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Thursday, December 29, 2011


Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012

10:00 am to noon

Seminole Community Library Program Room
9200 113th St. N.
Seminole, Florida  33722

TOPIC: Lake Seminole Projects

SPEAKER: Robert Burnes, Watershed Management Dept. of Environment & Infrastructure Pinellas County

Information: Contact Mary,

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Simple Resolutions for a Healthier 2012!

Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Pinellas County Extension

The new year is almost here and you may be starting to think about what resolutions to make in 2012. Here are some easy ideas to help you have a healthier year. 

Resolution #1: Make half your plate fruits and vegetables 
Let vegetables and fruits take up half the space on your dinner plate. Fruits and vegetables deliver healthy phytochemicals and essential vitamins and minerals. Plus, they fill you up on fewer calories than other foods. Check out the winners of the fruit and vegetable challenge for some creative ideas on how to include more fruits and vegetables on your plate. 

Resolution #2: Make water your beverage of choice 
Sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda, lemonade or iced tea, are one of the top five foods that can add the pounds. Choosing water instead of calorie-laden beverages is a smart and easy way to reduce your overall calorie intake. Eliminating a 12-oz. can of soda a day can lead to a 12 to 18 lb. loss over the course of a year. 

Resolution #3: Try some new whole grains 
Making a switch from refined grains to whole grains can give your health a big boost. Whole grains are great sources of healthy carbohydrates, fiber, along with vitamins and minerals. People who eat plenty of whole grains tend to be leaner and have a lower risk of heart disease than those who don’t. Try some new grains like wild rice, quinoa and barley. Here is more information on whole grains and lots of delicious recipes.

Resolution #4: Add flavor to your food with herbs, spices and other flavorings 
Many people add salt to flavor their food. Too much salt is linked to high blood pressure. The daily recommended limit is 2,300 milligrams—the amount in just 1 teaspoon of salt. Most of us consume more than twice that amount. To help you get the sodium out, start with fresh ingredients and experiment with new flavorings. Lemon, lime juice, vinegar or other acidic flavors can help bring out the savoriness of food. Sprinkling fresh grated lemon zest, chopped fresh or dried herbs, garlic or shallots can add an abundance of flavor. For ideas on using fresh herbs and spices, take a look at these publications. 
Cooking with Fresh Herbs
Add a Little Spice (& Herbs) to Your Life!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Don’t Trash the Holidays!

Guest Post from Pinellas Partners in Recycling

Don’t trash the holidays! Gift wrap, packaging and party goods add up to truckloads of extra garbage. Let the holidays fill your heart and not your trash can with these tips to cut holiday waste.

Toss the tinsel, but not the tree. Make the season green by recycling your Christmas tree. Prepare your tree by removing all decorations including lights, ornaments and tinsel. Find out where to recycle your Christmas tree.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Kill a Watt, Save Some Money!

Pinellas County Extension's Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project has teamed up with Pinellas Public Library Cooperative to bring an exciting new program to our citizens. 

The Kill-a-Watt (TM) Campaign teaches residents how to monitor their home's energy use when they borrow an energy monitor from the library. 

Kill-a-Watt(TM) energy monitors are plugged into your home's power supply at an outlet, then various electronic devices can be plugged into the monitor. In real time the monitor indicates the amount of energy a device is using at the moment, and can be left on for longer amounts of time (more than 1 hour at least) to determine the kilowatts that device has consumed. 

Extension specialists will be holding classes throughout the coming months to explain how the monitors work and provide easy tips to make your home more energy efficient. 

Here is a schedule of upcoming classes: 
Tuesday December 13, 1pm – 2 pm Johnson Branch Public Library 
Wednesday January 11, 3pm-4pm Tarpon Springs Public Library 
Saturday January 28, 10am-11am Gulfport Public Library 
Saturday February 18, 11am-noon Palm Harbor Public Library 
Tuesday March 13, 7pm-8pm Dunedin Public Library 
Saturday March 31, 1:30pm-2:30pm Clearwater East Branch Library 
Thursday April 12, 6:30pm-7:30pm Safety Harbor Public Library 
Thursday April 26, 1:30pm-2:30pm Oldsmar Public Library 
Monday May 7, 1:00pm – 2:00pm St. Pete Beach Public Library 
Register by visiting and selecting the date you wish to attend on the calendar on the home page. Classes are free and will be held throughout the county.  

These libraries have energy monitors available for check-out any time: Clearwater Public Library System, Dunedin Public Library, East Lake Community Library, Gulf Beaches Public Library, Gulfport Public Library, Largo Public Library, Oldsmar Public Library, Palm Harbor Public Library,  Pinellas Park Public Library, Safety Harbor Public Library, St. Pete Beach Public Library, St. Petersburg Public Library System, Seminole Community Library, Tarpon Springs Public Library

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions, or affiliations. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A&M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Be Floridian

Mary Campbell, Extension Director and Urban Sustainability Agent 

Dear Yard 911, 
My husband is deathly afraid of bugs. I think it goes back to when he was little and his sister put a cockroach down his shirt. But now he schedules monthly pesticide treatments for our lawn and I can’t let our dogs play outside for days at a time. Are pests really such a problem in Florida? 
 – Insectophobe Gone Wild, Safety Harbor 
This is an excerpt from the website for the new Be Floridian campaign. It is a fun website designed to create awareness about the serious problem of water pollution. It has fun quizzes about proper care of your yard and encourages enjoying the natural Florida. In other words, have fun and don’t worry so much about your landscape – let it be natural. Be Floridian is about loving the beauty and diversity that makes Florida a special place. Pinellas County implemented a summer fertilizer ban starting in 2011 to reduce runoff that is polluting our water bodies. It is a critical issue here in Pinellas where we are surrounded by water and have many areas that are watersheds (drain to one main location). It is much more expensive to try and clean up a polluted water body than to prevent the pollution in the first place. Now is the time to reduce our use of fertilizers and chemicals and enjoy the relaxed natural beauty that is Florida. 

Map Your Yard- You are a Floridian through and through. But does your yard belong in Ohio? Take our quiz to find your yard’s true home state. 

Visit the website at

To find out more about how to make your yard easier to maintain and use less chemicals see the Pinellas County Extension information on Florida Friendly landscapes:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Online Shopping: Tips to Protect Yourself

Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Pinellas County Extension

Online shopping can make the craziness of the holidays a bit easier to handle. It can be convenient, save time and possibly money as well. There are some risks though. To protect yourself this season consider these tips from the Federal Trade Commission. 
Know who you're dealing with: Do your homework to make sure a company is legitimate before doing business with it. Identify the company's name, its physical address, including the country where it is based, and an e-mail address or telephone number, so you can contact the company with questions or problems.
Shop around: Use the manufacturer and model number of the item to compare prices among merchants. Consider whether shipping is included. If the item is offered for pick-up at a store, consider the cost of parking or public transportation.

In case you need to return items: Understand the terms and conditions regarding refunds, including who pays the shipping costs, and whether there is a restocking fee. Also, print and save records of your online transactions, including all emails to and from the seller.

Protect your personal information: Don’t give out your credit card or other financial information in exchange for a tech toy, a free gift card, a seasonal job, or a holiday vacation rental. Be wary of companies that ask you to send financial information by email. Legitimate companies don’t ask for your financial information via email or pop-up message.

Use caution when buying on public WiFi: Since some hot spots may not have effective security measures in place, don’t be tempted to send sensitive information like your credit card number over that network.

Look for a Secure Checkout: When you do check out make sure the website starts with https (the "s" stands for secure).

Keep your security software updated: Free screen savers, e-cards, or other seasonal downloads can carry dangerous viruses so keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software and your firewall current.

Watch over your financial accounts: Read your statements regularly and making sure they reflect the charges you authorized.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

You’re in Hot Water Now!

Water heating is often the third largest energy expense in your home, after heating and cooling—it can account for 13–17% of your utility bill. Here are a few tips for more lowering your water heating costs.

If you have an electric water heater, install a timer that allows you to turn the unit off at night when not in use—you'll save an additional 5–12% on energy needed to heat the water.

Install heat traps, one-way valves or loops of pipe, which prevent heated water in a storage tank from mixing with cooled water in pipes. Most new water heater models have factory-installed heat traps. Heat traps can save you $15–30 per year by preventing convective heat losses through the inlet and outlet pipes.

If you have a tank-style water heater, drain about a quart of water from the water tank every 3–6 months. This helps to remove sediment that slows down heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of your water heater. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for your specific unit.

If your water heater is more than 10 years old, it's a good idea to start shopping for a new one now. This will give you a chance to do some research and select the type and model that most appropriately meets your needs. Although most water heaters last 10–15 years, it might be economically smarter to replace your water heater early; the lower utility bills could be worth it. Compare costs: purchase price and lifetime maintenance and operation costs.

To learn more about water heaters, download this pdf fact sheet from the University of Florida.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Seal the Deal with Weather-Stripping

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

The greatest source of wasted heating and cooling energy in a home is air leaks. Weather-stripping is an easy do-it-yourself solution. It is a foam or vinyl strip with a self-adhesive backing that is used to seal doors and windows. The principal is similar to the seal on a refrigerator door.

You should choose the type of weather-stripping that can withstand the weathering conditions of its specific location. For doors and windows that are used most frequently, use more permanent types of weather-stripping. Click here for more information on choosing the correct weather-stripping product for your project.

Weather-stripping should be installed on a door jamb so the material creates a seal with the exterior face of the door on the top and both sides.

Weather-stripping on windows is more complicated than on doors, because it has to be placed in the tracks as well as above, below and between the sashes. Metal or plastic v-channel weather-stripping should be used in the tracks of the windows and in between the sashes. This may need nails or staples to secure it permanently. Foam or vinyl self-adhesive weather-stripping can be used between the upper and lower sashes and the frame.

Door sweeps, thresholds, and door shoes are good ways to seal gaps under exterior doors. Caulking is another way to eliminate door and window air leaks.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A House United–for Savings!

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

The whole-house systems approach looks at the entire house as an energy system with interdependent parts. Like a human body, when one part functions poorly it affects the performance of the entire system. For instance, the benefits of an energy-efficient air conditioner are lessened when a duct system leaks, windows don’t close tightly, attic insulation is insufficient, and humid summer breezes are drifting in under the door.

The systems approach recognizes the interaction of windows, attics, foundations, mechanical equipment, and all other components and assemblies within the home.

Changes in one or a few of these components can cause changes in how other components perform. If you recognize and take advantage of this fact, and apply appropriate advances in technology to the components, you can reduce your energy costs while improving your comfort. An energy-efficient home is likely to be more marketable—especially if you can show the prospective buyers your low energy bills.

Parts of the system include: air Sealing, ductwork, insulation, windows, air conditioning, and lighting/appliances.

To learn more about how these elements affect each other, download this pdf fact sheet from the Florida Energy Systems Consortium.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Want to Find the Fun Now?

Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Pinellas County Extension

If you are looking for a way to get healthy and have fun at the same time, you have to check out new campaign is part of an effort by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve health outcomes in 50 targeted communities across the U.S. It is built around a new web-based application that helps people find actively fun things to do at Pinellas County's parks, beaches and other attractions.

You can search the website by neighborhood, time of day, budget, how much time you have for a fun activity and the kind of people you want to invite. The application searches a database of hundreds of activities and returns a list of ideas for you to consider, along with descriptions, if the activity is outside, and the current weather.  is equipped with a database of local farmers' markets and fresh produce locations, as well as ways to find healthy recipes. You will also be able to share your own ideas, and what you found on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

The idea is to make healthy eating and activity part of everyday life, to help address the growing problem of obesity.  So what are you waiting for? Go out and Find the Fun Now!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Discussion Group on Recycling and Sustainability

Date:  Monday,  Nov. 7, 2011

Time:  10:00 am to  noon

Place:  Seminole  Community  Library  Program  Room
             9400 113th  St. N.
             Seminole, Fl. 33772

TOPIC:  Sustainable  Fisheries

SPEAKER:  Emily Muehlstein, Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council

R.S.V.P.    Mary  Hampton,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ventilation for a Healthy Home

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

All homes need ventilation to remove stale interior air, pollutants, and excessive moisture.

In the past, air leakage was relied on to provide ventilation. However, a leaky building does not guarantee good indoor air quality. Why? Air leaks often bring in air quality problems from attics, crawl spaces, and the outside. Furthermore, if the building is leaky it can result in high heating and cooling costs.

Indoor air typically contains more types—and higher concentrations of—pollutants than outdoor air, even in industrialized areas. Common home indoor air pollutants include biological pollutants (mold spores, dust mites, viruses, pollen, animal dander); combustion pollutants (including carbon monoxide); lead from old paint or lead-tainted soil; VOCs emitted from many paints, glues, and other building materials (this is called “outgassing”); and, in some areas, radon.

The Department of Energy recommends the practice of integrating mechanical ventilation into the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. While whole-house ventilation is not required in Florida building codes, this system can provide fresh, filtered, outside air in a controlled amount using the existing HVAC delivery system for even distribution and mixing.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Innovative Packaging

Mary Campbell, Extension Director and Urban Sustainability Agent

It is always interesting to see new innovative ways to use waste products. Dell announced the beginning of a pilot for mushroom based packaging. The mushroom cushioning is unique because it is grown and not manufactured in the traditional sense. Packaging products are created by growing mushroom fibers on waste like cotton seed, wood fiber and buckwheat hulls. Waste products are placed in a mold which is then inoculated with mushroom spawn. Cushions take 5 - 10 days to grow as the spawn, which become the root structure - or by the scientific name, mycelium - of the mushroom.

All the energy needed to form the cushion is supplied by the carbohydrates and sugars in the agricultural waste. Once the material has grown into the shape, it is heat treated to stop the growth, and the packaging is done. There's no need for energy in the process and manufacturers estimate it takes 98% less energy to create mushroom based packaging than Styrofoam. Now you know why there has been such interest in mushroom packaging. Dell plans to eliminate about 20 million pounds of packaging material from their shipments by the end of 2012. The organic based mushroom cushions are easily composted after use.

Floridians throw away about 8 pounds of garbage per person each day, double the national average. There are a number of ways to tackle the problem of garbage. One way starts with you and the products you buy. You can shop with the environment in mind. Try to buy products that:

  • make the best use of energy resources
  • don't pollute our air and water
  • are reusable or recyclable
  • are made from plentiful resources or from recycled material
  • use a minimum of materials in design and packaging

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to Choose a Roofing contractor?

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

Your home’s energy efficiency has a lot to do with the quality of your roof. Because you expect your roof to last for many years, it makes a lot of sense to research the quality of the roofing contractor or company you select.

Generally, a roofing license is required. Under limited circumstances, roofing may be performed by a general, building, or residential contractor. The key is to make sure the contractor is qualified to do roofing and the specific type of roofing for your house.

If you select a contractor or company without proper workers’ compensation insurance or good general liability insurance, you may be held responsible for any injury or damage.

Contact your local building department to determine the requirements in your area.
A warranty may not help much if the roofing company is out of business by the time you need a repair. Verify the length of time your contractor has been licensed and in business.. You should also check your local court records for any liens or judgments involving your contractor.

To learn more about roofing, download this pdf fact sheet from the Florida Energy Systems Consortium.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Halloween Color Change

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent

The traditional Halloween color is orange but it doesn’t mean that you can’t incorporate green ideas for this year’s celebration. From costumes to lights to decorations, “greening” this pumpkin color fest is easy.

Costumes are a huge part of Halloween but instead of the usual store splurge, have a grand time making your own and saving some of your green. Use old or recycled clothing, fabrics and other materials when putting together your costumes. Reuse bits and pieces from last year’s costume or even better, do a costume swap with friends or family.

Halloween lighting is trouble-free when you choose LEDs. Light Emitting Diode (LED) is a small electric component that converts electricity into light and because of this they are extremely flexible. LED lights are available in different colors, sizes, shapes and light intensity. The biggest benefit of LED lights is the energy and dollar savings to be gained. LEDs use at least 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last 35 to 50 times longer.

Halloween decorations can easily be made from household items. Do you remember your art classes from elementary school? Toilet paper rolls, plastic bottles, fabric swaps and pipe cleaners can often turn into magical decorations. Don’t forget to use some natural elements to “green” your Halloween décor – pine cones, pumpkin seeds or seasonal fruit.

To make the orange holiday even more fun serve some “green” and healthy party treats to your guests. Chocolate is great but so are carrots, granola bars, and raisins.

Together these tips will save you money while protecting the environment.


LED Factsheet
Energy Star – LED
Healthy Snacks for Children – Factsheet

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Six things to consider for roof repair

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

Your roof is one of your biggest investments
in your home. Be sure to maintain it well, and consider these precautions before hiring a contractor.
  1. Re-roofing estimates and work can be heavily impacted by the quality of previous roofing work, including repairs.
  2. If roof damage is extensive, you may be required to bring your entire roof (not just the damaged portion) up to current building code standards.
  3. Failure to hire a properly licensed and qualified contractor may invalidate your homeowner’s insurance coverage. It may also subject you to criminal penalties.
  4. Failure of your contractor to obtain a roofing permit and comply with workers’ compensation and safety requirements may stop work and cost you more money to complete the work.
  5. If your contractor suggests it will be best if you obtain the building permit yourself—beware: this is never a good idea.
  6. If you pay your contractor and he or she does not pay the suppliers and subcontractors, you may legally be required to pay twice.
Your roof is the first line of defense in protecting your home and its valuable contents against the elements. Maintaining it will help keep you comfortable while being energy efficient.

To learn more about roofing, download this pdf fact sheet from the Florida Energy Systems Consortium.

Salty Topics: Sea level rise in the southeastern US: What have we seen and what do we expect?

Join us for the kick-off of our all new Marine Science Speaker series at Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center. The series will be held on the 1st Thursday of October, November, and December 2011.

Professor Mitchum has been a faculty member in the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida since. His interest in sea level rise began in the mid-1980's, and he remains especially interested in the study of 20th century sea level rise. Professor Mitchum's research focuses on the use of satellite and in situ data to study sea level variations and climate change.

For more information please contact Libby Carnahan at (727) 453-6522

Friday, September 30, 2011

Community Shows Love for the Environment

Libby Carnahan, Sea Grant Extension Agent

What do residents love about Pinellas County? The natural resources! This weekend, residents volunteered their time to show their love for the green and blue spaces that we cherish in Pinellas County. In conjunction with National Public Lands Day and National Estuaries Day, cleanup events were organized on land and sea.

At Weedon Island Preserve, Florida Sea Grant/Pinellas County Extension hosted 18 employees of OSI Restaurant Partners for a land-based cleanup of some hard to reach shorelines on Riviera Bay. On Saturday, 24 community volunteers utilized canoes and kayaks to reach the remote shoreline of Googe Island within the preserve. Together, these groups collected approximately 24 bags of debris. Volunteers recorded every item found, giving us a clear picture of the manufactured items impacting the health of humans, wildlife, and economies.

Farther North in the county, Reef Monitoring Inc., a local non-profit, hosted an underwater cleanup of Clearwater Artificial Reefs. 187 certified divers removed an astounding 1,534 pounds of trash!

  • Artificial Reefs provide habitat for popular sport fish and other marine life and help alleviate fishing pressures on natural habitats.
  • More than 1800 persons in Pinellas County – residents and visitors included – use artificial reefs.
  • Fishermen and divers who use Pinellas County’s 12 artificial reef sites spend more than $79 million in the county annually.
Please do your part to keep our oceans clean. Marine debris poses a threat to marine mammals, sea turtles, sea birds, and decreases the quality of life for human residents. When possible-reuse, reduce, and recycle. Don’t wait for an official day to clean up-make every day a cleanup day!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Add Blue and Yellow: Get Green

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

Two key elements to look for when you shop for an energy efficient appliance: the blue ENERGY STAR® logo and the yellow EnergyGuide label.

ENERGY STAR® qualified appliances use 10–50% less energy and/or water than their counterparts. ENERGY STAR® is not a brand name— it is a program of the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy. To earn the ENERGY STAR®, a product must meet or exceed the minimum standards of energy efficiency which assist money savings and environmental protection.

Currently, only the following appliance types have
ENERGY STAR® guidelines:
  • Clothes washers
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Dishwashers
  • Refrigerators and freezers
  • Room air-conditioners
  • Room air cleaners
On the standardized EnergyGuide label, manufacturers of these and many other appliance types must provide potential buyers information regarding products' energy consumption. It helps consumers more easily compare energy efficiency among similar products.

The Federal Trade Commision's Appliance Labeling Rule requires EnergyGuide labels on any new product in these lines:

  • Refrigerators and freezers
  • Dishwashers
  • Clothes washers
  • Air conditioners
  • Water heaters (some types)
  • Heat pumps
  • Furnaces
  • Lighting products
  • Plumbing products
EnergyGuide labels show:
  1. The energy consumption or efficiency rating
  2. A “range of comparability” indicating the highest/lowest energy consumption for similar models
  3. Estimated annual operating cost
Remember, the EnergyGuide labels won't tell you the best appliance to buy, but they provide a lot of information to help your decision making. Make sure you compare similar models with similar capacities.

To learn more about Energy Efficient Appliances, click here to download this pdf fact sheet from theUniversity of Florida / IFAS.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How do You Choose a Home Inspector?

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

Improving your home's energy efficiency will save you money. A professional home inspection can identify those needed repairs and/or upgrades. Like anything else, a home inspection is only as good as the inspector doing the work. It is in your best interest to carefully verify the qualifications of any inspector you consider hiring.

First, make sure any home inspector has expertise on the specific subject for inspection—expertise on plumbing is not the same as expertise on energy. Second, verify any business background or licenses held by the home inspector. By Florida law, only State-certified Energy Raters may provide energy-rating services. Certified energy auditors and utility auditorsare not home inspectors. Nor are they Home Energy Raters.

You should request a copy of the home inspector's contract, agreement, or proposal and read the fine print to determine exactly what you will get for your money. Request that the home inspector provide you with a list of current and past customers as well as a list of references. The more residential customers, the better. Check with several references on the list.

A lower price is not always the best way to choose a home inspector. When comparing prices for home inspections, it is very important to compare the actual service and qualifications at the same time.

Inspectors/Raters may have a conflict of interest, if:
  • They also offer to perform any needed repairs or other work
  • They offer to recommend any contractor to perform repairs
  • They have worked for a builder or seller associated with the home prior to the inspection

Also, think twice about hiring a home inspector who worked as a contractor before becoming an inspector. Was their contractor's license revoked or suspended? On the other hand, if the former contractor has simply chosen to shift to a lighter schedule of work, this person may bring some of the best practical experience to the job.

To learn more about Energy Efficiency Home Inspections, click here to download this pdf fact sheet from the University of Florida.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Net Zero Energy Homes

Mary Campbell, Extension Director and Urban Sustainability Agent

What would it be like to have a home that sold as much energy back to the power company as it uses? Think of the money that would be saved! The term used for those homes is net zero energy homes (ZEHs). Net zero energy homes and buildings (ZEBs) are “on-grid” structures (connected to the power company) that produce renewable energy onsite at a value equal to, or greater than, the building’s total annual energy consumption. The “net” portion means the building may use energy from the utility grid (electricity and/or natural gas) during some times of the day (such as at night) but supplies renewable energy back to the grid during other times, in a balance that equals out over the course of a year. It is now possible to make a home so energy efficient that when it also includes a renewable energy source (like solar), the net result is that the home generates as much energy as it uses.

In Florida, solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal water heating are the most common renewable energy generation sources of choice. However, ZEHs are not the mere addition of onsite renewable energy to a conventional home. True ZEH status (a federal goal by 2020) is currently a rare occurrence. In the reality of 2010, a ZEH needs approximately 50-70% reduction in site energy use through efficiency measures with the remaining 30-50% in energy needs provided by on-site renewable energy. So a home must maximize all the energy efficiency first to work together with renewable energy to create a net zero home.

Progress Energy supports the use of renewable energy. At any time your renewable system produces more energy than required to power your home or building, the excess energy may be applied as a credit to any current and future bills. This process is known as net-metering. Interested in net-metering with Progress Energy Florida? Then download this Net Meter Tariff overview (PDF) to learn more about the rates and other requirements.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Important Transportation Options Survey

It’s your mobility we’re talking about! Take the survey to let your voice be heard!

The Pinellas Alternatives Analysis is a key step in developing an interconnected regional transit system in West Central Florida. The study findings will be a blueprint for transit service connecting major residential, employment, and activity centers within Pinellas County and to Hillsborough County via the Howard Frankland Bridge.

The study team and Project Advisory Committee has narrowed the range of routes to one and the range of transit types to two: fast bus and rail. A survey was developed to give you and other members of the public an opportunity to tell the study team what type of transit you want for Pinellas County. Please take the survey to participate in the conversation and let your voice be heard. Note: the survey closes on Friday, September 23rd, 2011.

To learn more about the project’s history and decision-making process, please visit the project website.
The Pinellas Alternatives Analysis is a study identifying transit options to improve Pinellas County’s and the Tampa Bay Area’s quality of life.

Please take the project survey about the future of Pinellas County’s transportation by Friday, September 23, 2011.

The survey is available here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dishwasher vs. Washing By Hand

Did you know...?
  • Washing dishes with a dishwasher is more efficient than washing them by hand, and an ENERGY STAR qualified dishwasher is even more efficient.
  • Compared with washing dishes by hand, you can save 5,000 gallons of water, $40 in utility costs, and 230 hours of your time annually by using an ENERGY STAR qualified dishwasher.
You can see the lifetime saving of an ENERGY STAR qualified dishwasher by using the calculation tool at the ENERGY STAR website .

Click here to download the Florida Energy Systems Consortium fact sheet (pdf).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Do You Remember Our Bottle Recycling Days?

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent

You know it’s a throwback to days gone by when we start an article with “remember when” but seriously do you remember when we used to return our bottles for deposit? Our modern, throwaway, convenience culture is accustomed to single-serve beverages like water, soda and sports drinks that come packaged in plastic or glass bottles. This contributes to an increasing waste problem.

Beverage bottle recycling plays an important role in a comprehensive recycling approach that allows us to better manage our waste streams. Plastics make up more than 12% of our recycling stream but overall only 7% of it was recycled when compared to 26% recovery for glass (EPA, 2009). Recycling these beverage containers instead of manufacturing new ones reduces the need for new resource material, cuts back on energy usage, and results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Although curbside recycling is available to some of us in the county and indeed, in our state, not all residents have access to curbside recycling programs. What happens to the bottles that we use while we are away from home? They certainly are not going in the curbside collector! How can we ensure that they are properly recycled? One way to do this is to implement laws that promote and incentivize recycling behavior.

A bottle bill, or container deposit law, requires a refundable deposit on beverage containers to ensure that the containers are returned for recycling. This would include beer, soft drink and other beverage containers. States that have implemented bottle bills report higher recycling rates for beverage containers than states without such programs. Bottle bills standardize a program making the refund the same throughout the state instead of wide variances on a local level. States may use the bottle bill funds to support environmental initiatives to reduce littering and promote environmental conservation.

A bottle bill promotes sustainable consumer practices and in so doing will educate and encourage behavioral changes. Use the resources below to learn more and get involved or to check out if your state has a bottle bill.

EPA Municipal Solid Waste Report 2009
Recycling and the bottle bill
EPA facts on recycling glass
The bottle bill
EPA facts on recycling plastic

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

De-coding the Laundry Factor!

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

When choosing a clothes washing machine, you need to know just how much energy it uses per cycle. Clothes washer energy consumption is measured in two ways.
  • MEF (Modified Energy Factor) measures the energy used during the washing process, including washing machine energy consumption per cycle, hot water energy consumption, and dryer energy required for the removal of the remaining moisture in the wash load—the higher the MEF, the more energy efficient the clothes washer.
  • WF (Water Factor) measures the gallons of water used per cycle per cubic foot. The lower the WF, the less water the machine uses. As of 2011, ENERGY STAR® qualified washing machines are 59% more efficient than mandated energy standards (U.S. Department of Energy, March 2008).
Clothes dryers are measured by EF (Energy Factor); the number of pounds of clothing a dryer can dry with 1 kilowatt-hour of usage.

See the ENERGY STAR® Web site for a listing of ENERGY STAR® qualified clothes washers and more details on Modified Energy Factors and Water Factors, along with other information that is useful in sorting out your options. The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy requires the industry to thoroughly test and report the energy usage of all appliances.

To learn more about an Energy Efficient Laundry Area, click here to download this pdf fact sheet from the University of Florida / IFAS.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quick Facts About LEDs

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

While LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) can be more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), they are currently more expensive. But costs are coming down—in 2007, they were roughly one-seventh of costs in 2001—and it's expected that LEDs will be competitive within a few years.

Here are some more facts:
  • LED lights are very small, extremely durable, and can be manufactured in a variety of colors and forms.
  • They have the potential to be more energy efficient and last far longer than most current lighting technologies.
  • They are considered environmentally friendly, since they contain no mercury, and the visible light applications for home or business do not emit infrared (IR) or ultraviolet (UV) light.
  • They produce very little heat; and, their lifetime is not affected by frequent on/off switching.
  • "White" light is created by combining the light from red, green, and blue (RGB) LEDs, or by coating a blue LED with yellow phosphor.
Would you like a FREE LED replacement bulb to get started with this exciting new technology? Join us September 24 at Pinellas County Extension for the first annual Pinellas Home Energy Symposium. Experts will answer your questions from 9am to noon. Click here to register. All registered participants will receive an LED, 60watt-equivalent bulb which was made in Florida!

To learn more about LED Lighting, click here to download this pdf fact sheet from the University of Florida / IFAS.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tomatoes with Great Taste and More

Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Pinellas County Extension

There is nothing better than biting into a sandwich topped with a sweet juicy tomato or sitting down to a crisp green salad packed with lots of bright red tomatoes that have that fresh from the garden flavor. Meet Tasti-Lee™, a special tomato variety developed by the University of Florida. It has all the characteristics you want in a tomato- great taste, a juicy texture and a bright red color. Not only are you getting all those qualities as well as vitamins A and C and the mineral potassium, this variety contains a higher amount of lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant, which means that it reduces the amount of damage done to body cells by oxygen. This damage can eventually lead to cancers, heart disease, and other illnesses. Research is currently underway to look explore the health benefits of this compound.

Tomatoes taste best if not refrigerated, so when you bring your tomatoes home, store them at room temperature away from direct sunlight. Tasti-Lee™ tomatoes do have a shorter shelf life than other varieties so make sure to use them soon after you purchase.

Whether it’s a classic Italian salad you crave or a fresh salsa for dipping or topping, enjoy the new “Fresh from Florida” Tasti-Lee™. For recipes ideas, and more information on this variety, click on the links below.

Tasit-LeeTM Official Fact Sheet
Tasti-LeeTM Website

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What Kind of Insulation is Best for Your Home?

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

Insulation is crucial to your house, but how do you choose the right kind?

Insulation's effectiveness is measured by its R-value, which depends on the type and thickness of the insulation. When purchasing, compare the cost per square foot (installed) of your R-value choice.

Each type is made to fit in a different part of your house. Rolls or blankets are usually laid over the floor in the attic. Batts are made to fit between the studs in walls or between the joists of ceilings or floors. Loose fill insulation is blown into the attic or walls. High density damp spray is used in the attic or walls. Blown-in-blanket is a loose fill material held in place in walls or ceilings by netting.

Fiberglass is the most common type of insulation, manufactured from sand and recycled glass. Rock wool is made
from natural rocks and formed under high heat. Mineral wool is primarily made from recycled materials from steel mill wastes.Cellulose is made from recycled newsprint and cotton is often made from post-industrial recycled cloth like denim. These are treated with fire-retardant chemicals.

ISO board, XPS (blueboard), or EPS (beadboard) are usually found in rigid board form. These lightweight boards generally have an R-value of 4 to 7 per inch. They are intended for use in confined spaces such as exterior walls and cathedral ceilings.

Spray foams, used in the attic or walls, such as urethanes and polyicynene are also available with R-values from 3 to 6 per inch.

Which one is right for you? It depends on several things:
  • Amount of space
  • Bulk density of the materials (weight per volume) so your ceilings won’t sag
  • Ease of access
  • Budget
  • Ease of replacement the insulation in case you had a roof or wall leak
  • Whether you are building a new home or improving an existing home.
To learn more about home insulation, download this pdf fact sheet from the Florida Energy Systems Consortium.

Monday, August 22, 2011

GREEN Your School’s Report Card

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent

When we prepare for the academic year for our school and college aged students, we’re usually thinking about school supplies, dorm rooms and lunch boxes but have you ever considered the green ethic of the school your student attends? Does the school recycle? Does the school have a green purchasing policy?

More and more schools are getting on board with the concept of Green Schools and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) offers information on how this initiative is pushing schools to change practices. The USGBC oversees the LEED certification programs and incorporates these elements in the green schools initiative. Green Schools are energy efficient, conserve resources, improve air quality and encourage waste reduction. Explore this interactive link to learn more about how schools can go green.

Green Schools contribute to a healthy learning environment for children, improves learning performance and reduces absenteeism due to illness. School boards across the nation are adopting transportation choices and routes that are more efficient and effective; incorporating new technology in the classroom (e.g. SMART boards); and reinventing school menus. These efforts contribute to increased cost savings, promote healthy living choices and encourage environmental stewardship throughout the community.

Many universities across the nation are going beyond the scope of the Green Schools initiative and campus buildings now include solar panels, composting and waste reduction strategies, and dorm room retrofits and upgrades. College students are also required to participate in community service groups that allow them to contribute to the local community. Sierra Club recently released a list of 100 green universities and colleges.

Before you get involved in local efforts to green neighborhood schools, read this myth debunker so that you are armed with all the answers for the stakeholders.
There’s no reason to be green with envy since every school can earn an A+.

U.S. Green Building Council
EDIS factsheet - Evaluating Green Communities
EDIS factsheet - Youth Environmental Stewardship

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chill-Out With these Refrigerator Purchasing Tips

10% of the average home electric bill goes towards refrigeration. You can save money throughout the year by buying a more efficient refrigerator/freezer.

Refrigerator and Freezer Purchasing Tips:
  • Choose the right size and type for your needs. Generally, the larger the refrigerator or freezer model, the greater the energy consumption. The most energy-efficient refrigerator models are typically 16 to 20 cubic feet. The most energy-efficient freezer models are typically chest freezers
  • Choose a model with a blue ENERGY STAR® label. ENERGY STAR® qualified refrigerators and freezers save you money over their lifetime by saving on energy costs.
  • Compare yellow EnergyGuide labels. A yellowEnergyGuide label includes information on the energy usage of the product, energy usage comparisons with similar models, and estimated annual operating costs.
  • Consider buying a top-mount refrigerator-freezer. Top-mount refrigerator-freezer models use 10 to 25% less energy than side-by-side models
  • Consider a model without an ice-maker and dispenser. Automatic ice-makers and door dispensers increase energy use by 14 to 20 percent and raise the purchase price by about $75-250.
  • Look for a refrigerator with automatic moisture control, but without an anti-sweat heater.Models with automatic moisture control have been engineered to prevent moisture accumulation on the cabinet exterior without the addition of a heater. This feature differs from an "anti-sweat" heater that actually produces heat. Models with an anti-sweat heater will consume five to 10 percent more energy than models without this feature.
To learn more about Refrigerators & Freezers, click here to download this pdf fact sheet from the Florida Energy Systems Consortium.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Citizen Scientist Workshop

Mary Campbell, Extension Director and Urban Sustainability Agent

Join instructors George Kish, US Geological Survey & Mary Campbell, UF Extension for a free training to engage volunteers in the collection of local ecological information; and introduction to Nature’s Notebook, a project of the USA National Phenology Network. Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and inter-annual variations in climate.

Come out and join Members, Volunteers and Participants of Native Plant Society, Audubon Society, NABA, Master Naturalists, Master Gardeners, Florida Botanical Gardens, Sustainable Floridians, “Friends” of Local and State Parks, Refuges and Other Environmental Groups, as they assist resource managers, scientists & public in decision-making related to conservation.

Click here to register online for this free class.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Subcommittee Releases Shale Gas Recommendations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A diverse group of advisors to Energy Secretary Steven Chu today released a series of consensus-based recommendations calling for increased measurement, public disclosure and a commitment to continuous improvement in the development and environmental management of shale gas, which has rapidly grown to nearly 30 percent of natural gas production in the United States.

Increased transparency and a focus on best practices “benefits all parties in shale gas production: regulators will have more complete and accurate information, industry will achieve more efficient operations and the public will see continuous, measurable, improvement in shale gas activities,” the report says.

The report calls for industry leadership in improving environmental performance, underpinned by strong regulations and rigorous enforcement, evolving to meet the identified challenges.

As shale gas grows and becomes an increasingly important part of our nation’s energy supply, it is crucial to bring a better understanding of the environmental impacts—both current and potential—and ensure that they are properly addressed,” Subcommittee Chairman John Deutch said. “The current output of shale gas and its potential for future growth emphasize the need to assure that this supply is produced in an environmentally sound fashion, and in a way that meets the needs of public trust.”

Better data will help the industry focus its investments, give the public the information it needs to effectively engage, and help regulators identify and address the most important problems,” Deutch continued. “We’re issuing a call for industry action, but we are not leaving it to industry alone.”

The report was prepared by the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Shale Gas Production Subcommittee. Chaired by Deutch, an MIT professor, it was convened by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu at the direction of President Barack Obama who observed that “recent innovations have given us the opportunity to tap large reserves—perhaps a century’s worth” of shale gas.

The subcommittee was tasked with producing a report on the immediate steps that can be taken to improve the safety and environmental performance of shale gas development. The report reflects three months of deliberations among a diverse group of industry experts, environmental advocates, academics and former state regulators.

The report includes recommendations in four key areas:

1. Making information about shale gas production operations more accessible to the public

The report calls for the full disclosure of all chemicals used in fracturing fluids. While the committee agrees with the prevailing view that the risk of leakage of fracturing fluids through fractures made in deep shale reserves is remote where there are is large separation from drinking water, the report finds that there is no economic or technical reason to prevent public disclosure of all chemicals used in fracturing fluids.

It also calls for the creation of a national database of all public information made about shale gas. Assembling the data, which are currently dispersed in perhaps a hundred different locations, in a comparable format would permit easier access by all interested parties.

The report recommends government funding support for existing, multi-stakeholder mechanisms such as the non-profit Ground Water Protection Council’s Risk Based Data Management System and the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulation. Encouraging such multi-stakeholder mechanisms will strengthen regulation and improve efficiency, the report finds.

2. Immediate and longer-term actions to reduce environmental and safety risks of shale gas operations, with a particular focus on protecting air and water quality

Air Quality:

The report says that measures should be taken to reduce emissions on air pollutants, ozone precursors and methane as quickly as practicable and supports prompt adoption of standards to reduce emissions of all air contaminants.

The subcommittee recommends the design and rapid implementation of measurement systems to collect comprehensive methane and other air emissions data from shale gas operations.

The subcommittee also recommends that a federal interagency planning effort be launched immediately to acquire data and analyze the overall greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas operations throughout the lifecycle of natural gas use in comparison to other fuels.

Water Quality:

The report urges the adoption of a systemic approach to water management based on consistent measurement and public disclosure. Companies should measure and publicly report the composition of water stocks and flow throughout the process; manifest all transfers of water among different locations; and makes recommendations about best practices in well development and construction, especially casing and cementing. Likewise, agencies should review and modernize their rules to ensure they are fully protective of both groundwater and surface water.

The findings also recommend additional field studies on methane leakage from hydrofractured wells to water reservoirs and the adoption of requirements for background water quality measurements to record existing methane levels in nearby water wells prior to drilling.

3. Creation of a Shale Gas Industry Operation organization committed to continuous improvement of best operating practices

A more systemic approach by the shale gas industry based on best practices—recognized as improvements to techniques and methods over time based on measurement and field experience—is an important way to achieve better operational and environmental outcomes, the report finds.

The report envisions the creation of a national organization, with external stakeholders, dedicated to continuous improvement of best practice through the development and diffusion of standards and the assessment of member compliance. The organization would likely work through regional subgroups.

4. Research and development (R&D) to improve safety and environmental performance

The report finds that, while the majority of shale gas R&D will be performed by the oil and gas industry, there is a role for the federal government.

“We are mindful of the nation’s financial constraints,” Deutch said. “But we do see a key role that can be played by modest government support for R&D around environmental questions.”

The report recommends that the administration set an appropriate mission for shale gas R&D and level funding, with a particular focus on efficiency of water use and other improvements to enhance environmental objectives.

The subcommittee report is available at:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Now See Here! What's Your SEER?

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The cooling efficiency of your heat pump or air conditioning system is rated by a SEER number. The SEER is defined as a ratio of the average amount of cooling per unit of electricity used.

Efficiencies of some systems can be as high as SEER 17.0 or more. (Chances are that older homes have units with SEERs less than 10.) Note that it is important to understand that even though the SEER may be high, if the system is not in good condition (for example, leaky ductwork), you will not receive the full value of the efficiency as the air distribution system is not used to determine the SEER rating.

Units with the ENERGY STAR emblem are efficiently designed and offer savings on energy bills without sacrificing performance, features, and comfort.

To learn more about air conditioning efficiency, click here to download this pdf fact sheet from the University of Florida/IFAS.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sustainable Floridians Open Orientation

Sustainable Floridian pioneers - Are you interested in a green lifestyle? Do you want to volunteer? Then this program is for you! Come out and meet the instructors of the 7- week Sustainable Floridian Master Volunteer program and review course materials. Refreshments and door prizes will be available.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 10:00 AM
Pinellas County Extension
12520 Ulmerton Road
Largo, FL 33774
Registration: click here

Friday, August 5, 2011

Transportation eTownhall

Pinellas Transit Alternatives Analysis Team wants your input! Join the Transportation eTownhall on Wednesday August 10, 2011 at 7 p.m. and participate in live, interactive discussions via the phone or web. Watch the event live on PCC-TV on Bright House channel 622, Knology channel 18, or Verizon channel 44. In addition to joining online or watching on TV, a random sample of 40,000 residents will be invited to participate in a telephone portion of the event. Interested citizens who do not receive a call but wish to join the telephone portion may call toll free – 1 -999-886-6603, ext 16006#.

For more information, check out or

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Radio Broadcast Focuses on Green Homes

Green homes and free energy audits are the featured topics Thursday, Aug. 4, on There’s No Place Like Home, the radio show sponsored by the Housing Finance Authority of Pinellas County. The show can also be watched on Pinellas County Connection Television, YouTube, or viewed online here.

The show features Joe Triolo, program manager of the Home Advantage Home Energy Program with Progress Energy, and Sam Moore of Planet Green Group. Guests will highlight the monthly energy savings that residents can enjoy with a few simple quick tips and share the latest in green building technologies.

The program, which features different issues each month, is sponsored by the Housing Finance Authority of Pinellas County. It airs the first Thursday of each month from 10:05 to 10:35 a.m. on WRXB 1590 AM.

Questions or comments about the show may be emailed to Housing Finance Authority.

Are Dollars Falling Out of Your Doors?

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

When checking for leaks around doors and windows, use a dollar bill: insert the dollar bill in the opening. If it falls out or slips out easily, the weather-stripping should be repaired or replaced. The greatest source of wasted heating and cooling energy in a home is air leaks. (You can also test your refrigerator door seal this way.)

To learn more about caulking and weather-stripping,
download this pdf fact sheet from the Florida Energy Systems Consortium.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Healthy Snacks for After School

Nan Jensen, RD, LD/N
Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences

Summer vacation is quickly coming to an end and soon it will be back to school.
When the kids get home after a long day in the classroom, the first thing they want to do is eat. Sound familiar? Children are eating about 168 more calories every day as snacks than they did in 1977, according to a 2010 Health Affairs study. Additional calories from any food, including snacks, can add up to an unhealthy weight for kids if those extra calories aren't burned off. For many kids, snacks are often desserts or sweetened beverages, such as soda, fruit drinks and sports drinks. These foods provide calories but not much in the way of other nutrients like vitamins and minerals. However, snacks can help fill those nutrition gaps, provide extra energy for after school activities or make up for a missed meal if you choose wisely. Here are some helpful tips.

  • Think of snacks as mini meals, not meal wreckers. Snacks can serve as opportunities for good nutrition, and ensure that your child will still be hungry for the next meal.
  • Most of the time, feed your child the same types of foods you would at other meals. Include low-fat dairy and other lean protein sources, eggs, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Snack foods should provide protein, carbohydrate, fiber, and some healthy fat. Foods rich in protein or fiber help kids stay fuller for longer, and add nutrients kids need to thrive.
While there is no hard and fast rule for the number of calories a snack should contain, aim for about 100 calories for smaller children to upwards of 300 calories for active teenagers.

For more information on snacks and snack ideas, check out the publication Healthy Snacks for Children

Friday, July 29, 2011

Libby Carnahan
Sea Grant Extension Agent

Today, Tampa Bay is cleaner, safer, and more eco-friendly thanks to the work of 80 dedicated volunteers. In Tampa Bay, it is estimated that thousands of abandoned crab traps have been accumulating in the bay for decades. This July marked a temporary 10-day closure in blue crab fishing season, which happens only once every 2 years. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) closure allows local environmental agencies to remove any trap from the water because during the closed season, all crab traps are considered derelict. This effort decreases ghost fishing, eliminates hazards to navigation, and improves the aesthetics of our waters.

On July 16, 2011, a total of 28 boats at Fort Desoto, Demens Landing, Bellair Boat Ramp, the Courtney Campbell Boat Ramp, Williams Park, and Cockroach Bay, headed out into bay and Gulf waters in search of abandoned traps. We collected a total of 215 traps! Of those traps 124 traps were blue crab and 91 were stone crab traps. Stone crab season is currently closed and reopens October 15th.

The FWC authorized cleanup event was coordinated by Tampa Bay Watch in collaboration with Florida Sea Grant, Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission, and Audubon’s Florida Coastal Island Sanctuaries. However, it is the citizens who donated their time, their boats, and their passion for the environment to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude!

Derelict Crab Traps
Florida Sea Grant Derelict Crab Trap Information
Ghost Fishing