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Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge announces finalists in blue economy competition

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation (GCCF) has announced five finalists in the Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge competitive grant opportunity. Thirty teams submitted proposals that focus on key issues surrounding the “blue economy” of Florida’s Gulf Coast, including seafood sustainability, eco-restoration, marine-based medicine and technology. 

The following teams were chosen to proceed to the next stage of the challenge with their proposals to sustain and stimulate our blue economy:
  • Advanced Solar-Powered Filtration Technology for Marine and Freshwater 
  • Antibiotics from the Sea 
  • Cancer Therapies from Sharks 
  • Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast: Sustainable Seafood System 
  • Taking Back the Lion’s Share

“Gulf Coast selected these five finalists because of the potential for their business solutions to have a real economic impact in our region,” says GCCF Director of Marketing and Communications Greg Luberecki. “We engaged a panel of experts to review all of the applications, along with Gulf Coast staff. … It will be up to the finalists to now show us how they can positively affect our blue economy and provide a community benefit in the process.” 

Challenge finalists “Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast” and “Taking Back the Lion’s Share” will explore fishery-based solutions for native mullet and invasive lionfish, respectively, to restore and sustain the marine ecosystem and economy of the Gulf of Mexico. 

“Cancer Therapies from Sharks” and “Antibiotics from the Sea,” two projects backed by Mote Marine scientists, explore the biomedical potential of sharks and marine bacterial organisms to develop medical treatment options to fight cancer and infections. 

“Advanced Solar-Powered Filtration Technology for Marine and Freshwater,” another Mote-backed project, seeks to refine solar-powered filters to provide affordable, clean water around the world.

Read more about the Challenge competition is this 83 Degrees feature.

The GCCF has awarded each finalist team a grant of $25,000 to develop a prototype and refine its business plan, which the foundation’s judging panel will review in November. The winning team will be awarded a grant of up to $375,000 from the GCCF to fully develop its blue economy solution. In the meantime, Luberecki says the public is encouraged to follow the finalists on the Gulf Coast Challenge website as they make periodic progress updates. 

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation recognized Innovation Challenge team “Living Shorelines” for having the most online votes and community support. The foundation awarded the team a $5,000 People’s Choice Award grant to pursue its seawall restoration proposal.

“All of the ideas submitted for the Innovation Challenge had merit. Each was original and rooted in great thought,” Luberecki says. 

“We have seen momentum build behind several that weren’t named finalists, and Gulf Coast will do what it can to help propel those ideas as well. That’s a great byproduct of this challenge: We are focused on our five finalists moving forward, but the other teams have had a great platform to promote their ideas, and many have garnered real interest outside of our challenge.”

Tarpon Springs launches new water treatment system

Tarpon Springs is the latest Tampa Bay area community turning to an alternative water treatment system to ensure that residents have a safe, affordable supply of drinking water far into the future.

A new reverse osmosis water treatment facility is designed to take brackish or slightly salty groundwater from the Floridan aquifer and send it through a series of filtration systems and treatments to make it safe to drink.

The project has been in the planning stages since 2002, when the city first undertook a feasibility study. It was approved by a local voter referendum in 2006 and groundbreaking took place in 2013. The Southwest Florida Water Management District provided $20.1 million in funding.

Combined with city-owned fresh groundwater treatment facilities, the new reverse osmosis treatment facility will boost Tarpon Spring’s water supply to 5 million gallons of drinking water per day, a quantity that is expected to meet the city’s water needs for the next 20 years, say city officials.

In comparison, the previous system relied on water purchased from Pinellas County and Tampa Bay Water, along with city-owned fresh groundwater treatment facilities, to deliver some 3.2 million gallons daily.

According to Judy Staley, City of Tarpon Springs Research and Information Officer, construction of the reverse osmosis water treatment facility will allow Tarpon Springs to achieve greater water supply independence and more local control over costs, water quality and planning for future needs.

Earlier this summer, Clearwater cut the ribbon on its own reverse osmosis water treatment facility – the second one that is now in operation in that community. In addition, Clearwater is undertaking a pioneering project that will recharge the Florida aquifer with up to 3 million gallons per day of reclaimed water that’s been purified to higher than drinking water quality. Tracy Mercer, Director of Public Utilities for the City of Clearwater, says that project “is like banking water for the future.”

Tampa also announced plans this summer for a proposed project that would allow the city’s reclaimed water to be filtered naturally over time through SWFWMD wetlands.  That project still requires permitting and is not expected to be completed until some time in 2020.

Tampa hotels plan to conserve millions of gallons of water by 2016

Local hotels and motels could begin to conserve 5 million gallons of water by 2016 – all without impacting the guest experience.

The Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association (HCHMA) has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) WaterSense H2Otel Challenge Initiative. Through a voluntary effort, HCHMA aims to reduce water consumption in the Tampa Bay area lodging industry.

“We have a unique opportunity to have our larger hotels lead the way in this effort,” HCHMA Executive Director Bob Morrison said in a news release.

Clearwater-based Terlyn Industries, which specializes in industrial water treatment, will help HCHMA “modify existing building cooling systems in such a way that those properties will see significant improvements in water consumption efficiencies,” Morrison explains.

Large hotels use cooling towers to treat the condensation water that gathers in central air conditioning units. The towers can account for 25 percent of a hotel’s total water use, so updating them to operate more efficiently can decrease energy and water consumption.

Terlyn Industries is offering Tampa Bay hoteliers a complimentary cooling tower water conservation study. For more information, visit the conservation study website.

HCHMA, which represents county hotels, motels and resorts, was initially organized in 1937. Prior to setting the goal of conserving five million gallons of water by 2016 for the EPA’s WaterSense H2O Challenge, HCHMA members made voluntary water conservation efforts through the Water Conservation Hotel and Motel Program. The “Water CHAMP” effort was developed through a partnership between Hillsborough County, Southwest Florida Water Management District, and the City of Tampa; it focused on efforts to conserve water through retrofitting toilets and faucets in local hotels, as well as designating towel and linen reuse programs.

WaterSense H2Otel Challenge Initiative program participants must register to “ACT” with the EPA: assess water usage, change products or processes when necessary, and track results. 

Study finds Tampa Bay seagrass growth, bottom health improving

In any body of water, the benthic zone, or bottom layer, can be considered a good indicator of the water body’s overall health.

A 20-year study of Tampa Bay’s benthic ecological region shows that as a whole, Tampa Bay's waters are in fair-to-good condition. 

Middle and Lower Tampa Bay, which comprise over 50 percent of Tampa Bay’s surface area, were rated “Good.”

Hillsborough Bay and some of the smaller or more heavily urbanized bodies of water within Tampa Bay (including Boca Ciega Bay, Terra Ceia Bay and Manatee River) were ranked “Poor.” Old Tampa Bay was rated “Fair.”

The 20-Year Tampa Bay Benthic Community Trends Study, released by the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County, was conducted from 1993-2012. Ratings were determined using criteria from the EPA’s National Coastal Assessment program and the Tampa Bay Benthic Index.

For two decades, random samples were collected at more than 1,500 sites across Tampa Bay’s main segments, which total just shy of 400 square miles. The samples were taken in late summer and then processed in the EPC’s labs.

Sampling data monitored animal communities in the Bay (over 1,500 invertebrate animal species were identified); sediment composition and contaminants (heavy metals, pesticides, etc.); salinity; temperature; pH levels, and more.

The study found that the majority of Tampa Bay sediments at the bottom layer do not contain high levels of contaminants; exceptional sites with higher contaminant levels were primarily found in Hillsborough Bay. 

The collection and processing of data for the study was initiated two decades ago by the Tampa Bay National Estuary Program (TBEP), and continues today as a cooperative effort between Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas counties.

Study results reveal continued improvement in Tampa Bay’s “fair to good” regions, Dr. David Karlen, the EPC Chief Environmental Scientist who authored the report, explained in a news release.

“Baywide, we’ve seen improvement in the benthic index, which is an overall summary of all species,” Karlen says.

Along with Karlen, report authors include Kevin W. Campbell; Dr. Thomas L. Dix; Barbara K. Goetting; Joette M. Jernigan; and Sara E. Markham.

The report includes recommendations for the future monitoring of benthic communities in Tampa Bay, although additional funding is required to support continued analysis and monitoring programs.

Recommendations include:
  • Special study of some sites within Tampa Bay, including Port Tampa Bay (which contains Ybor and Sparkman Channels and Garrison Channel), East Bay, Clam Bayou and Bayboro Harbor.
  • Increased monitoring of river and tidal tributary systems, low salinity areas that serve as nursery areas for many species. These include the Hillsborough, Palm, Alafia and Little Manatee Rivers. Known high sediment contaminants in several rivers could have potential impacts.
  • Expanding lab analysis to include newer sediment contaminants, such as microplastics.
"The benthic report gives us insight into the legacy (longterm) contaminants that can be found in the sediment," TBEP senior scientist Ed Sherwood says in a news release.

Problem areas indicated by the benthic report will help to guide the estuary program, determine the next step in special studies, track long-term trends in the benthic community and form management policy, Sherwood says.

Another indicator that Tampa Bay is in good shape: seagrass is flourishing. Like a benthic ecological region, seagrasses can be a good measure of a body of water’s overall health. In the case of Tampa Bay, it's on the rise.

St. Petersburg electrical company adds 60 jobs

Sixty new jobs are coming to Pinellas County as a national, family-run electrical contracting business expands its headquarters in St. Petersburg.

Power Design, Inc. is investing more than $3 million in its building expansion, which will house the new employees.

“We already have 70,000-square-feet of space at our headquarters in Pinellas, we are expanding on the adjacent property,” says  Lauren Permuy, VP of Business Development at Power Design, Inc..

The company, which currently has more than 130 active projects around the country, offers clients a variety of specialties including design build, construction services, engineering, systems expertise and lighting needs.

Founded in 1989, the company has been very successful with 100,000 projects under its belt, and an accumulative revenue exceeding $2 billion. Many of the buildings the company most recently worked on, are featured on the organization's website, and some of them have also received LEED certification.

To meet the growing demand for the company's skilled craftsmanship, and client needs, the company is in need of adept workers.

According to Permuy, the company is looking for individuals with an expertise in engineering and pre-construction, and is not wasting time getting these positions filled.

“We have already started to hire, and hope to have all spaces filled by the end of 2015,” she says.

Power Design Inc., is located at 11600 Ninth Street North in St. Petersburg. Those interested in applying for employment opportunities can view open positions by visiting the company website

Aerial adventure park to open in Dade City, Pasco County

A new aerial adventure park, complete with zip lines and rope bridges, is set to open in Dade City in Pasco County this summer.

TreeHoppers will boast a wide variety of zip lines that cater to various skill levels, multiple rope bridges and dozens of aerial climbing elements on a 60-acre wooded park about 40 miles northwest of Tampa.

Indiana-based White River Zip Lines purchased the land in spring 2015 and will develop the TreeHoppers adventure park on the property, which also features a five-acre lake and a canopy of live oak trees.

Jon Pianki, TreeHoppers director of marketing, says that Tampa Bay’s good weather and tourist-friendly attitude are the primary reasons the area was selected for the new Treehoppers location.

“We are hoping this combination will help us build an attraction that is both an asset to the surrounding community as well as a draw to outside guests and customers,” Pianki explains. “Tampa Bay is a vibrant, growing community that wants more options to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty nature has to offer.”

With eight different courses that cater to various skill levels and over 100 total features, there’s something for everyone, Pianki says. “Small children, experienced athletes, and everyone in-between will find a right course for their comfort level.”

Visitors will receive safety instruction from trained climbing monitors and be provided with safety climbing technology before embarking on any of the courses.

TreeHoppers will begin hiring for fulltime and part-time positions by mid-June, with jobs ranging from shop staff and customer service to guides and monitors. Visit TreeHoppers website to learn more or apply.

The park is expected to open in August, but Pianki is already looking ahead to the Fall, when the park is planning a Halloween attraction “like no other in the area.”

Located at 27839 Saint Joe Road in Dade City, TreeHoppers will be open year-round, seven days a week.

“We are thrilled to offer this new experience to the Tampa Bay area,” TreeHoppers CEO Benjamin Nagengast says in a press release. “Our team carefully and thoughtfully selected Tampa Bay for our newest attraction and we can’t wait to introduce TreeHoppers to the community. There is nothing like it anywhere in Florida.”

The aerial zip line and adventure park joins several high-rise outdoor adventure courses in the Tampa Bay area:

TreeUmph, 21805 S.R. 70 E., Bradenton

TreeUmph, located in Bradenton near Lakewood Ranch, opened in December 2012 and features a zip line that starts at 60 feet in elevation and rockets over a 600-foot-long course across the park.

TreeUmph is expanding to a second location in Hernando County in fall 2016. The new park will offer around 80 obstacles on a 50-acre area.

Sky Trail Zip Line, MOSI, 4801 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa

In the university area’s Innovation District, Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI Tampa) boasts its own spin on the aerial adventure: the Sky Trail Zip Line at MOSI, a 65-foot high course that is more than 700 feet long (longer than two football fields put together!).

Along with the zip line, MOSI offers a multilevel ropes course that is safe for kids and adults of all ages to explore.

Natures Boot Camp, 11914 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa

Natures Boot Camp invites extreme athletes and adventure course enthusiasts to train at their outdoor obstacle course, centrally located in Tampa’s Carrollwood neighborhood.

Try out a sprint style obstacle course with over 14 obstacles,  a Mud Run that culminates in a 15-foot jump, and more extreme activities.

New Tampa Nature Park, 17599 Dona Michelle Drive, Tampa

New Tampa Nature Park, which connects with Hillsborough County’s Flatwoods Park, is a low-key place to enjoy nature from above. Find zip-lining courses for kids, a climbing area, shaded trails, and more.

The 122-acre park also offers an elevated boardwalk and marsh walk that allows visitors to experience a wetland habitat from above.

Buy a pair (or a mat), plant a tree: Tampa company seeks crowdfunding

Two new must-have meditation accessories for yogis are being developed in Tampa, Florida.

Gurus sandals, inspired by “an ancient wooden sandal” that Prem Thomas bought in India around 2011, have resonated among yogis online, Thomas says.

“Mainly on Instagram."

Thomas and his Gurus cofounder, Joe Choorapuzha, loved the sleek, simple design of the wooden sandals, their place in Indian history and the story that Mahatma Gandhi wore them.

The duo set out to build upon the minimal sandal and “make a product that is superior to flip-flops, but still retains the design of the original Indian version,” Thomas explains.

The result is a natural rubber sandal, sustainably sourced and hand-processed from rubber trees -- a practice that can continue for up to 25 years without harming the tree. 

The $30 sandal comes in a variety of colors, accompanied by a natural-fiber jute bag that features a Gandhi quote. Currently, Gurus sandals can be found online or at retailers such as surf shops, theme parks, salons, yoga studios and boutiques.

The cofounders place emphasis on producing and packaging products sustainably. The Guru sandal is biodegradable, making it a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional plastic or foam flip-flops and sandals. To help promote the pair’s commitment to sustainability, a tree is planted in the developing world each time a product is sold.

“At the end of the day, a lot of companies can make new products and sell thousands or millions of sandals,” Thomas says. “We think if we can plant thousands or millions of trees, that’s a little more special.”

A successfully funded Kickstarter campaign ($16,236 pledged) helped bring Gurus to life. After the success of the sandal, brand ambassadors for the company wondered whether the cofounders could develop a yoga mat using the same type of natural rubber.

Thomas and Choorapuzha developed a solution: natural rubber topped with a layer of cork. A Kickstarter campaign for the cork yoga mat ends on Friday, May 22, at 1 p.m.

Click here to back this project.

At prices that range from $80 to $115 (up to half off for pledge backers), the campaign slogan reads, “Experience a no-slip, natural yoga mat that costs less than your yoga pants!”

“The mat is pretty amazing,” Thomas says, “and will even work when it is drenched with water or sweat, allowing yoga practitioners to do hot bikram yoga without a towel.”

If the Kickstarter goal is met, backers can expect to receive their mats in August 2015.

Thomas and Choorapuzha are “pretty confident” that the Kickstarter goal of $20,000 for the Gurus cork yoga mat will be met. But even if the crowdfunding target is not met, “we will most likely end up producing it in some form,” Thomas says.

“We think it’s an amazing product, and there is a market need from consumers and studios.”

Thomas, who grew up in Tampa, has worked in finance in the Philippines and with a civic venture capital fund in New York City. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before working as an investment banker for Bank of America, where he met Choorapuzha.

Choorapuzha, an MBA student at the University of Pennsylvania, grew up in Pittsburgh, PA before attending Columbia University. Prior to cofounding Gurus, Choorapuzha worked with an investment fund in NYC.

Along with CEO Thomas and president Choorapuzha, Gurus employs six independent sales representatives and a distributor in Australia and Canada. The company plans to hire another employee in the field of marketing or design, and is seeking interns in Tampa beginning in summer 2015.

“As our company grows, it will be great to build a larger team locally to support that growth,” Thomas says.

With $1 million at stake, UT students take on urban slums

A student team has earned the University of Tampa the distinction of being the only university in the United States to secure a spot in the final round of competition for the 2015 Hult Prize. Up for grabs: $1 million in seed funding to the winning team.

The Hult Prize Foundation is a nonprofit that focuses its efforts on solving world issues through challenging young, social and eco-conscious entrepreneurs to come up with innovative ideas.  The challenge, this year, was to develop an idea that would meet the goal of educating 10 million children in urban slums by 2020.

UT’s student team, Athollo, joined other competitors from across the globe, including another team from UT, to address the issue of early childhood education – or lack thereof - in urban slums. The team aims to use mobile phones as the key component in providing top quality early childhood education to children from the ages of 0-6 who are living in the urban slums of developing nations.

Inspired by the educational theme, the team name derives from the Greek god of wisdom, Athena, combined with the Greek god of knowledge, Apollo. Founder and Chief Visionary Officer Phil Michaels explains that the team’s mission is to ”endeavor to alleviate the inaccessibility of education around the world.”

Athollo won first place in the San Francisco regional competition, one of six Hult Prize regional locations around the world. Along with the other regional winners, the team will attend a 6-week accelerator over the summer. In September, the teams will then head to NYC to present in front of President Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual meeting.

One team will be named winner, and earn $1M in seed capital funding.

If Athollo wins the Hult Prize competition, Michaels says, the team will “funnel the seed capital funding into providing salaries for their employees, developing an app, subsidizing marketing efforts and other operating expenses.”

“Tampa is the next wave of social entrepreneurs!” says Michaels, who also serves as the UT campus director for the Hult Prize. “I never doubted the ability of our university’s young social entrepreneurs to address this pressing challenge intelligently and thoughtfully.”

Athollo is comprised of six enterprising UT students:
  • Michaels, a dual degree-seeking student (MBA in Entrepreneurship and MS in Marketing) at UT and self-described serial entrepreneur.
  • Chief Social Capital Marketing Officer Sercan Topcu is an MS (Marketing) student at UT. Chief Education Officer Brittany Brescia is a dual-degree seeking student in Education and English at UT.
  • CFO Ulixes Hawili is an honors student at UT pursuing a dual degree in Mathematics and Economics.
  • COO Ravi Goldberg is an honors student at UT who is majoring in Entrepreneurship and minoring in Leadership and Business Analytics.
  • Akingbolahan Akinwumi, Chief Cultural Officer, M.D. is pursuing an MBA.
A second UT team, BamBoost, came in second at the Boston regional competition, but they aren’t out of the running for the $1 million yet.

This year, any participating teams can compete for a wild card spot in the final competition by earning the most money in an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign. To date, BamBoost has earned about 60 percent of their goal of $20,000. Click here to learn more or to donate to their crowd-funding campaign.

Athollo is also seeking donations via crowdfunding website GoFundMe; the team hopes to raise $53,000 to implement a pilot study in sub-Saharan Africa. Click here to learn more or to donate to their crowd-funding campaign

“I am incredibly proud of the hard work that both teams have put into their efforts to educate impoverished children in urban slums that need it most,” Michaels says. “It is a humbling experience to watch them grow into the business pioneers they were destined to become while changing the lives of millions of people in the process.”

Hillsborough Community College sacks recycling apathy

If you happened to step foot on the Ybor City campus of Hillsborough Community College (HCC) during the week leading up to Earth Day on April 22, perhaps you noticed some students were carrying around more than just their backpacks. Biology Professor Paul Rabaut gave some of his students a most unusual assignment. As an extra credit task, he asked them to carry a trash bag for a week, throwing their garbage into the bag. 

The goal? “I wanted them to be inconvenienced by their waste and realize the burden it creates in the community and on our planet,” says Rabaut. 

To ensure his students were staying on track with the project, under the heading of a sustainability initiative called HCCthinksgreen, he required them to check in via Twitter three times a day and post using the hashtag #TrashBag. Rabaut says 80 to 90 students participated in the event, with many even drawing faces or cartoons on their trash bags. 

“The bags really proved to be conversation starters with other students on campus,” he comments. “The idea was to make everyone feel comfortable about carrying around a trash bag on campus and encourage others to partake in the project.” 

Not only did the weeklong project, which started on April 16, catch on with several faculty and staff members, but some local businesses also took interest. “Fit2Run – The Runner’s Superstore, which operates a location at International Plaza, engaged with the initiative on Twitter and started following us.” He hopes the event, which was in its first year, will expand to the other HCC campuses throughout Hillsborough County. Rabaut, who masterminded the project and even runs his own composting maggot farm at his home, refers to the #TrashBag initiative as his “baby” and says he will certainly promote the event more heavily next year. 

HCC Marketing and Public Relations Manager Angela Walters says the event helped her realize how much trash she produces on a weekly basis. 

“It really made me stop and think about how much waste I created,” she remarks. “It’s quite interesting carrying around a bag of trash for a week.”

The #TrashBag event culminated on Earth Day at the HCC Ybor City campus, when the participants were to turn in their bags. Rabaut and Walters both said that around 20 students did so, but some had only a few items in their bags. 

“Throughout the duration of the project, students were encouraged to throw food waste into a compost pile and recyclable items such as plastic bottles and aluminum cans into appropriate receptacles, which we have around the campus,” says Rabaut. While there wasn’t a final tally on precisely how much trash was collected by all participants during the week, Rabaut believes the active engagement from the students was the greatest result of the project. “Many students spread the message to parents, friends, and others and helped get them involved, too.”

Walters adds, “This project shows that small steps can make a huge impact.”

Enchanted Earth: An evening with world-renowned explorers at the Tampa Theatre

Two internationally recognized female explorers with roots in Tampa Bay are coming back to the area for a one-night discussion at one of downtown Tampa’s most iconic venues. With the historic starry sky of the Tampa Theatre serving as the backdrop. “Enchanted Earth, An Evening with Sylvia Earle and Margaret ‘Canopy Meg’ Lowman” will take place on April 30.

Susan Giles Wantuck, a host, producer and reporter for WUSF Public Radio, will host the special one-evening event with Earle and Lowman, who are two of America’s most beloved explorers and conservationists.

Earle, who founded Mission Blue and is currently an Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society, began diving in the Gulf of Mexico while growing up in Clearwater. These early adventures helped inspire her career in deep-sea exploration and ocean advocacy. View Earle’s TED talk here.

Lowman, a former CEO of Marie Selby Gardens who founded the Sarasota-based TREE Foundation, is currently the Chief of Science and Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences. She also served as Climate Science Advisor to Florida CFO Alex Sink under then-Gov. Charlie Crist, and as Director of Environmental Sciences for New College Florida.

Both women are renowned scientists, speakers and authors whose conservation work has helped make them role models for women in science, technology and innovation worldwide.

Explorers and conservationists are especially important to the Tampa Bay area, Wantuck explains, because “we need scientists to help us to understand what is happening with our environment, so we can be more responsible caretakers. I’m a Floridian by birth and I know there is no place else in the world like it."

"Enchanted Earth: An evening with Sylvia Earle and Margaret ‘Canopy Meg’ Lowman'' will start April 30 at 7 p.m. at the historic Tampa Theatre, 711 N. Franklin St. A portion of the proceeds from Enchanted Earth will benefit the global conservation and public engagement work of Mission Blue and TREE Foundation.

“Anyone who is curious about the wide world” should consider attending, Wantuck says.

"There’s so much ground to cover, I just hope we can squeeze it all in," she says. “If you are coming to Enchanted Earth, please bring your questions, because we want to hear what’s on your mind.”

Tickets for Enchanted Earth are on sale now at the Tampa Theatre Box Office. GA seating is $30, student tickets are $26.50 (day-of show sales only), and VIP seating is $65. VIP tickets include a pre-show reception with Earle and Lowman at Spain Restaurant, 513 N. Tampa St., from 5-6:30 pm, as well as reserved seating at the show. 

After the intimate disucssion, Earle and Lowman will sign copies of their books, which can be purchased in advance through the bookstore at Oxford Exchange or by calling (813) 253-0222 (ext. 4). There will also be limited quantities available for purchase at the event.

USF Tampa wins green awards for renewable energy project

When Hometalk, the largest home improvement and garden how-to online network, wanted to offer readers cool eco-friendly and sustainable ideas for green living, they turned to the nation’s universities and colleges.  

“We decided who better to reach out to for great ideas than colleges students,” says Tikva Morrow, editor of Hometalk.  

A renewable energy project at the University of South Florida was among five projects selected by Hometalk staff as the best examples across the country for “green living initiatives” that readers could duplicate at home or work, says Morrow.

“Hometalk has a large audience and our readers are real people who want to find better ways of living that help the environment.” Says Morrow.  “It’s all about changing the world by helping people change their daily practices.”

USF’s project, called Renew-a-Bull-Biodiesel, is a student designed, operated and maintained project in which students pay a voluntary green energy fee toward the cost of turning dining hall waste oil into biodiesel to run university buses.  David Townsend, USF student and co-project leader, said the program is a “prime example of the efforts made at USF to reduce the university’s carbon footprint.”

While Morrow points out that readers might not easily develop their own biodiesel, they could reduce their carbon footprint with simple green practices, such as turning off lights and adding better insulation to reduce electric bills and using green cleaning products that are better for the environment.

To identify the top college green living initiatives, Hometalk staff researched sources that included the Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges. USF was one of only 22 schools in Princeton Review’s 2014 Green Honor Roll.

From several hundred possible university projects, the Hometalk staff then narrowed the list to 25 potential finalists. The next step was to reach out to the various schools and talk with student leaders who were running the projects, says Morrow.  After much discussion, the final five were named.  

The other university projects selected included a campus farm at Duke University in North Carolina; a water conservation program at Stanford University in California; a recycling program at Green Mountain College in Vermont ; and a green living program called Ecovillage at Berea College in Kentucky.

Hometalk’s designation is not the only green accolade that USF has earned in the last year. Sierra Magazine ranked USF seventh out of 173 schools in the annual Sierra “Cools School” green list. USF’s 20,000-watt solar charging station for electric vehicles was mentioned as an example of an outstanding green initiative.

AIA Tampa Bay gives community a choice in Design Awards

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Tampa Bay is letting the public decide part of its Design Awards program with the People’s Choice category.

AIA Tampa Bay is an association for professionals in the architecture field that provides educational programs, community service and serves as the voice of the profession.

The Annual Design Awards Competition recognizes architectural design accomplishments and service. Design entries can be built or unbuilt projects of all types and sizes. Individuals or firms must be located in the Tampa Bay region, or designs must be planned/built in the region. Categories include: Built Commercial, Built Residential, Unbuilt Instutitional/Commercial, Historic Renovation and Urban Design.

"Our ultimate goal is to reinforce good design in the community," says Carlos Molnar, Co-chair of the Design Awards and owner of Sol Design in Ybor City. "We want to demonstrate the benefit of the architect in the process of construction."

The People’s Choice voting allows the community to select their favorite from a total of 57 projects submitted by Tampa Bay-area architecture firms, teams and students. Entries include the  Westin Puntacana Resort & Club in the Dominican Republic, Ulele Restaurant in Tampa, USF St. Petersburg’s Student Center and TIA’s main terminal modernization program.

A new aspect of this year’s People’s Choice Awards is the addition of a site called Behance which allows people to share a link to projects they want to vote for. Each submission has its own page with a voting option at the bottom.

AIA also plans to allow voting at the Awards Ceremony on November 6, providing an interactive experience including slideshows of submissions.

Online voting closes November 6.

Tampa Water Taxi adds Riverwalk ferry service

Tampa Water Taxi Company, LLC plans to add a continuous loop through the Tampa Riverwalk to its transportation lineup.  

Now going into its seventh year of operation, the company was founded by Capt. Laurence (Larry) Salkin, who was shocked when he moved to Tampa and found a city with a large amount of area surrounded by water that had very little water-based activities. Salkin wanted to show off the city from a different vantage point, to residents and visitors alike.

"Our water is a diamond. It’s a gem," says Salkin. "The views of Tampa from the water are like no views you can get from anywhere on land."

The biggest compliment during his tenure with the company was from a 96-year-old seventh generation Tampa resident, stating that he never knew the city looked this beautiful.

The company offers regular public tours of the water surrounding Tampa’s downtown, including a city overview called "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Tampa," history tours, and year-round dolphin tours.There are also sunset and nightlife tours, featuring the lighted bridges.

They also provide private charters for parties and weddings, and transportation to and from Davis and Harbour Islands to Amelia Arena for Tampa Bay Lightning games and concerts. The four boats seating 30 people each have transported as many as 400 people during a single event, lightning the traffic congestion.

The company is planning a new ferry service for the Tampa Riverwalk, which is scheduled for completion by the end of November. The ferry will run a continuous loop along the Riverwalk Friday afternoon through the weekend, with the ability to get on and off at stops along the way. The goal is to charge a minimal cost for riders and obtain sponsorship to cover expenses.

Eckerd College focuses on climate science solutions

A summit held at Eckerd College on October 6th aimed to not only educate about climate science but also focus on tangible solutions.

The event grew out of a conversation with Governor Rick Scott in which he indicated that as a non-scientist he could not understand the dynamics of climate science. Rather, he urged scientists to focus on solutions. Knowing how important the topic is, faculty members at Eckerd decided to organize an event to explain it in a way that both scientists and non-scientists can rally behind.

In Florida especially, issues like rising sea level and a predicted increase in the severity and frequency of hurricanes pose real threats to health and safety.

"We’re really the ground zero for the impacts of climate change," says David Hastings, Ph.D. professor of marine science and chemistry at Eckerd College. "As scientists, we’re not just interested in focusing on the science but also in identifying the solutions that will mitigate the worst impact."

Solutions include both short and long term changes that will not only create new business opportunities but jobs as well. Entrepreneurs can explore innovative ways to use solar power as an alternative energy source. Another opportunity lies with using algae to create biofuels.

Eckerd hopes to bring forth the message that not only is an enhanced focus on climate change needed at the policy and business level, but there are also things individuals can be doing to reduce energy consumption such as installing more energy efficient windows and roofs.

The summit was hosted in partnership with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Clearwater Continues Greening Efforts With LED Streetlights

Residents of Clearwater will soon have softer streetlights and fewer outages as a result of the City’s latest efforts to go green.

The City is replacing the standard incandescent light bulbs in all 11,290 streetlights with LED bulbs. The new bulbs will produce the same amount of light, but use less energy and last longer.

"In light of the city’s green policy, we wanted to say the whole city is green and reduce the carbon footprint," says Paul Bertels, traffic operations manager for the City of Clearwater. "It’s important to the City Council and to the residents that we try to do everything we can to reduce our impact on the environment."

The major benefit from the move will be less outages. Standard bulbs typically have to be replaced every 18 months. The new LED bulbs will last an average of seven years before outage problems are experienced.

The decision was made by the City of Clearwater and Duke Energy, which currently provides maintenance for the streetlights. In a true public-private partnership, the bulbs will be funded by Duke Energy, so the replacement will be at no cost to citizens. Duke’s costs will be reduced due to less frequent maintenance.

Residents will mainly notice the white color of the lights vs. the orange color of the current bulbs. They will also notice a lot more stability with the less frequent outages.

The move is part of the city’s overall efforts to go green, which include a full service citywide recycling program, streetscaping, and water management.

"Clearwater has always been a very progressive place, and I think this policy on being green fits right in line with that thinking," says Bertels.

The project will begin in the Northeast quadrant of the city, with an estimated citywide completion in 18 months.   

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Paul Bertels, City of Clearwater
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