Pinellas County Named State’s First Certified Green County
The Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) has recognized Pinellas County’s outstanding environmental stewardship by designating it as the first Certified Green Local Government in Florida.
Developed and administered by researchers at the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), the Florida Green Local Government Standard focuses on improving local governments’ environmental performance in the areas of energy, water, air, land and waste. The standard examines governments’ internal environmental practices, incentives, ordinances and educational activities that aim to improve the environment.
Several Pinellas County departments developed special programs to move toward being a Green County. In order to obtain the Green Local Government designation, Pinellas County demonstrated that its operations met the Florida Green Building Coalition’s criteria, organized in terms of local government department functions. Some of the outstanding departments and their programs include:
- Utilities – focus on water conservation and their progressive solid waste collection
- Public Works – use of LED traffic signal lights
- Environmental Management & Parks and Recreation – efforts to preserve wildlife habitat and properly care for public lands
- Community Development – use of EnergyStar appliances in affordable housing units
- Fleet Management – use of Biodiesel in the county’s fleet of diesel-powered vehicles
- The Planning Department – integration of green land management policies into the county’s overall plans
Pinellas County Parks and Recreation Department maintains more than 4,100 acres of natural Florida landscapes and beaches. Weedon Island Preserve represents 3,000 acres of specially designated lands, managed by the Department of Environmental Management, which oversees four preserves and eleven management areas, all set aside for environmental preservation and education through passive public uses.
“We are extremely proud to receive this designation and appreciate the recognition of the effort put forth by county departments,” said Mary Campbell, Pinellas County Extension director, who coordinates the program. “Pinellas County has worked diligently for many years to achieve this level of environmental stewardship.”
The Florida Green Local Government Standard designates Green Cities and Green Counties for outstanding environmental stewardship. The program was developed by FSEC under a contract from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Florida Energy Office.
The Florida Green Local Government Standard is similar to other green standards used in Florida and many other states, yet unique since it targets local governments. There are two levels of the Florida Green Local Government Standard. Local governments that have applied for the designation are required to meet specific criteria. Each local government’s unique needs are considered in awarding credit points. When a city or county has met a minimum number of credit points, the local government earns the “registered” designation. If all appropriate credit points have been incorporated, the local government earns the “certified” designation.
The four registered governments, which intend to advance to certified status within three years, are Sarasota and Orange counties and the cities of St. Petersburg and Dunedin.
Since Certified Green Local Governments function in a more efficient manner through better internal communication, dollar savings, and effective risk and asset management, FGBC plans to develop grants and additional funding to encourage all of Florida’s local governments to follow the lead of Pinellas County.
Eric Martin, a senior research engineer at FSEC, spearheaded the development of this standard and served as FSEC’s evaluator for the designation process.
The Florida Solar Energy Center, a research institute of the University of Central Florida, is the largest and most active state-supported energy research center in the country. Current research activities include solar water and pool heating, solar electric and distributed generation systems, energy-efficient buildings, alternative transportation systems, hydrogen fuel, fuel cells and other energy areas. For more information about the center, visit www.fsec.ucf.edu or call the FSEC Public Affairs Office at (321) 638-1015.