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Sarasota Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019 4 weeks ago

Sarasota County organizations launch sustainability initiative

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Partners for Green Places offers nonprofits an energy audit to help save on energy costs.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

A greener future is in store for Sarasota County. At least, that’s the goal of a new partnership. 

Partners for Green Places — a cross-sector partnership between organizations such as the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and DreamLarge — is focused on bringing conservation and environmental awareness to local nonprofits. 

So far, the partnership has amassed about $625,000 to provide area nonprofits with energy road maps, said Jon Thaxton, the senior vice president for community investment at Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

The nonprofits in the pilot program — Harvest House, Children First and Historic Spanish Point — all received energy audits. The audits are intensive and look at everything from air conditioning to water faucet aerators to insulation.

After the audits, the nonprofits were able to see what steps they could take to help save on energy bills. The nonprofits can seek funds to help them pay for upgrades, Thaxton said.

“It’s great to save energy any time we can, but it’s even greater to save energy on these nonprofits that work so hard for every nickel and dime that they can raise from their donor base,” Thaxton said. 

Jon Thaxton, senior vice president for community investment at Gulf Coast Community Foundation, talks about the benefits of Partners for Green Places.

Philip Tavill, the president and CEO of Children First, said the energy-saving tips the organization got from the program will allow Children First to put more money back into its mission.

“Every dollar that we save goes to mission,” Tavill said. “With this program, you get to do the right thing by supporting the environment and you get to support the mission even more. How do you beat that?” 

In the immediate future, Children First will look to fix its air conditioning and change its lighting to LEDs, but Tavill said the audit will help them consider alternatives for future projects.

After the success of the pilot group, 13 other nonprofits applied for and will receive the energy-saving audits. One such group is the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast.

Conservation Foundation President Christine Johnson said the nonprofit decided to participate for two reasons: It fits the brand of the organization, and its headquarters are in a registered historic home that was built in 1931.

“It desperately needs some energy audits and improvements,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to continue to air-condition the outdoors or use water that we don’t necessarily need.”

Johnson said the application process for the audit was easy and it made the organization look at its energy costs. 

“A lot of times, we just pay the bill. But, how many gallons of water does that bill represent? How many kilowatt hours does that bill represent,” she said. 

Although she said she has an understanding of where some of the savings will come from, she is excited to have the audit completed by a third party to identify other steps the organization could be taking.

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