Creative Loafing's Green 100

click to enlarge Bryan Roberts of EcoTech Construction, Project 3.0 and Earthship Florida. - Chip Weiner
Chip Weiner
Bryan Roberts of EcoTech Construction, Project 3.0 and Earthship Florida.

Here they are — Creative Loafing’s choices for the 100 people, places and businesses leading the way toward a greener Tampa Bay. Some of the 100 are individuals, some are teams, some are whole organizations — but each is demonstrating leadership in moving our region toward a more sustainable way of life. The names are divided into two groups, Green Policy and Green Living, and each list is arranged alphabetically.
And there aren’t exactly 100. We’ve only chosen 95 — because we want your input.
Who did we miss? What groups should more people know about? Who’s making a positive impact on our environment and deserves to be recognized?
Make a nomination at In coming weeks we’ll open the voting for the Green 100 Final Five.
Who knows? We may get so many worthy nominees that we’ll have to expand from 100 to 500. Maybe we’ll find there are so many people doing significant work to protect Tampa Bay that the list of green leaders will just have to keep expanding.
And that would be a very good thing.
—David Warner

Crusaders, watchdogs and policy-makers

Kevin Beckner, Hillsborough County Commissioner. In his successful campaign against incumbent Brian Blair last year, Kevin Beckner stood strong against unchecked development, arguing for smarter growth and better regional planning. He’s maintained that focus now that he’s on the board, and serves as vice-chair of the Environmental Protection Commission and as the BOCC representative on the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.

Peter Belmont, environmental lawyer, solar-power pioneer. Two years ago Belmont was the first St. Petersburg resident to install a solar power array in his home. Not only did the move make financial sense, it was another instance of forward thinking on the part of a man with a long record of activism on behalf of the environment and historic preservation.

Phil Compton, chairman of Friends of the River. The Hillsborough, that is. And while Compton spends an awful lot of time in government meetings pushing for a cleaner lower Hillsborough, he's most at home on the waterway itself, pointing out with a quiet thrill reclaimed urban shorelines and other improvements that are bringing the Hillsborough back to life. Much of that rebirth is due to Compton's and Friend's work to get more freshwater released daily over the city's dam and into the lower river, restoring its ecosystem and pushing saltier Bay water back out.

Creative Tampa Bay. A consortium of creative thinkers, including marketing professionals like Deanne Roberts, Peter Kageyama and Michelle Bauer, who have turned the tenets of Richard Florida into studies, events and networking opportunities that have had a real impact on Tampa Bay — whether it’s bringing in economist Joe Cortright to talk about “The Green Dividend” or creating an online home for news about green-friendly events.

John Dingfelder, Tampa City Council. In Nov. 2007, the Tampa City councilman got tired of waiting for Pam Iorio's administration to change city development codes to encourage green building. So he got the council to begin writing its own ordinance, which would have given builders with green projects a fast-track to construction permits. Iorio eventually adopted green building rules of her own and appointed a city "green" czar, but some believe it was Dingfelder's prodding that got the city moving more quickly.

Maryann Ferenc & Carla Jimenez, co-founders, Tampa Independent Business Alliance. Vocal and visible supporters of independent businesses, Ferenc, Jimenez and TIBA make convincing arguments that independents foster the kind of livable urban core that big-box, sprawl-mongering monsters undermine. And both women support green practices in their own businesses: Ferenc through an emphasis on sustainable dining at her restaurant, Mise En Place, and through support of events like Eco.Lution, and Jimenez through Inkwood Books' partnership with the “”sustainable reading” service eco.libris and sponsorship of readings by authors like Big Box Swindle’s Stacy Mitchell.

Rose Ferlita, Hillsborough County Commissioner. An independent-minded Republican, Ferlita has done battle with pro-development forces pushing for abolition of local wetlands rules, and was among the early supporters of a sales tax for mass transit. And, unlike some of her colleagues on the BOCC, she was never in the pocket of big developers or of late Republican power broker and rabid pro-growth-er Ralph Hughes.

Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition: This Tampa-based cartel of environmental, civic, business and outdoor groups pools efforts to protect Florida’s coastal areas and marine wildlife. In 2006, the Coalition issued a report titled Florida’s Coastal and Ocean Future: A Blueprint for Economic and Environmental Leadership; the organization updates its findings with biannual report cards.

Florida Native Plant Society. As the name suggests, FNPS promotes the preservation, conservation and restoration of Florida’s native plants and native plant communities. The group tracks legislation and public policies that affect the conservation of Florida native plants; supports initiatives to purchase and preserve native plant communities; offers a range of educational opportunities about Florida's native plants; and hosts regular native plant sales.

Susan Glickman, southern regional director for The Climate Group. Long an activist for various environmental causes and a two-decade lobbyist in Tallahassee on green issues, the Pinellas County resident and Tampa Bay native today helps connect Fortune 500 companies with governments to promote a cleaner Earth and lower greenhouse gases.

Cathy Harrelson, Suncoast Sierra Club. An active voice for environmental policy change in Pinellas, she’s spoken up against the excessive use of nutrient-rich fertilizers, supported use of native plants in city-owned properties and kept up pressure for curbside recycling in St. Petersburg.

Mary Kelley Hoppe, Bay Soundings. She's the co-editor (with Victoria Parsons) of this environmental news journal based in Pinellas Park. She is also president of MKH Communications, which does PR work for environmental campaigns.

Pam Iorio, Mayor of Tampa. She's taken some heat for not moving fast enough to conservation, but Iorio's legacy could be the area's greenest: light rail transit, her second-term priority, appears headed to the voters in 2010. Plus, she is the first Tampa mayor to drive a hybrid as her official car.

Sharon Joy Kleitsch, The Connection Partners, Inc., and The World Café. The consummate connector, Kleitsch is the embodiment of “think globally, act locally.” Drawing on management experience from Citigroup and a Master’s in Spirituality, she has a knack for getting people to talk to one another about sustainability issues and green business, and is joining the CL team as co-editor of our new site, The Green Community.

Denise Layne, executive director of Coalition 4 Responsible Growth. Long a Lutz civic activist and even occasionally a candidate for public office, Layne makes her presence felt in Tallahassee, where her coalition of smart-growth advocates gives her a platform to influence laws about growth management, wetlands protection and development.

Dena Gross Leavengood, co-founder of the regional initiative Tomorrow Matters! A longtime crusader for sustainable growth in Hillsborough County, she fights the good fight through Tomorrow Matters’ listserv, through workshops, and through sheer vigilance, whether she’s dogging county commissioners about protecting disadvantaged populations or arguing for preservation of our vanishing wetlands.

Jack Mariano, Pasco County Commissioner. Mariano is the go-to “green guy” on the Pasco commission, a strong advocate for green-building processes and county programs that promote green living. A Republican, but not a pushover for developers.

Rick Martinez, Sweetwater Organic Community Farm. Although Martinez is best known around the Bay area as the creator of Sweetwater Organic Community Farm in Tampa — the first CSA (community-supported agriculture project) in the state — he’s been getting his hands dirty around the world for almost 20 years. He consults on organic farm projects across the globe, but also finds time to hold intimate local seminars for gardeners and farmers on the Sweetwater property.

Mary Mulhern, Tampa City Council. She argued passionately for the preservation of Kiley Park when she was CL’s art critic. Now Mary Mulhern has carried that same passion for the city’s greenscape onto City Council, fighting for better Tampa representation on the Environmental Protection Commission and organizing a summit on community gardens.

Karl Nurse, St. Petersburg City Council. As a neighborhood leader, he pushed for sustainability and helped organize the annual Pinellas Living Green Expo. As the owner of a printing business, he spent spent $25,000 over a four-year period on efficient lights, windows, skylights and landscaping to make his Bay Tech Label a greener business. Now as a Council member, Nurse has continued to raise green issues, from leading an effort to ban lawn fertilizing during rainy summer months to cut back on Bay runoff to adopting punitive rates for water hogs.

One Bay. A coalition of public and private leaders, One Bay formed in 2007 in the aftermath of Reality Check, which brought together more than 300 leaders for tabletop visioning exercises. One Bay was spearheaded by five regional organizations: Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council; Tampa Bay Estuary Program; Southwest Florida Water Management District; Tampa Bay Partnership Regional Research & Education Foundation, and the Urban Land Institute Tampa Bay District. The organization works on visioning a viable, sustainable future for the region, focusing on transportation, open space, water and other issues.

Craig Pittman, environmental reporter for the St. Petersburg Times. He's been a Times journalist for 20 years, handled the environmental beat since '98. Over that period, Pittman has uncovered any number of important stories about vanishing natural Florida. He has co-authored a book with fellow Times-man Matthew WAite titled Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss (University Press of Florida), the title of which speaks for itself.

Honey Rand, founder of the Environmental PR Group. Any public relations agency that features a quote about change from Charles Darwin on its home page has got to pique your interest. Rand, a former spokeswoman for the regional water district, formed her own agency aimed at representing clients who "advance economic vitality and environmental sustainability." She's especially knowledgeable on water issues.

Darden Rice, national field director for the Sierra Club’s Cool Cities project. One of Tampa Bay's leading conservation voices (and best resumes, including co-founding Pinellas Living Green and first co-chairwoman of the county's Environmental Science Forum), Rice helped push St. Petersburg to get its green city designation and put smart growth and the environment front and center in her two political campaigns.

Bruce Rinker, head of the Environmental Lands Division of Pinellas County. His division is responsible for managing an array of protected tracts, including Weedon Island Preserve in St. Pete and Booker Creek Preserve in Tarpons Springs, which is touted as the wildest land in Pinellas.

Jan Roberts, founder and president, Earth Charter U.S. With her background as a counselor, ethicist and community organizer, Roberts was naturally drawn to the Earth Charter, the global “declaration of interdependence” in support of a more just and sustainable society. She spearheaded the launch of the Charter in the U.S. in 2001 via satellite-linked summits in 12 cities, then went on to found a national network devoted to realizing the declaration’s goals — a daunting task helped immeasurably by her belief that activism can be fun.

Stuart Rogel, executive director of the Tampa Bay Partnership. There was a time when the Partnership was just another pro-business group among many. But today, with Rogel's strong leadership and networking, the group is at the lead in developing greener solutions for our local economy. Tampa Bay Partnership was instrumental in creating the seven-county regional transportation authority TBARTA, which gives the region its best hope at a working mass (and rail) transit system.

St. Petersburg Audubon Society. One of the state’s oldest, the conservation society — which works to protect, restore and preserve natural ecosystems for both people and wildlife — celebrates its 100th birthday April 18. Aside from its bird-tracking activities, SPAS is responsible for observing and protecting habitats for shorebirds on Shell Key, and participating in the establishment and management of the Shell Key County Preserve; leading comprehensive studies of beach-nesting birds in partnership with Eckerd College, Pinellas County staff and public land managers; and offering environmental educational programs to show homeowners how to create wildlife-friendly habitats in their yards.

Linda Saul-Sena, Tampa City Council. If there is a movement for a cool green initiative or urban innovation going on in Tampa, you can be sure that Saul-Sena is behind it, connected to it or aware of it. An urban planner by training, she's been a fixture in Tampa government for two decades and a consistent voice for conservation for longer than that.

Mark Sharpe, Hillsborough County Commissioner. A fiscally conservative Republican, he has been instrumental in keeping alive the idea of a light-rail system for Hillsborough and environs. Arguing that transit makes financial sense for both the urbs and the exurbs, he is optimistic that the right plan could transcend partisan divisions and provide a truly regional solution. He led the way to the recent 7-0 commission vote in favor of putting a 1-cent sales tax for light rail on the 2010 ballot.

Sierra Club - Tampa Bay Group /Suncoast Sierra Club (Pinellas). The Hillsborough County chapter of the national environmental conservation group takes on Tampa-area enviro-issues like urban sprawl and the preservation of wetlands and beaches. SCTBG also arranges eco-outings for inner-city youths, lobbies local and state governments, and heads a Stash Your Cans program to promote recycling at Raymond James Stadium events. The Pinellas County chapter focuses on environmental issues affecting Pinellas communities, like red tide and the proliferation of invasive species. Among other activities, the group lobbies policy makers and endorses political candidates.

Mariella Smith, Sierra Club and Sticks of Fire blogger. By day she's a mild-mannered graphic designer. In her free time, however, Smith is a tireless and thorough documenter of efforts to gut growth laws and harm the environment in Hillsborough. Her stories about the County Commission's ongoing growth management dismantling and kowtowing to powerful developers in Sticks of Fire are as good as any investigative journalism you'll find around these parts, and sometimes even beats the mainstream press to the punch.

Thom Snelling, City of Tampa "Green Officer." Snelling, the city's deputy director for growth management and development services, was selected by Mayor Pam Iorio  to become the city’s first official  green officer, responsible for making sure Tampa makes strides in becoming more environmentally savvy. His first priority: make sure Tampa reached its goal of becoming a Certified Florida Green Local Government by Oct. 2010. It received that designation more than a year early, in March.

David Sumpter, executive director of Wildlands Conservation. Wildlands is an organization of ecologists, land acquisition specialists and conservation planners working to preserve west Florida wildlands. Sumpter is a wildlife biologist who has served on and chaired myriad environmental groups: the Hillsborough Greenways Task Force, the Mayor of Tampa’s Environmental Advisory Committee, Tampa Audubon and others. He’s also founding member (and periodic chair) of West Central Florida’s Frog Listening Network.

Tampa Bay Conservancy. Focusing on Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Manatee Counties, TBC is a land conservation group whose mission is to protect the area’s “natural, agricultural and scenic heritage.” Along with land protection, the organization is active in education and outreach.

Tampa Bay Watch. The nonprofit stewardship organization strives to protect and restore Tampa Bay’s open-water estuary and the coastline surrounding it. TBW draws from a pool of more than 10,000 youth and adult volunteers annually to take part in its habitat restoration projects, among them, the Oyster Bars and Oyster Dome programs, which work hand-in-hand to improve oyster shell reef habitats for oysters, and to increase the oyster population in Tampa Bay waters; salt marsh grass and sea grass planting; the Great Scallop Search, a resource-monitoring program that counts scallops and documents the population trend; and invasive plant removals and coastal cleanups.

Barbara Sheen Todd, Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, former chair Pinellas County Board of Commissioners. In a long career of public service, Todd has been a vocal champion of the environment, helping establish what is now the Pinellas County Environmental Fund and leading the fight to improve protection of the Weedon Island Preserve, among other accomplishments.

Taryn Sabia and Adam Fritz, co-founders, Urban Charrette. A grassroots collaborative of young architects, planners and other design professionals devoted to a more sustainable Tampa Bay, Urban Charrette has organized a variety of workshops and public events in which local residents and experts from other cities share their visions of the future. Sabia wrote the grant that brought an American Institute of Architects Sustainable Design Assessment Team to the city in October, a major step toward improving the neighborhood planning process. The collaborative’s big annual expo/festival/downtown car-less party Eco.Lution returns Apr. 23-May 1.

Ken Welch, Pinellas County Commissioner. Welch has been a champion of curbside recycling in Pinellas, despite the stubborn resistance of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker. Now it looks like the program will be implemented countywide on Jan. 1, 2010 — with St. Pete on board.

Enlightened businesses, everyday resources and people living green

Rudy Arnauts, Steve Francois, Joe Redner and Bryan Roberts of Project 3.0/The Roosevelt. The most exciting sustainable architecture project in Tampa required a team of creative thinkers to make it happen: developer Arnauts, promoter/artist Francois, building owner Redner and contractor Roberts (more on him below). Together with student and artist collaborators, they’re turning a 100-plus-year-old building, the former home of the Tampa Bay Brewing Company on 15th Street in Ybor, into a showcase of 21st-century construction ideas, including a low-voltage lift, a vertical garden, greywater recycling and an air conditioning  system that relies on circulation of cool well water through a concrete slab. The slab will double as a piece of sculpture, reflecting another ambition of the project: making The Roosevelt a place in which artists and other creative types can lease space and incubate new ideas. The building is already hosting events, including a second Pacha Kucha night (see below) and the multimedia art event State of the Art on April 25.

Balance & Bliss. As a practitioner of yoga and Ayurvedic massage, Balance & Bliss owner Denise O'Dunn is already in a healthy place. But B&B is also about as thorough-going a green business as you could find. The massage oils are organic; the facial products are handmade in the kitchen from organic produce; the products are sold in recyclable bottles which clients can refill; organic meals are served; there's even a reverse osmosis water system. All in all, a business that lives up to its name.

Josh Bomstein, president of the Florida Coast chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. As a member of a prominent contracting firm, Creative Contractors in Clearwater, Bomstein is well placed to spread the gospel that building energy-efficient projects is more than just a marketing slogan. He shows clients how going green saves them money over the long term, and then he teaches other architects, builders and government officials that same lesson.

Ron Bortolini, Durable Coatings Paint Store. You might know Ron from his shop in the Grand Central district of St. Pete, or you may have encountered him at his booth in the green section of the Saturday Morning Market. Either way, you’ve heard his passionate, convincing pitch for Benjamin Moore’s Aura line of “green” paints — so-called because they’re low in volatile organic compounds and last longer than other paints. They’re also getting good reviews online.

Jon Butts, host of WMNF’s Sustainable Living. Airing on MNF on alternating Mondays at 1 p.m., Butts’ program is a reliable source of information on all aspects of sustainable living, hosted with a nicely low-key authority by a man who practices what he preaches. A farmer, he was the first Tampa Electric customer to connect a solar power array to the company's grid, using the panels to help generate the electricity needed to run his farm.

Jeff Cole, myEnergyLoan. “Local Tampa boy” Cole heads this innovative company that provides financing for green building conversions through a network of national and local lenders. The loans offer various incentives, depending on how green you want to go.

Ken Cowart, organizer, Pecha Kucha Night. Pecha Kucha, Japanese for “chit-chat,” may not be a “green” activity per se. But its structure — a creative show-and-tell in which each participant gets to show 20 images for 20 seconds apiece — lends itself well to the generation of new ideas about design, and these days that discussion leads inevitably to sustainability. Originated in Japan, Pecha Kucha has spread around the world, and Tampa’s first meeting, organized by Ken Cowart at The Roosevelt, was such a success that another one is scheduled for May 15.

Cowhead, DJ on The Bone 102.5 FM. We’ve named Cowhead to the Green 100 for his initiation of a unique recycling project. After becoming convinced tbt* was stealing his material, Cowhead asked listeners to snag copies of the St. Pete Times’ faux alt-weekly and bring them to his studio. The audience responded, burying the DJ in zippy newsprint. Cowhead called in mobile paper disposal company Shred It, who reduced the paper piles to recyclable pulp.

Stan DeFreitas, Florida’s Mr. Green Thumb. Decades of local plant mastery won DeFreitas his title, plus the fact that he’s ubiquitous. This author of numerous books — including the biblical Complete Guide to Florida Gardening — has spread the gardening gospel at the Pinellas Extension, at St. Petersburg College, in newspapers, on television, and in his current show on 970 WFLA. Listen to him long enough and your own thumbs may begin to take on a greenish tinge.

Eckerd College. Probably the greenest of all local institutions of higher learning, Eckerd boasts a plethora of environmentally conscious initiatives, including its Yellow Bike program, a free bike-share for students; a student-run recycling program; an Environmental Film Festival; and the Zero Waste 2008 program, which partnered with Haslam's Book Store, Goodwill and the Ronald McDonald House to donate reusable items that students would otherwise throw out at semester's end.

EcoTech Construction. General contractor Bryan Roberts is a pragmatic visionary, an unassuming but influential leader in the field of sustainable building. Besides Project 3.0 (see above), his firm has taken on two other seminal projects: Earthship Florida in Manatee and the transformation of 26 shipping containers into affordable housing in Sarasota. “We’re trying to use new technologies to go back to the basics of building for the environment,” says Roberts, “rather than just building a square box and plopping it on a lot.”

EVOS. The three founders of this Tampa-based fast food chain — Dino Lambridis, Alkis Crassas, Michael Jeffers — maxed out credit cards to start their first place in 1994, mainly because they were tired of the same old quick food. Sustainability and health have been ingrained in the concept at that first spot — and the current 11 locations — from humane meat to no-oil cooking, wind energy offsets to zero VOC paints, all without sacrificing the burgers-and-fries fast food aesthetic.

FishHawk Ranch. Leaving aside arguments about whether its location out in eastern Hillsborough encouraged sprawl in the first place, Newland Communities' development, open since 1996, was recently named the first green-certified residential community in Hillsborough County. It features 25 miles of nature trails, parks within a quarter-mile of every house, a reclaimed water system, low-maintenance landscaping and native vegetation

Florida Craftsmen Gallery. Craft artists work with organic products — wood, clay, glass — and, while they may not always literally be working “green,” their one-of-a-kind objects act as a beautiful antidote to mass-produced junk. With shows like the upcoming “Buy Local, By Local,” Florida Craftsmen can also make the local-economy argument in favor of hand-crafted art and furniture; buy a rocking chair by a Tampa artist like Kirk Moss, and you won’t have to subsidize some giant home-furniture warehouse and its big trucks.

Gateway Organic Farm. A CSA farm in the heart of Pinellas, or as farmers Hank and Pamela M. Sindlinger describe it on their website, “3.19 acres of urban paradise!” The farm is a former landscape nursery; no new members are being taken on at this time, but you can sign up for a waiting list.

Going Green Tampa Bay. A USF initiative that explores existing and future opportunities for local homeowners and businesses to adopt green, sustainable technologies. This year's Going Green expo takes place Oct. 9-10 and is held in conjunction with a sustainability conference.

Grass Root Organic Restaurant. At this vegan/raw/living-food mecca with outposts in Tampa Heights and Lakeland, husband-and-wife owners Spencer Sterling and Sabrina Aird don’t just serve up tasty food but an entire lifestyle, complete with online shop and a blog called “The Grass Root Life.” Creative Loafing and St. Pete Times critics have both given the place favorable reviews, and CL’s readers named it “Best Vegetarian Restaurant,” so even if you’re not ready to go all-the-way raw, it’s a good place to get a taste.

Green Armada Foundation. A non-profit whose mission is “to make our waters free of debris,” Green Armada picked up over 145,000 pounds of trash in Tampa Bay in 2007-2008. Founded in 2006 by Jeff and Vince Albanese and their cousin Mike Maksimowicz, the Armada has grown from a one-cargo-boat three-man effort to a national organization with thousands of volunteers, a mentoring institute for kids and national media acclaim (including stories in Reader’s Digest and People).

Green Cities Florida. This green business conference (May 19-21, Orlando) gives practical, non-preachy guidance on ways to incorporate sustainable practices into businesses, governments and communities. Green Cities also presents ideas, products and services that facilitate the shift to sustainable practices. Topics that are addressed include clean technology, green building, organic agriculture, green investments, fair trade, the sustainable supply chain and integrating sustainability into corporate culture.

Green Go's. Free rides in a nifty green electric cart — what’s not to like? Cab drivers may complain about the competition, but the carts (which are supported by advertising and take only short trips in downtown Tampa and environs) deservedly won Best Green Commute in 2008’s Best of the Bay.

The Green Man Cleaning Company. Green Man hawks a full line of professional-grade natural, non-toxic and eco-friendly cleaning products. For those who aren’t DIY aficionados, Green Man also offers full-service commercial cleaning for your home or office, tidying up your space using only their environmentally (and human) safe cleaners. One call to Green Man, and you’ll never touch a bottle of Fantastik again.

Aubrey Hampton, Aubrey Organics. When he's not busy writing or producing plays at Tampa's Gorilla Theatre, Aubrey Hampton runs Aubrey Organics, a line of all-natural hair, skin and body care products. Hampton is one of the more vivid citizens of Tampa Bay; his company, which he formed in 1967, uses only top-quality herbals and plant extracts in their most natural form.

Healthy Home. Founded in 1993, this St. Petersburg store sells a plethora of green products: green paints (in a variety of colors), flooring, lighting, beds, garden and outdoor products and myriad others. Healthy Home even offers a non-chemical, vinegar-based weed killer called Deadeye. The shop also does a brisk online business.

Andrea Hildebran, Bartlett Park Community Garden/Green Florida. Hildebran and other residents have banded together to turn a woebegone vacant lot into a thriving, Best of the Bay-winning garden. And Hildebran doesn’t want to stop there; she is spearheading the non-profit organization Green Florida to raise support for the community gardening phenomenon (and to change zoning laws to make it easier to establish such gardens).

Mark House, managing director of the Florida Division of the Beck Group. From his perch in a large, nearly 100-year-old commercial architecture, construction and development firm, House’s advocacy of green building is highly influential.

Mark Johnson, Market Director, Saturday Morning Market. Each Saturday in season, this market is the vibrant, verdant heart of downtown St. Pete, a testament to the power of local, sustainable commerce, not to mention really good breakfasts. Mark Johnson’s leadership, along with co-founders Judy Staunko and Gail Eggeman, has proven that something quite simple — a farmers’ market in an urban space — can have a profound impact on a city’s identity.

Jim Kovaleski. The denizen of New Port Richey gives new meaning to “grow your own.” He uses his entire yard to nurture a variety of produce — with an entirely natural process, no pesticides or chemicals of any kind. He doesn’t even worry about exterminating bugs, seeing them as part of the natural ecosystem. Kovaleski, 47, makes a living selling the vegetables he doesn’t eat himself at the Sweetwater Organic Community Farm in Tampa. “I’m providing produce for 30 or 40 people,” he has said.

Michael Manlowe, Twigs & Leaves. Manlowe’s commitment to Florida native plants has made Twigs & Leaves, his nursery in Midtown St. Pete, a destination for home gardeners and public landscapers. Carrying native plants, trees and flowers as well as environmentally friendly organic soils, fertilizers and pesticides, T&L also provides consultation, habitat design and installation services. The nursery is also becoming a green social destination; Manlowe recently hosted the Bartlett Park Community Garden’s one-year anniversary party.

John Matthews, Suncoast Food Alliance. After years as a cog in big agriculture, Matthews had an epiphany about consumers' relationship with food. He then managed Sarasota's Downtown Farmers' Market and worked as a local food expert with the extension service, but last year he found his true calling in the Suncoast Food Alliance, a business that makes it easier for restaurants to source food from local farmers.

Robin Milcowitz, Seminole Heights Community Gardens. A partner in Andrea Hildebran’s Green Florida project, Milcowitz is making a green dream come true with Seminole Heights’ first community garden in a donated lot off of Violet Street near the Hillsborough River. The garden’s Ning-powered social network reflects both Milcowitz’s design flair and the neighborhood’s anticipatory excitement about the project, with headlines like, “Holy Organic Tomatoes Batman! Seminole Heights has a community garden!”

MyGreenBuildings. No shortcuts here. Sarasota-based MyGreenBuildings is a certified general contractor specializing in environmentally friendly residential and light commercial construction. Partners Steve Ellis and Grant Castilow take pride in building green structures that are competitively priced. 

Pete Nelson, Mother's Organics. Recycling waste seems like a number two sort of business, but former corporate banker Pete Nelson has managed to turn it into a viable and productive operation. Two years ago he turned an old fill dirt pit into a way to transform yard clippings and plant products into nutrient-rich humus and fertilizers used by farmers and gardeners. It's large-scale composting for people who don't want to get their hands dirty.

Michael and Denise Pfalzer, Earthship Florida. After seeing a spot on The Tonight Show about an Earthship built in New Mexico, Michael Pfalzer decided that was for him. We're giving kudos to the contractor Bryan Roberts of EcoConstruction (see above) — but we also wanted to give credit to the folks who actually pioneer living in this pioneering eco-domicile. Relying on the earth's natural cycles for heating, AC and water; recycling waste; and accumulating the tens of thousands of cans, bottles and tires needed for new building projects involves more commitment than many green entrepreneurs need muster.

Pinellas County Extension/Hillsborough County Extension This educational service — provided by University of Florida in collaboration with Hillsborough and Pinellas counties — provides classes and info to Bay area residents and business owners on how to make sustainable decisions.

Pinellas Living Green Expo. This vital event’s fourth edition will be held on Sat. and Sun., May 2-3 at the Harborview Center in Clearwater. Simply put, if living an environmentally sound life is at all a concern, you must attend. You’ll find practical ways — ideas, resources, products — to live healthier lives while putting a smaller footprint on the environment. Admission and parking is free. The PLGE has established its influence well beyond a two-day gathering.

Raydiance Tanning & Wellness Spa. Raydiance's Hyde Park address was built with 100 percent recycled materials, including flooring and interior decor. The spa offers green therapies for body and mind, and owners Sandra and Steve Rossiter also own Gardens Acupuncture & Wellness and Gardens Tea House on the same property. The calendar of monthly events — all free, by the way — include Reiki yoga classes, herbal classes twice a month, a monthly Spiritual Film Circle, and they plan a Vegan Brunch starting in the next couple of weeks.

REAL Building. Responsible, Efficient, Attainable, Livable makes up the acronym REAL. The St. Petersburg company is a consultancy firm that helps developers and homeowners design, plan, build or remodel a green home. Taylor Ralph, VP of business development, was the first in Florida to have a home certified Gold by the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Design) Building Rating System. It’s in the Riviera Bay neighborhood of northeast St. Petersburg.

Rollin’ Oats Market and Cafe. Northeast St. Pete's independently owned natural market has been an area mainstay since '94, the small space jam-packed with natural, organic and whole foods, fresh fruits and veggies, bulk grains, vitamins, natural remedies and plenty else in additon to a daily-changing menu of hot, ready-to-eat meals served from the café in the back. The owners expanded Rollin' Oats in September of '08 when they acquired the struggling Nature's Harvest in Tampa.

Shirts of Bamboo. Daniel and Lisa Jacobs own this St. Petersburg company that makes clothing and other products (e.g. BamCloth towelettes) out of bamboo fibre, which is softer than cotton and does not require chemicals for protection. On the sustainability front, bamboo is one of the most prolific and fastest-growing plants, reaching maturity in about four years.

Frank Starkey, Longleaf Development. Co-founder of Longleaf with his brother Trey, architect Frank Starkey was a pioneer of New Urbanism in Pasco County, having taken a tract of family land and establishing Longleaf, the Bay area’s first Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND). Part of the mission was to make Longleaf a legitimately green community, balancing nature and human culture. Starkey is on the board of the National Town Builders Association

Tampa BayCycle. The Tampa-based organization aims to "make cycling an integral part of the transportation culture in the Tampa Bay area." Run by three women — Sara Hendricks and Jennifer Iley from the New North Tampa Transportation Alliance and Karen Kress, director of Transportation for te Tampa Downtown Partnership — Tampa BayCycle organizes events and raises awareness about this most green of activities.

Tampa Bay Rays. Last year, MLB's American League Champions unveiled  "Teaming Up for the Environment," an extensive sustainable business program that will focus on procurement, practices and advocacy. Initiatives include, among others, promoting carpooling on game days, bike racks and monthly theme nights that raise awareness about recycling, energy and water conservation and other environmental touchstones.

Tampa Street Market. Amy and Charles Haynie run this store in Seminole Heights, which sells salvaged finds, recycled goods and other utilitarian green product, as well as artistic, original-design tables and benches. The shop's motto is "Rethink. Recycle. Rebuild." Their website has a blog about green ideas and goings-on.

Linda Taylor, It’s Our Nature (ION). Taylor’s company (founded on Earth Day 1996) has grown from an eco-guide service with a focus on women  to “an earth-friendly marketplace.” ION features products made from organic cotton and other natural fibers, and evaluates manufacturers to make sure they’re offering fair wages and humane working conditions. Last year Taylor published her first book, a collection of ten biographies: Great Women Exploring Nature: How Wild Florida Influenced Their Lives. She also performs eco-wedding ceremonies (she’s a notary public) at couples’ favorite nature spots.

Tre Amici @ The Bunker. A locally owned, independent coffee & wine bar in Ybor City that sells fair-trade organic coffee and emphasizes goods with local provenance, Tre Amici has also become a kind of creative clubhouse. It’s a classic “third place,” suitable for informal brainstorming or for regularly scheduled events like the third-Wednesday public gatherings of the Urban Charrette.

Ed Turanchik and Teresa Caddick, InTown Homes. The former Hillsborough County commissioner and his partner started with the dream of spurring a residential rebirth of West Tampa, one of the area's oldest neighborhoods. Their first homes were priced low and prohibited people from flipping them for profits. But as the home market slowed, InTown unveiled a new design, the MoMed, the first urban green home in the area, cutting energy use by up to 44 percent and affordable at $179,000.

Urban Oasis Hydroponic Farm. Although hydroponic farming isn't the kind of green revolution that most back-to-nature types might want, it's one of the most efficient ways to grow crops, especially in an urban setting. Enter Dave and Cathy Hume, who opened Urban Oasis in Carrollwood last year. Visit the farm, grab some organic produce and shake hands with the grower, all on your way home from work.

WhyNot Boutique. Billing itself as “a green boutique,” WhyNot is the brainchild of Jennifer Dutkowsky, whose experience living in the crunchy environs of Amherst, MA led her to open a storefront on S. MacDill Ave. with an emphasis on “eco-friendly living.” Dutkowsky’s lively blog conveys the spirit of the place: forward-thinking but bargain-conscious, with a sense of humor. Products include B Green Organic Lingerie, vintage “upcycled” jewelry, stationery made from panda poo and foldable flipflops made from 95% recycled tire rubber.

Zen Glass Studio/Higher Self Gifts. St. Pete glass artists Josh Poll and David Walker, the masterminds of Zen Glass as well as the online store Higher Self in St. Pete, live and sell at one speed only: SLO — as in Sustainable, Local and Organic. The online arm works only with local artists and sustainable, eco-friendly businesses, and at the glass studio broken pieces are recycled into pendants. Packaging for both businesses uses 100 percent recycled material, and the overall vibe is exemplary of eco-preneurdom at its most honorable.. 


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