Whether you're a visitor or a resident, you can take simple steps to preserve Sarasota County's environment.
With the increasingly popular trend of "going green" and the recent environmental scares across the world, more and more people are asking, "How can I help?" Spend less time searching for ways to lend a hand on Google and get out there with these easy ways to get educated and do your part in Sarasota. From volunteering in the field to making simple changes at home, there's something you can do to save our environment and keep Sarasota beautiful.
As Sarasota is situated on the Gulf and home to miles of beaches, as well as plentiful trees, plants, bodies of water and wildlife, the area is especially sensitive to environmental damage. Even the smallest efforts can contribute to the maintenance and improvement of the county's natural beauty.
Sarasota County and the Sarasota Conservation Foundation partnered up and set their sights on acquiring land under the county's Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program, ensuring not only that the lands are protected, but that public access is always available.
Preserving these sensitive lands is of the utmost importance because they are safe zones for threatened, native species including eagles, tortoises and Florida scrub jays. Their natural habitats must be intact for their survival. Several of the purchased sensitive lands will serve as public preserves, offering recreational activities and space for locals and visitors.
See what Sarasota is doing for you firsthand by staying informed and getting involved. View meetings and sign up for the e-mail newsletter and calendar by visiting www.scgov.net/meetingsagenda.asp. There are also organized nature walks each month. The activities are all educational and diverse, helping those interested get in touch with nature in original ways. For details, visit www.scgov.net, select "Calendar of Events" and select "Nature Walks" from the drop down menu.
Keep Sarasota County Beautiful, a relative of Keep America Beautiful, Inc., is an appropriately titled program intended to promote public interest and involvement in the environment. Educational programs, cleanup efforts and more all come into play. Cleanup projects take place in Gillespie Park, Laurel, Newtown, Nokomis, North Port and Venice. The cleanup efforts can also expand to any area volunteer groups choose. The two largest cleanup events take place annually: the Great American Cleanup, which primarily targets litter, and the International Coastal Cleanup, which focuses on marine debris. For more information, visit http://www.scgov.net/EnvironmentalServices/KeepSarasotaBeautiful/KSCB.asp.
The University of Florida's Sarasota County Extension/Cooperative Extension is a partnership that brings a great deal of information, as well as opportunities, to the Sarasota County public. UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Sarasota County government all team up to offer education and tools to improve the quality of life for our locals and visitors. Their website, http://sarasota.ifas.ufl.edu provides details on all sorts of things, like how to properly dispose of your old medications and other simple tricks to keep you and your neighbors safe while protecting the environment. Watch videos, listen to podcasts and peruse a busy calendar of workshops, as well. Workshop topics include irrigation, dealing with insects like termites and red ants, sustainable living, vegetable gardening, rain barrels, landscaping and much more.
The Sarasota County Office is located at 6700 Clark Rd., Sarasota. Visit the website or call (941) 861-5000 for more information.
Another way to get involved is to look into the Sarasota Environmental Aquatics Team, also known as SEA. SEA is a group that coordinates volunteer efforts to improve the aquatic ecosystem. The group places a special focus on its Seagrass Monitoring Program, which assesses the health of sea grass beds and conducts research to determine which species are using them.
In order to become a volunteer, you must attend a training session and be available a few days out of the year, particularly in the months of February or August. Since volunteering with SEA is a small commitment with a major positive impact, it can be a rewarding, simple activity for visitors to Sarasota looking to get involved and give back. Volunteering helps ensure that you'll always have a beautiful Sarasota to come back to, time and time again. Volunteers often go out on boats and kayaks, so you'll get exercise and a beautiful view while helping to preserve our environment.
Visit the SEA website at http://sarasota.wateratlas.usf.edu/seagrass for all of the details, a blog, forms for volunteers and news. For additional questions, call (941) 861-5000.
If you're busy with work and other activities, or just down in Sarasota for a vacation, here are some easy "go green" tips to bring home with you! These are all simple, everyday things you can do all on your own. Not only will you help the environment, you'll also cut back on your electric bill.
Turn off and unplug electronics when you're not at home or simply when you're not using them. Wash clothing in cold water when you can! Refill those plastic water bottles (or thermoses) with filtered tap water--you'll cut back on the plastic you're using and save money. Filters are much cheaper than buying new 24-packs of bottled water each week, or even multiple times per week. Also, recycle and use recycled materials whenever possible! Publix, Whole Foods and other local grocery stores also sell reusable bags so you can carry your groceries to your car, home or hotel in something sturdy and environmentally friendly. When they ask "paper or plastic," you can say "neither!"
Now that you know some ways you can improve and protect Sarasota's natural environment, get out there and enjoy it. Visit www.discovernaturalsarasota.org for information on outdoor and environmentally-friendly activities, attractions and much more.