By Trish Riley
The Florida Keys are unique to our nation. A 150-mile chain of islands that reach into the sub-tropical latitudes, the Keys are lined by the country’s only living coral reef. The islands are strung together by a highway created in the 1930s by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration in the effort to retool America’s economy during the Great Depression. Hurricanes had wiped out Flagler’s railroad to Key West, so the roadway opened the Keys to trade and tourism as never before, and these islands have both benefited and suffered from the influx of people and products. Today the Keys are one of America’s top tourist destinations and residents strive to balance the tourist economy with the needs of the fragile ecological systems that make the islands such an attractive draw for those who wish to explore their natural beauty.
“Here in the Keys the need to conserve energy, water and other natural resources is even more crucial than other places in the country. Everything we consume, including our food and water, comes from the mainland,” said Bridget McDonald, GLEE’s Program Coordinator. “We all know the cost of fuel, but GLEE is also teaching the cost of waste through basic R4 education, exploring alternative energies and promoting energy saving practices and devices.” R4 education, McDonald said, begins with Reduce and Reuse, and ends with Recycle and Rot (composting), the latter an important concept in an area where 30 percent of the waste stream is biodegradables like yard and food waste.
The 4th Annual Florida Keys Green Living & Energy Education (GLEE) Expo is the product of volunteer residents determined to help the Keys move toward a sustainable future. The annual event provides economic and environmental incentives to residents, businesses and local government, as well as a growing number of visitors from the mainland. “It’s a win-win for everyone involved,” said McDonald. “The economic stimulus provided by green markets and green jobs has great potential for this area considering our capacity for solar technologies, water collection and endless other innovations.”
The 2008 GLEE Expo was the largest green living show in South Florida, with more than 2000 visitors and nearly 100 exhibitors. This year’s event promises to be just as powerful. GLEE Expo is free for attendees and will be held March 28, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., at Marathon High School, 350 Sombrero Beach Road, MM 50 on US 1.
This year’s emphasis will be on greening the economy and water conservation. Free workshops on practical solutions for sustainable living, including rainwater collection, filtering systems and gray water reuse will be offered. In the Keys, freshwater is a particularly valuable essential resource that must be piped into the islands from the mainland. Finding ways to prevent pollution and conservation of freshwater helps extend the supply needed to support residents, businesses and visitors to this sunny paradise.
“We’re at an important crossroads,” states Alison Higgins, President of GLEE. “With so much depending on our economy and ecology, purposeful steps toward reducing wastefulness and expanding sustainable energies really can be the green light that leads us out of this dark tunnel. With 80 percent of our islands within 3 feet of sea level, we cannot afford to sit idly by.”
Workshops for professionals (including several with Continuing Education and the Florida Construction Licensing Board credit hours available) interested in learning practical information about rainwater catchment systems, green building and green lodging will held March 25 – 27; visit www.keysglee.com for fee and schedule information.
The GLEE Expo also provides more than 30 free consumer workshops and more than 50 exhibits on all things green, from water filters to how to build your own water collection system; an array of alternative energy vehicles with owners available to answer questions; solar energy and water heating systems; building designs utilizing green materials and capitalizing on passive energy, green products for health and cleaning; info on indoor air quality issues and an in-vessel composter capable of turning biodegradable waste into a rich soil amendment will be on display.
A green film festival, a silent auction of green exhibitor products, an organic farmer’s market, a recycled art exhibit and green children’s activities, featuring a performance by “Earthman,” Lanny Smith, are also included in the GLEE Expo agenda.
Green home tours are offered on Sunday, March 29 to those who sign up at Saturday’s Expo. Visitors to Expo can find carpool and shuttle information, as well as maps and directions to the GLEE Expo at www.keysglee.com. Free gifts are offered to those who arrive using alternative transportation.
At this critical time in America’s economic history, going green shows great promise for helping to move us forward into a healthier economic and environmental future, much as Roosevelt’s New Deal projects such as the highway into the Keys helped put America back to work and pulled us out of the Great Depression. Supporting and developing green businesses promises jobs for the future and helps create a more sustainable planet. This event, sponsored by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, is designed to create an economically beneficial path to a sustainable future.
“ We are glad to be a major sponsor of this event because conserving our natural resources is a priority of the TDC,” said Harold Wheeler, director of the Florida Keys & Key West Tourist Development Council. “Attracting visitors who understand about preserving our destination’s environment by helping to sustain or even enhance the natural aspects, is the image we want to market.”
–Florida resident Trish Riley is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Living (Alpha Books 2007) and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide of Greening Your Business (Alpha Books 2009).
Alternative Transportation Showcase Demonstrates Feasibility of Solar, Electric and More
Electric and high-mileage vehicles are beginning to catch the interest of consumers as well as legislators. In a move toward clean alternatives and oil independence, Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner (R-Delray Beach) has filed a bill that provides incentives and tax relief for owners of electric vehicles and charging stations in order to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, strengthen Florida’s energy security, stimulate the state’s economy, and bring us closer to the ultimate goal of energy independence. The proposed legislation provides for sales tax exemptions for highway-capable plug-in electric vehicles and electric vehicle components, toll exemptions on Florida toll roads and an annual $1,000 tax credit per vehicle each year for corporate fleets of ten or more highway-capable plug-in electric vehicles, a $2,000 rebate for installing a public charging station or for converting a hybrid to a plug-in hybrid with a US Government certified conversion kit.
GLEE Expo will feature information and demonstration test-drives of several alternative vehicle options. Florida Electric Auto Association (FLEAA) will bring an exciting assortment of electric vehicles, including an electric Porsche, several new Zenn Cars and the Vectrix motorcycle. A plug-in Prius will also be displayed. While manufacturers haven’t announced a production plug-in, there is currently a manufacturer-approved conversion kit for Prius owners. Solar powered limo and golf carts that never need to plug in to conventional power or fuel will be on display by E3 (www.e3fla.com). Leading the “innovation” category is a vehicle from Solution Hybrid LLC (www.solutionhybrid.com) with its new 2.0 Chamber Management Motor that uses compressed air to drive each wheel with a small motor. Components are made of state-of-the-art materials and when running, are suspended on a cushion of air within the motor to reduce friction. Vehicles featured at GLEE Expo that can be bought today include the Civic Hybrid from Honda, which will release its new four-door Honda Insight later this year.
Businesses using alternative transportation featured at GLEE Expo include Five Sixes Taxi of Key West, which has replaced its fleet with new hybrids; S.A.L.T. (Sea Air Land Technologies) of Marathon, which will show off two hard-working and energy-efficient Zenn vehicles used by the business every day; a hybrid vehicle used by Waste Management; an all-electric Hummer from Joey’s Classic Electric Rentals; and First State Bank of the Florida Keys SmartCar.
For a full schedule of Alternative Transportation and other events at the Keys GLEE Expo, visit www.keysglee.com.
Rainwater Harvesting: Courses to Prepare Trades, Residents for Future Water Needs
Rainwater collection is common practice in island communities, but the Florida Keys has only begun to capitalize on this free, natural, fresh resource. The roof of an average single-family home in the Keys receives about 35,000 gallons of rainwater per year, but it’s routinely wasted through gutter and run-off systems rather than captured and utilized for its true value. The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA) will soon offer rebates to reward Keys residents and businesses that establish rainwater catchment and utilization systems on their properties. To help residents and businesses prepare to take advantage of these rebates, GLEE Expo will feature workshops for professionals and the public.
On Thursday, March 26, building pros can pick up 7 general CE hours in the newly Construction Industry Licensing Board approved workshop, “Rainwater Harvesting,” covering an introduction to rainwater harvesting, demonstration of rainwater and storm-water runoff, rainwater catchment planning, collection systems, sanitation and maintenance. The course is taught by Billy Kniffen and Timothy Pope of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA; http://www.arcsa.org/cert.html). The non-credit cost is $50.
On Friday, March 27, ARCSA will offer day two of “Rainwater Harvesting,” hands-on training in calculations of rainfall supply and demand, passive & complex storm-water mitigation, product sources, hands-on rainwater-harvesting component construction and a review and course evaluation. Continuing Education credits are available for professionals – for registration and fee information visit www.keysglee.com.
Free consumer rainwater workshops will be offered at GLEE Expo on Saturday, March 28. Visit www.keysglee.com for schedule information.
Free Consumer Workshops Cover Green Spectrum
More than 30 free workshops will be held on Saturday, March 28, presented by experts on the green impact of the federal stimulus package, solar power, water conservation, green building, biodiesel fuel, energy and water efficient appliances, global warming, organic gardening, eco-tourism and green transportation. Free presentations by exhibitors will run continuously in the Exhibitor Speakers Forum on Saturday – see the full schedule of workshops and exhibitors at www.keysglee.com. Fee-based workshops for professionals and others will be held Wednesday, March 25 – Friday, March 27, and include workshops on the value of green building, green building materials and technologies and green lodging (www.keysglee.com).