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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tell us what you think!

Pinellas County Extension Sustainable Living Team wants to know what you think!

Please click on this short survey link today to help us improve our blog. We appreciate your participation and value your input.

Seminole Discussion Group on Recycling and Sustainability

This Monday, June 3, 2013  
10 a.m. to 12:30
Seminole Community Library Program Room 
9200 113th St. N
Seminole, Florida 33722

Come join in the final meeting of this season. 
Two speakers are planned for this meeting:
  • Jeremy Hockenbury, Director of Public Works, City of SeminoleJeremy will give a power point presentation concerning  sustainability techniques used in urban forestry.
  • Natalie Leggette, Public Works Supervisor of Horticulture, City of South Pasadena, will share some tricks and little known methods used in  horticulture. She will also distribute an information sheet and some seeds for you to take home.
Following these presentations, the group will celebrate a zero-waste lunch. Please participate by bringing a lunch dish to share. Also, bring your own plate, utensils, and cup.
NOTE: The Library snack bar has been closed due to renovations. Kindly bring your beverage, too.

Special Guest: Representative Larry Ahern may stop by to wish everyone to have a lovely, sustainable summer!

For more information and to RSVP, contact Mary, .

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tell Us What You Think!

Pinellas County Extension Sustainable Living Team wants your feedback! 

Please participate in this short survey to help us improve our blog. We appreciate your participation and value your input.

Friday, May 24, 2013

It’s Getting Hot, Hot, Hot!

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector   
Urban Sustainability Agent  

Despite our love for Florida, we’re not always happy to endure the long hot summer. Home air conditioning (AC), a modern luxury, accounts for more than 40% of our utility bill and if your system is not working efficiently, you will spend considerably more. To ensure that you are not overpaying to stay cool this summer, use these simple tips to maximize your savings.

  1. Maintenance – AC maintenance is key to protecting your investment and ensuring that you stay cool all summer long. For a fraction of the cost of repairs, an AC professional will check ducts, coils, and overall performance of your AC system. Be sure to use a licensed company when you conduct periodic maintenance on your unit and replace your filters monthly to optimize performance.
  2. Thermostat Setting – The recommended indoor temperature during summer months is 780F. Setting your thermostat higher than 78 actually results in increased cooling costs (8% for every degree). To maximize your savings, use ceiling fans and dress appropriately for the summer months – this will help you to feel cool even if you set the thermostat up 1 or 2 degrees. Remember that ceiling fans cool people not rooms.
    Installing and using a programmable thermostat will help you regulate the temperature settings while you are away at work and when you are asleep. Look for the Energy Star label and ensure that the unit is compatible with your AC system. 
  3. Window treatments – To minimize the work that the AC system must do, shade windows that are facing the sun. You may use window curtains, blinds, or window film to help reduce the cooling load – this means that your AC will work less to keep your house cool.
  4. Control moisture – Warm air enters your home through poorly sealed windows and doors, kitchen and bath vents, and through entry/exit openings. To reduce heat and humidity entering your home, be sure to seal any visible cracks and openings in your windows and doors and use your kitchen and bath fans sparingly.
  5. System Upgrade – There are many factors that go into upgrading the AC system, e.g. unit efficiency, number of occupants in the home, and occupant lifestyle. The SEER or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio is an indication of how efficient the AC system could be. Federal regulation mandates a minimum SEER 13 for residential air conditioners – upgrading from a 9 SEER to 13 SEER can reduce your air conditioning costs by over 30%. Be sure to hire a licensed contractor to upgrade your unit and remember that “bigger is not always better” – your contractor can help you choose the appropriate unit for your home.

Following these simple, cost-effective tips during the upcoming hot summer months will help you stay cool, avoid costly repairs, and save money on your utility bills. For much more information about air conditioning in your Florida home, check out this EDIS publication.


Department of Energy
Energy Star
Florida Building Code
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

Friday, May 17, 2013

Think Locally, Act Neighborly: Invasive Species Know No Boundaries

Lara Miller,
Natural Resources Agent  

If you have ever had to battle an invasive species in your yard, you know the challenges they present. The bad news is, not only are they in your yard, but your neighbor’s yard, the park down the street and the preserve across the way. Did you know there is a Florida Invasive Species Partnership (FISP) to help us manage these pests?

The FISP facilitates the formation of Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAs). These CISMAs focus on invasive species prevention, education/awareness, early detection & rapid response, monitoring, and integrated pest management.

There are a total of 17 CISMAs in Florida with more to come! Pinellas County falls under the Suncoast CISMA also including Hillsborough, Manatee, and Sarasota counties. Their mission: to address the threat to native diversity by coordinating and increasing efforts to eliminate or reduce invasive, non-native plants and animals across public and private boundaries.

Educational opportunities and CISMA Work Days occur throughout the year. During a recent event, Exotic Species Day at Brooker Creek Preserve, volunteers removed tuberous sword ferns and Caesar’s weed to provide space for native species to reestablish their roots. Another educational program, “Invasive Species & the Law” will be held on Wednesday, May 29th in Sarasota County. All of this information and more can be found on Suncoast CISMA’s website:

There’s more! If you have an exotic species as a pet, but no longer wish to care for it, you can attend the upcoming “Pet Amnesty Day” at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve on Saturday, July 13th. This program is run through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to help exotic pet owners who can no longer give the optimum care for their pet. Undesired pets are brought to this event and are handed over to trained exotic pet adopters. This event aims to reduce the number of nonnative species being released into the wild.

If you’re tired of dealing with invasive species, join your local CISMA and get involved. You can make a difference!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Stay Safe at the Beach

Libby Carnahan,
UF/IFAS Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent

Safety First

As summer draws near, many of us will make plans to head to the beach. The beaches of Pinellas County are a wonderful place to enjoy time with family and friends, take part in watersports, or just relax. However, before you head to the beach, it is important to keep safety as your number one priority. Below are some easy tips you can follow to keep you and your family safe.

Do Not Solely Rely On Lifeguards

Swimming in a pool is NOT the same as swimming at a surf beach with crashing waves, winds and currents that can change suddenly. It is always best to rely on the buddy system and never swim alone. Parents should stay close to young children, even if they are good swimmers. If you are not a confident swimmer, it is best to remain in shallow water and beware of steep drop offs. Lifeguards are a great resource when available, but should not be relied upon. Most of our local beaches do not have lifeguards, so we need to vigilant to prevent accidents.

Beware of Rip Currents

Rip currents are powerful currents that form when water rushes out to sea in a narrow path. Telltale signs of a rip current include differences in water color and water surface compared to surrounding water. If you are caught in a rip current, the most important thing is to remain calm and NOT try to swim against the current. You should swim parallel to shore until you are out of the current. For additional information on Rip Currents, visit

Monitor the Weather

Living in Pinellas County, we all know that a summer day can change from sunny and calm to a thunderous storm in a matter of minutes. Keep an eye on the weather forecast including severe weather warnings in your area. Know the meaning of and obey warnings represented by colored beach flags. Different beaches may use different colors but a commonly used series include those pictured.

Be Flexible

Remember, you go to the beach to enjoy yourself. If conditions are not good for the beach, be prepared to change your plans.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Savvy shoppers use labels

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector
Urban Sustainability Agent

Savvy shoppers always know how to get the best deals! They’re armed with knowledge, coupons (if available) and patience. If you’re an eco-conscious consumer, then you’re probably already familiar with these labels, if not, it’s time that you become familiar.

EnergyGuide – This label provides information on capacity, estimated operating costs, estimated annual consumption and energy efficiency rating. The label is based on standard tests conducted by manufacturers that compare annual energy use of different models. It also shows the average costs of operating and owning the appliance over the course of a year. By law, manufacturers are required to put labels on the inside or outside of the appliances and if you don’t see the yellow label, ask a salesperson for it.

Energy Star – This blue and white logo is placed on appliances that meet the strict standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Energy. It indicates those appliances that use less energy, save the consumers money, and protect the environment.

GREENGUARD – This label helps buyers identify products and materials that have low chemical emissions and can improve the quality of air in which the products are used. This label is used on building materials, finishes, interior furnishings and cleaning products.

GREEN SEAL – From paper towels to food packaging, household products to construction materials, Green Seal certification considers the total environmental impact of the product. The Green Seal certification process looks at the manufacture, purchase, and use of environmentally responsible products and services.

The Lighting Facts label on light bulb packages gives you information that you need to compare different bulbs. The label helps you determine brightness (lumens), annual energy costs, light appearance (warm or cool), wattage (energy used) and expected bulb life.

Labels are valuable shopping tools when you’re looking to upgrade an appliance, replace a light or light fixture, or choose a cleaning product. Knowledge is power so shop confidently–look for labels, read labels, and use them to help you make a better purchase.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Seminole Discussion Group on Recycling and Sustainability

This Monday, May 6, 2013  
10 a.m. to noon
Seminole Community Library Program Room 
9200 113th St. N
Seminole, Florida 33722

Come hear Andy Karpinski–

Andy's PowerPoint presentation will highlight his 30 years of experience in–

  • using less gas and electricity
  • using solar energy at home
  • growing better vegetables and fruits
  • craeting less waste
  • reusing more materials
  • catching rainwater

Bring along a friend or two to this exciting meeting.

For more information and to RSVP, contact Mary,