Ideas usually start with lightbulb moments, and so does building a sustainable movement. Launched in 2019, Partners for Green Places (PFGP) was born with the goal of supporting nonprofits as they adopt energy and water efficiency improvements at their facilities. The intended savings from these improvements would then be reinvested into their missions.
Children First, one of the inaugural pilot partners of the initiative, has already seen the benefit firsthand.
Having already undertaken several sustainability efforts including solar hot water heaters and energy efficient insulation, PFGP created further opportunity for Children First to strengthen its environmental impact by assisting the agency in conducting a detailed energy audit.
“Based on our organization’s previous efficiency improvements, the team decided to audit our North Port campus,” says Children First CEO Philip Tavill. “The structure was built in 2007 and in need of substantial upgrades. After receiving an energy assessment and implementing new efficient practices, our North Port campus has seen a 20-25% reduction in energy usage, as well as a 40% reduction in water usage. This helped us to realize Children First’s full potential in becoming a catalyst for sustainable change in our community.”
In September of 2021, Children First celebrated the successful installation of new solar panels at the agency’s main campus in Sarasota. The 117.26 kW photovoltaic solar system was completed by Brilliant Harvest and is on track to produce 95% of the site’s electricity needs in its first year. This produces a net savings of more than $6,000 that can be reinvested into the families and children they serve.
Current and future Children First sustainability projects include implementation of LED lighting at all 15 facilities, upgrading all HVAC units to high efficiency heat pumps with programmable thermostats, investing in resource efficiency to promote conservation throughout the organization, and a future solar photovoltaic system installed at other locations, including North Port.
“With nearly 90% of our families living below the Federal Poverty Level , these investments from our community partners could not come at a more critical juncture,” says Tavill. “Every efficiency translates into more support for our mission, which means a higher level of service for more children and families. The future looks brighter than ever before as we continue to benefit from ‘bringing sunshine’ to Children First.”
Partners for Green Places is a collaboration between the City of Sarasota and Sarasota County sustainability, Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, and Gulf Coast Community Foundation. The pilot program, seeded by the Partners for Places matching grant program, a joint project of The Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, grew to include William G. and Marie Selby Foundation and Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Seeing the potential for greater impact, DreamLarge made a catalytic investment in establishing a strategy, brand, and platform to showcase the partnership between philanthropy and sustainability and use it as an inspirational tool to drive awareness and adoption of sustainable measures.