Summer is typically a time to regroup, re-refresh and plan for “Season”.  But summer 2020 has been different.  Because the spring was spent reorganizing and reprioritizing activities and projects in response to COVID-19, this summer we’ve pressed forward to make up lost ground.  Growing Climate Solutions has worked steadily to firmly establish itself in the Southwest Florida community. We are meeting and engaging new partners and expanding our communications on social media and through the newsletter.  We also continue to work with our Leadership Circle partners and to further develop climate-focused education, propose operational policy reform ideas and encourage project investments.  By the end of August, we expect to have scheduled our first round of partner Zoom calls in an effort to foster more collaboration and cohesion among our Leadership Circle partners.

Growing Climate Solution is excited to welcome Naples-based John Wood Properties and All Faiths Unitarian Universalist Church of Ft. Myers as Leadership Circle Partners, and Climate Lobby and Sierra Club of Southwest Florida as Allied Organizations.  Engaging companies involved in southwest Florida’s real estate sector is important to promoting a resilient built environment.  All Faith UU and the two allied organizations have been at the forefront of climate advocacy for years and can offer expertise on community engagement, as well as introductions to potential partner groups. If your organization is willing to lead on climate solutions, consider joining our Leadership Circle. We will be glad to tell you more about the plans for our evolving network.

June and July saw the bump in our number of social media engagements and newsletter readers.  Our social media following has grown to over 350 followers, with our SWFL Climate Ambassadors posting interesting facts and perspectives on climate issues, and our Twitter account recognized by other climate organizations in the state.  Several of the FGCU students that participated in the SWFL Climate Ambassador program have told us that harnessing the power of social media for climate engagement has been personally rewarding and impactful in their social circles.  The June Newsletter reached approximately 260 people, over half of the recipients open the email.  We hope that if you read this activity summary, you’ll take the time to read the other articles, each which presents dimensions of climate solutions.

Our Leadership Circle Partners are also advancing on climate actions.  On July 9th, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida announced breaking ground on a $4.5 million renovation and expansion of the Susan and William Dalton Discovery Center.  The new John and Carol Walter Wing will feature a digital Climate Change Gallery that will present worldwide climate data sets visually. Temple Beth El in south Ft. Myers is moving forward on the next phase of their Temple Preserve this summer.  On weekends throughout July and August, volunteers and OneTree.org will be planting native shrubs and establishing paths through the six-acre preserve space off Winkler Road.  If you want to help, contact Wil at OneTree.org for more information.

Growing Climate Solutions is also assembling stakeholder groups in Immokalee to potentially plant trees in residential neighborhoods with a thin tree canopy. This project dovetails the larger tree planting initiatives the Community Foundation of Collier County that has funded trees for the Immokalee Sports Complex. We also challenged our Leadership Circle Partner companies with employees to reconsider or improve their remote work and telecommuting policies.   Leveraging workplace adaptations to COVID-19, Growing Climate Solutions is suggesting companies permit more employees to work remotely one or two days a week going forward. This would reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, Florida’s largest emission sector and have multiple benefits, as discussed in our recent blog.  Siemens has recently made remote work the new normal, and Scientific America has written about the research being done to assess the benefits of these policies. To date, none of our partners have responded to our climate action suggestion, but we understand that change takes time. Could we create a “workgroup” to explore this opportunity more thoroughly?  Finally, we are planning to convene a couple of ZOOM calls with partners in different economic sectors in late August. We hope our Leadership Circle partners can participate in these virtual meetings to help identify synergistic collaborative efforts we can undertake and ways to amplify Growing Climate Solutions’ impact.