What if eight-year-old girls were put in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency? “If only,” said Girls Inc. of Sarasota County members as they made the switch to renewable energy.
Barancik Foundation sought to create environmental and financial sustainability through the power of the sun. A $575,000 grant to Girls Inc. not only allowed the organization to install new solar technology to save on energy costs, but also created an opportunity for the hundreds of girls they serve to become a future generation of conservationists.
Just like the Girls Inc. motto—Strong, Smart, Bold—so was the scope of the project.
A local solar company was hired to conduct the largest solar installation of its kind in Sarasota County. Girls Inc.’s large, flat roof provides the perfect space for sunshine collection. The switch to solar power not only now generates an abundance of renewable energy for the organization to operate efficiently, but the new source saves more than $200,000 in utility expenses at least every decade. The initial white roof coating, done to prepare for the panel installation, saves $400 a month in utility bills alone.
The solar panels created a pseudo-endowment, giving back to the organization year after year.
Girls Inc. designed programs around sustainability and STEM education for the girls to capitalize on the installation of the panels. Armed with their imagination and what they learned about conservation the girls led their own charge in “greening” their building, beginning a recycling program, planting a sustainable garden, and electing an energy council to guide the organization’s sustainable practices.
The girls hosted their first “RecycleBall”—a party where the girls got to design their own outfits out of recycled materials.
564 solar panels | 12,000 square feet of roof | 24,500 kWh per month
The impact of the solar installation and educational programming were so notable, Girl Inc.’s national affiliate has shown interest in replicating the program at other locations.
For the girls, a new generation of environmental stewards will carry on the sustainable practices they’ve learned throughout their lives and future careers.
While technology costs go down, many organizations are making the most out of operating in our Sunshine State by switching to solar. As more nonprofits look to implement solar energy, the Solar Powered by Barancik Foundation pilot will serve as a model to expand their impact, guide best practices, provide educational opportunities, and avoid missteps.