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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Seminole Discussion Group on Recycling & Sustainability

Monday, Jan. 3, 2011
10:00 am to noon
Seminole Community Library Program Room
9200 113th St.N.,Seminole,Fl. 33722

Guest Speaker: Ms. Jai Hambly, Master Gardener of Organic Living,
Clearwater, Fl.

Topics: Topsoil restoration, how to grow nutritious, healthy food in one's backyard or community garden, avoiding abuses of modern food production, and how to obtain organic, healthy plants and soil conditioners available from Organic Living

Contact: Mary Hampton, 631-838-2272

Monday, December 27, 2010

E-waste and E-cycling

By: Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent

Technology gifts and gadgets are always high priority items on everyone’s wish list. Did you get that new iPod Touch you wanted or maybe it was the iPad, LED-LCD TV or new computer? Whichever electronic item you received for the holidays, what will you do with the old item that you are not using? Did you think about recycling it?

Oftentimes, we choose to upgrade an electronic item because newer technology means more service and repair opportunities since older models are phased out. It also means better technological quality since new electronic items contain the latest advancements.

Electronic waste or e-waste is on the rise since our technology rapidly becomes obsolete because of research and application advancements. E-waste is not just a local problem; it’s a global problem too!

Recycling e- waste is sometimes referred to as e-cycling and although it is not your only option for disposal, it certainly is a good one. When it comes to electronic items, there are a number of different options and these depend on the condition of the item. If your item is in good, working order then think about using it solely for video games, donating it to a local recreation center or selling it.

Remember, e-waste does contain hazardous materials like lead, mercury and cadmium and this is why your electronic items should be entrusted to professional recyclers. Use the links and resources below to find out more about e-waste and e-cycling options in your community.

Happy e-cycling!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hot Food Trends in 2011

By: Nan Jensen, FCS Agent

According to a recent survey by the National Restaurant Association, locally produced foods, sustainability and child nutrition are among the hottest food trend for 2011.

The survey of over 1500 members of the American Culinary Federation asked them to rate a list of 226 food and beverage items, cuisines, culinary themes and preparation methods as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news” or “perennial favorite” on restaurant menus in 2011.

The “eating local theme” appeared in 3 of the top 5 trends. What does eating local mean? While there is no firm definition of local, the term locavore was coined back in 2005 and means to eat foods produced within 100 miles of the table, and from small farms and ranches. An easy way to start the local trend in your home is to choose one product to focus on. The Fresh from Florida logo can help you find local agricultural products grown and raised here in the state.

The top ten hot trends for 2011 are:

  1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
  2. Locally grown produce
  3. Sustainability
  4. Nutritionally balanced children’s dishes.
  5. “Hyper local,” such as restaurants with their own gardens and chefs who do their own butchering.
  6. Children’s nutrition
  7. Sustainable seafood
  8. Gluten-free food and being food allergy conscious
  9. Simplicity/back to basics
  10. Farm/estate-branded ingredients

For a complete of the survey results visit:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sustainable Gift – Giving

By: Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent

As the holiday season kicks into high gear, many of us feel pressured to purchase items that we may not need for ourselves because the bargain is too good to pass up. Sometimes, we feel pressured to purchase and exchange gifts with friends or family even though we know they may never use it. Spending money is good for the economy, but is it good for the environment?

When making a purchase in the store, ask yourself some simple questions.

If it’s for yourself -
Do you need the item?
Can you afford the item?

If it’s for someone else -
Does this person need the item?
Is it a practical gift?
Can I afford it?

To avoid purchasing new items that consume natural resources (trees, fuel, water) and produce greenhouse gas emissions, consider the following low cost or no cost gift giving ideas.

1.Re-purpose old clothing into handbags, quilts, snazzy magnets, tote bags or mittens. The possibilities are endless with different colors, textures and fabrics to choose from.

2.Make home-made gifts like bath soaps, salts and candles using a variety of different containers (glass bottles or jars). This allows you to personalize each gift and each will be unique.

3.Reuse everyday items to make holiday decorations – rag wreath or a wine cork wreath. Let your creativity shine through.

4.Have a white elephant gift exchange at your office or church. There’s only one rule with this gift giving idea – nothing new must be bought. These exchanges allow you to trade unwanted, practically new items in your house. These are often gifts that you received that you couldn’t throw away because of the associated guilt or because they have no useful value to you. Remember one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

5.Purchase vintage items or antiques – no new resources or emissions will be produced with this gift idea!

6.If you must purchase a new item, consider purchasing at a local craft shop or market. This will reduce transportation costs which will reduce emissions.

7.Make a contribution or donation in honor of your loved one to mark the holiday, or to recognize a special achievement or dedication. There are a wide variety of groups to please even the pickiest gift-giver.

8.Provide “home-made” coupon services to friends and family – possibilities include coupon for dinner, massage, lawn service or car wash.

Although gift giving during the holidays can be a very stressful event it is important to remember that the best gift of all is the gift of time and memories. Instead of purchasing new “things,” enjoy what you already have, spend time with your loved ones and take advantage of the great many events that are available in your local area for free.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Slow Down for the Holidays!

By: Margaret Deller, Extension Specialist

During the holiday season many of us find there are not enough hours in the day. One of the ways we try to save time is by getting fast food instead of making dinner from scratch. And while this does add time to our days it is not the best thing for our bodies or the planet. So this holiday try pulling out of the Drive Thru lane and into the Slow Food lane.

Slow Food is a worldwide movement that started in Italy. It strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. If possible they would like you to personally know the farmer that produces your food. This sounds like a tremendous undertaking and not something you want to add to the holiday season.

Like with any change to a greener behavior, start small. Choose one night of the week, grab your kids, your spouse, your friends, or that other co-worker staying late, stop by the store and get the ingredients for your favorite recipe and make dinner together. Don’t have a favorite recipe? Check the web for a dish you like to order in a restaurant and see if you can prepare it at home.

Then let everybody help prepare the meal. Don’t leave the little ones out! Children as young as 3 can help, give them a stool and let them wash the lettuce for the salad. Give the younger ones a seat close to the action so they feel a part of it and can be taste testers. Clean the dishes as you go so there is no daunting pile at the end of the meal. Then eat together and talk about your day, your favorite food memory, or what you did for the holidays as a kid.

However you choose to start, remember that good food nourishes our bodies and sitting down to a meal with family and friends nourishes our soul.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Give Us Your Input Today

Your opinion counts! We need your help to do the best job possible. Pinellas County Extension strives to deliver the most current information on topics that are important to you. Each year we evaluate our efforts to provide up-to-date, research-based information to our community. To help us deliver what is valuable to you as our reader, we would like you to take a short survey. Please select the link below to access the online survey. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and your responses will be anonymous. Please take the survey today!

Thank you for your time and continued support.

Monday, November 29, 2010

No-Cost and Low-Cost Ways to Lower Your Power Bill

By: James Stevenson, Extension Urban Sustainability Specialist

With Old Man Winter poised to rap his icy (OK, chilly) knuckles upon our door, it is time to begin to plan on energy savings throughout the cool season.

Believe it or not, there are ways to improve a home’s energy efficiency that cost nothing or nearly nothing. Let’s start with the number one consumer of electricity in the house (no, not teenagers); the HVAC or Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning System. Perhaps yours has had a break during October and November, but soon we will be conditioning our indoor space for comfort in cooler weather.

The University recommends setting the thermostat at 68°F in winter. Drafty windows and doors can make 68 degrees seem much cooler, so check for leaks. Caulk and weather stripping are inexpensive fixes to keep heated air INDOORS.

Of course, change your system’s filter now if you have not done so already. This keeps the system running smoothly. Make sure the outdoor unit of your heat pump is free of debris. Keep foliage at least 2 feet away from the unit so it can do its job efficiently.

If you have a ceiling fan, set it to turn clock-wise for winter. It can help bring warm air down from the ceiling. Make sure it is on a low setting; otherwise it will feel like a cool breeze on your skin!

There are many more tips and hints to ensure an affordable, yet comfortable winter. Join us for a free webinar as we explore the latest from the University of Florida. Sign-up for Solutions in 30, on December 8th and we will talk you through easy and cheap ways to lower your energy bills year-round!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Treat Your Guests for Less this Holiday Season

Guest Blogger: Suzanne Grant, APR
Spokesperson/Lead Communications Specialist
Progress Energy

Holiday gatherings spark the potential for significant energy savings!

If your home is the home for family and friends this holiday season, chances are you’re looking for ways to keep everyone comfortable and content while sharing in the holiday cheer. Progress Energy offers a number of suggestions to help the hospitable host control energy costs without taking away from the holiday fun.

The quest to save energy and money this holiday season begins in the kitchen.

An oven costs 33 cents an hour to operate. Save time and money by baking holiday goodies together.

When reheating yesterday’s treats, opt for the toaster oven or microwave. A toaster oven costs just 7 cents per hour to operate, and a microwave typically uses about 75 percent less energy than an oven. When possible, consider using a slow cooker, which can cook an entire meal using only about 17 cents worth of electricity.

Chances are the flurry of excitement within your home will mean more people than usual are heading to the fridge. Minimize the impact of every trip by keeping your refrigerator well stocked. This will lessen the amount of time and energy it takes to cool back down after the door is opened. Better yet, put your guests’ drinks on ice to give your fridge a break while allowing yourself room to work in the kitchen.

If you’re entertaining guests with a passion for technology, there’s a good chance they could spend some time playing video games in front of the TV. Be sure they’re not running up your energy bill in the process. A plasma TV and a video game system can use as much energy as a refrigerator. Even when they’re turned off, these electronics and others often draw a charge. The best solution is to turn off the power strip connected to any unused electronics.

If there is a fireplace in your home, you can reduce the amount of energy used to keep your guests warm and cozy by lighting a fire instead of turning on the central heating system. Just remember to close the flue when the fireplace isn’t in use to prevent the loss of warm air.

For more energy-saving tips, visit

Progress Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN), provides electricity and related services to more than 1.6 million customers in Florida. The company is headquartered in St. Petersburg, Fla., and serves a territory encompassing more than 20,000 square miles, including the cities of St. Petersburg and Clearwater, as well as the Central Florida area surrounding Orlando. Progress Energy Florida is pursuing a balanced approach to meeting the future energy needs of the region. That balance includes increased energy-efficiency programs, investments in renewable energy technologies and a state-of-the-art electricity system. For more information about Progress Energy, visit

Presents with a Purpose

Looking for inspiration for your gift giving this holiday season without all the stress of long lines and traffic jams at the mall? Here are some ideas for some meaningful gifts with a smaller environmental impact.

Make your own gifts
Gifts you make yourself are more personal, can be less expensive and don't have wasteful packaging. Take those treasured family recipes and copy them into a colorful journal or print them on festive recipe cards. Pack them up into a basket with various kitchen items. Small herb plants nestled together in a pretty basket with a favorite recipe card for using each herb is a great gift idea.

If you are not the crafty type there are many local art and craft shows that help you find that special something. Buying from local artists helps support the local economy. The Florida Botanical Gardens is having a special gift and plant sale on December 12. Visit for information on the event.

Give your time
The holidays are about giving and sharing. Make a coupon book filled with orders for good deeds. The coupons could include a home-cooked meal, car wash, a day of babysitting or several trips to the grocery store for that elderly neighbor. Volunteerism, especially around the holidays, offers an ideal opportunity for families to have fun and feel closer to each other. By reaching out to others in the community you drive home the message that giving is much more than laying down cash for the latest hot gift of the season.

Give an experience
An idea for giving without all the wrapping is the gift of “an experience”. A gift certificate might be just the thing for someone who would like to begin a new hobby, polish the skills they have already learned or go some place new. A membership to a gym, museum or the zoo is could be a perfect gift for a family member or friend. Consider signing someone up for lessons in music or a foreign language or sport like golf or tennis.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Coastal Wildlife Conservation Initiative

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission invites you to attend an introduction to the Coastal Wildlife Conservation Initiative for the Tampa Bay area.

This event, hosted by Florida Sea Grant, will be held:

Wednesday, December 1st(for non-government)6:00 –9:00 p.m.

Thursday, December 2nd(for government) 9:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

At the Sirata Beach Resort & Conference Center 5300 Gulf Boulevard, St. Pete Beach.

The Coastal Wildlife Conservation Initiative is a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission program with the mission of: Ensuring the long-term conservation of native wildlife in coastal ecosystems throughout Florida in balance with human activities. Join us to discuss a partnership & strategies to address coastal area issues of concern.

We ask that you let us know if you plan to attend. Please register:

If you have any questions or would like additional information, contact:
Laura DiGruttolo,
CWCI Coordinator, or 386.758.0525

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How to Get Rid of Unwanted Mail?

By: Mary Campbell, Urban Sustainability Agent

I often get asked this question when discussing reducing paper use. Since we each use approximately 700 pounds of paper each year, the amount of energy to make, transport and dispose of this paper is significant. So we print on both sides, widen our margins, only print when we must and recycle as much as we can. Then we open the mailbox and are faced with a flood of paper in the form of catalogs, advertising, and product offers. How do we stop this flood of unwanted mail? I found an excellent resource for this information: Federal Trade Commission Consumer Protection.

The Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service has a website that walks you through the options to opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many national companies. Once you have filled out the forms and selected your preferences it will reduce the selected mail for five years. When you register with this service, your name will be put on a “delete” file and made available to direct-mail marketers. However, your registration will not stop mailings from organizations that do not use the DMA’s Mail Preference Service. To register with DMA’s Mail Preference Service, go to

As we move into the season for catalogs, look for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle this paper. Go on-line to the catalog website and ask to receive only on-line information, offer catalogs to others who may be interested, and always recycle the catalogs when done. Make your preference for less paper known to businesses so they can be part of the solution to reduce waste.

Additional Resource:
EPA Paper Use -

Monday, November 1, 2010

Carbon Capture – Natural vs. Artificial

By: Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent

Geoengineering or climate engineering is an engineering concept that focuses on the deliberate manipulation of the environment to counteract global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions. Geoengineering is currently being applied to carbon capture in the environment in an effort to mitigate climate change impacts.

It is a known biological fact that plants and trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. The process of photosynthesis uses carbon dioxide and releases oxygen thereby reducing the damaging effects of CO2 in the atmosphere. Is it possible to create a piece of “equipment” that can function like a natural tree?

Recent science has shown that “50% of global carbon dioxide emissions are emitted from non stationary and dispersed sources with… 20% from the transportation sector…” (IME, Institution of Mechanical Engineers 2009). If an artificial tree can duplicate a natural process, then it is possible to reduce carbon emissions on a global scale provided of course, that the trees are mass produced and well distributed.

An artificial tree can operate in 3 phases – capture, removal and storage. In phase one, the “tree” traps carbon dioxide using a filter chamber that absorbs the CO2. The filter chamber and material mimic the functioning of the leaves. In phase two, the CO2 is removed from the filter and released by a cleaning process. Finally, the carbon dioxide can be transported, stored and secured according to the principles for conventional carbon capture and storage.

Some of the obvious advantages of the artificial tree include portability – it can be placed anywhere. With some tweaking of existing technology, the artificial tree can surpass a natural tree in its ability to capture and release the CO2. The obvious disadvantage with an artificial tree is its cost of production and relative energy consumption in the removal and storage process for CO2.

Despite these limitations, imagine the possibility of urban highways and forests with artificial trees that may each remove up to 1 ton of CO2 per day, the equivalent of 20 vehicles in the U.S.

For some perspective on the natural versus artificial argument, consider the regenerative capacity of the natural tree, the limitation imposed by type and location of urban forests, and the energy used to produce organic compounds in the photosynthetic process. An artificial tree can be:

  • manufactured to specific carbon capture standards so there is no need to wait 100 years to see its carbon capture potential

  • can be placed anywhere

  • there is no need to use energy to produce organic compounds like sugars to “feed” the tree

This type of commercial scale carbon sequestration strategy is already occurring in countries like Canada and Norway. Here in the United States, the U.S. Department of Energy is conducting research on using the technology.

Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME), United Kingdom
Geo-engineering options
Department of Energy
National Academy of Sciences

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Innovative Floodplain Strategies for Coastal Areas: Application of Coastal No Adverse Impact Principles

To provide attendees with the floodplain management tools needed to
decrease the cost of natural disasters, increase community resilience,
and reduce negative impacts from flood events through the integration
of growth management with natural resource planning.

Who Should Attend

  • Building officials

  • Emergency Managers

  • Engineers

  • Environmental Nonprofits

  • Floodplain Managers

  • Local Elected Officials

  • Natural Resource Managers

  • Planners and Planning Commissions

  • Realtors and Developers

  • Stormwater Managers

Certified Floodplain Managers will receive 6 credit hours of Continuing Education.

Workshop Goals

  • Understand Coastal No Adverse Impact (CNAI) principles and applications to local floodplain management programs

  • Understand the unique hazards of Hillsborough and Pinellas County coastal areas and identify important resources and vulnerable areas on maps

  • Discuss how CNAI principles can be applied in the region’s coastal zone

  • Apply CNAI strategies for floodplain and wetland protection and hazard mitigation to conservation planning and development practices

Cost:$10 (include materials and lunch)
Where: Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Wedon Dr. N.E., St. Petersburg
11/9/2010, 8:30 am - 4:30 pm

Register Here

Monday, October 18, 2010

Is My Seafood Safe?

By: Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Science Agent

While the constant media coverage of the oil spill is behind us, questions still linger about the seafood that comes from the gulf. Consumers can be assured that a number of agencies are working in cooperation to monitor the safety of seafood and have made it one of their highest priorities.

These agencies include the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition, the Gulf Coast states along with FDA and NOAA have agreed on a protocol to determine when closed federal harvest waters can be re-opened.

  • FDA and NOAA are using sophisticated testing that can detect elements of concern to public health in seafood at extremely low concentrations.

  • Current data from these tests indicate that seafood from Gulf waters is safe.

  • To date, every seafood sample form waters that have been reopened passed the taste, smell and elements test.

  • Seafood monitoring includes the tests for the presence of oil.

  • Available information indicates that the dispersant used to combat the oil did not accumulate in the seafood and there is no public health concern from dispersants due to seafood consumption.

Safety of Gulf Seafood

Monday, October 11, 2010

Be a PEEPer!

By: James Stevenson, Extension Specialist

The Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project is in full swing with thousands of citizens receiving energy-saving devices and information on how to save energy and money in the home. Our next class will be held at the Largo Library on Wednesday, October 20th from 6:30-7:30 p.m. All of the classes are free and are offered as part of the US Department of Energy’s $3.5 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant awarded to Pinellas County late last year. Pinellas County Extension’s application included money to provide education and energy-saving materials to the community at-large.

We are excited to bring the citizens of Pinellas County the tools they need to make significant energy savings in their homes. We have especially been targeting those citizens who would not have ready-access to energy saving information and equipment. The goals of this project include:

  • Providing information and equipment to Pinellas County citizens to help reduce energy consumption in the home.

  • Promoting a significant and quantifiable reduction in energy consumption in Pinellas County Facilitating a significant and quantifiable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Pinellas County

Participants in this class will receive a free energy saving kit valued at $200 and will become part of a larger project. Participants will be contacted no more than three times to track the energy-saving measures they have taken.

Click here to register for this class. Remember that space is limited and registration closes 24 hours prior to class.

We hope to see you on October 20th!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Are you an Eco Innovator?

By Guest Blogger:Marissa Segundo, Recycling Coordinator for the City of Largo

Eco-Innovators are challenged to construct useful creations from the contents of their trash can for the City of Largo's 2nd annual Recycled Innovations Contest.This online contest encourages innovators to go beyond recycling by re-purposing their waste.

All entries must be made of 75 percent or more recycled or material that would otherwise be discarded. Contrary to a recycled art show, Recycled Innovations are items that may be reused in daily activities. Accepted entries will be functional items made of materials that can be diverted from the waste stream.

The City of Largo's Recycled Innovation Contest will give participants the opportunity to get their designs noticed across Tampa Bay and beyond. Innovators will be vying for innovative prizes such as solar/wind powered chargers for cell phones, MP3 players and small electronics, environmental board games, and learning toys to name a few.

The winners will be determined by an online voting system where web visitors can select their favorite innovation within each category. Prizes will be awarded to the innovators receiving the most online votes in various age categories: Tiny Innovators, Junior Innovators, Tween Innovators, Techie Teen Innovators, and Macgyvers.

Deadline for entry including photo submission and entry description is Thursday, October 28.

Online voting is November 1-12 on website.

The winners will be announced on America Recycles Day, November 15.

Interested innovators can apply online or by calling (727)586-7424 for more information.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Energy-saving home design and décor tips from Progress Energy Florida

By Guest Blogger: Suzanne Grant, APR Spokesperson/Lead Communications Specialist Progress Energy

New window treatments, a few throw pillows and a fresh coat of paint can update a home’s interior by adding style and sophistication. According to Progress Energy Florida, some decorating changes can also help trim your electric bill and make your home feel more comfortable all year round.

“When considering a room makeover look for options that will improve energy efficiency while adding to the room’s look and feel,” says Kim Berghoefer, a Progress Energy energy-efficiency expert. “Upgraded lighting, appropriate window treatments and other small changes can add up to significant savings on electric bills.”

Progress Energy Florida suggests customers consider the following 10 tips when updating their home’s décor:

Dress windows to block the sun. Use curtains, blinds, shades or interior shutters to help block the sun’s hot rays during warmer months. Select a style that can be opened or pulled back to use the sun’s warmth during cold winter days.

Select seasonally appropriate bedding. Consider using multiple layers to allow yourself to adjust the covers depending on the room’s temperature. This will help you remain comfortable when the thermostat is set to the optimal temperature – 65 to 68 degrees at night and 68 to70 degrees in the day during the cooler months or 78 degrees or higher during the warmer months. Setting your thermostat appropriately can save you more than $300 a year.

Add cozy, warming winter touches during the cooler months. Drape snuggly, soft throws in rich tones accenting your color scheme on your favorite chair or sofa. Add plush area rugs to warm up cold tile, wood or laminate floors. Both ideas will help you feel comfortable in a slightly cooler room and save you money on heating all winter long.

Install ceiling fans in bedroom and living space. The average ceiling fan uses no more electricity than a light bulb, but can make a room feel three to four degrees cooler. Ensure the fan is the proper size for the room - the larger the room, the larger the fan. For a room up to 50 square feet, choose a 29 inch fan. Choose a 36 inch fan for a room up to 75 square feet, a 42 inch for a room 10 foot x 10 foot or 100 square feet, and a 50 to 52 inch fan for up to 400 square feet. Look for ceiling fan/light combinations that have earned the ENERGY STAR® label. According to the U.S Department of Energy, these units are about 50 percent more efficient than conventional fan/light units and can save you more than $15 per year on utility bills. But be sure to only have the fan on when the room is occupied. Fans cool people, not rooms.

Select efficient lighting. A typical household spends nearly 10 percent of its annual energy budget on lighting. When redecorating carefully consider lamp and lighting fixture placement and use. Add task lighting at the desk in the den or a reading lamp in the living room to concentrate the light to the area where you need it rather than continually relying on an overhead fixture lighting the entire space. Replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent (CFL) bulbs that use 75 percent less energy. While CFL bulbs may initially cost a bit more, they last 10 times longer and don’t heat up like traditional bulbs and halogen lights. Replacing just eight frequently used blubs with CFLs can save you $140 per year.

Use sun-shading window film. Save your new furniture, wallpaper and paint from fading and keep your home cooler with window film designed to block UV rays. Window film can help you save more than $130 per year. Plus, Progress Energy customers can qualify for a rebate of up to $100.

Place furniture away from vents. When rearranging furniture don’t make your heater or AC work harder than it has to. Make sure drapes and furniture aren’t blocking any air vents.

Replace outdated shower and faucet fixtures. Low-flow showerheads not only save on water and the electricity used to heat water, but come in many stylish finishes to update your decor. Be sure sink faucets have aerators to use less water while maintaining standard water pressure.

Fix up the fireplace. Install glass fireplace doors to keep conditioned air from escaping out the flue and reduce uncomfortable drafts.

Choose ENERGY STAR-rated appliances and electronics. When remodeling a kitchen or laundry room, select energy-efficient appliances by looking for the blue ENERGY STAR label and saving hundreds of dollars on electricity per appliance depending on the unit selected and replaced. Look for ENERGY STAR-qualified televisions and other electronics when decorating plans include upgrading to a new unit. An ENERGY STAR TV uses about 40 percent less energy than standard units helping keep your electric bill lower.

Progress Energy offers a wide variety of energy-saving information and rebates to help customers with the cost of some energy-saving home improvements. To participate, the first step is to complete a Home Energy Check available at Customers can also call 1.877.574.0340 to complete an assessment over the phone or schedule an in-home visit by a Progress Energy advisor. Following a Home Energy Check, each customer receives an analysis of the home’s energy use and a list of customized, energy-saving recommendations.

Progress Energy has one of the nation’s leading energy-efficiency programs with more than 100 measures. Since 1981, our customers have saved more than $1 billion through our energy-efficiency programs – or enough electricity to power the city of St Petersburg for more than 5 years.

Progress Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN), provides electricity and related services to more than 1.6 million customers in Florida. The company is headquartered in St. Petersburg, Fla., and serves a territory encompassing more than 20,000 square miles, including the cities of St. Petersburg and Clearwater, as well as the Central Florida area surrounding Orlando. Progress Energy Florida is pursuing a balanced approach to meeting the future energy needs of the region. That balance includes increased energy-efficiency programs, investments in renewable energy technologies and a state-of-the-art electricity system. For more information about Progress Energy, visit

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's Energy Awareness Month!

This year's theme is POWERING AMERICA; We're On Target. The theme depicts how, across the nation, we continue to zero in on energy targets to stimulate the economy, lower operating expenses, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and achieve long-term energy and economic security.

Simple actions every day add up to big results:

  • Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and solid-state lights (SSLs)

  • Purchase ENERGY STAR® equipment

  • Turn out lights and shut off computers and TVs when not in use

  • Combine trips, share rides, and use mass transit

  • Reduce, reuse, recycle

Want to do More?

Save Energy At the Office

Save Energy At Home

Save Energy at your Facility

Even more?


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Be Green and Buy Local

By: Mary Campbell, Urban Sustainability Agent

Fall begins the bounty of local fresh farmer’s markets and local produce from Florida. Eating local produce for Floridians could include our own gardens, our region or the entire state. Local is loosely interpreted as looking for those seasonal choices that are closer at hand. A good place to start with buying local is to look for seasonal crops that are grown within the region at a local farmer’s market. When we buy local products, they are fresher, have a lower carbon footprint from transportation and support our local economy. Getting our local produce from farmer’s markets also can involve less packaging and processing which further reduces waste and environmental impacts. Keeping our local food systems alive and well is part of a sustainable community. Choose healthy, local produce and you support all the pillars of a sustainable community: healthy people, healthy environment and healthy economy.

Here are a few local markets to get you started:

  • Clearwater: Wenesdays - Opens 10/20/10

  • Corey Avenue: Saturdays - Opened 10/2/10

  • Crossroads: Saturdays - Opened 10/2/10

  • Dunedin: Fridays and Saturdays - Opens 10/29/10

  • Heritage Village, Market in the Park: Saturdays - Opens 11/6/10

  • Largo Harvest Market: Thursdays - Opens 11/4/10

  • Pinellas Park : Saturdays - Opens 10/9/10

  • Seminole - Thursday thru Saturday - On going

  • St. Petersburg: Saturday - Opened 10/2/10

Florida Farmer’s Markets
Local Harvest
Florida Produce Availability(pdf)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Produce Tips and Tricks

By: Nan Jensen, FCS Agent

Fruits and vegetables are so important to good health. Regardless of whether you choose organic, or conventionally grown, the important thing is to eat your fruits and vegetables and plenty of them. The health benefits of a diet high in fruits and vegetables far outweigh any potential risks from pesticide exposure. Here are some tips from the Food and Drug Administration to keep your produce safe.


  • Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged.

  • When selecting fresh cut produce - such as a half a watermelon or bagged mixed salad greens - choose only those items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

  • Bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry and seafood products to take home from the grocery store.


  • Certain perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs, and mushrooms) can be best maintained by storing in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F or below.

  • All produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled should be refrigerated to maintain both quality and safety.


  • Start with clean hands. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap.

  • Wash and scrub produce under streaming water to remove dirt, bacteria and surface pesticide residues, even produce with inedible skins such as melons.

  • Do not use soap.

  • Remove the peel from fruits and vegetables.

  • Remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables.

  • After preparation is done wash your hands again for 20 seconds with warm water and soap.

Remember to eat a variety of foods from different sources and buy local when you can. Locally grown foods are usually fresher -- and kinder to the environment -- than produce that’s been trucked across the country in energy-consuming vehicles.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Seminole Discussion Group on Recycling and Sustainability

By: Mary Hampton, Guest Blogger

The first monthly meeting of the group is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 4, 2010, 10:00 am to noon.

The guest speaker will be Andy Wolfe, founder, Freedom Farm. Andy has worked for over one year to establish a self-sustaining lifestyle. He converted his private residence to make room for a tilapia pond, ducks, chickens, beehives, and a greenhouse. Come hear about Andy's struggles and accomplishments! There will be some jars of the 'Taste of Freedom' honey available for purchase.

Meetings are held at the Seminole Community Library Program Room, 9200 113th St. N., Seminole, Fl. 33722.

Need more information? Contact Mary at 631-838-2272.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Living architecture – Green Roofs and Walls

By: Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent

There is great interest in green roofs and green walls as we strive to achieve more sustainable cities. Green roofs and green walls have been referred to as “living architecture” since they promote the concept of life and vitality although they are structurally connected to an urban fixture – e.g. office building, hospital, malls.
Is a green roof better than a green wall? Well that really depends on the building, its location and the purpose for the green infrastructure.

A green wall is similar to a green roof but instead of being a lateral installation, a green wall is a vertical installation. Green walls are preferable where a green roof installation might not be suitable. The benefits of both of these “architectural pieces” are quite similar but the most direct impact of a green roof or green wall in an urban area is its ability to reduce urban heat island effects.

Here’s a short list of some of the merits of a green roof:

  • Green roofs offer the obvious aesthetic benefit but it can also provide opportunities for gardens in land-deficit urban cities and promote health and stress reduction therapies using plants.

  • Green roofs reduce a building owner’s economic costs since the insulation provided reduces heating and cooling costs.

  • Green roofs improve air quality since they filter pollutants and can mitigate climate change impacts by acting as carbon “sinks”.

  • Green roofs also assist with water filtration and reduce stress on stormwater systems because the plants use the water and return it to the water cycle via transpiration and evaporation.

Green walls provide all the benefits of a green roof installation but can be installed as a façade or as living wall. The façade installation uses recycled steel and 3D welded wires to create captive growing spaces for the plant materials. The façade panels can be attached to exterior building walls or between floors or horizontally between posts. The added benefit is that the panels are easily flexible, both in terms of dimensions and mobility, so you can detach it from the building whenever necessary!

Consider a green wall or green roof in your next upgrade!


Friday, September 24, 2010

Clearwater GreenPrint Open House

The City of Clearwater is hosting a community Open House on September 28th to hear your ideas on creating a sustainable Clearwater. Clearwater Greenprint, A Community Action Plan for Sustainability is your opportunity to plan for a sustainable Clearwater.

It’s an open house so you can stay for as little or as long as you’d like between 4PM & 7PM.

For additional information, check out Clearwater Greenprint or contact Lauren Matzke, AICP at 727-562-4547.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Clean 15

By: Nan Jensen, FCS Agent

Last week we learned about the “dirty dozen” of the produce world. This week we sink our teeth into the Clean 15.

The fruits and vegetables on the Clean 15 list are less contaminated, each with an average of only two different pesticides. In addition, they are often peeled and their outer layers are disposed of. Lastly, they are usually easier to wash.
  • Onions
  • Avocados
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Sweet Peas
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Sweet Onions

Now that you have your shopping list for your organic and non-organic produce come back next week for some storage and preparation tips and tricks.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sea this September Double Header!

By: Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent
September 25th, 2010 has been designated National Estuaries Day and International Coastal Clean Up and many communities both locally and internationally will be scheduling celebration activities.

In a state like Florida, we have so many reasons to celebrate. Our coasts and estuaries are critical elements in our quest for sustainability and offer economic, environmental and social benefits.

Economically – our coasts and estuaries are major drivers of our tourist-based economy. Florida’s coastal zone is defined as the entire state and with 67 counties, 35 of which are directly on the coast, the direct and indirect economic effects results in significant earnings potential. The National Ocean Economics Program estimates gross wages earned in Florida’s coastal economy for 2007 at $3 billion while the coastal zone in the United States contributed $6.7 trillion to the national economy in 2007.

Environmentally – our coasts and estuaries are environmentally sensitive and in recognition of this, Florida has estuaries designated through the EPA National Estuary Program and the NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERR). Our estuaries provide tremendous environmental benefits that include natural buffering abilities and nursery grounds for our fisheries while our oceans contribute to our trade and commerce activities as well as our ecological integrity.

The National Estuary Program (NEP) recognizes Charlotte Harbor, Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay and Indian River Lagoon as participating estuary partners in the State of Florida. With the exception of Indian River Lagoon, the other NEPs are located on the Gulf coast of Florida.

With an 8400+ mile shoreline that is exceeded only by the state of Alaska (33,904), Florida is the only other state outside of California that has three National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRs). The NERRs are well distributed across Florida and emphasizes the unique ecosystems that are unparalleled elsewhere in our nation. The Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas NERR is located in St. Johns and Flagler counties, the Apalachicola NERR is located in Franklin County and the Rookery Bay NERR is located in Collier County.

Florida is the only state in the nation to have 7 estuaries designated by 2 different federal agencies!

Socially - our coasts and estuaries contribute significantly to our recreational pursuits. Our boating, fishing, swimming and picnicking adventures revolve around the beautiful waters of our state. Many families pass down a traditional recipe for low country boil or a favorite fishing memory on one of our famous water bodies.

This September, show your support for our beautiful waters and join a clean-up group in your community. For coastal clean-ups in Florida, contact your local site captains. For estuary clean-ups in Florida, visit the web sites of your nearest estuary. Your local parks may also be coordinating clean-up events, so be sure to ask your local park ranger.

Make a difference - start a sea change!

NOAA Ocean and Coastal Management
Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Stretching Your Produce Dollar-When Organic Might Make Sense

By: Nan Jensen, FCS Agent

Fruits and Vegetables on their own are very healthful and necessary to living well. But the fruits and vegetables at your local produce may be covered in pesticides and other chemicals that will make them less healthy for you. One way to avoid these unwelcome additions to your salad is to go organic. One big drawback to organic foods, including produce, is they tend to cost 50% or more than their conventionally grown counterparts.

If you want to purchase organic yet maximize your food dollar, consider the advice from the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that recommends going organic on the "dirty dozen" - types of produce that are most susceptible to pesticide residue:

  • Celery

  • Peaches

  • Strawberries

  • Apples

  • Domestic Blueberries

  • Nectarines

  • Sweet Bell Peppers

  • Spinach, Kale, and Collard Greens

  • Cherries

  • Potatoes

  • Imported Grapes

  • Lettuce

Now that you know the organics it is worth spending the extra money on, check out next Thursday’s post; The Clean 15. Learn which produce you can buy that doesn’t necessarily need to be organic.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Poisonous Toad—Beware for Pet’s Sake

By: Heather Hammers, Sea Grant Marine Agent

Here in Florida we can certainly admit that we have our share of diverse wildlife both on land and in our water including the established amphibian and reptilian fauna that often inhabit and forage in our gardens and landscaping around our homes. One leaping creature that people need to be cautious of however, is the marine toad, or bufo marinus. They're infamous for the danger they pose to small pets and wild animals because of the "bufotoxin" they produce as a defense against predators.

Bufotoxin is a moderately potent poison secreted in the skin of some amphibians, especially the typical toads. The milky fluid contains several identifiable components: bufagin, with effects on the heart similar to those of digitalis; bufotenine, a hallucinogen; and serotonin, a vasoconstrictor. The composition of the poison varies with the species of toad. Taken internally, the poison causes severe, even fatal reaction in many predators. The poison does not normally affect human skin, but it does irritate the eyes and mucous membranes.

The toads' natural range is from south Texas and south Sonora (Mexico) through the Amazon basin in South America, according to information from the University of Florida. However, the marine toad was introduced in many areas of south and central Florida to control agricultural pests in sugar cane. People can avoid attracting the toads by not leaving pet food in open dishes in the yard.

Toad poisoning is a common problem for dogs, particularly terriers, according to the University of Florida. Symptoms include drooling, head shaking, crying, loss of coordination and, in more serious cases, convulsions. A dog's gums will also often turn red. If an owner suspects his dog is suffering from toad poisoning, he should get a hose and run water in the side of the animal's mouth, while making sure to point its head downward so the water isn't swallowed. The owner should then rub the gums and mouth to remove the toxin. A vet should be called immediately.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What is Organic Produce?

By Nan Jensen, FCS Agent

Fruits and vegetables are the cornerstone of a healthy diet. They contain essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and other compounds called phytochemicals. Research has shown that people who eat generous amounts of fruit and vegetables as part of a healthful diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers.
However, many people are concerned about the pesticides used on fruits and vegetables, so consequently the interest in purchasing organic has grown significantly over the past several years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created an organic labeling program to help guide consumer choices. Organic foods are required to be grown, harvested, and processed according to national standards that include restrictions on amounts and residues of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "organic" foods cannot be treated with any synthetic pesticides, sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. They may use pesticides derived from a natural source.

Next Thursday I will discuss which fruits and veggies might be your best choice to maximize your organic food dollars.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Call for Pinellas Recycles Day Vendors

By: Guest Blogger Jim Chapin, Event Coordinator

Do you or anyone you know create products using recycled materials?

If so, please consider registering to display your creations at the Pinellas Recycles Day event on November 6th. This event is part of the national American Recycles Day program.

Our local event will be held at the Town Square Plaza Park, 5010 - 81st Ave. North in Pinellas Park Florida. The event runs from 9 am till 4 pm. The event will showcase products made from recycled material, what and where residents can recycle, and tips on how to increase your recycling efforts. The event will feature vendors and their products, food vendors, local recycling experts, live entertainment from the "Earthlings", plus free giveaways. The event is free to attend and free to display recycled products.

For more information visit our website once there go to the calender or fill out the vendor registration form.

See you there.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Trash or Treasure?

By; Karen Saley, Extension Specialist

One way to be more sustainable is to recycle, but I’m not talking about only bottles, cans, and newspapers, I’m talking about just about everything you use in your life, household goods, books, kitchen ware, furniture, clothing, sports equipment and more.

At one time shopping at thrift stores and flea markets was considered; well, not very reputable, this is not the case anymore. It’s become all the rage to look for those bargains and save some money, and as an added bonus you get to help save the environment.

If you are of the green persuasion, it only makes sense to recycle as much as possible and take yourself out of the “disposable society” mind set.

So the next time you decide to go shopping consider some of these alternatives:

Thrift stores
Consignment shops
Flea markets
Swapping with friends
Pawn shops
Yard sales
Recycle websites
Church Bizarre

Remember the old saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” So here is your opportunity to save yourself a few bucks, help some worthy organizations, and help sustain the environment.

Happy Shopping!

Monday, August 23, 2010

What’s in the Air?

By: Vestina Crayton, Extension Specialist

Controlling the source of the problem is the best defense against poor indoor air quality. Maggie Murphy, Environmental Specialist II with Pinellas County’s Department of Health has identified the top ten sources that can be controlled to optimize your indoor air environment.

Here’s five of the top ten:
1. Don’t allow smoking indoors – According to the US EPA second hand smoke also known as environmental tobacco smoke ETS) can cause lung cancer and heart disease.

2. Install a carbon monoxide detector- Exposure to CO can cause flu-like symptoms. Since carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas, it is important to install a detector to monitor the levels of carbon monoxide. Gas stoves and exhaust from automobiles stored in an attached garage are sources of carbon monoxide.

3. Test for Radon- US EPA and the Surgeon General recommends that homeowners have their homes tested for radon. Second to first hand smoking, radon is a leading cause of lung cancer.

4. Control Moisture- Identify and fix all leaks. Hot and humid climates are the perfect environment for mold growth, dust mites and other pollutants. Keeping the relative humidity indoors between 30% and 55% is recommended.

5. Maintain Pets- Along with giving lots of love, our furry friends shed fur and release dander that contains allergens. These allergens can cause symptoms that range from sneezing to eczema.

To see the remaining five and to learn more, click here to hear the full presentation “Breathe Easy - Top Ten Ways to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality” by Maggie Murphy, Environmental Specialist II, with the Pinellas County Department of Health.

Indoor Air Quality in Florida series
US Environmental Protection Agency

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Hidden Cost of the Internet

By Margaret Deller, Extension Specialist

  • In 2009 247 billion emails were sent daily (Radicati Group)

  • One tree makes 8,333 sheets of paper (Conservatree)

  • Assume that every email sent to one person would use only one sheet of paper if printed, One tree = 8,333 emails

  • Divide the 247 billion emails by 8,333

  • 10,819,032,761 trees saved every year just by sending emails

10,819,032,761 trees! Just by sending emails! Yea for the internet! What a great win for the environment! We are so green! Right! Right?

Every action we complete in the virtual world has a measurable green house gas producing effect in the real world. In fact, according to Dr. Alexander Wissner-Gross, an Environmental Fellow at Harvard, just reading this post this far will produce 100 milligrams of carbon dioxide. Not a lot and definitely less than producing and distributing a paper version. But do you know someone else who has read this post? Do they read slower than you? Did you forward or download it? All those actions have effects as well. Jay Walker, the founder of, in his December 2008 TED Talk said the energy in one lump of coal is what it takes to move 1MB of information on the Internet.

  • Average song is about 3.5MB

  • Average video 750MB

  • With the energy in one bag of charcoal you can download 57 songs or 25% of a movie.

  • A single Google search produces .2 grams of CO2. This includes only the energy used to receive the request, get the answer, and send it back to you.

  • A single avatar in the Second Life virtual reality requires 1752kw of electricity per year; almost as much as an average live Brazilian.

By themselves one Google search, one song download, one YouTube video viewing, or one avatar not so bad. It is the additive effect of millions or billions of each of these actions we need to pay attention to.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Free ways to reduce Energy Use and Save Money from Progress Energy

By Guest Blogger Suzanne Grant, APR - Progress Energy Spokesperson/Lead Communications Specialist

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (August 11, 2010) – Saving energy and money on your electric bill can be quick, easy and free. While investments such as high-efficiency air conditioners and insulation may conserve more energy, those types of improvements can require an investment of several hundred to several thousand dollars. In today’s economy, many customers are looking for free ways to trim their electric bills.

Progress Energy Florida efficiency expert Malcolm Barnes, manager of demand side management – field operations, says small, no-cost changes can add up to significant savings.

“The biggest energy savings can come from a simple adjustment to the thermostat,” says Barnes. “Setting the thermostat to the optimal temperature – which means 78 degrees instead of 74 during warmer months – can save an average household more than $300 a year in cooling costs.”

Progress Energy calculates that for every degree the thermostat is set above 78, customers can save 10 percent more on their cooling costs.

The simple act of turning off the lights when leaving a room can also help lower energy bills.

“In fact, eliminating four hours of daily use of four, 60-watt bulbs, the number often contained in a ceiling fan light fixture, can save more than $45 in energy costs over the course of a year,” says Barnes. “Considering that the average home contains 45 light bulbs, turning off frequently used lights can result in substantial savings.”

Turning off lights and adjusting the thermostat are two easy, free, energy-efficiency changes. Progress Energy efficiency experts encourage customers to make additional simple and no-cost modifications to lower energy use and save money:

  • Wash clothes in cold water and save up to 50 cents per load. Dry clothes on a line outdoors and save even more.

  • Check the setting on your hot water tank. Temperatures above 120 degrees can waste energy and money. Turning down the dial on your water heater from 140 degrees to 120 can result in savings of up to $85 per year. Don’t forget to switch the tank off if you are going away for a few days.

  • Change your thermostat fan switch to the “auto” setting from the “on” position and save up to $25 a month.

  • Match your pot size to the stove burner. Heat is lost when small pots are used on large burners. According to the U.S Department of Energy, when using an electric range you can save about $35 a year by cooking in the right size pot. If you have copper-bottomed pots and pans, use them as they heat more efficiently.

  • Keep your refrigerator running efficiently by regularly cleaning the coils. Shop in bulk and stock up during sales or freeze containers of water to keep your freezer full. A full freezer uses less energy than an empty one. And, consider getting rid of that old, inefficient, second refrigerator or freezer running out in the hot garage. Chances are you can do without it and you can save $150-$200 or more year depending on its size and age, according to the U.S Department of Energy.

  • Sign up for Progress Energy’s EnergyWise HomeSM and receive credits on your electric bill of up to $147 a year. EnergyWise Home is a free program that temporarily cycles power off and on to select electrical equipment such as water heaters, pool pumps, and heating and cooling systems during periods of high electricity demand. Learn how to qualify at

Progress Energy offers its customers educational opportunities, services and technology to help them conserve electricity and manage their bills. The company’s free Home Energy Check, an electricity audit of your home, can be done online, on the phone or in person. Visit complete an online energy check and for instant access to more than 100 ways you can start reducing energy use and saving money today.

Progress Energy understands the pressures from the downturn in the economy and is committed to meeting its customers’ energy needs in the most efficient and affordable manner possible.

Progress Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN), provides electricity and related services to more than 1.6 million customers in Florida. The company is headquartered in St. Petersburg, Fla., and serves a territory encompassing more than 20,000 square miles, including the cities of St. Petersburg and Clearwater, as well as the Central Florida area surrounding Orlando. Progress Energy Florida is pursuing a balanced approach to meeting the future energy needs of the region. That balance includes increased energy-efficiency programs, investments in renewable energy technologies and a state-of-the-art electricity system. For more information about Progress Energy, visit

Note: Yearly savings listed above are estimates based on the typical home of approximately 1850 square feet with an annual kilowatt-hour (kWh) usage of 15,538 and are calculated at $0.13/kWh for simplification. Actual saving may differ from the above estimates due to various in weather, individual energy use habits and home characteristics. Calculations are based upon engineering assumptions from Progress Energy Florida, Department of Energy and Energy Star.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What Do The Buzz Words on Packages Really Mean?

By: Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Science Agent

Many of the packages that line the grocery store are labeled with buzz words that are intended to entice us to buy the products. While many of us may be familiar with terms such as “low fat”, “cholesterol free” and “low sodium”, other terms like “natural”, “no hormones” and “free range” may be a bit more confusing. So what do some of these terms mean? Here is a quick look at several definitions you may have questions about.

Made with Real Fruit or Contains Real Fruit Juice- There is no law that requires how much real fruit that has to be included in a food with this claim. The product could contain just one grape or one drop of orange juice to be accurate. A quick look at the ingredients list will show you what you need to know. Each ingredient present in a food product must be listed in descending order of predominance by weight. When high fructose corn syrup and/or sugar are listed as the first ingredients, you know that the “real fruit” content of the product isn't significant.

Natural- The term natural does not have a formal definition when applied to foods and is used broadly on a variety of foods. According to the Food Marketing Institute, the label refers to foods that are minimally processed and free of synthetic preservatives; artificial sweeteners and colors, flavors, and other artificial additives; growth hormones; antibiotics; hydrogenated oils; stabilizers; and emulsifiers. FDA only restricts the use of the term on products that contain added color, synthetic substances and flavors.

No hormones (pork or poultry)-Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry. Therefore, the claim “no hormones added” cannot be used on the labels of pork or poultry unless it is followed by a statement that says “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”

No hormones (beef)-The term “no hormones administered” may be approved for use on the label of beef products if sufficient documentation is provided to the USDA by the producer showing no hormones have been used in raising the animals.

Free range or free roaming - Producers must demonstrate to the USDA that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.

100% organic – Food must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients and processing aids. The USDA seal may appear on the packaging.

Organic – A product with this label must contain at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). Any remaining product ingredients must consist of nonagricultural substances approved on the National List including specific non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form. The USDA seal may appear on the packaging.

Made with organic ingredients – To carry this term, a product must contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients and list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the principal display panel. The USDA seal cannot be used anywhere on the package.

For more information on labeling terms, check out the following websites:

Organic labeling-
What the Label Means-
Meat and Poultry Labeling terms

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pinellas County Extension Launches New Energy Conservation Web Pages

By: James Stevenson, Extension Specialist

Pinellas County Extension has just launched an interactive energy conservation web page for our citizens. There you will find information on how to make the best choices to improve your home’s energy efficiency, reduce your power bill and help protect the environment without sacrificing your comfort or lifestyle.

Get started by using interactive EnergyStar® calculators, including a customized EnergyStar® Home Advisor. Then explore the many University of Florida fact sheets on a range of topics. Looking for a new water heater? Want to make the most of your A/C dollars? Want to learn some easy and inexpensive ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency? Use these resources to help you make the best decisions.

Finally, take part in Pinellas County Extension’s new Energy Efficiency Project and receive energy-saving materials that can save you hundreds of dollars a year on your energy costs. The Power is Yours; you CAN make a difference!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Going Green with Your Mortgage

By: Karen Saley, Extension Specialist

Many financial experts feel now may be a good time to purchase a home. There are many properties available at affordable prices, interest rates are very reasonable, and for those that are interested in bringing sustainable practices into their home buying scenario there are now green mortgages available.

Green mortgages, or energy efficient mortgages (EEMs) take into consideration a home's energy costs when determining how much money to lend a borrower. The idea is that if the borrower's energy costs are lower, more money can be put toward the mortgage payment. The result is the ability to borrow more and possibly get a better house without spending more per month than you would with a conventional mortgage.

An energy audit of the home you're interested in purchasing will be performed to determine the monthly savings. Some of the things that are taken into consideration are how much energy is used by the appliances and the heating and cooling systems, how well the home is insulated, how well the roofing material keeps the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The calculated monthly savings on utility bills is added to the borrower's income raising the amount of money that can be borrowed.

Some other features to consider when trying to qualify for a green mortgage are; the size of the home, the use of environmentally sustainable construction materials, energy-efficient windows and doors, water conserving features, renewable energy resources such as solar panels, drought-resistant landscaping, and natural, efficient Insulation. These features do not necessarily have to exist in the home, but could be added after the purchase of the home to still be applicable for a green mortgage.

Keep in mind that green mortgages are not the mainstream, so you may need to do a little searching to find one, but it may be well worth the search to stay true to your sustainable practices and save money too.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

GREENing Your Summer Adventures!

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent

Summer is the time of year when many parents send their kids off to camp – it could be an all day camp, a half day camp or an overnight camp. For some parents, camp might be a day or two at grandma’s house but no matter what type of camp you choose for your child, there are a couple of ways you can enhance your child’s connection and concern for the environment.

Lately, there has been much talk about nature deficit disorder – a phrase used to describe the phenomenon that our kids are not getting enough interaction within the natural environment. The term was proposed by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, and has gained much momentum.

How do you find a natural experience for your child? Well, you can start by reading the NY times article “Growing Up Denatured” and taking a survey that assesses your child’s interaction outdoors. If you find that your child is not getting enough outdoor time, plan to visit a park, nature preserve or take a hike where you can interact with the environment. If your child is going to grandma’s, then you can explore a different park or natural area.

Another great way to enhance the natural connection is to sign your child up for a summer camp that includes a “nature element.” Most of these types of camps occur at an environmental education center and some examples include marine summer camp adventures, nature preserve camps or science center camps. Your local library might also offer some camp opportunities. Whichever one you choose, make sure it is a decision that your child is involved in. In Pinellas, you can visit Weedon Island Preserve, Florida Botanical Gardens or choose your own.

You can also ensure that your child is getting a green experience at the camp by asking the camp directors about recycling efforts at the camp, how camp activities will focus on nature, the kind of food it serves and if they are aware of their environmental footprint. Camps that don’t have answers for these questions may not be providing the natural experience you want for your child.

If you can’t get out to a park, overnight camp or a nature based camp, you can spend time reading a book with your child about the environment. Finding a grade level appropriate book is easily accomplished when you visit the green reading list.

If you missed the opportunity to green your summer adventure, you can always incorporate some of these tips in the fall when the season changes. Even then, you are sure to have a great experience with your child exploring and listening to the music of the natural environment.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Green Jobs- Two Opportunities to Get Some Answers

By Vestina Crayton, Extension Specialist

English novelist Charles Dickens said it best in the Tale of Two Cities ‘It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.’ With unemployment at an all time high, the emerging green job industry has persevered and brings entrepreneurial and employment opportunities"

On July 22nd, the Tampa Branch of the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter U.S. Green Building Council will sponsor a panelist discussion about green jobs. Local business, academia and community leaders will be on-hand to provide information and answer questions about the various training programs and employment opportunities that are available. Students and the general public are encouraged to attend. For details and to register, click here.

If you are unable to attend this event, register for the upcoming Pinellas County Extension’s Green Jobs Webinar Tuesday July 27th, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Calling All Phone Books

It’s Time to Recycle

Summertime is phone book time! Thousands of phone books will be delivered to Pinellas County residents’ doorsteps. Please recycle your old phone books instead of trashing them.

The Pinellas County Phone Book Recycling Drive offers many convenient options. Residents of nine cities (Belleair, Clearwater, Dunedin, Indian Rocks Beach, Largo, Oldsmar, Redington Beach, Safety Harbor, and Seminole) may recycle phone books in their curbside bin with “mixed paper”. There are also 43 drop-off locations available around the county. In addition, there are over 300 SP Recycling (fundraising bin) drop-off sites; one may be at your child's school. A complete listing (Phone Book Recycling 2010) is attached, or may be viewed online at

Each year, over 500 million telephone books are distributed nationwide—enough to circle the earth four times! A common myth is that phone books cannot be recycled, but they are 100% recyclable. Your old phone book can be recycled into insulation, cereal boxes, paper towels, or new phone books.

You can cut waste if you are getting more phone books than you need. At home, you probably don’t need multiple sets of books, which is what you will receive if you have more than one phone line. At the office, co-workers can share phone books instead of receiving individual books. Another option is to use online listings instead of a hard copy. You can sign up to stop receiving phone books at Another way to opt out is to not have a land line phone. 25% of American households are already choosing this option.

For more information, contact Pinellas County Utilities at (727) 464-7500 or visit

Be a PEEPer!

The Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project (PEEP) is in full swing with thousands of citizens receiving energy-saving light bulbs and information on how to save energy and money in the home. Our next class will be held at the Clearwater Library Main Branch on Saturday, July 17th from 1:30-2:30 p.m. All of the classes are free and are offered as part of the US Department of Energy’s $3.5 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant awarded to Pinellas County late last year. Pinellas County Extension’s application included money to provide education and energy-saving materials to the community at-large.

We are excited to bring the citizens of Pinellas County the tools they need to make significant energy savings in their homes. We have especially been targeting those citizens who would not have ready-access to energy saving information and equipment. The goals of this project include:
  • Providing information and equipment to Pinellas County citizens to help reduce energy consumption in the home.

  • Promoting a significant and quantifiable reduction in energy consumption in Pinellas County

  • Facilitating a significant and quantifiable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Pinellas County

Participants in this class will become part of a larger project, and will be contacted no more than three times to track the energy-saving measures they have taken.

Click here to register for this class. Remember that space is limited and registration closes 24 hours prior to class. We hope to see you on July 17th!