safety and public works aspects to the term ‘resilience’.  Despite my skepticism of how slowly we were moving on the establishment of a resiliency offer and the process to appoint rather than hire one, I could never imagine the City would walk away from being a part of The 100 Resilient Cities.  I personally sat at a recent US Green Building Council meeting where the new resiliency officer spoke to us about his new role and how important it is to our city.

On the bright side, there are many in our area who understand and contribute on these important issues.  They will continue to work behind the scenes to make positive strides but not having our leadership behind this initiative is a huge setback.

An example is the Northeast Florida Regional Council who engaged on this issue early with the Committee on Sea Level Rise, on which I was proud to serve.  This committee created a Regional Action Plan.  Since that time and in response to this plan, the NEFRC has created the P2R2 Public/Private Regional Resiliency effort.

For more on this topic visit Florida Politics and Melissa Ross who will undoubtedly stay on top of this important issue.  I am comforted to know many of us are.

Shifting Expectations In Sustainable Living

Home Builders and Retailers have embraced sustainability because their customers demand it and the numbers prove its value.

The National Association of Homebuilders says it is “Engaging Consumers of all Ages in Sustainable Living”.  This information is backed up with data in Dodge Analytics Smart Market Report titled Green and Healthier Homes.

The report states that “…some aspects of green, especially energy conservation, have become an expected practice in the industry, and how commitment to green homes is expected to continue to grow.”  In addition, those builders who execute green building practices see a positive effect.  “Consistent with the findings of the previous Green Homes Smart Market Reports from 2011 and 2014, builders with a high level of green involvement (those who do more than 60% of their projects green) report lower additional cost to building green than those who do less green building.” Read the full report featured on the NAHB website.

The retail market is no exception.  According to an article by Goulston and Storrs PC, retailers have shifted from sustainability as a regulatory response to now pursuing sustainability to increase customer satisfaction and capture brand loyalty.

What is your industry’s view on sustainability, resilience and green?  Consumers and Corporations alike are asking for green products and services from the supply chain to the end product.  Commercial Contractors and Home Builders need to be knowledgeable on this topic and implement strategies to reduce initial costs to their customers or those customers will go elsewhere.   Are you in the best position to meet your client’s expectations and deliver results?

Climate Change and Resilience

Climate Change has grabbed major headlines, including calls to action by Pope Francis and announcements by China to cap some emissions and put a price on carbon.  Continue reading

Breaking Ground Contracting | 4218 Highway Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32254 | 904.388.1350 | F: 904.388.3440
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