Q & A with Green Volusia’s Katrina Locke

County’s across the country are thinking and going green. From recycling programs and water conservation efforts to building practices and commuting options – local communities are greening their operations and are encouraging their citizens do the same.

In Volusia County, our sustainability program is “Green Volusia.” It was “established to expand green practices within county government operations and to provide information and education about environmentally responsible practices that benefit the community as a whole.”

Katrina Locke is Volusia County’s sustainability and natural resources director. She manages Green Volusia, which includes the county’s Sustainability Action Plan and also oversees Lyonia Environmental Center, the Manatee Protection Plan, Explore Volusia and Volunteer Volusia programs.

We asked Ms. Locke a few questions to gain a better understanding of Green Volusia’s goals and how her office interacts with the small business community.

What are your priorities?

We are currently working on outreach that encourages water conservation and efficiency and a project that will promote environmental resiliency and water quality practices. Programs that promote natural resource conservation, especially those linked to energy conservation, are always important.

How does your office interact with the small business community?

Green Volusia works with the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) to provide green building education in the county and encourage green building practices. Businesses can build green or retrofit their property to green building standards, which include disaster mitigation (natural disasters and pests), energy and water conservation. Buildings can be built or retrofitted to green standards. The county is a certified Green Local Government through the FGBC.

Employees from Volusia County’s Solid Waste Division often speak at chamber meetings and other events to engage with small businesses and encourage recycling. They also help businesses implement recycling programs and realize cost savings by decreasing their solid waste output and increasing their recycling. Staff can perform free assessments to determine the business’s solid waste and recycling needs. The main focus of this program is to increase recycling for all commercial businesses and schools.

We are looking for businesses that are interested in helping us to further develop, and to participate in, a pilot green business program. Their input will help us ensure that the program is relevant and beneficial to businesses and our community.

The county works with FDOT’s reThink program (www.rethinkyourcommute.com) to share information about alternative commute options. Rather than driving a single occupancy vehicle to and from work, the program encourages people to take alternative options, which include car or van pooling, bicycling, walking, or taking the bus or SunRail to work. ReThink and Green Volusia are interested in working with businesses and individuals to share information on the benefits of alternative commute options, which can include saving money.

Green Volusia staff has worked with community partners to host a workshop for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Lodging program. Hotels, motels and associated businesses were invited to participate in the program and encouraged to “green” (or further green) their operations. We are planning another workshop soon.

What are the deliverables you provide to the business community and Volusia County citizens?

We have educational materials for many of the programs, and we can schedule presentations for groups. Green Volusia’s website, www.greenvolusia.org, offers many practical tips.

How do you measure the success of your programs?

We measure the success of our programs through involvement of participants, although metrics will be involved in some of the programs we are working on.

What are the challenges you see? How is the county preparing to meet those challenges?

Water quality continues to be an interest and concern in the county. Anything businesses can do to reduce their impact on our ground and surface water bodies is great. This can include water conservation and practices like ensuring the landscaping crews they hire are following the county’s fertilizer ordinance.

It’s really about community effort, from the county, cities, businesses, residents and students.

What should our business owners be thinking about today to better respond to the environmental challenges they may face tomorrow?

Reducing energy and water use can help to reduce operating costs. Resiliency, from weather events, includes incorporating green infrastructure into their projects.