The Pensacola area has struggled with being green. Our community is known for its parks, running clubs and beautiful bays, beaches and rivers, but has also garnered notoriety for its EPA clean-up sites and water and air quality.
Progress has been made. Last year, the Emerald Coast Utility Authority closed the Main Street treatment facility that was dumping nearly 20 million gallons of sewage into Pensacola Bay each day. Both ECUA and the City of Pensacola now support curbside recycling for residents. Gulf Power has spent millions upgrading its Crist Plant in order to minimize its impact on the air we breathe.
Yet, just being more environmentally friendly might not be enough to make this community better for our children, our grandchildren and ourselves. The IN sat down with Mona Amodeo, founder and creator of Branding from the Core®, the Branding from the Core® Network, and president of idgroup in Pensacola and Cleveland, OH.
Amodeo has studied the green movement and the shift to being not just more environmentally conscious but how to create organizations and communities that are sustainable.
When she completed her doctorate in organizational development, her dissertation,
“Becoming Sustainable: Identity Dynamics within Transformational Culture Change at Interface,” studied how Interface, one of the world’s largest interior furnishings companies, translated its sustainability mission into a value that permeated its culture and made the successful company even more profitable.
Interface was founded in 1973 by Ray Anderson. The industrial engineer from the Georgia Institute of Technology revolutionized the commercial floor covering industry by producing America’s first free-lay carpet tiles.
In 1994, Anderson took Interface in a whole new direction. He wanted his company to be the first company that, by its deeds, showed the entire industrial world what sustainability was in all its dimensions. He spearheaded the transformation of Interface from an oil-based manufacturer towards a 100-percent environmentally sustainable solutions provider by the year 2020 and became a pioneer of sustainable development in the processes.
Anderson passed away last year. Interface was well on its way to fulfilling its mission statement. The manufacturer had reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 24 percent, fossil fuel consumption by 60 percent, waste to landfill by 82 percent and water use by 82 percent—all this while avoiding over $450 million in costs, increasing sales by 63 percent and more than doubling earnings.
Amodeo’s experiences with Anderson and Interface have given her a unique perspective on being green, sustainability and innovation.
“Sustainability encompasses not only environmental, but also social justice and economic issues,” said Amodeo. “Our initiatives must be financially viable and feasible. We have to look at all aspects so that we can ensure that the community we leave is better for our children and grandchildren to live in.”
Amodeo said that local leaders need to change their thinking about green issues.
“I think when you start talking about green, people tend to think it’s those left-leaning hippies (laughing) who never had to work a day in their lives,” she said. “We have to look at the impact we’re having on the environment and see how we can reduce the negative impacts in ways that are economically feasible and viable. That makes sense.”
She got up and walked over to the dry erase board in the IN offices and wrote, “How will we leave to our children and grandchildren a better community?”
Pointing to the board, she said, “This is a question we need to ask ourselves. How do we do things in a way that meets the needs of today and that will serve the needs of the people in this community, treat them with humanity and respect and, at the same time, make good money.”
She also pointed out that the most successful sustainability initiatives have come when community leaders have made major commitments on green issues. Mayor Gavin Newsom has declared that his city, San Francisco, would be America’s solar energy leader. Boston has a “Green by 2015” goal to replace taxis with hybrid vehicles. Austin has a chief sustainability officer and wants to be carbon neutral by 2020 and its Austin Energy has become the nation’s top seller of renewable energy.
“When you think Cleveland, you don’t think green, but today their vision is to be a green city on a blue lake,” said Amodeo. “The city of Cleveland brought together 300 to 400 members of the community and asked what would it look like when Cleveland is this green city on a blue lake. They have focus groups working on everything from social justice to environmental to economic development.”
What will it take for Pensacola to become a leader in sustainability? Amodeo believes that Mayor Ashton Hayward’s initiatives with natural gas-powered vehicles are good steps in the right direction, but more is needed.
“We need to think beyond—beyond where we are, beyond where we are comfortable,” she said. “We need to bring in big ideas from everywhere we can get them. And there should be room at the table for everybody, meaning we must move beyond our power politics and listen to others’ ideas and opinions.”
She talked about the harmful thinking of power—“I’m right, you’re wrong. I’m in power and you’re not. It’s my way or the highway.”
“This thinking is dangerous and hurts us. People fight to get power and then become like those they fought to get there,” said Amodeo. “They say, ‘I have the power and I don’t have to listen to you any more.’”
She talked about how Interface met with Greenpeace, even though Ray Anderson and his leadership team knew the conversations would be difficult. Did Interface do everything Greenpeace wanted? No, according to Amodeo, but they listened and worthwhile changes were made.
“Innovation is only born when you’re willing to entertain diversity of opinions,” Amodeo said. “You have to be willing to let in things that may seem alien to you.”
“For Pensacola to be innovative, we are going to have to entertain ideas that may at times be uncomfortable.”
Sustainable Cleveland 2019
Emerald Coast Utility Authority
ECUA has implemented key sustainable projects: recycling (commercial and residential), hazardous household, bulk and curbside waste pickup, wastewater treatment, water conservation, reuse of reclaimed water that eliminates the need for any discharge into local surface waters and hybrid sanitation truck technology.
Energy Services of Pensacola
ESP has been a leader statewide in helping customers become more energy efficient and has several rebate programs. The city has approved the construction of fueling stations for natural gas vehicles.
Escambia County – Solid Waste
The Division of Solid Waste Management continuously promotes an education and awareness campaign—Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Programs offered include: free drop-off recycling, free regional roundups, educational outreach services, paint re-blending and distribution, shoe reuse and recycling, jeans and jackets reuse, household hazardous waste, end-of-life electronics, yard debris, swap shop and many more programs.
Gulf Breeze Natural Gas
The natural gas provider for south Santa Rosa County offers several rebates to homeowners who switch from electric to natural gas and to homeowners who put in new natural gas equipment in place of the old.
Gulf Power offers renewable energy programs as part of its EarthCents package such as solar photovoltaics for electricity and solar water heating. The utility is currently generating electricity from various renewable energy sources including landfill gas and solid waste.
Home Builders Association of West Florida
The Home Builders Association of West Florida’s Green Building Council is a volunteer driven council. As defined by the HBAWF Green Building Council, “Green” means and refers to education, products, services or practices which promote an increase of energy efficiency, sustainability, conservation and recycling. Its monthly educational meetings focus on building in an environmentally friendly manner.