St. Petersburg, Florida was the first designated green city in the United States! In December 2006, St. Petersburg was certified by the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) as a green local government designation. St. Petersburg was the first city in Florida to receive this prestigious certification!
St. Petersburg Office of Sustainability
When Mayor Rick Kriseman took office in January 2014, his revised city organizational chart included the newly created Office of Sustainability, to be directed by Michael Connors. Mr. Connors began his distinguished career in St. Petersburg, as director of engineering in 1987. He is now the director of sustainability and green initiatives and director of public works.
Mr. Connors told us: “The Office of Sustainability established formal liaisons with all city departments. The City Council created the Sustainability Council to move forward in advancing the platinum designation as administered by the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC). Numerous projects, programs, and policies have already been implemented or are pending implementation for inclusion in the forthcoming re-application to the FGBC. The initiatives range from LEED-certified buildings, environmental preference purchasing programs, city mission statement, recycling, renewable energy, and incentives for green development, to name a few. They are part of the mix of a comprehensive movement in advancing the city’s sustainability.”
St. Petersburg’s Green History
St. Petersburg earned its designation as a green city due to programs aimed at water conservation, the planting of trees, the preservation of estuaries and sensitive lands, the use of fuel-efficient technologies, and the provision for earth-friendly recycling programs. St. Petersburg formed partnerships with FGBC, U.S. Green Building Council, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The city has extended its green initiatives to include pedestrian-friendly development of the city and a ‘streetscaping’ tree program. It has been a USA Tree City award recipient from the Arbor Day Foundation for over twenty years.
Former mayor of St. Petersburg, Rick Baker, wrote the Mayor’s Green City Action Award. It was subsequently adopted by the Florida League of Mayors, Florida League of Cities, and the National League of Cities. It was signed by the Pinellas County Mayors in 2008.
By executive order in 2008, St. Petersburg created a carbon scorecard for facility and vehicle energy use. It mandated energy conservation for all major city facilities. It also mandated the appointment of a designee from each city department to coordinate implementation of the executive order. Promotion of public awareness of the city’s green initiatives and development of methods for residents to participate in these initiatives was created.
Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC)
Suzanne B. Cook is the executive director of the Florida Green Building Coalition. Suzanne told us, “When the city of St. Petersburg was originally certified by FGBC in 2006, it was the first city to earn the certification. Now, there are over 70 local governments participating in this certification program.
The FGBC Florida Green Local government designation process has three tenets: lead by example; control/monitor its actions; and educate. When a city helps to protect and conserve its community’s natural resources, it enhances the efficiency of government, reducing costs to taxpayers, and raising awareness of the benefits of environmental stewardship.
In order to have the city of St. Petersburg be re-certified as an FGBC local government designation, its programs will be evaluated for energy and water usage, air quality, health issues, land use, recycling and waste disposal, maintenance policies, educational programs, purchasing practices, regulatory policy, and many, many other criteria.”
Lacey Willard, president of Florida Gulf Coast chapter of U.S. Green Building Council, and previous resident of St. Petersburg said, “It has been fascinating to watch the city of St. Petersburg as it continues to develop commitment and strategies toward sustainable goals. So much of what they’re doing reflects these goals. The goals are encouraged among companies who relocate to St. Petersburg. It is visible in over fifty miles of bike trails… and so many other ways.”
Sean Williams, member of Florida Gulf Coast chapter of U.S. Green Building Council and member of St. Petersburg Sustainability Council, is enthusiastic about various efforts that are happening in the city to maintain its green city designation. Sean said, “Interesting meetings are happening voluntarily each month with members of green businesses coming together to casually discuss their goals and concerns. Personally, I am excited about the fact that St. Petersburg has adopted a waste-to-methane compression system for the garbage collection vehicles. This forward-looking system reduces the city’s methane load. It controls waste in a centralized facility. In fact, it takes a vehicle that gets only twelve miles per gallon completely off fossil fuel… toward a renewable source.”
Cathy Harrelson, member of St. Petersburg Sustainability Council, is a resident who helps organize meetings to discuss projects and new initiatives to help the city in its ability to gain points toward its recertification as a green city. Cathy said, “Our working groups are organized into: built environment, mobility, community, and health. We like working with St. Petersburg city staff who are very supportive of the city’s sustainability efforts.”
Sean Williams said, “St. Petersburg is the fourth largest city in Florida. It is located in the most densely populated county in Florida. It makes it necessary for St. Petersburg to focus on its urban issues now… before it becomes too costly to do so. St. Petersburg has a responsibility to be a good steward of the Tampa Bay…as it borders nearly 50% of this precious area… one of the largest estuaries in the world. The actions of St. Petersburg affect… the world!”
Resources: www.stpete.org/green (City of St. Petersburg), www.usgbc.org (U.S. Green Building Council), www.usgbc-fgc.org (U.S. Green Building Council -Florida Gulf Coast Chapter), www.FloridaGreenBuilding.org (Certifier
of Green Projects in Florida), www.asknature.org (Site for sustainable businesses to look to nature for designs), Facebook page:St. Petersburg Sustainability Council
Mary Hampton is a retired educator who moved to Florida in 2007 from New York. Since arriving in Florida, she has been doing non-stop research into the topics of recycling and sustainability. She has been on a quest to meet people who are interested and involved in these topics. She enjoys writing about these topics, as well. To collaborate with Mary on a project, contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.