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Friday, December 14, 2012

Don’t Trash the Holidays

Let the holidays fill your heart, not your trash can.

The holidays are a season for giving, but also a good time to think about waste reduction. We often end up sending large gifts of holiday discards to the landfill. Gift wrap, packaging and party goods add up to truckloads of extra garbage. Start your own traditions to reduce, reuse and recycle your holiday trash.

Green holiday tips:
  • Save holiday wrappings such as gift bags, ribbons, bows, boxes and plastic peanuts to use again.
  • Replace incandescent Christmas lights with energy efficient LED lights.
  • Give eco-friendly gifts such as a fishing license or movie tickets instead of “stuff” that will ultimately be tossed.
  • Buy rechargeable batteries and a battery charger to accompany electronic gifts.
  • Draw names for family giving instead of buying for everyone.
  • Find a new home for usable items that have been replaced by visiting our A to Z “Get Rid of It” Guide at www.pinellascounty.org/utilities/getridofit.
  • Entertain with reusable dishes, silverware and cloth napkins instead of disposable items.
  • Recycle gift wrap, tissue paper or greeting cards with “mixed paper” at curbside or drop-off. For a list of local recycling programs, visit www.pinellascounty.org/recycle.
  • Buy paper items, such as greeting cards, with recycled content.
  • Set up a recycling bin for cans and bottles if you host a holiday party.
  • Reuse an artificial tree, or recycle a “real” Christmas tree. Most cities in Pinellas County collect trees for recycling either at curbside or drop-off sites.

Visit www.pinellascounty.org/utilities/holidays for more valuable tips to cut holiday waste.

For more information on recycling, contact Pinellas County Solid Waste at (727) 464-7500, or visit www.pinellascounty.org/recycle.

For more information on Pinellas County services and programs, visit www.pinellascounty.org or create a shortcut to www.pinellascounty.org/mobile on any smartphone. Pinellas County government is on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Pinellas County complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Gifts to Get Your Kids Moving


Nan Jensen  
Family and Consumer Science  

The holiday season is here and you may still have a few gifts to buy. Consider a gift for the kids that they’ll enjoy and one that can promote good health at the same time.

Here are some suggestions.

Get them moving with “active” toys and sports equipment.
Encourage physical activity with toys that get them moving. Go for active toys and sports equipment. Jump ropes, hula hoops, soccer balls, basketballs, bicycles, and skateboards will fit the bill. Remember the appropriate safety gear for each.

Interactive video games
Since most kids love videogames why not get them a videogame they’ll use and also gets them up and moving? Three of the most popular are the Sony Move, Xbox Kinect and Nintendo Wii. All of these devices use the child’s movements as the action for the game.

Gift certificates
How about a gift certificate to a facility that offers youth-oriented sessions so your child can have fun with kids his or her own age? Gymnastics, dance classes, sports activities, and rock climbing walls are just some of the many activities offered.

Get them outdoors with camping equipment
To help spark children’s interest in outdoor activities, consider a purchase of equipment that will get them fishing, hiking and camping. Make it a family affair and plan a vacation outdoors.

The gift of active time
Spending time with family is one of the best gifts you can give so why not make it active time? Family park day, swim day or bike day are all great ways to encourage children to be active. Parents should be role models. Research shows that kids who see their parents exercise are more likely to exercise themselves. Here in Pinellas County we have some incredible parks. Check out the city where you live or enjoy Pinellas County Parks. For a listing go to http://www.pinellascounty.org/park/.

Friday, November 30, 2012

What Floats Your Boat?

Libby Carnahan
Sea Grant Agent
Pinellas County Extension

Boating can be fun, relaxing, and thrilling-sometimes all at the same time.  Did you know that Florida ranks 2nd in the United States for number of registered boaters? With so many boats on the water, it is important that we all take steps to ensure the safety of our fellow boaters and the health of the water we enjoy.  Whether you are a seasoned or novice boater, there are some easy tips that you can follow to be a safe and more environmentally-friendly boater. 
·        Carelessness and inattention are the leading causes of boating accidents in Florida.  Attention to your surroundings while on the water can ensure a safe and enjoyable outing.  Life Jackets are required by law to be on your vessel. However, a life jacket cannot help you in an emergency, unless you are wearing it. So, it is best to select a comfortable life jacket for your needs that you are likely to wear regularly.  Be sure to have the necessary safety equipment for your vessel size and type- a complete list can be found on the Florida Fish and Wildlife website. 

·        Boater safety courses offer a good introduction to boating for novice boaters and refresher for more experienced boaters. In order to operate a motorboat of ten (10) horsepower or greater, Florida law requires anyone who was born on or after January 1, 1988 to successfully complete an approved boating safety course and obtain a Boating Safety Education Identification Card issued by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). 

·        The Florida Department of Environmental Protection sponsored Clean Boater Program educates boaters on the importance of protecting the state’s waterways by adopting environmentally friendly practices, including proper trash management, using bilge socks and fueling collars, and practicing good recycling habits. Boaters are encouraged to take the Clean Boater Pledge and educate other boaters on the importance of protecting the environment they enjoy.  By adopting pollution prevention measures, Florida Clean Boaters can take pride in knowing they are doing their part to keep Florida waterways.
 
This weekend, enjoy the St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show, the largest boat show on the Gulf Coast. The show runs from Thursday, Nov. 29 through Sunday, Dec. 2 at Progress Energy Center for the Arts Mahaffey Theater Yacht Basin and Albert Whitted Park in St. Petersburg, FL.
The show features an impressive selection of power boats and sailboats in water and on land, including a 40,000-square-foot clearspan tent housing all types of marine gear. In addition to the large selection of exhibits at this year's show, there will be an array of special events and fun and educational activities, including marine seminars and the youth fishing clinics presented by the non-profit group Hook the Future.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Seminole Discussion Group on Recycling & Sustainability

Monday, December 3, 2012  
10 a.m. to noon
 
Seminole Community Library Program Room 
9200 113th St. N
Seminole, Florida 33722

TOPIC 1:
The Urgent Need To Recycle Clothing & Textiles...Worldwide
          Speaker:  Steve Ducharme, Suncoast Textile Recycling Corporation

TOPIC 2:
Dispelling Myths Regarding Pinellas County Recycling
          Speaker:  Bill Embree, Pinellas County Solid Waste

We hope you plan to attend the Monday morning meeting, from 10 a.m. to noon. If you would like to do so, consider bringing a small bag of used clothing to donate to Suncoast Textile Recycling Corporation.

You're welcome to bring along a friend or two!

For information, contact Mary.
queenofrecycle@hotmail.com

Monday, November 26, 2012

eTownHall: Watershed, where we LiveWorkPlay

Wednesday, Nov. 28, 7–8 p.m.
Join the discussion about Pinellas County watersheds and how they connect the environment, economic vitality and quality of life 

What is a watershed? Why should we care? A watershed is an area of land that drains to an open body of water. In Pinellas County, every square foot of land drains somewhere. The actions we take affect the health of our waterways and the economic vitality of the area, including the health of our tourism industry and the quality of life we enjoy.

Join the conversation about this important issue at the eTownHall: Watershed, where we LiveWorkPlay. The live online event will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 28, from 7 to 8 p.m. and will incorporate questions that are blogged and called in by members of the public.

Panel members will answer questions sent in by the public and discuss the connections between the county’s watersheds and how they directly affect the quality of life that is valued by residents, visitors and the business community.

The eight panelists represent a cross-section of the county, including the citizenry, Tampa Bay Times, Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Pinellas County Economic Development. Tampa Bay Estuary, Pinellas County Extension and the county’s Department of Environment and Infrastructure’s Watershed Division. The eTownHall will be moderated by Len Ciecieznski of the Pinellas County Communications Department.

The panelists will answer as many questions as possible during the hour-long program.

The first of a three-part series of video public service announcements will also be unveiled during the live event as the kickoff to a special effort to educate residents, visitors, business people, community leaders and all those who live, work and play in Pinellas County.

As a watershed management plan is being developed, solutions are being investigated to improve overall water quality and address drainage problems. Increased public awareness is the key to understanding the role of the community as part of the solution to these countywide problems.

There are five ways to participate in the eTownHall:

  1. Blog on www.pinellascounty.org/etownhall. The blog opens at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 26, for early questions and comments and will remain open through the live event on Wednesday, Nov. 28. 
  2. View the live streaming video event on the eTownHall website on Wednesday, Nov. 28, from 7 to 8 p.m. 
  3. Tweet with the hashtag #pinellaswatershed to send in questions and comments. 
  4. Call in during the live event. To ask a question or make a comment, call (727) 464-TOWN (8696). 
  5. Watch the event live on PCC-TV (Bright House Channel 622, Knology Channel 18 or Verizon Channel 44). 

For more information on the event call (727) 464-4600 or go to www.pinellascounty.org/eTownHall, where you can also access resources and watch a video to learn the basics of watersheds and why we should care. You can also set up a convenient event reminder.

The conference room at the Pinellas County Communications Department will be open to the public during the live event as well to provide access to a computer, TV and phone. It is located at 333 Chestnut St. in Clearwater.

Pinellas County complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you are a person with a disability who needs any accommodation in order to participate in this event, you are entitled, at no cost to you, to the provision of certain assistance. At least seven days prior to the event, contact the Office of Human Rights, 400 S. Fort Harrison Ave., Suite 500, Clearwater, FL 33756 (727) 464-4062(V/TDD).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Website launched to engage residents in the Pinellas Transportation Plan

Mary Burrell,
Operations Manager    


The Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is focused on improving transportation throughout the county and has kicked off an effort to create a 30-year blueprint for the entire county transportation system. Through new and innovative methods of participation, such as www.TellUsPinellas.com, residents can help shape the county transportation plan. 

“We want to engage the public in a dialogue about issues, needs, and strategies to achieve community goals, such as strengthening our economy and improving accessibility,” said Sarah Ward, interim executive director of the Pinellas County MPO. 

Residents and commuters using the website www.TellUsPinellas.com will help identify critical transportation issues and develop a list of needs in the community to help determine the right projects for the future of transportation in Pinellas. 

The site is being used to ask residents and commuters – those who know the transportation system best – their thoughts on different topics during different phases of the plan. Within each topic, web users have the ability to suggest ideas, agree with others’ ideas they support, and provide insight on how residents and commuters will be affected by the plan. 

Some topics currently on the site include: 
  • Important needs for the county’s transportation system 
  • Congestion hot spots 
  • Safety concerns on roadways, sidewalks, trails, or anywhere else 
Visit www.TellUsPinellas.com to learn more about the transportation plan, and stay informed during the different phases of the planning process.

Friday, November 16, 2012

SEMINOLE DISCUSSION GROUP ON RECYCLING AND SUSTAINABILITY

Monday, November 19, 2012  
10 a.m. to noon
 
Seminole Community Library Program Room 
9200 113th St. N
Seminole, Florida 33722

TOPIC: Pinellas County Green Business Partnership

PRESENTER:
Mary Campbell, Extension Director, Pinellas County Extension 

Mary will give a PowerPoint presentation about the Pinellas County Green Business Partnership.
Representatives of four Green Business Partners will speak:
    • Bausch & Lomb 
    • C & D Printing 
    • 1-800-GOT JUNK?
    • Spa by Nardos Natural
The Seminole Discussion Group on Recycling and Sustainability will be celebrating its 3rd Birthday! Light refreshments will be provided by the Cabot Cheese Company.

R.S.V.P. to Mary: queenofrecycle@hotmail.com

Friday, November 9, 2012

Your Energy Priorities

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector  
Urban Sustainability Agent  

What are your energy priorities? Is it your cell phone, tablet, or coffeemaker? The way we use energy in our daily lives dictates how we may adjust our spending habits to enable us to afford these indulgences. Would you be willing to bike for one hour to run your laptop computer for 2 hours, the 42-inch plasma for 10 minutes, the cell phone charger for 20 hours, or your clothes dryer for 1 minute, 20 seconds?

Participate in your local Regional Planning Council’s study that investigates how consumers value energy in the residential and business sector. The statewide study collects energy use and opinions regarding household electricity, gasoline usage, and renewable energy resources. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Florida Office of Energy, the study will help to identify strategies to diversify Florida’s energy future.

Your survey input is valuable to help develop new policies for future energy needs.

Resources:
U.S. Economic Development Administration
Florida Regional Planning Councils
U.S. Department of Energy
Florida Office of Energy

Friday, October 12, 2012

Get a Charge Out of This


Ramona Madhosingh-Hector,
Urban Sustainability Agent
  
If you own an electric car, you’re in luck! You can now charge your vehicle at one of two designated electric charging stations in the west parking lot of the Pinellas County Courthouse in downtown Clearwater.

The two parking spaces or electric vehicle supply equipment sites are reserved for electric cars only. The program is the result of an agreement between the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners and Progress Energy Florida with funding from a Department of Energy grant.

The electric charging stations are part of the Get Ready Tampa Bay campaign to make alternative transportation choices readily available throughout the Tampa Bay area. Progress Energy plans to install 30 stations in Pinellas County, adjacent to government buildings, libraries, city halls, and commercial establishments.

Soon, getting around in your electric vehicle will be a convenient and comfortable driving experience. 

Resources

Pinellas County Government
Get Ready Tampa 
National Project Get Ready

Monday, October 8, 2012

Parents and Kids – An Educational Opportunity!


Parents and Kids – An Educational Opportunity!


Brooker Creek Preserve is proud to announce they are looking for youth members to join their 4-H Forest Ecology Team and Brooker Creek Explorers Club. Youth joining the Forest Ecology Team will work towards competing in an annual 4-H Forest Ecology Contest held in April. This contest quizzes students on their plant and animal identification skills, compass and map skills, and ecological knowledge. Both the Team and the Club are fun ways to learn, get outdoors, and be involved in your community. Activities for the forest ecology team will be led by Lara Miller, Natural Resource Extension Agent for Pinellas County, and the Brooker Creek Explorers club will be led by Brooker Creek Preserve volunteers. If you are interested in joining either opportunity or both please contact Lara Miller at lmiller@pinellascounty.org. You may also join us at the 4-H Open House hosted at Brooker Creek Preserve on Saturday, October 13th from 1:00-3:00pm. Families will have the opportunity to inquire more about the 4-H clubs and teams being offered as well as participate in a variety of fun, hands-on activities such as:

Activity 1:  Leaf and Bark rubbing

Activity 2:  Identification of the leaf that was rubbed

Activity 3:  Age of several Tree Cookies

Activity 4:  Drawing Your Own Life as a Tree Cookie

Free registration for the Open House is available here. We  look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Natural Resource Webinar Series for Landowners

Managing Your Land:
Natural Resources Opportunities for Landowners
A Master Tree Farmer / Master Wildlifer Series
 
Thursdays, 7 to 8:30 PM Eastern Time
 October 11 - November 8, 2012an Internet Webinar Broadcast out of Clemson University

ABOUT THE PROGRAMThis webinar course will provide landowners with an awareness of options for managing their lands for a variety of natural resources. This is intended to be a pre-cursor to the Master Wildlifer, Master Tree Farmer, Master Naturalist, and the Natural Resources Enterprises program workshops planned in the future.  Live webinar schedule:
October 11:  Introduction to Natural Resource Conservation
October 18:  Natural Resource Enterprise Considerations for Your Land
October 25:  Wildlife Conservation on Your Land
November 1:  Forest Management on Your Land
November 8:  Natural Resources Appreciative Uses on Your Land


More details on regional web site:http://www.clemson.edu/extension/natural_resources/continuing_education/nrol/agenda.html
WHO SHOULD ATTEND
Landowners and land managers interested in learning how to manage land to meet a variety of natural resource management objectives should attend this course.
2 WAYS TO PARTICIPATE
1- Attend a host site.  For a reasonable fee, participate in the series at a host site with other landowners, your County Extension Agent, County Forester and other natural resource professionals that help can answer your questions.  See the list on the reverse side for participating Extension locations and contacts.  Contact the site host for details about locations, fees and schedule.

2- Access the webinars on your own computer.  Register for all 5 sessions or you can choose which sessions best meet your needs.  The cost for all 5 Sessions is $100.   Individual Sessions cost $25 per session.  Registration here: http://www.clemson.edu/extension/natural_resources/continuing_education/nrol/registration.html

Please contact Pinellas County's Natural Resource Agent, Lara Miller at (727) 453-6905 or lmiller@pinellascounty.org if you are interested in attending.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Gopher Tortoises+Prescribed Fire=Increased Biodiversity

Gopher tortoises are ancient reptiles that are known to inhabit Florida’s uplands. They can live to be 40 to 60 years old in the wild, and they are very well known for digging deep burrows, which house over 350 other species of animals. Some examples of other species known to inhabit gopher tortoise burrows are burrowing owls, Florida mice, indigo snakes, opossums, rabbits, the gopher frog, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, and gopher crickets. These burrows maintain a fairly constant temperature and humidity throughout the year, and so they are able to provide all of the inhabitants with protection from heat, cold, drought, predators, and forest fires.  These burrows are usually about 15 feet long and about 6.5 feet deep, although the largest known burrow is over 47 feet long! Because they influence such a large amount of other living organisms, they are known as a keystone species. The gopher tortoise is listed as Threatened in Florida and both the tortoise and its burrow are protected under state law.

The gopher tortoise lives in well-drained sandy areas with sparse tree canopy where low-growing vegetation is abundant.  Without natural fires in pine forests, the dense vegetation that grows there can impede on the specific herbs and plants that tortoises like to eat. This limits their food supply, thus fire is critical in maintaining the populations of these keystone species.

Brooker Creek Preserve is home to one of the three largest remaining gopher tortoise populations in Pinellas County.  George L. Heinrich of Heinrich Ecological Services will introduce the important role played by this keystone species during this family-oriented presentation. If you want to learn more about this keystone species and its impacts our environment free registration for the class is available here. The free class will be held Saturday, October 6, 2012 from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM at Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center.  

Stay up to date on news and information affecting our environment by following your Pinellas County Natural Resource Extension Agent on Twitter.

Resources:
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw295
http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/reptiles-and-amphibians/reptiles/gopher-tortoise/

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project at Science Center on September 22

Free energy saving kit
for class attendees
Don’t miss the free 60 minute class in advanced energy saving while attending the sustainability night at the Science Center of Pinellas County. Learn how much energy is wasted in the home every day, around the clock. Participants receive free equipment and materials to help cut energy costs, and save money each month.

Located just west of the Tyrone Square Mall on 22nd Avenue North, the Science Center is now the Science + Technology Education Innovation Center (STEIC). The Saturday sustainability event will culminate at midnight to celebrate the start of National Plug-In Day. Visitors will see the STEIC’s new electric car charging station and a home charging station will be given away at midnight. Visit the STEIC web site http://www.sciencecenterofpinellas.org for more information, or call 727-384-0027.

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project is a grant-funded educational program of Pinellas County Extension. Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, age, disability, religion, or national origin.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ways to Reduce Food Waste and Save Money


Ramona Madhosingh-Hector,
Urban Sustainability Agent
  
It’s a fact that Americans enjoy a disposable way of life. From cups to paper towels to cans and bottles, we are a throwaway culture. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there, we also throw away a lot of food. Did you know that reducing food waste saves money and resources?

The “food-print” analysis of the average American reveals that on average, a family of four will spend about $190 a week on food and throw away 40% of it. That’s a loss of $76 a week or $3,952 a year!

Feeding the still growing U.S. population requires an enormous amount of land and resources. If you consider the added costs for water and fuel to produce and transport food, you’ll realize that billions of dollars are lost when we throw away food. Last month, the Natural Resources Defense Council estimated that almost $165B is set aside to produce food that will be thrown out! These staggering statistics should encourage us to be more mindful of what we purchase, how much we actually consume, and how much gets thrown out.

To reduce food waste, try one of the tips below.

Shop wisely (at the grocery store) – Avoid “impulse buys” and definitely don’t buy more than what you need. If you see items on sale, perishable or not, and you “stock up” but don’t use the item and the food is thrown away, then your “potential” dollar savings is also thrown away.

Use Leftovers – If you eat out, be sure to take home your leftovers, they’ll make a good second meal for lunch or dinner the next day. You can also freeze it if you don’t plan to consume immediately. I recommend removing the leftovers from the restaurant packaging and placing in a freeze-proof container. Better yet, take your own container to the restaurant for your leftovers.

If you eat in and made extra portions for dinner, be sure to package for lunch or freeze for consumption later in the week or month.

Appearance Guilt – As consumers, we are often drawn to the perfect tomato, green pepper or apple but did you know that imperfect fruit and vegetables have the same nutritional value as their perfect counterparts? You may even be able to get a reduced price for these items at a farmers’ market because of the shape or size.

Shop your fridge or pantry – If you have items in your refrigerator that may be approaching the “use by” date or multiples of one item in the pantry, be sure to use these to create interesting new dishes. Visit the Solutions for Your Life website for new recipes.

Compost - To use your waste for a good purpose, start a compost heap to manage your food scraps. More information on the benefits of composting is available here.


For more tips on curbing food waste, check out the resources provided below.

Natural Resources Defense Council
www.nrdc.org

United States Department of Agriculture
www.usda.gov

United States Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Program http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/
www.lovefoodhatewaste.com

No Cook Recipes 

Low Energy Cooking

Monday, September 10, 2012

Earthcache – A Fun and Free Activity


Lara Miller, Natural Resource Agent
Michael Barr, Brooker Creek Preserve Intern  

Looking for a fun new reason to get outside and explore nature? The Brooker Creek Preserve Earthcache is for anyone interested in a fun, family-friendly outdoor scavenger hunt and is a great way to experience some of the natural beauty that Pinellas County has to offer. The Earthcache is part of Geocaching, which is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants use GPS coordinates to navigate to a certain location and attempt to find the Geocache located there. An Earthcache, like the one located at Brooker Creek, is a special type of Geocache that does not have a physical “treasure” at the coordinates. Earthcachers learn about interesting natural features and unique Earth science lessons. Earthcaches are a great way to discover some beautiful and unique places that you wouldn’t normally visit and learn more about our amazing world.

The Brooker Creek Preserve Earthcache takes visitors on a tour of some of the wonderful natural sites found at the preserve. Brooker Creek Preserve is the largest remaining wilderness area in Pinellas County and consists of a wide variety of habitats and landscapes. The Earthcache includes a pleasant, shaded walk through the diverse ecological communities that are found at the Preserve including wetlands, pine flatwoods, and oak hammocks. Along the way, visitors will be able to observe the native plants and animals that take refuge within the preserve. Information on these habitats and wildlife is included on the Brooker Creek Earthcache page. Also included on the Earthcache are a series of scavenger hunt questions meant to teach visitors a little about these environments. The answers to these questions are found at three different GPS coordinates located at three different areas of interest along one of the trails at the preserve.

If you love experiencing and exploring nature, participating in an Earthcache offers an exciting new way to discover fascinating natural places. Brooker Creek Preserve is truly a special place that showcases the natural beauty of Florida. If you are interested in participating, the Brooker Creek Preserve Earthcache page can be found here.

Stay up to date on news and information affecting our environment by following your Pinellas County Natural Resource Extension Agent on Twitter.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ask Extension!


  
Mary Campbell,
Extension Director
and Urban Sustainability Agent
  
Do you want answers to your questions from a local source that you can trust? If you are looking for the ease of access that the internet provides, look no further than www.ASKExtension.org. This online database of frequently asked questions provides answers to many questions that Extension hears all the time. With this tool, you'll get the quick and easy answer that you are looking for from one of our experts. UF Faculty at Extension have expertise in sustainable living, health and wellness, horticulture, energy, environmentally friendly practices, natural resource conservation, youth and much more.

Once you access the webpage at www.ASKExtension.org, click on the category drop down list and look for the subject that you are interested in. If you would rather search by key words, type them into the search box and the available questions and answers will pop up. What if you do not see your question? Look at the top navigation and click on Contact. A page will pop up that allows you to put in a name, e-mail address and your specific question. You will get an answer as easy as that! Don’t be shy – try it today.

It has never been easier to get science-based, factual information from a reliable source. Get the facts you need at the click of a mouse!

Please take the NEW ASKExtension.org SURVEY.

Friday, August 31, 2012

September is Food Safety Month: Separate the Myths from the Facts

By Nan Jensen, Extension Agent
Family and Consumer Sciences

We do our best to serve our families food that’s safe and healthy, to reduce their risk of food borne illness, a serious public health issue that causes approximately one in six Americans to get sick each year. Washing our hands, clean and sanitizing work surfaces, keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold, and cooking foods to the proper internal temperature are some of the steps we can take to ensure that our food is safe to eat.

Sometimes though, we don’t have all the facts right. Here are some common myths from The Partnership for Food Safety Education about food safety that might surprise you.

Myth # 1-“If I microwave the food, the microwaves kill the bacteria so the food is safe.”

Fact #1- Microwaves are not what kill bacteria- it’s the heat generated by the microwaves that kills bacteria in foods. Food needs to be heated to a safe internal temperature. Always check for a safe internal temperature after microwaving. Use a thermometer!

Myth # 2- “Of course I wash all the bagged lettuce and greens- I could get sick if I don’t.”

Fact #2- While it is important to wash most fresh fruits and veggies, packaged greens labeled “ready-to-eat”, “washed” or “triple washed” do NOT need to be washed at home.

Myth # 3- “I don’t need to use a food thermometer. I can tell when my food is cooked by looking at it or checking the temperature with my finger.”

Fact #3- The only sure way to know food is safely cooked is to check the temperature with a food thermometer and confirm it has reached a safe internal temperature.

Myth # 4-“I can’t re-freeze foods after I have thawed them. I have to cook them or throw them away.”

Fact #4- If raw foods such as meat, poultry, egg products and seafood have been thawed in the refrigerator, then they may be safely re-frozen without cooking for later use.


For more information on handling food safely visit http://www.foodsafety.gov/ or http://www.fightbac.org/campaigns/mythbusters for more on food safety myths.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Grilled or Fried? Consumer Seafood Survey

  
Libby Carnahan,
Pinellas County Sea Grant Extension Agent  

Popcorn shrimp, smoked mullet, blackened mahi mahi, grouper piccata…no matter how you sauté it, smoke it, fry it, or grill it, Florida offers many tasty seafood options. But how do you decide what seafood to eat and where to buy it? Is it the cost, health benefits, or origin of your seafood that weighs on your mind?

The University of Florida Extension Service and Florida Sea Grant want to know. We are asking for the input of Florida residents on a statewide consumer survey, which should take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. Your feedback will help in the development of future university extension education and outreach programs.

http://www.flseagrant.org/component/content/article/16-seafood-production-and-safety/315-seafood-survey

Sign up for The Water Column, Pinellas Sea Grant Extension Newsletter
Follow UF Pinellas SeaGrant on Twitter

Friday, August 10, 2012

What’s Happening in Your Watershed?


Lara Miller, Natural Resource Agent  
Michael Barr, Brooker Creek Preserve Intern  

The Tri-County Water School will be held at Brooker Creek Preserve on September 11-12, 2012. This program is designed to educate community leaders, natural resource managers, and decision makers about critical water issues facing Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough Counties. The goal is to encourage improved public policy decision relative to water issues in the counties and throughout Florida. Registration information can be found at www.tricountywaterschool.eventbrite.com.

Florida’s rapidly growing population and vulnerability to changes in water quality and quantity make it essential to understand and address the current issues and future concerns facing our region. Water resources affect not only the availability of clean drinking water, but also agriculture, fisheries, aquatic life, recreation, and the tourism industry. Water is a vital resource in need of protection for the health of Florida’s citizens and economy.

Many complex factors have an impact on the Florida’s water resources. One such factor is the amount of pollution in a watershed. All the land on Earth is divided into watersheds that feed into rivers, springs, lakes, wetlands, estuaries, coastal zones, and aquifers from which a vast majority of Floridians get their drinking water. Contamination occurs as rainfall and storm water runoff flows through agricultural, urbanized and other developed areas, picking up chemicals, bacteria, and other pollutants before draining into a body of water. Improved understanding of watersheds and other factors impacting water quality and quantity is necessary for resolving water resource issues and developing sustainability strategies.

Stay up to date on news and information affecting our environment by following your Pinellas County Natural Resource Extension Agent on Twitter.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Explore the Florida Climate


Mary Campbell, Extension Director
and Urban Sustainability Agent    

Is there such a thing as too much information? In the area of climate change, many would say “yes”. There is an abundance of information on climate variability from many sources. It can be confusing to know what information is reliable and from a trusted source. There are several reliable resources that Extension recommends if you want to understand more about the science of climate change.

The Florida Climate Institute (FCI), is a network of national and international research and public organizations, scientists, and individuals concerned with achieving a better understanding of climate variability and change. The FCI, founded in 2010 by the University of Florida and Florida State University, has over 200 members. FCI provides many resources including an “Environmental Minute” radio show available online that provides information on sea level rise, sustainability, and climate patterns.

Climate variability and change pose significant economic, food security, and environmental risks worldwide. Drought, storms with heavy rain, high winds, flooding, and freeze events cause millions of dollars in losses to agriculture and natural resources in Florida and globally. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that by the year 2100 global average temperature is likely to increase by 2 to 11.5°F, global mean sea level will rise from 7 to 23 inches, and increases in precipitation intensity and variability will increase the risk of both flooding and drought.

For up to date climate change information choose a reliable resource, such as the Florida Climate Institute ( http://floridaclimateinstitute.org/ ), EPA (http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/), NASA (http://climate.nasa.gov/) or NOAA (http://www.noaa.gov/climate.html). Critical information is now available to better inform citizens of potential impacts due to climate variability and change.

NASA Video illustrates warming.

Florida State Climatologist http://climatecenter.fsu.edu/ Offers Florida Climate Summary, Seasonal Climate Outlooks, Information on topics of concern (agriculture, climate change, climate variability, and drought.)

Agroclimate http://www.agroclimate.org/- a climate-based decision support system for agriculture.

Southeast Climate Consortium http://www.seclimate.org/

NASA videos. http://nas-sites.org/americasclimatechoices/summaries-and-videos-from-the-acc-series/climate-change-lines-of-evidence-videos/

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wildlife to Watch Out for This Summer

Lara Miller, Natural Resource Agent    
Michael Barr, Brooker Creek Preserve Intern  

For many people the scorching hot days of late July in Florida means beach getaways, barbequing, and watching baseball. Along with these fun summer activities, it is also a fantastic time for observing exciting wildlife activity.

If you do find yourself heading for the beach, watch your step as you may come across sea turtle nests and baby turtles as they begin to hatch in August!

July also marks the beginning of baby animal season. Young raccoons, foxes, armadillos, possums, and bobcats will begin to leave their dens for the first time and may be spotted following their parents. Keep your eye out for young alligators too! They are just beginning to hatch or already have.

If you are heading to a local park or preserve to observe these wildlife happenings, remember to bring insect repellent. Mosquitoes and chiggers are abundant this time of year. 

Florida is truly an amazing place rich in biodiversity and nature to explore. The summer months are filled with a lot exciting wildlife activity, so it’s a perfect opportunity to go out and experience some of the natural beauty that Florida has to offer.

July’s fun fact: On July 22, 1982 the first Florida bog frog was discovered in a panhandle wetland.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sustainable Floridians Master Volunteer Program

What is sustainability and why is it important? The University of Florida has a new training program to help citizens and local government staff learn about sustainability and connect with others who are already interested in local, sustainable community projects. Sustainable Floridians is a 7-week course that provides a forum for education and action to address Florida concerns about water, transportation, energy, and land use. The program uses instructor led sessions and participant discussion to create a lively classroom learning experience. Participants receive valuable sustainable living items like rain barrels and energy saving devices to promote behavior change. There are also opportunities for ongoing learning through the UF Extension network and monthly meetings and field trips for Sustainable Floridian graduates. This program is offered to residents of Pasco and Hillsborough counties also.

In order to be considered for the program, participants must submit an application to the program coordinator (rmadhosingh-hector@pinellascounty.org). Applications are due September 7, 2012.

The next training program will be offered at Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center in Tarpon Springs. Orientation (open to anyone interested) is September 6, 2012 from 10 am to 12 noon at Brooker Creek Preserve.

Dates for Program: September 13 – October 25, 2012. Classes meet every Thursday during the 7 weeks from 9 am to 1 pm. Participants must complete the training and required volunteer hours to be considered a certified Sustainable Floridian graduate. Participants meet the 30 hour volunteer requirement and 15 hour ongoing training requirement by completing Extension approved projects. These may include working at community outreach events, writing articles, and working with schools to educate youth about sustainability. Since the launch of the program in 2011, Pinellas County has trained 47 volunteers who contributed more than 700 hours to extend the mission of Extension. Join us for this exciting program and become a part of the Sustainable Floridian network of graduates!

Friday, July 13, 2012

My Summer Internship at Pinellas County Extension


Rebecca Herrin 
2012 UF/IFAS Intern 

An internship is a great way to get a hands-on taste of what a certain company or agency has to offer. While some internships provide a spectators view with busy work, there are others that immerse you in the field. My internship at Pinellas County Extension was the latter.

I am currently a senior at the University of Florida, studying Sustainability and the Built Environment and Political Science. This summer I was the Sustainable Living Intern for Pinellas County Extension and I spent a majority of my time working with Libby Carnahan, the Sea Grant Extension Agent, at Weedon Island Preserve. Working with the Sea Grant Extension Agent has been a rewarding experience, as I have been able to develop an understanding of coastal resilience. Although I am a native of Pinellas County (born and raised in Largo), I never really appreciated (or understood) the concept of coastal sustainability!

I spent roughly eight weeks with Extension and I experienced a little of everything from sitting at the Lawn and Garden desk conversing with the Master Gardener Volunteers to canoeing the mangrove tunnels of Weedon Island. I dug up sweet potatoes at the 4H garden, helped host a hurricane preparedness workshop, and attended a nutrition class geared towards a group of adults getting their lives on the right track. The public certainly appreciated the classes, events, information and resources provided by Extension. At a rain barrel workshop, the ecstatic attitudes were demonstrated in more people showing up than we had barrels. Other participants were excited to meet like-minded people. One attendee said she was so happy to see so many people excited about water conservation. 

The University of Florida is a land-grant university that has been in existence since Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act 150 years ago! Land grant universities educate the public and provide research on agricultural and mechanical processes and improvements. Although very little agriculture remains in Pinellas County, the extension services thrive by adapting to the varying needs of its constituents and its purpose has expanded to involve solutions for every aspect of urban life. 

My internship allowed me to experience all aspects of extension and allowed me to see the value of every department. Every day was a different day at Extension, but the variety only drew me closer to the idea of Extension after graduation. Each agent I worked with had a passion for his or her field and a plethora of knowledge. Extension fosters that creativity and enthusiasm, making this internship a rewarding experience and possible career choice after college.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Florida Style Gardening Workshop


July 21, 2012
8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Tarpon Springs City Hall
324 E. Pine Street, Tarpon Springs 34689

Join Florida-Friendly Landscaping TM specialists to learn the basics about how to create and maintain an attractive, Florida-Friendly landscape that saves water, time, and sweat!

Workshops are FREE 
Pre-Registration is suggested as seating is limited!

Call 727-893-2500 x1086
Or email bryantro@pcsb.org
Please provide name, phone number, and number of attendees. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Home Improvement

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector
Urban Sustainability Agent

Homeowners will admit that no matter what season of the year there’s always a project to be done around the house. Some examples of projects include organizing closets, redecorating rooms, painting and appliance upgrades. The consumer market is full of greener choices for all of your home projects and the Tampa Bay Home Show will provide a great opportunity for you to explore new ideas and innovations for your home.

One of the easiest home improvement projects that you can do in your home is to update lighting fixtures. New lighting fixtures can add dimension while increasing functionality and style in any room. The type of bulb you choose for this lighting fixture can also save you money over the lifetime of the fixture. New lighting choices now include energy saving incandescent bulbs per the 2012 lighting standards, compact florescent lamps and light emitting diodes. When compared to a traditional incandescent bulb, there are significant savings potential as you move up the lighting spectrum –

  • Energy saving incandescent – 25% more efficient and can last up to 3x longer 
  • CFL (compact florescent lamp) – 75% more efficient and can last up to 10x longer 
  • LED (light emitting diode) – 75% to 80% more efficient and can last up to 25x longer 

Check out the videos at these links that explain the differences between the new lighting technologies and use the information to shop for the light you need by using lumens instead of watts. http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/lighting_daylighting/index.cfm/mytopic=11975 
http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/lighting_daylighting/index.cfm/mytopic=11976 

For the past three years, the Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project (PEEP) has focused on energy conservation and behavioral strategies that you can adopt to save money in your home. PEEP has distributed compact florescent lamps as well as light emitting diodes. Check out the PEEP booth at the Tampa Bay Home Show this weekend to receive a manual powered LED flashlight – a must have for hurricane season.

Resources:
Energy Efficient Homes: Easy Steps to Improving Your Home’s Energy Efficiency
Avoiding Fraud and Deception
Design Strategies for a Sustainable Home Landscape
Green Guard

Friday, June 8, 2012

Are you Prepared for Hurricane Season?

Libby Carnahan, Pinellas County Sea Grant Agent

Where will you go?  What should you pack?  Is your home secure?  Are You Really Prepared?  Join Pinellas County Extension and other county partners for a FREE Hurricane Preparedness Workshop for local residents at Weedon Island Preserve on Saturday, June 16th at 9am.

Tom Iovino, Pinellas County Emergency Management spokesman, will deliver the Keynote address.  He will present the history of hurricanes in Tampa Bay and discuss the potential threat from a storm this season.  Experts from the University of Florida and Pinellas County Animal Services will deliver sound advice on preparing your home, family, finances, pets, and waterfront in the event of a storm.

Each participant will walk away with a reusable insulated tote back full of informative resources including a manual LED Flashlight.  Refreshments will be provided. 
Door prizes include a complete set of Tires donated by TiresPlus and an Energy Efficiency kit provided by the Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project, all valued at more than $500!

Registration is limited, reserve your seat by going online to http://hurricanepreparedness.eventbrite.com/.  Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center is located at 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702. For questions, call (727) 453-6522.


Does Money Grow on Trees?

Lara Miller
Natural Resource Agent 


Money can grow on trees! The ability to compare the value of natural lands to developed lands was historically difficult until the concept of "environmental services" was developed. Environmental services include things such as: clean air, clean water, aesthetics, and non-timber forest products. Complex models have been created to estimate the monetary value of these products and services. Another way to look at it is: how much would it cost technology to replicate the services that trees provide naturally?

By placing a monetary value on environmental services, different land uses can be compared apples to apples. For example, a 2007 study determined that Tampa’s urban forests removed approximately 1,360 tons of air pollution with an estimated value of $6.4 million.

Casey Trees and Davey Tree Expert Co. developed The National Tree Benefit Calculator to help determine the monetary value of the very trees that exist in our backyard. Using this calculator, the overall benefits of a 36 inch (diameter) live oak tree in a single-family residential neighborhood of Clearwater, FL was determined to be worth $303 every year. Benefits are broken down into different categories including: stormwater, property value, energy, air quality, and carbon dioxide (CO2).

Human development can increase impervious surfaces such as concrete and asphalt that do not allow water to seep through the surface. Instead, these surfaces force water to “runoff” until it reaches soils where it can percolate into the groundwater or enter into streams, wetlands, rivers or oceans. Trees help increase the infiltration rate and storage of rainwater through the tree’s root system. Using the same 36 inch diameter live oak, approximately 28,552 gallons of stormwater runoff would be intercepted by this tree every year.

Trees can also help increase property value. Research shows that home buyers are willing to pay higher prices for properties with more trees compared to properties with few to none. The live oak from our example, if located in the front of a single family home, was estimated to increase property value by $173.

Shade of trees can save money too. Trees that shade the east and west walls of a building in the summer help to keep the building cooler. Also, by leaving the southern side of a building exposed during the winter months it can help warm interior spaces. Our 36 inch diameter live oak would conserve 246 kilowatt hours of electricity per year for cooling, which equals $15.44 (based on 6.28 cents per Kilowatt hour).

Improved air quality can be another benefit of trees and shrubs by absorbing pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and help to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Our sample tree is capable of reducing atmospheric carbon by 2,276 pounds. To put this into perspective, a flight from New York to Los Angeles adds 1,400 pounds of CO2 per passenger.

In summary, urban trees are beneficial in a variety of ways. Try calculating some of the trees in your yard using the online calculator. If you want to learn how to identify some of the trees in your yard, register for the upcoming Adult Ecology: Plant ID Series offered at Brooker Creek Preserve. Follow what’s going on with natural resources around Pinellas County on Twitter and/or Facebook
Additional sources of related information can be found below.

Sources:
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fr266 
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1050
http://treebenefits.com/calculator/index.cfm

Thursday, May 31, 2012

SEMINOLE DISCUSSION GROUP ON RECYCLING AND SUSTAINABILITY

Monday, June 4, 2012  
10 a.m. to noon
 
Seminole Community Library Program Room 
9200 113th St. N
Seminole, Florida 33722

TOPIC: Water Use

PRESENTERS:
  • Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services 
  • Department of Agricultural Water Policy
  • Pinellas County Utilities Solid Waste Management

Come hear about Florida's Agriculture 'Best Management Practices' to protect water quality and reduce the use of ground water. Find out about partnerships with county, state, and federal agencies to deliver sustainable water use programs.

Bring  your questions.....and a friend or two!

R.S.V.P. to Mary: queenofrecycle@hotmail.com

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Homes with a Higher Standard

Planning to buy or build a home? Ask if it meets the Florida Green Home Standard. The Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) has established home building benchmarks which address specific regional issues. The FGBC’s mission is "to provide a statewide green building program with environmental and economic benefits."

To gain Florida Green Home Standard certification, the builder uses the FGBC sustainability checklist for planning. When construction is complete, a third party inspector reviews the job.

The Florida Green Home Standard checklist has eight categories.
  • Energy – based on projected performance 
  • Water – efficient use indoor and outdoor 
  • Lot Choice – promotes use of existing infrastructure, mass transit, public open space, and community resources 
  • Site – protects local habitat 
  • Health – addresses air quality and contaminants 
  • Materials – waste reduction and sustainable materials. 
  • Disaster Mitigation – includes termite protection. 
  • General – credit for smaller house size, adaptability, renewable power generation 
For more details on the FGBC Green Home Standard, see http://www.floridagreenbuilding.org.
To learn more about home Green Certification Programs, download this fact sheet (pdf)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Is Your Car Really That Important?

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector    
Urban Sustainability Agent   

Our cars define us – it’s a status symbol, a mark of independence and a point of pride. They provide convenient and reliable transportation but have you ever considered how much it costs to own that car? Fuel (gas, electric), tires, tune-ups, insurance and parking aren’t things the car dealers mention when you’re on the sales lot. What if you had alternative transportation options, would you use it? The phenomenon of “car sharing” is on the rise and fits those who want a variety of mobility options and support protecting the environment.

Although car sharing is certainly economical and convenient in some cities, it highlights a growing trend that users want alternative transportation options that fit their lifestyles. Car sharers are more likely to drive less, use more fuel-efficient vehicles, and walk or bike more than the average person. Car sharing reduces private vehicle ownership and the hassles associated with it e.g. parking, insurance and car maintenance. More importantly, fewer vehicles means fewer vehicle miles travelled which has been identified as a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

There are a variety of car sharing options from private companies like ZipCar, City CarShare, I-GO to rental companies like Hertz as well as derivatives like peer-to-peer car sharing. All of these offer the user a variety of options in major metropolitan areas like San Francisco, Chicago and Austin. Fees range from $8 to $15 per hour which includes gas and insurance! As with most sharing programs, weekdays are less expensive than weekends.

In Florida, the ZipCar cities include Gainesville, Miami, Orlando and Tallahassee. Although the Tampa Bay area is not home to Zipsters, we have a number of rideshare programs available for our residents through TBARTA. For up-to-date information on transit options in our area, check out Pinellas County Alternatives Analysis and Pinellas Suncoast Transit Agency.

So next time you need to get around town, try carpooling, car sharing, biking, walking or the bus – you will pocket the savings!

Resources/Links -

TBARTA   http://www.tbarta.com/content/commuter-services
ZipCar   www.zipcar.com
City CarShare   www.citycarshare.org
I-GO   www.igocars.org
Hertz on Demand   www.hertzondemand.com
car2go   www.car2go.com
PSTA   http://www.psta.net/index.php
Alternatives Analysis   http://pinellasontrack.com/

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