Sustainable Tallahassee has relied exclusively on volunteers since Greenovation began in March 2007. In our first year as Greenovation, the team initiated projects such as Tallahassee’s first Park and Ride program and a recycling program called iRecycle that was rolled out in all Leon County Schools in August 2007.
Programs like iRecycle not only contribute to increased awareness of the importance of sustainable practices, but have a tangible impact through a reduction in the solid-waste costs for Leon County Schools. The partnerships Greenovation and now Sustainable Tallahassee developed to implement the iRecycle program will ensure that this program continues into the future because, as a catalyst for change, volunteers created a program that can stand on its own and is currently managed by Leon County Schools staff and teachers.
Although Sustainable Tallahassee volunteers will continue their efforts to promote recycling in our community, we serve as a community catalyst to bring key partners to the table and create a common goal that is accomplished and therefore owned by all members of the team. This approach allows ST, a volunteer organization, to work with multiple partners in our area on an array of different issues to create sustainable projects that benefit our local economy and promote sustainable living.
ST's biggest challenge at this point is the kind of challenge most nonprofits would love to have: such wide community interest in so many aspects of sustainability that we have a hard time harnessing and channeling all of it. We realized early on that this community was eager to become even greener than it already is, and ST has been seen as a primary vehicle for delivering the goods almost as soon as the initiative began.
To achieve our goal of transforming Tallahassee and the surrounding area into a sustainable community with a vibrant green economy, Sustainable Tallahassee has worked to educate the public and change habits in many ways, but we have also laid the groundwork to create an organization with the ability to track multiple environmental issues and communicate information to the public.
As a local community resource, ST will provide individuals and businesses with a variety of information including tips on how to green one’s home or office, where to find green products and services locally, and why all of us need to think about the impact of our lifestyle on the environment, economy, and our quality of life. This information and the means to discuss our successes and failures and to work together to effect change has been and will continue to be a transformative influence in our community.
Sustainable Tallahassee is certainly not the only organization working to promote sustainability in our area, but are and will continue to be clearinghouse for local efforts and a leading catalyst for change -- in large part because we've made it clear that we're not competing with like-minded organizations, but seeking to synchronize efforts.
Although businesses of all sizes have embraced the green movement, we require substantially more public education if our community hopes to truly transform. We must make appropriate choices to create a sustainable economy. This is particularly important in a community whose employment base has been government-dependent since Tallahassee was founded more than 180 years ago and that for decades has tried, with only modest success, to diversify its local and regional economy with a more robust private sector.
We view the ongoing need to diversify the local and regional economy and the global need to reduce our carbon footprint as a singular opportunity to blend economic development efforts in a community sorely in need of diversification, with its longstanding commitment to environmental responsibility.
Sustainable Tallahassee is an inclusive organization, so the entire community is our audience. But since our focus is on economic development, special focus must be on two groups: business and government (as one group), and members of the so-called "creative class." Major job-creation efforts in Tallahassee are almost by definition the product of joint public-private cooperation, because ours is a government-dominated employment base. For Tallahassee to grow its economy in a way that we see as desirable, substantial focus must be on attracting people who use their creative talents to make a living. So, while all residents in this community and region are our audience, we do have special target audiences.
Public education and dialogue that promote sustainable living and business practices must be a priority for our community and for all communities in our country and around the world if we hope to arrest global warming and address myriad economic, environmental and public health problems.
Sustainability is generally defined as the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Therefore, to substantially improve sustainable business and lifestyle practices, we must encourage a communitywide discussion about how we can reduce the negative effects on our environment and health which stem from our energy and water consumption, how we produce and transport raw materials and products, and the amount of waste we generate while encouraging economic development and lifestyle changes.
Further, because Sustainable Tallahassee is focused on economic development as well as lifestyle changes and environmental responsibility, we have attracted a diverse group of volunteers to our organization. Our Board, Membership and E-mail list represent a wide variety of political and religious beliefs, occupations, ages, and agendas. We are open to all and seek to establish a means of communicating with all segments of our community because sustainable living will improve the lives of all members of our community and for generations to come.
We also recognize the fact that we will not accomplish our goal if we are not open to a wide range of opinions and understand the barriers that some individuals and businesses face when trying to go green. Only together can we effect change and create a sustainable community and unlike the past when economic and environmental interests were seen as diametrically opposed, Sustainable Tallahassee has shown and will continue to demonstrate that a sustainable economy and sustainable community are inherently linked and offer benefits for all.