This Thursday, Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City and famous billionaire, visited Mayor Rick Kriseman to commend the city of St. Petersburg on its work to combat climate change. Bloomberg awarded our city $2.5 million worth of technical resources to protect the environment and fight climate change as part of the American Cities Climate Challenge.
While the LWVSPA was not directly mentioned by Bloomberg or Kriseman, several of our members attended the press conference announcing the award. Our sustainability committee played a significant role in launching, operating, and supporting many of the programs mentioned by Bloomberg as credits to the city and sustainability.
What Is the American Cities Climate Challenge?
The American Cities Climate Challenge is operated by Bloomberg Philanthropies and was created as a result of the federal government’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement in June 2017. More than 230 cities and 70 million Americans have stood up in support of the Paris Agreement and plan to move forward with its set standards.
The American Cities Climate Challenge was created to hold cities to their word, with financial support for the towns that did the best job fighting climate change. Originally, the awards were meant for 20 cities, but the challenge expanded to support five more because of the strength of the applications received.
St. Petersburg isn’t the only Florida city to be recognized by this award. Orlando is also stepping up to the challenge to fight climate change. Other cities listed as part of the American Cities Climate Challenge are Seattle, Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Denver.
How Did Your Local League Help the City of St. Petersburg?
There are three core issues that were brought up by Bloomberg and Kriseman as factors that contributed to our participation in the American Cities Climate Challenge. These are just a few initiatives of our sustainability team, who work tirelessly on various environmental causes in St. Pete.
We Brought Curbside Recycling to St. Petersburg
In July 2015, the city of St. Petersburg implemented a curbside recycling pick-up program so local residents could reduce the amount of waste that ended up in landfills. The League of Women Voters lobbied for the implementation of a recycling plan, built community support, and worked with legislatures to educate residents about the new program.
As of May 2018, 66% of residents regularly set out recycling containers and city workers collect more than 1,118 tons of recycled waste each month. This number continues to grow each year as more people have access to recycling services and understand its impact.
We Developed Solar Co-Ops With Solar United Neighbors
For the past two years, our sustainability committee has worked with Solar United Neighbors (SUN) Florida to create solar co-ops around the city.
“We bring homeowners together into a group, or co-op,” the team at SUN Florida explains. “Co-ops take advantage of the group’s bulk-purchasing power to get discounted pricing and a quality installation.”
Through this process, homeowners don’t have to install solar alone. Investing in clean energy is more affordable and less daunting. Plus, participating in a co-op is more engaging with a neighborhood support system guiding you until it is done.
We Lobbied for City Support for the Solar and Energy Loan Fund
The Solar and Energy Loan Fund (SELF) is a non-profit that “provides loans, project management, and a list of approved contractors for home improvement projects to improve energy efficiency, water conservation, and storm preparedness in residential homes.” Our team members lobbied to raise awareness of SELF loan options in the city of St. Petersburg and worked with city officials to promote this clean energy option.
Despite the fact that we have multiple city-wide initiatives going on to fight climate change, we never forget that it is individual residents and homeowners who are the real people making a difference. If you didn’t recycle or look into clean energy options in your home, we could never have made the collective impact that we have.
What Can YOU Do to Fight Climate Change and Protect Our Local Ecosystems
St. Petersburg residents have done a lot to fight climate change, but there is still a long way to go. Sustainability is a global, national, and local issue. No one person or one country can solve our environmental crises overnight. We all need to work together with one goal: protecting Earth’s resources so future generations can enjoy them as we do.
Whether you want to fight sea level rise or simply enjoy a cleaner beach, consider joining the sustainability committee of the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg area. Every set of hands can make a difference in making St. Petersburg an environmentally-friendly city.