Guest Column: Green Living Toolkit the essential guide to sustainable living on the Suncoast

By Jennifer L. Shafer
Guest Columnist

Jennifer Shafer.

The health and well being of our community depends on the health and resilience of our natural environment. This simple but profound understanding has united our community over generations to value and protect our natural environment.

As our population on the Suncoast grows, so do the stresses on our environment and the natural systems that support us. We all care about environmental degradation and often wish somebody would do something about it. Sometimes, that somebody is all of us. Through the cumulative effects of each of our personal choices, we choose to either impact or protect the environment. A growing number of residents and businesses are choosing the latter and seek information and opportunities to reduce their environmental footprint.

Over the past year, our region’s most dedicated and experienced sustainability experts from the Science and Environment Council, with support from Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, have curated a toolkit of resources to help residents get laser focused on the 15 most effective and achievable solutions for sustainable living on the Suncoast. The Green Living Toolkit ( is the first-of-its-kind essential guide to sustainable energy, food, waste recovery, water protection and nature assembled all in one place. And it is designed especially for residents in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

“Sustainability is a key ingredient to being a good environmental steward, with our world facing so many threats,” said Teri A Hansen, president and CEO of the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation. “That is particularly true in Manatee and Sarasota counties, where environmental beauty and the good stewardship of our neighbors helped draw many of us to this slice of paradise. We all must do our part to keep it that way.”

The Toolkit includes the best step-by-step guides, tools, calculators, incentives, and videos to help you get started. For the first time ever, the Toolkit’s community-wide calendar consolidates environmental events from more than 100 local organizations such as sustainability classes, tours, festivals, and farmer’s markets, as well as opportunities to volunteer or speak up for a cause.

The Toolkit also connects you to local resources and experts who can assist and answer questions. For example, if you are interested in using rooftop solar to help power your home, the Toolkit describes the steps necessary to get you there including assessing your roof readiness, downsizing your energy use to maximize solar efficiency, right-sizing your solar system, shopping for solar and financing it. If you’re not ready to install solar, the Toolkit also provides opportunities to support solar in the community, including helping local non-profit organizations to install solar at their facility or advocating for solar through programs and organizations such as Ready For 100, Citizen’s Climate Lobby, Solar United Neighbors or Southface Sarasota.

“We are fortunate to have so many local residents who are passionate about protecting our environment,” said Lee Hayes Byron, director at University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension Sarasota County. “It can be difficult to know where to start or how to be most impactful, so this Toolkit will help our residents find the best opportunities to make a difference.”

We invite you to visit the Green Living Toolkit to discover and interact with the latest information, receive clear guidance with easy first steps, and be inspired and motivated to accomplish rewarding and meaningful actions protective of environmental health.

With each action you take, you accrue personal and community benefits — from your family’s health and wellness to personal savings, property value, ecosystem health, and community prosperity.

The Green Living Toolkit is everything you need to love life and live green.

(Jennifer L. Shafer is co-executive director of the Science and Environmental Council (SEC), which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit network of 40 local science-based environmental organizations. Founded in 2001, SEC works to increase science-based environmental understanding, conservation and restoration through collaboration and public engagement in Sarasota and Manatee counties and adjacent watersheds. For more information, visit