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Tallahassee Kicks Off Sustainability Conference

Stephen Nakatani/ flickr

Community leaders, researchers and business owners are converging on Tallahassee this week for a conference on sustainable living.

With unseasonable temperatures, historic floods, and sea levels on the rise, people across the country are feeling the effects of climate change. But this week, Tallahassee is hosting a sustainability conference to examine how people can promote conservation in their own lives.

“Most of our mission at the Root Cellar stems into a healthy ecology. The long term goal is that my three year old daughter has some nice, healthy oceans, maybe a nice, healthy Wakulla Springs to continually swim in, and nice clean water to drink when she’s older,” he said.

That’s Reuben Fields, owner of local farm to table restaurant the Miccosukee Root Cellar. Whether it’s a box of Cheerios or a burger and fries, many Americans don’t really know what’s in their food. Reuben says there are consequences when we don’t know where that food comes from.

“And then there’s the true cost of cheap food, which is something we want to address. You’re paying for it now or you’re paying for it later,” he said.

Others are heading into the bays and backwaters, to sustain one of Florida’s signature industries. Apalachicola oysters are known throughout the country, but because of floods, droughts and overharvesting, the oyster beds are failing. Bob Ballard is trying to bring oysters back to the Panhandle, in a new way.

“We were hoping to sell farm raised, or ranch raised oysters. We call it a ranch instead of farm because these are live animals. These are not tomatoes. So we have oyster ranchers,” he said.

Ballard heads the oyster aquaculture program at the Wakulla Environmental Institute. He takes students out into the bays, and teaches them how to grow oysters sustainably. Ballard’s program won’t save the wild Apalachicola oysters, or the people who gather them. But his ranch-raised bivalves could help.                         

“One of the benefits is each oyster, each three inch oyster, filters out fifty gallons of water a day, fifty gallons. And cleans fifty gallons of water a day,” he said.

For those who aren’t swayed by the environmental impacts, Tom Cordi of Sustainable Tallahassee says conservation makes good business sense.

“Basically, you’ve heard the expression that if environmentalists win, then business loses. Or the economy suffers when environmentalists win. We want to try to show that that’s not really true, and that there is a compelling business case to be made for taking sustainable business practices into your business,” he said.

Cordi says sustainable businesses cut costs and attract new customers.

“By using sustainability to drive innovation, new products become more effective, more desirable to customers, and thus more profitable. More savings, more innovations, more customers, more money,” he said.

The conference wraps up Wednesday.