Indian River County Walking the Walk Towards Sustainability

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
October 2009

For the first time in 100 years, the U.S. has reduced its carbon emissions.  For the last 2 years the carbon emissions were reduced by 9% and this reduction is expected to continue in the near future.  Some of the reduction nationally is due to the poor economy and the high price of gasoline, but there are also positive carbon-cutting steps:

  • Stronger automobile fuel-economy standards
  • Better appliance efficiency
  • Increased wind, solar and geothermal energy resources
  • Citizen’s awareness and reduction of using energy, “the carbon footprint” and the eat local food movement

Last year coal use dropped by 5%.

Touring Indian River County’s new facility to clean the Main Relief Canal. Photo by Joe Carroll.

Locally, we are proud and praise Indian River County for contributing to this effort as well and give accolades to the Sustainable group including former PIAS award recipients Judy Orcutt (environmental citizen), Amy Thoma (Tierra Verde and LEED certifier), and Himanshu Mehta (Managing Director of the Solid Waste Disposal District and IRC Sustainability Coordinator) for their initiatives and compiling this list:

The Sustainable Group of Indian River County’s initiatives:

  • Education Campaigns to Promote Sustainability (recycling, red bins, signs, using biodegradable items, upgrade appliances, install solar)
  • Tree Planting
  • Energy & Water saving programs (lighting upgrades, low flow plumbing, using biodegradables)
  • Florida Green County – Gold Level Certification, April 14th 2009.

Indian River County School District:

  • Opened the first “green” school with Florida Friendly Landscaping, a rain catchment system for irrigation, environmentally friendly building materials, automatic day lighting sensors and high efficiency air conditioning.
  • Purchased two LP gas school buses as an alternative for diesel

The Environmental Learning Center:

  • Broke ground in June for a new building which will be certified “green” and include both solar power and solar thermal
  • Offered a series of Hands-On Green Workshops
  • Working in partnership with IRSC to offer 2 part workshop called “Eat Local”

Solar Progress

  • Climatic Solar is installing the largest solar thermal system in the county at Howard Johnson’s Motel to heat hot water. The Carlton Club has contracted for solar pool heat and will receive $2500 grant from Sun Catcher Program.
  • The largest Building Integrated Photovoltaic System in county is currently being installed in a south county residence.

IRC Chamber of Commerce

  • New Building w/ green features including solar hot water, environmentally friendly building products, dual flush toilets, motion sensors for interior lighting, energy efficient insulation.

City of Fellsmere

  • Converting retention ponds into attractive parks by reconfiguring slope and adding paths, benches, landscaping
  • Attracted a bank to cut down on road trips to Sebastian
  • Developed the North County Greenway to promote eco-tourism

Indian River Medical Center’s Green Initiative

  • Reduced energy usage 13.55% through conservation measures such as raising room temperatures, installing energy efficient lighting and improved maintenance procedures
  • Began using EPA Green certified cleaning materials and reduced chemicals 70%
  • Recycling began June 2008 – recycled 40 tons of paper, plastic and cans
  • Using green lawn care products
  • Reduced water usage through low flow aerators and retrofits on plumbing

Pelican Island Audubon Society

  • Initiated a Quality of Life Survey – to bring the community together to eventually develop a tool for planning
  • Successfully passed a stronger county tree and landscaping ordinance


  • There has been a 46% increase in bus ridership; Plan to add shelters to high use stops

Habitat for Humanity

  • Continues to build all homes to FGBC Green Standard including solar hot water, no irrigation (Florida Friendly Landscaping), Energy Star Refrigerators, window tinting, ceiling fans, CFL bulbs, low VOC paints
  • Comparison of energy use for homes with solar hot water shows 25% savings
  • Through job site recycling and resale center scrap, $62,025 has been earned
  • Require all home owners to participate in Green Education Classes

Unitarian Universalist Church

  • Completed a nationally recognized accreditation program to earn a “Green Sanctuary” designation. 
  • Uses 100% recycled paper in bathrooms and partial recycled content in copy paper.
  • Energy usage was decreased by 15% through conservation, window film, thermostat control and plantings
  • Offers on-going series of public programs on Sustainability.

Sustainable Agriculture, Eat Locally initiatives:

  • Gifford Community Center and Abilities Resource Center started Community Gardens
  • Organic Farms – White Rabbit, Osceola Organics, B & W Quality Growers

Green Lodging Program through the Department of Environmental Protection (those committed to continuously improve environmental performance (Waste Reduction, Reuse and Recycling, Water Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Indoor Air Quality, or Transportation)

  • Disney Resort, Holiday Inn Oceanside, Springhill Suites

Vero Chemical

  • Now carries green Earth Friendly Brand cleaning products
  • Introduced new product line of compostable take out containers 

K-Mart and Sears Stores

  • Reduced peak-hour lighting by 50% and installed timers and motion sensors in warehouse areas which has saved 20% on electric bill
  • Raised thermostat to 79 daytime, 84 night

Navo Builders and Mandala Development Group

  • Constructed 3 luxury homes that far exceed FGBC Residential Green Building Standards.  One has completed certification, two remaining are in process.


  • Constructing the first commercial building in IRC to LEED certification.
  • So far, they have diverted 96% of their construction debris from the landfill by recycling to six different locations.
  • Supporting the Go-Line Bus Shelter Program by purchasing the first shelter.

Thanks for everyone’s efforts in getting us “Walking the Walk Towards Sustainability!”

With an increase in environmental awareness and a possible reduction in carbon emissions, we might be able to improve our continually eroding seagrasses and our bird populations. Lester Brown from the Earth Policy Institute, says the US should push for 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020.  Clearly we are on the right path.

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