Sarasota County's Sustainability Assessment Report Is Now Available!

Sarasota County's Sustainability Assessment Report was officially released yesterday at Sarasota County's 10th Annual Sustainable Communities Workshop. The following is an excerpt from the introduction to the report:

Sarasota County is seen as one of the leading counties in Florida for action on sustainability. In 2002, Sarasota County formalized its commitment to enhancing current quality of life without compromising the quality of life for future generations by establishing the Office of Sustainability. Since then, resource conservation programs and sustainability policies have raised awareness and led to concrete actions to improve the environmental, economic and social conditions locally. In 2008, the Florida Green Building Coalition certified Sarasota County as a Green Local Government at the Gold Level, with the highest number of points awarded to any local government at the time. Recertified by the coalition in 2015, Sarasota County is now the highest scoring county government in the state. Sustainability is an essential component of Sarasota County’s identity and economy.

The 10th Annual Sustainable Communities Workshop “Learning from Our Past, Charting Our Future, on Dec. 3, 2015 marks an important milestone, when Sarasota County and the community can reflect on the past 10 years of sustainability accomplishments and envision future goals. Leading up to this workshop, from April 2015 through December 2015, Sarasota County held a series of “Sustainable Communities Conversations” workshops on key sustainability topics, including Natural Environment, Water, Energy, Built Environment, Sustainable Economy and Food. These workshops allowed partners and the community to complete a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis for each topic and provide input and recommendations.

This assessment report summarizes each sustainability topic by providing background data, accomplishments over the last 10 years, and results of the community conversations. The community input reported here reflects the brainstorming and priorities of participants in the events and surveys, and may not represent Sarasota County opinion. This report will be presented at the Sustainable Communities Workshop, where participants will build on the assessment to identify priorities and strategies for sustainability improvements in the next 10 years. Additional communities conversations, planning and action goals will follow the workshop.

I am honored to have been invited to author the Food chapter of this report, based on Transition Sarasota's “State of Our Foodshed Forum,” which took place on October 28th of this year at the Ringling College of Art & Design. This chapter includes many eye-opening statistics, such as:

  • The vast majority of Sarasota County's 283 farms are under 50 acres;
  • Only 5.8% of the 80,143 acres of total farmland in Sarasota County is being used for growing crops;
  • 14.8% of the total population of Sarasota County (or 56,740 people) are considered "food insecure";
  • During the 2011-2012 school year, Sarasota County Schools purchased 50% (or nearly $1.2 million worth) of its produce from Florida farms; and
  • If all Sarasota County residents would buy just 10% of their food directly from a local farmer, we could add $80 million per year or more to our local economy.

All in all, Sarasota County's Sustainability Assessment Report is a must-read for Sarasota County residents interested in sustainability, as it provides a concise overview of past efforts, current challenges, and priorities for future action.

To download a complete, full-color PDF copy of the report, please click here.