Hillsborough County has been recognized for its efforts to maintain a healthy environment for a growing population.

By Brad Stager

Saving tax dollars and keeping the environment in good shape are two benefits realized through Hillsborough County’s commitment to sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices in providing services to residents. Now that effort has received official recognition from the Department of Energy’s Better Building Alliance and the Institute for Market Transformation as a 2020 Green Lease Leader.

Some of the noteworthy initiatives reflecting the county’s work in promoting sustainability are its solar energy program that equips buildings such as the SouthShore Community Resource Center with solar power capabilities, installing LED lighting in offices and facilities and converting about 25 percent of county vehicles to alternative fuels such as compressed natural gas and electricity.

Sheila McNamara is Hillsborough County’s sustainability manager and said that the recognition as a national leader in sustainability is an accolade that also reflects the work of others in the community such as TECO’s solar power farms, neighborhood groups who participate in the county’s Adopt-A-Pond program as well as business owners who include environmental considerations in their business plans.

“It takes the community to sustain the community,” she said. “We’re looking at things that are good for the economy, the environment and the citizens.”

One local business that illustrates a connection between the environment and commerce is Sage Cleaners, a clothing care business that uses what it calls “100% toxin-free cleaning” as an alternative to hydrocarbon-based dry cleaning methods. The company’s owner, Cohen Wills, said the silicone-based solvent Sage Cleaners uses does not become a hazardous waste disposal problem.

“The solvent is run through activated clay so that it can be reused over time,” Wills explained in an email. “This clay and byproduct is not only not hazardous materials, but we have actually grown flowers in this byproduct.”

According to McNamara, Hillsborough County is prepared to help businesses operate sustainably.

“Hillsborough County just started a new series of workshops for small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs, in collaboration with the Sustany Foundation, to learn about sustainability practices and resources,” she said. The Sustany Foundation is a Tampa Bay area organization that promotes sustainable practices.

Chances for individuals and groups to learn about sustainability opportunities for their communities, such as grants that can pay for planting trees or improving neighborhood waterways, are also available.

To learn more about Hillsborough County’s sustainability efforts, visit the Sustainability & Green Hillsborough section of the county’s website, hillsboroughcounty.org.