Hard Candy: How Green Was My City?

I am so tired of lip service about the environment. If I hear one more person tell me Gulfport’s going green, I may slap them with their reusable bags and stuff them in a recycle bin.

Gulfport isn’t green, people. It isn’t even close. Oh, the city’s trying. But it’s overlooking some critical areas that could really use some attention. I applaud the city replacing light bulbs and putting more energy-efficient features in buildings, I do, but that’s just a slice of the pie when it comes to the environment.

Let’s start with grass. Ever ask yourself why so many city landscapes still feature grass as the prominent feature, especially since that grass takes chemicals, staff, and money to keep green? Ever wonder many households worth of taxes the city could use for other things instead if they ripped out the grass and put in ground cover that didn’t require so much money to keep up? Shouldn’t the city be doing that anyway, given the nitrogen issues surrounding fertilizer, the “green” stance at least three councilmembers advocate, and the decreased revenues from tax dollars?

Can anyone sufficiently explain why, when one councilmember is going to school for environmental studies, another one advocates green building regulations, and yet another has “green” landscaping days to show residents how to have environmentally-friendly landscapes, so much of city property is covered with beautiful green grass? Clam Bayou has grass surrounding its perimeter, and every time the city cuts it the clippings blow into the bayou. The marina is edged with grass; has anyone even questioned the result of chemically-treated grass clippings going into Boca Ciega Bay?

Here’s another thought: open the windows. Yes, I know it’s Florida. I know that from April through October this is not practical. But city hall windows don’t open. Yes, I know it’s more convenient to have the temperature regulated by an air conditioner. But wouldn’t a little fresh air be nice, too?

How about the cleaning staff? In all our talk about clean air and water, has anyone put into the cleaning staff’s contract that they should use the least corrosive chemicals to clean city buildings, or are they using hydrochloric acid toilet bowl cleaners to clean the bowls at night?

I’m wondering if anyone at city hall thinks about these things. I know that the city clerk has started encouraging downloading the council meeting agendas rather than printing them out (that’s how the Gabber accesses the agendas), and I know there’s been some talk of turning off computers at night. I think that’s great, I do. Of course, these moves also have solid fiscal gain for the city- less paper and less energy.

It’s not that the city’s doing a horrible job at going green; it’s that there seems to be a disconnect in common sense. We’ll change out all our light bulbs and worry about what type of roof to put on when that happens, but we don’t offer paperless billing for water bills. That’s how many thousands of envelopes and paper bills every month?

I realize it’s easy to get caught up in all the things the city could be doing, but it seems like unless a councilmember pushes for something, it doesn’t happen. There’s no independent thinking going on inside city hall. Now, I’m certain this only applies in this situation, but still- Public Works director Don Sopak had to tell each department to come up with ideas for conserving resources. With the rest of the world already looking for ways on its own, why did this even need to be a directive?

I don’t think that every “save the planet” idea is a good one or necessarily right for Gulfport, and I freely admit I’m rather pragmatic about my own environmental practices- I try to avoid driving wherever I can but come June my air conditioner goes on and stays on through August. But I don’t claim to be an environmentalist. The city’s certainly starting to pat themselves on the back for things they’re doing, and while it’s great, it isn’t enough. They’re where most of us were a long time ago. The IT director came up with a plan to turn off computers at night. Are you kidding me?

Rip out your pretty grass, city hall, and then we’ll talk.

Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.

One thought on “Hard Candy: How Green Was My City?”

  1. I know those were sort of rhetorical questions in your post, Cathy, but I’m wondering if someone, somewhere could get an answer. Sort of on the heels of your previous post, actually — are there some side-by-side budget comparisons we could get together? It costs X to fertilize X amount of grass. We could save X on AC bills with windows that opened. “Green” cleaners may cost more, but then again, maybe not (I know we actually saved a little money using “green” cleaner here at home).

    Just wondering if maybe it’s the money that’s the driver for the city council, as opposed to just the morality of the issue.

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