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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Coastal Water Quality: land-based activity determines the quality & related economic impact

In 2021, Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder & CEO Holly Elmore returned to her hometown, Sarasota, Florida, after residing in Atlanta for 40 years, 37 years in her eclectic urban condo. Along with Holly, the Ei national and global headquarters moved to Florida. The IMPACT Magazine article, Ei Moves!, chronicles activities as Ei settled into Sarasota and joined the empowering environmental community.

Upon arriving in Sarasota, Holly immediately embarked on building a local Lambda Alpha International Community of At-Large members. Holly scheduled Ei- and LAI-introduction meetings with the Sarasota environmental leadership. With nearly 100% success, the environmental leaders accepted Holly's LAI At-Large-member nominations.

Lambda Alpha International
Lambda Alpha International (LAI) is a 90-years-old honorary society for the advancement of land economics. LAI provides a forum for the study and advancement of land economics where the "winnowing and sifting" of ideas takes place in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

LAI operates through a network of chapters. A LAI Chapter provides a variety of programs and forums for its members to share information critical to understanding important land-use issues. The IMPACT Blog article, Lambda Alpha International Atlanta Chapter: growing membership, influence and impact, introduces LAI along with its history and designated purposes.

In December 2013, Holly was inducted into membership and served on the LAI Atlanta Chapter Board until her 2021 return to Florida.  As the International Assistant Communications Director, Holly serves on the LAI Global Executive Committee.

With no chapter in Florida, Holly established an LAI Community, the Central Florida Gulf Coast Community (CFGCC,) of At-Large members consisting of Sarasota environmental leadership.

The LAI Community

Sarasota-barrier island beach
photo courtesy of Holly Elmore Images
Established in late 2021, the CFGCC consists of prominent environmental leaders in the Sarasota area with a stated commitment to the economic impact of water quality on the region. Located on the Central Florida Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) Coast, Sarasota is a gem in The Sunshine State. With amazing barrier-island beaches (Siesta Key was named #1 beach in the U.S. by TripAdvisor,) and lovely intracoastal waterways, Sarasota's economy is water-quality based and driven by tourism.

CFGCC members include the below prominent Sarasota leaders:

  • Aaron Virgin, Save our Seabirds CEO
  • Bridgett Luther, Table2Farms Founder & Visionary
  • Charles Reith, Ph.D, Suncoast Urban Reforesters Founder
  • Christine Johnson, Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast President
  • Dave Tomasko, Ph,D, Sarasota Bay Estuary Foundation Executive Director
  • Holly Elmore, Ei Founder & CEO
  • Jon Thaxton, Gulf Coast Community Foundation SVP for Community Investment
  • Mary Anne Bowie, FAICP, Retired & Universal Unitarian Green Team Chair
  • Sandy Gilbert, Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START) Chair
  • Tim Rumage, Ringling College of Art & Design Professor of Environmental Studies
Community members, along with their respective headshots and bios, are listed on the Ei CFGCC page.

As shared by Christine, the poignant quote by Luna Leopold sets the theme for the CFGCC:

The health of our waters depends upon how well we live on the land

The CFGCC members are committed to action via projects, education, and collaboration within the Sarasota community; initial focus is on the Sarasota Bay-water quality including prevention of contaminants flowing from the land and cleansing pollutants within the water.

Coastal-Water Quality: challenges, solutions, and economic impact
With tourism a major regional economic driver, it is imperative to retain the pristine status of the region's barrier-island beaches, the bays and estuaries, the Gulf, and inland water-oriented recreation areas. 

Ei orchestrated an impressive February 17, 2023 LAI Coastal-Water Quality: Challenges, Solutions, and Economic Impact Global Webinar. The global webinar was the second program in an eighteen-month series about water and land economics around the globe hosted by the LAI Global Water Group.

LAI CFGCC Members shared on global-coastal-water challenges along with the economic impact to the local and regional communities. With a well-orchestrated plan, via the Water-Quality Playbook, community organizations execute programs designed to prevent water contamination from land use and to cleanse contaminates in the water.

The Sarasota Bay Report Card documents achievements and remaining challenging scenarios. Teamwork is required for success with support provided by local, state, and federal governments as well as the community (foundations and taxpayers.)

Panelists included:

  • David Tomasko, Ph.D
  • Jon Thaxton
  • Christine Johnson
  • Sandy Gilbert

Sarasota ROCKS when it comes to water-quality commitments; after all, the local economy and way of life depend on healthy waters!

Watch the webinar recording on LAI TV to learn about Sarasota’s successful collaborative water-quality projects and programs; the Regeneration in ACTION (RiA) Magazine article, Coastal-Water Quality: Challenges, Solutions, and Economic Impact, provides an in-depth synopsis of the webinar content; panelist PPT presentations are available for download within the article copy.

In-the Water Projects
START is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1995 to reduce the excess nutrients in our waterways that feed red tide and other Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs.) START's mission is accomplished via public-education programs, water-quality government outreach, and nutrient-control programs. Sandy Gilbert is the START Chair and Charles Reith serves on the Board.

Healthy Pond Collaborative
According to START, stormwater contributes 65% of the nitrogen in Sarasota Bay, which feeds red tide and causes other damage to water quality and wildlife. You may call them lakes, but the more than 6,000 bodies of water in Sarasota County are all manmade and only operate at 40% to 60% efficiency in removing the excess nutrients that contribute to water pollution.

Sandy speaking at the bayside press conference
photo courtesy of the
Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation
On September 22, 2021, Sandy accepted the initial $250,000 START grant from Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation to develop a regional “Healthy Pond Collaborative (HPC)” initiative at a bayside press conference.

HPC objectives are threefold: 1> control erosion, 2> improve pond-filtering efficiency, and 3> help implement cost-efficient pond-maintenance programs. This unique effort and collaboration helps establish state-wide and national models that may be recreated in other communities.

Overall, stormwater-maintenance best practices are cost effective in the long run and reduce homeowners' and HOAs' landscape- and grounds-maintenance costs. 

Added bonus: a real estate study showed that homes on healthy ponds have a 20% increased property value.

In 2022, the HPC funded the installation of over 4.3 miles of newly planted pond shorelines in Sarasota County and another 2.9 miles in Manatee County; the planted shorelines, along with no-mow zones, filter the excess nutrients in stormwater runoff before it flows downstream to the Bay.

The LAI KeyNotes post, Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START) Launches Regional Healthy Ponds Collaborative, announces the HPC initiative and features the press conference.

Gulf Coast Oyster Recycling and Renewal 
Another successful START in-water endeavor is the Gulf Coast Oyster Recycling and Renewal (GCORR) Program. According to the START website:

Charles, Tim, and Mary Anne are joined
by John Lambie at the event reception.
photo courtesy of Holly Elmore Images
Restoring our local oyster population is a top environmental priority because of the critical role they play in improving water quality and supporting other species. One mature oyster can filter from 9 to 50 gallons of seawater every day. That helps remove nitrogen and phosphorus that clouds the water column and can feed red tide and other harmful algae blooms (HABS). Clearer water allows more sunlight to penetrate the surface helping to grow more and healthier seagrass, another key species for improving water quality.

In April, LAI Community members - Charles, Holly, Tim, Mary Anne, and Aaron - attended the Sarasota Film Festival screening of Unfiltered: the truth about oysters to support Sandy. The film features the GCORR including an interview with Sandy, and START is a "Friend of the Film."

Land-Based Projects
As exemplified by Luna Leopold's quote, land-based activities directly impact the Sarasota Bay water quality. Rewilding land back to its natural state restores watershed systems, prevents soil erosion, eliminates the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers and the "cides" - pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, regenerates soil ecosystems, and provides habitat and food for local and migrating wildlife.

The Quads & Bobby Jones Golf Course
Working closely with local governments and organizations, The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast (CFGC) secured conservation easements on The Quads and Bobby Jones Golf Course.

Bobby Jones Golf Course
photo courtesy of CFGC
Partnering with the Sarasota Audubon Society, CFGC obtained conservation easements from Sarasota County on three of the four 11-acre Quad parcels located just east of I-75. Contiguous to the world-renowned birding site, The Celery Fields, the Quads project intends to augment bird habitat by planting a forest on one of the parcels. Though there is ample opportunity for unique human access, a primary focus is rewilding the land for the benefit of wildlife.

Originally opened in 1926 as the 18-hole Sarasota Municipal Golf Course, the City of Sarasota-owned golf course was renamed the Bobby Jones Golf Course and eventually expanded to 45 holes over 300 acres. In January 2022, the City of  Sarasota donated a conservation easement to the CFGC with the provisions that a 27-hole course will use 45 acres; the remaining land was dedicated to wetland restoration.

START is a partner in the Bobby Jones Golf Course wetland restoration.

Thanks to Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota donating conservation easements on The Quads (33 acres) and the Bobby Jones Golf Complex (300 acres,) the CFGC will ensure wetlands are restored, provide urban-wildlife food and habit, create unique public access, and improve the area's water quality.

Microforests
Renowned Japanese botanist and ecologist Akira Miyawaki (1928 – 2021) developed the Miyawaki method for microforests. In 1972, Miyawaki installed his first microforest at the Nippon Steel Corporation's plant in ┼îita Prefecture. According to Urban Forests, since the 1980's over 2000 microforests were successfully planted across the globe using the Miyawaki method.

Charles honors Climate First at the Heritage
Harbor Microforest Planting, Sandy is in the back.
photo courtesy of Holly Elmore Images
Randomized planting of native-tree saplings creates four layers: canopy tree, tree, sub-tree, and shrub; trees within each category are not planted next to each other.

Due to the dense planting and fast growth, microforests draw down carbon from the atmosphere into the soil, via photosynthesis, at a faster rate (10X) than traditional forests. Microforests have a cooling impact on and provide a natural oasis within urban environments. With indigenous trees and shrubs, microforests are a haven for urban wildlife via food, habitat, and refuge from buildings and impervious surfaces.

Founded by Charles, Suncoast Urban Reforesters (SURF) is a collaborative organization dedicated to installing a series of microforests on Florida's Central Gulf Coast. SURF operates within START's organization structure.

To date, SURF boasts the successful installation of five local microforests, ranging in size from a 1/4 of an acre to a full acre. Four additional microforests and two living walls are in the development stages.

SURF microforests focus on erosion control and stormwater abatement. As stormwater often contains contaminants including nitrogen-based fertilizers, stormwater abatement aids in the prevention of severe and costly red tide outbreaks. 

Tim plant tree saplings
photo courtesy of Holly Elmore Images
Red tide occurs when there is a higher-than-normal concentration of Karenia brevis, a microscopic algae, in the nearby Gulf of Mexico; Karenia brevis feeds on nitrogen, phosphorous and other pollutants. Thus, a microforest's absorption of stormwater prevents the flow of contaminated stormwater into waterways that eventually reach the Gulf of Mexico and helps to deter red tide outbreaks.

Tim works closely with Charles on the SURF microforests planning and development, Mary Anne routinely volunteers at microforest-planting days, and Holly serves as the official START/SURF photographer. Additionally, Holly mentors Zach Zildjian, Zach Zildjian Design Services owner, who designs the microforest footprint and oversees the tree-planting day.

The RiA article, Urban Afforestation: Food Forests and Microforests, introduces microforests and features the Heritage Harbor Microforest-planting day orchestrated by SURF; The Holly Elmore Images(HEI) Heritage Harbor Microforest Planting album gives a still-photo documentary of the event.

Save our Seabirds (SOS)
Via an Ei introduction, Charles and Aaron met at the SOS property to strategize on how to incorporate a microforest into the landscape designs. Though the microforest is a year to so away, Aaron is committed to rewilding the property via replacing invasive, non-native species with native plants.

Aaron & Charles 
photo courtesy of Holly Elmore Images
In May 2022, Holly introduced Aaron to Pam Callender of Lifelines who specializes in native-plant-landscape design. Funded by a Longboat Key Garden Club grant, Aaron contracted with Pam to design the transformation of an unsightly drainage ditch into a stormwater-demonstration garden. Native plants were selected for coastal properties and bird habitat. On February 28, 2023, Pam oversaw the installation of 360 plants (54 species) by volunteers and Aaron himself!

The RiA Magazine article, Ei Connections: Save our Seabirds | Lifelines, showcases the Ei Connection as well as the Lifelines drainage-ditch transformation; the HEI album, Save our Seabirds / Lifelines, provides a pictorial recap.

Ei Rewilding Urban Landscapes Pilots
When she returned to Sarasota, Florida, Holly dedicated her spacious approximately 8,500-square-foot yard to two rewilding pilots. The front-yard native-plant-landscape pilot provides habitat and food for local urban wildlife; the bountiful insect population is the base of the predator-prey hierarchy and supports a robust wildlife community. 

Charles strategizing with Zach & his team
in the backyard pilot.
photo courtesy of Holly Elmore Images
The backyard pilot follows permaculture-oriented-landscape (POL) practices with an emphasis on human-food-producing plants. Thus, the general rule for the backyard landscape: any non-native plants must produce human food and/or provide direct soil-ecosystem benefit.

While the front-yard landscape is strictly native plants and was installed over a two-day period, the backyard pilot is an evolutionary process. For nearly nine months, the backyard was permitted to return to its "wild state" with abundant plant diversity; a variety of happy insects frolicked in the knee-high grass infiltrated with flowering plants.

Beginning in early 2022, the backyard was slowly "tamed" with mulched paths, a banana-compost circle, a row of native-blueberry bushes under the roof dripline, a pollinator garden, a food forest, and a raised herb-garden area with sun protection. Once the invasive carrotwood tree was removed, the south-side yard was opened to ample sunshine and prepped for a vegetable, herb, and edible-flower garden.

Charles introduced Holly to Zach, who oversees the backyard pilot evolution, and continues to provide support and inspiration for the POL

The RiA article, Ei Rewilding Urban Landscapes Pilots, introduces the pilots; the Holly Elmore Images (HEI) Ei Rewilding Urban Landscapes Pilots album documents the pilots' progress in a series of photo galleries.

Soil & Water: the foundation of life
As the Unitarian Universalist Church Green Team Chair, Mary Anne invited Holly to speak at their November 2022 meeting. Zach joined Holly for the the Soil & Water: the foundation of life presentation and shared on POL including its environmental impact.

For an encore performance, Holly spoke solo at the ECO Democrats Manatee February meeting.

The RiA Magazine article, Soil & Water The Foundation of Life, recaps the presentation outline with more in-depth information; the PPT presentation is available for download at this link.

Table2Farms (T2F)
Within a year of each other, Bridgett and Holly moved to the Florida Central Gulf Coast, a mere hour from each other. Once reconnected, Bridgett invited Holly to join the T2F Team as the industry expert during the pre-funding stage. T2F is committed to scaling-up food waste-composting operations in small- to medium-sized cities across the nation.

T2F vision: to aggregate billions of dollars for compost infrastructure funds and establish hundreds of industrial composting facilities in cities across the United States.

Once T2F secures initial funding, Holly will spearhead a Scaling-Up Composting in Sarasota Pilot working with Sunshine Community Compost; the intention is to develop a replicable template for scaling a grassroots-composting system into an operation with a solid business model including ample capacity for growth.

The CFGCC will support the pilot in various capacities.

Working Together
As showcased in this article, the CFGCC members work closely together within a myriad of interfaces related to coastal-water quality. With tremendous synergies, the CFGCC intends to create a research project that augments and scientifically substantiates an existing local endeavor. Potential funding sources include one of the local foundations focused on environmental concerns as well as a Land Economics Foundation grant.

The Central Florida Gulf Coast Community continues to grow its membership and influence in the Sarasota coastal area. Stay tuned for updates on the progress and substantial impact.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Nature Prevails: it is time to emulate Nature's perfected systems

In September 2020, Elemental Impact (Ei), a U.S.-based non-profit with a global audience, announced a new platform, Nature Prevails, that complemented the existing Soil Health and Water Use | Toxicity platforms. Within the Nature Prevails premise, the Earth heals herself and nurtures renewed life forms, no matter the calamity caused by humans, natural disasters, or extraterrestrial activities.

Nature Prevails tagline: The Earth will heal and renew herself, when she chooses.

During the 2020 COVID-19-global-pandemic quarantines, citizens witnessed the immediate impact of reduced human activity via clearer skies, orchestras of bird songs, and the roaming of wild animals in urban and rural parks. The experiences were a glimpse of how quickly the natural world resumes when human activity subsides.

From Ei's perspective, the Earth is perfectly fine within the calamitous scenarios caused by humans. When enough is enough, the Earth will simply rid herself of these pesky humans who wreak havoc on Nature's perfected systems; healing of the environment and renewal of life forms will follow.

The Principles of Nature
With a commitment to align projects with Nature, Ei defined The Principles of Nature (PON) with three broad categories:
  • Diversity
  • Dynamic Balance & Nutrition Systems
  • Necessity of Cover & Ability to Roam

A gentleman sleeps on a sidewalk
next to a water moccasin-infested stream.
Photo courtesy of Holly Elmore Images.
Though they define natural systems, the PON also apply to human communities and cultures. For example, roadways, airports, and broadband communication align with the Ability to Roam; agriculture, the hospitality industry, and food-security challenges align with Nutrition Systems: social inequities, environmental justice, and severe poverty align with Dynamic Balance; affordable housing, homeless individuals, and urban neighborhoods align with the Necessity of Cover.

Societal hierarchies within bee and ant colonies, wolf packs, elephant herds, bird flocks, and other eusocial colonies demonstrate that the community is only as strong as the weakest link; as long as they perform their designated tasks within these eusocial colonies, the workers are treated fairly and with respect. When it maintains dynamic balance within their population and the other PON align, the community thrives.

Since recorded history, humans often developed out-of-balance dynamics within their culture where worker populations were disrespected and frequently abused. The current scenarios of extreme poverty, severe homelessness, and food scarcity prevalent across the globe impact many urban environments; the challenging scenarios reflect the unbalanced societal hierarchies established within cultural and government norms.

Back to Basics: Water, Soil, & Insects
As featured in her May 2020 Bigger than Us podcast interview, Ei Founder & CEO Holly Elmore is known for the following quote:

In order for life as we know it to survive and thrive on planet earth, we must - absolutely must - get our soil and water microbial communities back to a healthy, balanced state.

As presented in the RiA Magazine article, Soil & Water: the foundation of life, soil and water are in a sacred marriage, support life on Earth, and must be addressed in unison. Healthy well-structured soil is a living, breathing ecosystem and retains significantly more water than depleted soil. Additionally, healthy soil filters water and removes contaminates as it flows to aquifers. In return, water keeps a healthy soil ecosystem hydrated.

Dragonfly at an
 Atlanta Botanical Garden pond
Photo courtesy of Holly Elmore Images.
Insects are the base of predator-prey hierarchy, integral to the natural ecosystem foundation, and essential to supporting the Earth’s life web. Many insects, such as dragonflies and mosquitoes, live their juvenile or larva stage under water and their adult lives on land supporting plants and soil systems; aquatic larva is similar to a butterfly's caterpillar stage.

At the base of the prey hierarchy, insects are food for fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. In addition to recycling soil-system nutrients and pollinating plants, insects play an essential role in the decomposition portion of nature’s circular-life cycle. Insects provide a plethora of environmental services that often go unnoticed until the services cease.

In essence, water, soil, and insects are the foundation for life on Earth and must be addressed as a trilogy.

In human societies, indigenous races and worker populations are comparative to the insects' role in nature's perfected cycles. Indigenous races carry the wisdom of their ancestors when humans lived in balance with Nature, respecting the resources generously provided by the Earth; the worker population provides the necessary labor for the overall population to thrive within the balance of basic essentials: food, shelter, and clothing.

Environmental Services 
Environmental services are the contributions natural resources along with the plant and animal kingdoms provide to the overall and/or local ecosystem within the Earth's perfected operating systems. Yet, human-created markets do not value the often intangible services necessary to support life as we currently know it on our planet.

Amazon rainforest
Photo courtesy of Eos

Global commodity markets are a strong contributing factor to the destructive treatment of natural resources and environments. Rather than valuing the environmental services freely provided by the Earth ecosystem, the current markets place value on "destroyed resources." For example, a thriving rain forest contains no intrinsic value in the current commodity markets until the trees are cut down for wood and/or agricultural land. 

Tropical rainforests, residing around the Earth's equator from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn, provide a wide range of environmental services to the nearby communities as well as across the globe. The Arbor Day Foundation lists the below rain forest environmental services:

  • Provide habitat for approximately 50% of the world’s plants and animals found on land.
  • Serve as wintering grounds for songbirds.
  • Take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen.
  • Help maintain global weather patterns and rainfall.
  • Reduce erosion.
  • Maintain soil fertility on the forest floor.
  • Supply food, medicines and other plant-based products that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
  • Hold immeasurable amounts of untapped potential for new medicines.

According to the October 2020 Xprize article, Economic Benefits of Saving Rainforests, research conducted by economists and agricultural engineers valued the economic benefit of a conserved Amazon Rainforest at $8.2 billion a year.

The current commodity markets promote natural resource destruction and place no value on conservation of environmental services.

Ecological Economics
In his award-winning book, Jungelnomics, Ei Advisor Simon Lamb 
provides a vision for a future world rescued from decline; the vision is based on an understanding of the profound forces at work in modern economies. Junglenomics presents Nature's clear blueprint for reorganizing the current economic domain, and is the culmination of 25-years of research and insight.

Often, the countries rich in natural resources are poor in financial stature with severe poverty, food scarcity, high illiteracy rates, and significant health challenges.

By creating commodity markets that align with Nature, Simon believes that big business will shift from extractive measures to conservative and regenerative practices. With the extensive damage to natural resources, it is imperative to create financial incentives that regenerate resources back into abundant, balanced states.

Utilizing one of the many Junglenomics policies, Simon proposes an Environmental Services Bond market where wealthy countries purchase environmental services from the poor country rich in natural resources. The capital is used to create national parks where resources and wildlife are protected, restore depleted land using regenerative agriculture practices, and create healthy communities with access to nutritious food, education, and medical services.

Future articles will delve deeper into the Environmental Services Bond market specifics.

Junglenomics' policies align with the PON presented earlier and seek to benefit the impoverished human populations as well as restore natural resources.

Conclusion
Strong, resilient ecosystems align with the Principles of Nature; the smallest life forms, whether single-cell microbes, insects or other minute life forms, are integral to the ecosystem's foundation. Larger, dominant wildlife are dependent upon the smallest life forms for their species to thrive; the entire ecosystem is interdependent within its diverse life forms.

As with dominant wildlife species, humans are dependent upon the microbial communities, insects, and diverse plant and animal kingdoms for survival. As Simon Lamb eloquently presents in Junglenomics, overhauled commodity and financial markets are an avenue for humanity to emulate Nature's perfect systems, restore and regenerate natural resources, treat indigenous and worker populations with dignity and respect, and thrive while in alignment with Nature.

________________________

Tax-deductible donations in any amount are greatly appreciated to support Ei's important work. 

DONATE HERE.


About Elemental Impact:
Elemental Impact (Ei) is a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2010 as the home to the Zero Waste Zones, the forerunner in the nation for the commercial collection of food waste for compost. In June 2017, Ei announced the Era of Recycling Refinement was Mission Accomplished and entered the Era of Regeneration. Current focus areas include Nature PrevailsSoil Health | Regenerative Agriculture, and Water Use | Toxicity.

The Regeneration in ACTION Magazine articles, From Organic Certification to Regenerative Agriculture to Rewilding Landscapes: an evolution towards soil integrity and SOIL & WATER: the foundation of life, published to explain and substantiate the importance of Ei’s rewilding urban landscapes work within the Nature Prevails focus area.

The Holly Elmore Images Rewilding Urban Landscapes-album folder documents two active pilots: the Native-Plant Landscape Pilot and the Backyard Permaculture-Oriented Pilot.

MISSION:
To work with industry leaders to create best regenerative operating practices where the entire value-chain benefits, including corporate bottom lines, communities, and the environment. Through education and collaboration, establish best practices as standard practices.

Ei’s tagline – Regeneration in ACTION – is the foundation for Ei endeavors.

The following mantra is at the core of Ei work:

Ei is a creator, an incubator.
Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done.
Ei brings the possible out of impossible.
Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.

For additional information, contact Holly Elmore at 404-510-9336 | holly@elementalimpact.org

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Ei Rewilding Urban Landscape Pilots

Beyond regenerative agriculture and landscape practices, rewilding land restores the natural ecosystem that evolved over thousands of years. Rewilding land requires the restoration of native plants and cultivates food for indigenous insects. Strong insect populations are the foundation for restoring wildlife-predator/prey hierarchies that once thrived prior to human intrusion.

In his New York Times bestseller, Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in your Yard, Doug Tallamy encourages citizens to rewild their yards via replacing toxic lawns with native plants that support local insect populations.

Inherent within rewilding urban landscapes are three primary benefits: 
  • Restoration of vibrant soil ecosystems and urban-wildlife populations; production of nutritious food destined for wildlife and humans.
  • Drawdown of carbon from the atmosphere into the soils via plant photosynthesis.
  • Establishment of food-secure neighborhoods within a community.
Homegrown National Park
Via his recent book, Bringing Nature Home, how you can sustain wildlife with native plants, Doug announces his Homegrown National Park (HNP) initiative in partnership with Michelle Alfandari, business development consultant, entrepreneur, small business owner, and retimer.

HNP is a grass roots call-to-action to regenerate biodiversity. According to Doug,

In the past, we have asked one thing of our gardens: that they be pretty. Now they have to support life, sequester carbon, feed pollinators, and manage water.

National awareness is HNP's product along with a request for the below actions on the more than 40-million acres of private lawn in the United States:

  1. Reduce lawns.
  2. Plant more native plants.
  3. Remove invasive and/or non-native plants.

The What's the Rush 24-minute video by Doug is a superb overview of the critical status of the insect population along with simple lifestyle changes by individuals that collectively make a huge difference.

Permaculture-Oriented Landscapes (POL)
In the previously referenced video, What's the Rush?, Doug refers to POL as ecological landscapes with the following four purposes:
  • Path leads to a banana-compost circle for
    yard debris and kitchen-food waste.
    Photo credit: Holly Elmore Images
    Support food webs, human and wildlife.
  • Sequester carbon.
  • Clean and manage water.
  • Support pollinators.

Ei partners with Zach Zildjian Design Services (ZZ Design) on promoting POL. Per Zach Zildjian, an ecological landscaper, POL have three main components:

  • Food forest (perennial food production.)
  • Vegetable & herb gardens (annual food production.)
  • Compost of landscape debris as well as home-food waste.
Ei Rewilding Urban Landscape Pilots
When she returned to her hometown, Sarasota, Florida, after residing in Atlanta for four decades, Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder & CEO Holly Elmore dedicated her spacious approximately 8,500-square-foot yard to two rewilding pilots. 

The Holly Elmore Images (HEI) Ei Rewilding Urban Landscapes album documents the pilots' progress in a series of photo galleries.

Ei Native-Plant-Landscape Pilot
Native-plant landscapes provide urban wildlife access to food and habitat. When "cide*" free, native-plant landscapes provide wildlife a safe haven amid urban life filled with buildings, roadways, and often sterile and/or toxic open areas.

The young front-yard native-plant landscape
thrives as it matures.
Photo credit: Holly Elmore Images
Local wildlife evolved to thrive on native foliage and, in general, do not eat or nest in non-native plants. Additionally, many non-native plants are invasive and choke out native plants, further challenging urban wildlife.

Holly's front yard was designated for only native plants with a focus on food and habitat for local urban wildlife. First steps included removing the non-native, decorative plants from prior residents and smothering the existing grass.

Pamela Callender of Lifelines consulted, designed, purchased the plants, and installed the native-plant landscape on November 18 & 19, 2021 and continues to provide support.

The HEI album, Ei Native-Plant-Landscape Pilot, documents the the front-yard evolution through a series of photo galleries.

* "cides" are defined as herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides.

Ei Backyard-Permaculture Pilot
The young front-yard native-plant landscape
thrives as it matures.
Photo credit: Holly Elmore Images
The backyard pilot follows POL practices with an emphasis on human-food-producing plants. A food-waste-compost circle surrounded by banana trees is integral to the design. Thus, the general rule for the backyard landscape: any non-native plants must produce human food and/or provide direct soil-ecosystem benefit.

While the front-yard landscape is strictly native plants and was installed over a two-day period, the backyard pilot is an evolutionary process. For nearly nine months, the backyard was permitted to return to its "wild state" with abundant plant diversity; a variety of happy insects frolicked in the knee-high grass infiltrated with flowering plants.

Beginning in early 2021, the backyard was slowly "tamed" with mulched paths, a banana compost circle, a row of native-blueberry bushes under the roof dripline, a pollinator garden, a food forest, and a raised herb-garden area with sun protection. Once the invasive carrotwood tree was removed, the south-side yard was opened to ample sunshine and prepped for a vegetable, herb, and edible-flower garden.

The young front-yard native-plant landscape
thrives as it matures.
Photo credit: Holly Elmore Images
No herbicides or soil tilling were used in the taming process; Holly hand-weeded the majority of the areas before prepping for its destination.

ZZ Design oversees the backyard evolution and uses the pilot as a showcase for "what can be done" in a neighborhood scenario.

The HEI album, Ei Backyard-Permaculture Landscape Pilot, documents the backyard's evolution through a series of photo galleries.

Ei is honored to introduce the Ei Rewilding Urban Landscapes Pilots; the intention is to inspire others to take rewilding steps in their yards. Though the pilots are complete yard transformations, Ei supports taking small, manageable steps; it is important to take whatever steps flow for the individual or organization. Celebrate successes, share with friends and family, and join the Homegrown National Park!

Note: this article is an excerpt from the SOIL & WATER: the foundation of life article published in December 2022.
________________________

Tax-deductible donations in any amount are greatly appreciated to support Ei's important work. 

DONATE HERE.


About Elemental Impact:
Elemental Impact (Ei) is a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2010 as the home to the Zero Waste Zones, the forerunner in the nation for the commercial collection of food waste for compost. In June 2017, Ei announced the Era of Recycling Refinement was Mission Accomplished and entered the Era of Regeneration. Current focus areas include Nature PrevailsSoil Health | Regenerative Agriculture, and Water Use | Toxicity.

The Regeneration in ACTION Magazine articles, From Organic Certification to Regenerative Agriculture to Rewilding Landscapes: an evolution towards soil integrity and SOIL & WATER: the foundation of life, published to explain and substantiate the importance of Ei’s rewilding urban landscapes work within the Nature Prevails focus area.

The Holly Elmore Images Rewilding Urban Landscapes-album folder documents two active pilots: the Native-Plant Landscape Pilot and the Backyard Permaculture-Oriented Pilot.

MISSION:
To work with industry leaders to create best regenerative operating practices where the entire value-chain benefits, including corporate bottom lines, communities, and the environment. Through education and collaboration, establish best practices as standard practices.

Ei’s tagline – Regeneration in ACTION – is the foundation for Ei endeavors.

The following mantra is at the core of Ei work:

Ei is a creator, an incubator.
Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done.
Ei brings the possible out of impossible.
Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.

For additional information, contact Holly Elmore at 404-510-9336 | holly@elementalimpact.org


Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Ei Connections: Save our Seabirds | Lifelines

Elemental Impact (Ei) plays a valuable industry role by introducing organizations and individuals who share synergies for powerful relationships and action. The Ei Connections page details empowering introductions along with their long-lasting impact.

Pam & Aaron enjoy their
intro meeting*
Save our Seabirds | Lifelines Introduction
In May 2022, Ei Founder & CEO Holly Elmore introduced colleagues and friends Save our Seabirds (SOS) CEO Aaron Virgin and Lifelines Founder Pam Callender.

SOS is an Ei Strategic Ally, and Aaron is an Ei Advisory Council member as well as a Regenerative Working Group Executive Team member. Additionally, Ei Founder & CEO Holly Elmore and Aaron are both Lambda Alpha International (land-economics honorary) and Rotary Club of Sarasota Bay members. Thus, there are ample opportunities for Ei Connections.

SOS mission: committed to the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured birds with the goal of releasing them back to their natural habitats. A lifelong sanctuary and specialized medical care are provided for those birds that cannot be released. SOS uses their stories to educate the public about avian conservation. The SOS facility is located on a three-acre tract of City of Sarasota-owned bayfront property on City Island.

Via staff and volunteers, SOS responds to 5,000 bird-rescue calls annually. The Avian Hospital is staffed with a full-time, on-site veterinarian who treats 1200-1400 injured birds per year. If they are not candidates for release, the birds have a permanent home in a natural-habitat setting within the Wild Bird Learning Center; approximately, 120 birds live in the Wild Bird Learning Center. 

Pam & Aaron during the stormwater-
demonstration garden installation*
Lifelines: an Eco Art project that designs and builds a contiguous line of native flora and fauna habitats through urban, suburban and rural neighborhoods. Eco Art is work that utilizes both the science of ecology and creative processes of art making to identify solutions to environmental concerns. Pam designed and installed the Ei Native-Plant Landscape Pilot in Holly's front yard.

With its commitment to native flora and fauna, Lifeline projects create habit and food sources for urban wildlife, including feathered friends. Aaron understands the importance of incorporating native plants wherever practical within the SOS grounds and bird enclosures.

Funded by a Longboat Key Garden Club grant, Aaron contracted with Pam to design the transformation of an unsightly drainage ditch into a stormwater-demonstration garden. Native plants were selected for coastal properties and bird habitat. On February 28, 2023, Pam oversaw the installation of 360 plants (54 species) by volunteers and Aaron himself!

Aaron shares his appreciation of the Ei Connection via the following quote:

"We at SOS are very appreciative of the introduction to Pam Callender by Holly to help facilitate our stormwater-demonstration garden. By utilizing the rainwater from the adjacent parking lot, we have transformed a neglected area next to our entrance into a unique natural habitat beckoning birds, butterflies, other insects, and the public!  While our primary goal is to mitigate polluted stormwater from entering Sarasota Bay, we are excited that visitors to SOS will see what they can do on their own property to counter runoff and increase wildlife habitat." 

The Holly Elmore Images (HEI) album, Save our Seabirds | Lifelines Connection, documents images of the drainage-ditch transformation into a stormwater-demonstration garden.

Rewilding Urban Landscapes
The Regeneration in ACTION Magazine articles, From Organic Certification to Regenerative Agriculture to Rewilding Landscapes: an evolution towards soil integrity and SOIL & WATER: the foundation of life, published to explain and substantiate the importance of Ei’s rewilding-urban-landscapes work within the Nature Prevails focus area. 

Within the referenced articles, the Insect Apocalypse is introduced along with contributions to the demise of bug populations. A primary contributor to the apocalypse is the prolific use of nonnative plants in landscapes and other maintained grounds. 

A monarch butterfly feasts on a 
native blossom in Holly's backyard*
Insects are integral to the natural ecosystem foundation and essential to supporting the Earth’s life web. At the base of the prey hierarchy, insects are food for fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. In addition to recycling soil-system nutrients, insects play an essential role in the decomposition portion of nature’s circular-life cycle.

Insects and plants evolved together and often developed symbiotic relationships. Thus, nonnative plants frequently do not serve as habitat or a food source for insects. Including native plants in landscaped areas supports the insect population that in turn serves as food for the local and migrating birds.

Holly's front and backyards serve as Ei Rewilding Urban Landscapes Pilots, with a focus on urban-wildlife habitat and food as well as a local human-food source. The HEI Rewilding Urban Landscapes-album folder documents two active pilots: the Native-Plant Landscape Pilot and the Backyard Permaculture-Oriented Pilot.

Kudos to Save our Seabirds for taking initial steps in rewilding their exterior grounds. Future projects may include incorporating native plants within the Wild Bird Learning Center. Stay tuned for progress over the upcoming months and years.

* all photos courtesy of Holly Elmore Images.

______________________________________

Tax-deductible donations in any amount are greatly appreciated to support Ei's important work. 

DONATE HERE

About Elemental Impact:
Elemental Impact (Ei) is a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2010 as the home to the Zero Waste Zones, the forerunner in the nation for the commercial collection of food waste for compost. In June 2017, Ei announced the Era of Recycling Refinement was Mission Accomplished and entered the Era of Regeneration. Current focus areas include Nature PrevailsSoil Health | Regenerative Agriculture, and Water Use | Toxicity.

The Regeneration in ACTION Magazine articles, From Organic Certification to Regenerative Agriculture to Rewilding Landscapes: an evolution towards soil integrity and SOIL & WATER: the foundation of life, published to explain and substantiate the importance of Ei’s rewilding urban landscapes work within the Nature Prevails focus area.

The Holly Elmore Images Rewilding Urban Landscapes-album folder documents two active pilots: the Native-Plant Landscape Pilot and the Backyard Permaculture-Oriented Pilot.

MISSION:
To work with industry leaders to create best regenerative operating practices where the entire value-chain benefits, including corporate bottom lines, communities, and the environment. Through education and collaboration, establish best practices as standard practices.

Ei’s tagline – Regeneration in ACTION – is the foundation for Ei endeavors.

The following mantra is at the core of Ei work:

Ei is a creator, an incubator.
Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done.
Ei brings the possible out of impossible.
Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.

For additional information, contact Holly Elmore at 404-510-9336 | holly@elementalimpact.org

Monday, February 27, 2023

Coastal-Water Quality: Challenges, Solutions, and Economic Impact

Around 10,000 - 12,000 years ago, early humans abandoned their nomadic nature as hunter-gathers, embraced an agrarian lifestyle, and settled into communities, often along shorelines; the coastal waterways provided a protein-food source, transportation, and hydration (if fresh water.) As lifestyles permitted leisure, coastlines provided recreation that eventually segued into the tourism industry.

Communal living brought a new challenge to our ancestors: how to dispose of excrements from livestock and themselves as well as other waste. Contaminated water transmitted pathogen-related illnesses and were a serious public-health concern.

Thus, water-quality challenges are integral to human development from ancient communities through the industrial and digital revolutions to the current information age. With each age, new toxins were developed and released into waterways and aquifers. 

In the industrial age, water contamination expanded to include toxic-manufacturing byproducts; modern agriculture and landscape practices introduced petro-chemical fertilizers and the "cides" - herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides; the information age brought environmental challenges with mineral mining and disposal of obsolete and/or broken electronic equipment.

The International Water Association article, A Brief History of Water and Health from Ancient Civilizations to Modern Times, explains the importance of water to human civilizations as well as all life on the planet:

Water is life – and life on earth is linked to water. Our existence is dependent on water, or the lack of it, in many ways, and one could say that our whole civilization is built on the use of water.

North Longboat Key public beach
Photo courtesy of HollyElmoreImages.com
Coastal-water quality, whether seaside, inland-lake and -pond shorelines, or river banks, is of paramount concern with direct environmental and economic ramifications.

Located on the Central Florida Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) Coast, Sarasota is a gem in The Sunshine State. With amazing barrier-island beaches (Siesta Key was named #1 beach in the U.S. by TripAdvisor,) and lovely intracoastal waterways, Sarasota's economy is water-quality based and driven by tourism.

The Sarasota Bay Estuarine System is designated as an Outstanding Florida Water and an Estuary of National Significance.

Coastal-Water Quality Webinar
On February 17 Lambda Alpha International (LAI, a land-economics honorary) hosted the Global Webinar Coastal-Water Quality: Challenges, Solutions, and Economic Impact presented by Sarasota’s environmental leadership. As a member of the LAI executive committee, Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder & CEO Holly Elmore orchestrated the webinar.

The global webinar was the second program in an eighteen-month series about water and land economics around the globe hosted by the LAI Global Water Group.

LAI At-Large Members from Florida’s Central Gulf Coast shared on global-coastal-water challenges along with the economic impact to the local and regional communities. With a well-orchestrated plan, via the Water Playbook, community organizations execute programs designed to prevent water contamination from land use and to cleanse contaminates in the water.

The Sarasota Bay Report Card documents achievements and remaining challenging scenarios. Teamwork is required for success with support provided by local, state, and federal governments as well as the community (foundations and taxpayers.)

After LAI International Vice President Kathline King gave introductory remarks, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) Executive Director Dave Tomasko opened the webinar with his State of the Bay presentation.

State of the Bay

Image courtesy of SBEP
In his opening slides, Dave introduced the Sarasota Bay (Bay) system's five bays and emphasized that "Managing Sarasota Bay Means Managing Nitrogen Levels." The main indicators of the Bay's health are:

  • Total Nitrogen (TN)
  • Chlorophyll-a (Chl-a)
  • Macroalgae abundance
  • Seagrass acreage
Using graphs and diagrams, Dave showcased how the Bay's health is better than 30 years ago yet with recent set backs caused by human activity and natural events. For five years, 2013 - 2019, over 750 million gallons of treated wastewater with high-nutrient content were released into the Lower Bay. Wastewater-treatment-facility upgrades corrected the devastating scenario. Additional upgrades are underway in Sarasota County.

In April 2021, over 200 million gallons of high-nutrient wastewater were pumped from Piney Point, an abandoned phosphate mine, into Tampa Bay; the wastewater contained 10X more nitrogen than the worst wastewater-treatment effluent released in Sarasota. Though the release was north of Sarasota in Tampa Bay, the Bay was significantly impacted.

Image courtesy of SBEP
Though it made landfill south of Sarasota, Hurricane Ian pummeled the central Gulf Coast with 85-miles-per-hour winds and 5 - 15 inches of rain; there was no storm surge. Yet, a tremendous volume of contaminated stormwater flowed into the Bay and later into the Gulf. Once in the Gulf, the high-nutrient water triggered a significant red tide-algae bloom. Five months later, remnants of the red tide bloom are still felt on the barrier-island beaches.

The health of seagrass beds is a barometer of the overall health of the Bay. Seagrass suffers when light penetration is limited due to algae growth in the Bay waters. A keystone species, seagrass serves as a nursery for marine life and a food source for manatees, green turtles, and dugongs.

Dave emphasized the ecological as well as economic impacts from compromised Bay-water quality. 

View or download Dave's The State of the Bay PPT presentation via the hyperlink.

Community Playbook for Clean Waterways
As Chair of the Community Playbook for Clean Waterways, referred to as the Water-Quality Playbook (WQP,) Gulf Coast Community Foundation (GCCF) Senior Vice President of Community Investment Jon Thaxton gave an excellent presentation on the WQP purpose, audience, and format.

Kayaking at sunset in the Bay
Image courtesy of GCCF
Using local chamber's, visitor bureau's, and other organization's water-themed marketing-collateral material as substantiation, Jon emphasized that Sarasota's sensational water-based geography is THE basis for the local economy. From the Bay to the Gulf to the barrier-island beaches, Sarasota is a paradise for coastal-water enjoyment and entices global tourists, whether for a week or the winter season. Protecting water quality protects "Our Way of Life."

With decades of investment, Sarasota is a pioneer in successful water-quality initiatives including fertilizer ordinances, stormwater management, seagrass restoration, and land conservation.  The pioneering efforts substantiate Dave's affirmation that the water quality is better now than thirty years ago.

As Jon states:
Estuaries are sensitive to nutrient pollution. Excess nutrients can change the balance of native flora and fauna in ways that degrade water bodies for fish, wildlife and human uses. As nutrient levels increase, macroalgae and phytoplankton outcompete seagrasses, which require the perfect balance of light levels and nutrients to flourish. Algal blooms, including macroalgae, blue-green algae, and red tide are of particular concern.

Prolific use of nitrogen-based fertilizers disrupts the natural-nitrogen cycle; nitrogen segues from a nutrient to a pollutant that instigates algae blooms. Increased algae blooms decrease light penetrating the water. With decreased light, the seagrass beds decrease and in some cases disappear.

Arial view of the John Ringling Causeway &
the City of Sarasota
Image courtesy of GCCF
The 2017 severe red tide bloom catapulted the Sarasota area into a local economic recession and was the catalyst for the GCCF to champion the WQP.

An impressive team of diverse professionals served on the WQP Steering Committee, including representation from the four panelists' respective organizations.

The WQP Goals are:
  1. REDUCE anthropogenic-based nutrient loading in natural systems; sources: fertilizer, biosolids, wastewater, septic systems, and engine emissions.
  2. REMOVE anthropogenic-based nutrient from natural systems.
  3. BUILD CAPACITY and resilience of ecosystems and human systems to maintain Goals 1 and 2 through education, incentives, partnerships, better data, and public policy.
To keep it functional and current, the WQP audience is policy makers and government agencies and is only available online to enable timely updates. Though Sarasota-focused, the WQP intention is to serve as a template for other coastal communities to emulate.

The final Steering Committee slide was perfect segue to the next presentation.

View or download Jon's Water-Quality Playbook PPT presentation via the hyperlink.

Conservation Easements
Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast (CFGC) President Christine Johnson began her session with a poignant quote by Luna Leopold; the quote set the theme of her presentation:
The health of our waters depends upon how well we live on the land
Oak tree on inland waterway.
Photo courtesy of the CFGC
With a territory that extends from south of Tampa Bay to the Everglades and covers five counties, the CFGC focuses on waterfront, imperiled wildlife, connectivity, and unique public access. The CFGC mission is to protect the land and water in Southwest Florida for the benefit of people and nature; CFGC envisions a future where the human and natural worlds of Southwest Florida flourish together. 

Throughout her presentation, Christine emphasized that conservation easements are FOREVER! 

Per one of her slides: A land trust or a land conservancy is a nonprofit organization that works with landowners and the community to conserve land, as well as steward or take care of the conserved land forever. By taking care of the land, the nearby and faraway water benefits.

As they extinguish development rights on the designated land, conservation easements eliminate or minimize impervious surfaces and limit stormwater runoff with nutrient loads. By allowing the land to hold water, conservation easements prevent downstream flooding and erosion into waterways.

Many conservation easements require best-land-management practices and incentivize land restoration; restoration grants often require a conservation easement. Signage required along the land boundaries educates and brings awareness to the public of the property's protected status.

To date, the CFGC holds conservation easements on 56 properties, consisting of over 19,200 acres.

Two of the CFGC recent easements are on former wetlands and have direct impact on water quality.

Rewilding the Quads
Partnering with the Sarasota Audubon Society, CFGC obtained conservation easements from Sarasota County on three of the four 11-acre Quad parcels located just east of I-75. Contiguous to the world-renowned birding site, The Celery Fields, the Quads project intends to augment bird habitat by planting a forest on one of the parcels.

Though there is ample opportunity for unique human access, a primary focus is rewilding the land for the benefit of wildlife.

Before human intervention, the wetland area was called Big Camp Sawgrass; the land is integral to the local watershed with water flowing into Phillippi Creek on its way to the Gulf.

Bobby Jones Golf Complex
Originally opened in 1926 as the 18-hole Sarasota Municipal Golf Course, the City of Sarasota-owned golf course was renamed the Bobby Jones Golf Course and eventually expanded to 45 holes over 300 acres. 

Bobby Jones Golf Course
Image courtesy of the CFGC
With the onset of the pandemic, the golf course closed. Fortunately, in January 2022, the City of  Sarasota donated a conservation easement to the CFGC with the provisions that a 27-hole course will use 45 acres; the remaining land was dedicated to wetland restoration.

Prior to the golf course development, the land was called Little Camp Sawgrass and directly connects with The Quads as water drains west into the Gulf.

Thanks to Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota donating conservation easement on The Quads (33 acres) and the Bobby Jones Golf Complex (300 acres,) the CFGC will ensure wetlands are restored, provide urban-wildlife food and habit, create unique public access, and improve the area's water quality.

As they are partners in the wetlands restoration, the Bobby Jones Golf Complex was a perfect segue to the Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START) presentation.

View or download Christina's Conservation Easement PPT presentation via the hyperlink.

Healthy Stormwater Ponds
START is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization founded in 1995 to reduce the excess nutrients in our waterways that feed red tide and other Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs.) START Chair Sandy Gilbert shared that their mission is accomplished via public-education programs, water-quality government outreach, and nutrient-control programs.

A healthy stormwater pond
Photo courtesy of START
Examples of the nutrient-control initiatives include Sarasota bi-valve restoration programs, stormwater-filtering at Bay Park, microforest plantings, and stormwater pond-enhancement programs. Thus, START initiatives prevent water contamination from land use and cleanse contaminates in the water.

In September 2021 START secured a $250,000 three-year grant from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation to develop a regional “Healthy Pond Collaborative (HPC)” initiative. In addition to START, partners include Sarasota County’s Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team, the UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, and the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida. The work was in part inspired by the WQP shared earlier by Jon.

A second grant was later received to expand the HPC beyond Sarasota County to Manatee County.

Stormwater ponds are manmade with three main purposes: 1> flood control, 2> filter out excess nutrients (nitrogen & phosphorus) and pollutants (oil & gas,) and 3> provide wildlife habitat. The manmade ponds are part of an overall stormwater-control system of linked ponds, man-made control boxes (weirs.) and natural wetlands that eventually flow stormwater into the Gulf.

Unfortunately, many of the more than 6,000 stormwater ponds in Sarasota County are decades old and only operate at 40 - 60% filtering efficiency. 

HPC objectives are threefold: 1> control erosion, 2> improve pond-filtering efficiency, and 3> help implement cost-efficient pond-maintenance programs.

The main premise of healthy ponds are two-fold: no-mow zones of 8 -12 inches high and 3-feet wide and aquatic vegetation on the littoral shelf (shallow water) with at least 30% to 50% density. Taller grass in no-mow zones have deeper roots that prevent erosion, keep grass clippings and fertilizers out of the pond, and absorb more stormwater and excess nutrients. Additionally, heavy equipment no longer weakens the bank of the pond; there is reduced labor and carbon footprint due to the decreased mowed area. 

Neighbors & wildlife enjoy the healthy pond
Photo courtesy of START
Aquatic vegetation crowds out algae, shades sunlight, absorbs nutrients, and reduces the need for herbicides (copper sulfate.) The limited sunlight and reduced algae-food source stymies algae growth. Beyond controlling algae growth, aquatic plants blunt wind and wave action against the bank, minimizing shoreline erosion.

It is common practice for homeowners and homeowner associations (HOA) to over fertilize and water their lawns; thus, the excess water carries the surplus fertilizer underground to the pond. Essentially, the ponds, instead of the lawns, are fertilized. The practice results in unnecessary expenditures as well as pond pollution.

Overall, stormwater-maintenance best practices are cost effective in the long run and reduce homeowners' and HOAs' landscape- and grounds-maintenance costs. 

Added bonus: a real estate study showed that homes on healthy ponds have a 20% increased property value.

In 2022, the HPC funded the installation of over 4.3 miles of newly planted pond shorelines in Sarasota County and another 2.9 miles in Manatee County; the planted shorelines, along with no-mow zones, filter the excess nutrients in stormwater runoff before it flows downstream to the Bay.

View or download Sandy's Healthy Stormwater PPT presentation via the hyperlink.

The global-webinar presentations ended with Dave returning to quantify how the community will achieve water-quality goals.

How do we meet our water-quality goals?
In his closing remarks, Dave compared the referenced period 2006 - 2012, when the Bay returned to a healthy state, to the current health status; research confirms that the Bay's dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) load increased 20%, or 12 tons.

DIN-load sources include:

  • Reclaimed water from non-Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT) Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTP) - up to 20 tons / year.
  • WWTP overflows - up to 6 tons / year (peak in 2018.)
  • Septic tanks - estimated up to 20 tons /year; 70% now offline.
  • Stormwater - still the biggest source; CFGC and START programs significantly reduce contaminated stormwater flowing into the Bay.
Based on the known sources, there are more than 20 tons of DIN reduction available.

Boaters enjoy the Bay 
Photo courtesy of SBEP
A key to success is community involvement. Beyond the non-profit- and foundation-community sector represented by the webinar's panelists, local government is committed to upgrade the area's wastewater systems. 

IMPRESSIVE: local governments - City of Sarasota, City of Bradenton, Sarasota County, Manatee County, and Town of Longboat Key - expended over $400 million for WWTP upgrades in the past two decades. At the November 2021 Water Quality Restoration Workshop, the referenced local governments committed to spend nearly $1 billion on future WWTP upgrades in the next 5 - 10 years!!!

Dave confirmed it is realistic to be optimistic with a cautionary tone; the Bay is warmer, the air is warmer, and the Bay is six-inches deeper. Yet, with community-wide commitment to restoring the Bay water quality, it is achievable to return to acceptable DIN loads experienced during the referenced period.

View or download Dave's How do we meet our goals? PPT presentation via the hyperlink.

A vibrant questions and answer (Q&A) session followed Dave's wrap-up presentation.

Q&A Session
LAI Global Water Group Co-Chair, LAI San Francisco Chapter Past President and current Board Member, Jim Musbach moderated the webinar Q&A session.

Economics of Red Tide Blooms
Dave and Jon answered the questions related to red tide blooms. Dave educated that red tide occurs when the microscopic algae Karenia brevis exceeds certain thresholds. Additionally, Dave shared that humans do not cause red tide; humans make red tide worse by the nutrient loads added to the Bay.

During a red tide outbreak, waterfront properties along with those up to a mile inland decrease in value by 20 - 30%. Decreased property values result in lower property taxes that pay for local community services: police, fire, schools, and more.

Waterfront properties are collectively valued at an estimated $5 billion with around 20,000 residents employed at waterfront businesses. Jon emphasized how low-wage workers, many of these 20,000 jobs, disproportionately suffer economically during red tide outbreaks; there is an increase in homelessness and demand for community social services.

In Dave's perspective, the local governments' nearly $1 billion commitment to WWTP upgrades that will significantly reduce the nutrient loads flowing into the Bay and is a solid, wise investment

Volunteers from local government, non-profits,
college, and caring residents.
Photo courtesy of Carmen Merriam
Community Collaboration
Jon shared that the WQP was designed to educate and support local government officials and policy makers when faced with difficult tax-appropriation decisions. Using a disinterested third-party approach, the WQP affords local officials with the foundation to make the financial commitments necessary to restore and maintain the Bay's water quality, the driver for the local economy.

No where else in the State has a community come together in a strong collaborative plan for water quality. The $1 billion-WWTP funding comes from the local sources, with no state or federal assistance.

Local officials made another bold commitment: necessary legal steps were taken that allow allocation of funds within the tax bill's stormwater- and utility-line item for water-quality measures. 

Fertilizer-restriction ordinances
Jon provided in-depth answers to the question regarding fertilizer ordinances. During his tenure as a Sarasota County Commissioner, Jon authored the first fertilizer ordinance in The State of Florida; the ordinance included a black-out period for nitrogen- and phosphorous-based fertilizers during the summer-rainy season. Ordinance provisions also restrict applying fertilizers on impervious surfaces and too close to waterways. Jon also served on the State Fertilizer Task Force.

Upon request, Jon is happy to share a copy of the fertilizer ordinance. 

Surf at a Sarasota Beach
Photo courtesy of the GCCF
In his commentary, Jon emphasized that the fertilizer ordinance is difficult to enforce. Yet, the ordinance is an educational tool for local residents regarding using too much fertilizer at the wrong time of year and in the wrong places.

Until the Sarasota County ATP WWTP is complete, the reclaimed water available for lawn and landscape irrigation includes more nitrogen than is recommended by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for a healthy lawn. Thus, irrigation with reclaimed water provides ample fertilizers to lawns and landscapes.

Sandy chimed in about over fertilizing lawns. At one of his HPC ponds, pond-water tests showed a 70% reduction in nitrogen simply by following the required fertilizer restrictions. Additionally, Sandy proved to the HOA that elimination of their fertilizing practices would reduce costs while maintaining beautiful lawns. Thus, the HOA achieved cost-savings and improved their pond health, all with lovely lawns!

Seagrass Beds
As Dave established in his opening presentation, nitrogen levels and the state-of-seagrass beds are two barometers for the Bay's health. Though there were many prior success stories 5 -10 years ago, the current seagrass-bed status is devastating. It is estimated that 1/3 of the manatee population on Florida's East Coast starved to death due to the depletion of seagrass beds from water pollution; a manatee's primary food source is seagrass.

Though the Bay's seagrass beds are healthier than in most other coastal waters, the overall scenario is dire and a crisis. Statewide there is a loss of approximately 150-square miles of seagrass beds.

Since ancient times, diminished water quality caused devastating scenarios, often with human death. In the modern era, water-quality challenges segued to include environmental and economic impact in the impaired areas. As demonstrated in the Coastal-Water Quality: Challenges, Solutions, and Economic Impact Global Webinar, Sarasota environmental leaders demonstrated that with collaborative community effort water quality may be restored. 

Economic and environmental impact provide strong incentives for a community to adopt a collaborative plan for water-quality restoration. The Gulf Coast Community Foundation's Water-Quality Playbook is a valuable template with proven success for communities to follow.

The recorded 90-minute Coastal-Water Quality: Challenges, Solutions, and Economic Impact  Global Webinar is available for viewing via the hyperlink.

Tax-deductible donations in any amount are greatly appreciated to support Ei's important work. 

DONATE HERE.

About Elemental Impact:
Elemental Impact (Ei) is a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2010 as the home to the Zero Waste Zones, the forerunner in the nation for the commercial collection of food waste for compost. In June 2017, Ei announced the Era of Recycling Refinement was Mission Accomplished and entered the Era of Regeneration. Current focus areas include Nature PrevailsSoil Health | Regenerative Agriculture, and Water Use | Toxicity.

The Regeneration in ACTION Magazine articles, From Organic Certification to Regenerative Agriculture to Rewilding Landscapes: an evolution towards soil integrity and SOIL & WATER: the foundation of life, published to explain and substantiate the importance of Ei’s rewilding urban landscapes work within the Nature Prevails focus area.

The Holly Elmore Images Rewilding Urban Landscapes-album folder documents two active pilots: the Native-Plant Landscape Pilot and the Backyard Permaculture-Oriented Pilot.

MISSION:
To work with industry leaders to create best regenerative operating practices where the entire value-chain benefits, including corporate bottom lines, communities, and the environment. Through education and collaboration, establish best practices as standard practices.

Ei’s tagline – Regeneration in ACTION – is the foundation for Ei endeavors.

The following mantra is at the core of Ei work:

Ei is a creator, an incubator.
Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done.
Ei brings the possible out of impossible.
Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.

For additional information, contact Holly Elmore at 404-510-9336 | holly@elementalimpact.org

About Lambda Alpha International:
Lambda Alpha International (LAI) is an honorary society for the advancement of land economics. LAI provides a forum for the study and advancement of land economics where the "winnowing and sifting" of ideas takes place in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

LAI operates through a network of chapters. A LAI Chapter provides a variety of programs and forums for its members to share information critical to understanding important land-use issues. The IMPACT Blog article, Lambda Alpha International Atlanta Chapter: growing membership, influence and impact, introduces LAI along with its history and designated purposes.

In December 2013 Ei Founder Holly Elmore was inducted into membership and served on the LAI Atlanta Chapter Board until returning to Florida in 2021.  As the International Assistant Communications Director, Holly serves on the LAI Global Executive Committee.