November 17, 2008

Giving Thanks for Being Green

By James Stevenson, Extension Specialist, Pinellas County Extension

Looking forward to Thanksgiving this year may be a slight challenge for some. The economic and environmental crises of 2008 may have some of us in a bad mood. What we can do, as we come together at the end of the month, is reflect on how to prevent and possibly reverse these troubles for future generations.

A sustainable culture does not simply happen. People have to make choices to ensure a healthy, equitable, and sustainable future. The events of the recent past have shown us the real message of sustainability; that there are real consequences when you attempt to use more of a resource than you have.

But Thanksgiving is not the time for this doom-and-gloom. We can look at ourselves and our society and give thanks for what we as Floridians and Americans have achieved. The growing green “movement” has become less of a cause and more of an ingrained and common sense approach to living.

Florida has stunning natural areas, worthy of protection. Many new developments are being created with resource efficiency driving the design. At the University of Florida the Program for Resource Efficient Communities provides expert advice and training for developers. Through programs like 4-H Youth Development and the rest of the Department of Youth, Family and Community Sciences, citizens are provided with information on healthy lifestyles from nutrition, to family economics, to leadership skills and life skills.

The University of Florida has taken the lead on providing, through its 68 Extension offices throughout the state, the research-based information we need to help us make decisions that will benefit ourselves and future generations.
In Pinellas County, we are thankful for the enthusiasm our citizens have shown for programs offered at Extension that contribute to a sustainable future. Our Natural Resources Specialists provide environmentally sound advice on keeping your yard and garden beautiful and productive. Through Florida Yards and Neighborhoods programs on rainwater collection, composting, mulching, irrigation and many other topics have fostered a community spirit of resource conservation. Our award-winning 4-H Youth Development program teaches the next generation of leaders the best ways to exist in harmony with each other and our environment. And our Families and Consumer Sciences program provides the community information on all aspects of a healthy lifestyle.

Our different program areas work together, providing citizens with the latest, unbiased and researched information from the University of Florida. There is no way our efforts could be as successful as they are without the help of hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of volunteers. These tireless assistants provide outreach, support and service in Pinellas County, equating to the equivalent of 24 full-time employees and a value of $1,000,000. We are thankful every day for these dedicated and passionate individuals.

We wish you and your family the very best this Thanksgiving, and we thank you for being a part of our Extension Family! The following publications from the University touch on the three areas of sustainable living: economy, society and the environment. How these three entities interact is the science of sustainability. How individuals do their part is the practice of sustainability.

Managing in Tough Times – This document from UF’s Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences can help you and your family plan for a more economically sustainable 2009.

Evaluating Green Communities – Mark E. Hostetler, Wildlife Extension Specialist and Associate Professor, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at UF has provided 11 questions to ask in evaluating a community. More than ever communities are coming together and creating an environment of cooperation that addresses the social, economic, and environmental challenges we and our families are faced with.

A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Handbook – This handy guide offers not only landscape advice, but practices that ensure a very light touch on the environment. Nine easy-to-follow principles provide for a beautiful, sustainable and environmentally sensitive yard.

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