Lessening the environmental footprint

TradeWinds Island Grand Resort on St. Pete Beach is known for its eco-friendly presence in the community. From reusable hand towels in the restrooms to air-conditioning units that automatically turn off when a patio door is opened, the beach resort lives by the Green Lodging lifestyle.

TradeWinds employee, Jessica Leonard, is taking that to a whole new level. In June, Leonard created the TradeWinds Eco Team (TWEC).

Jessica Leonard helped create the TradeWinds Eco Team geared toward lessening TradeWinds Island Grand Resort’s environmental footprint.photo by Courtney Aurich

Leonard is an internal communications and training coordinator at the resort. She is mainly responsible for the employee culture side of Human Resources. Part of her job includes enrolling employees in the Habitat for Humanity program. She’s in charge of getting TradeWinds employees to volunteer 200 hours building a house for another employee in need. Leonard is also an active volunteer and enjoys making a difference in the community and in the environment

“I value people. I think if somebody else is in need and I have … or if I can provide for myself and someone else can’t, who am I to not help them?” said Leonard.

Leonard often gives her change to war vets begging in the street. She has picked up the tab for a homeless man at local buffet. She finds joy in helping others.

Leonard’s generosity dates back to volunteering at a local animal shelter when she was a teenager

“They always needed your parents to go and it was really hard before 16,” said Leonard. She would push her mom to come with her, just as she pushes people at work at Habitat for Humanity.

Familiar with her inspiring ways, Leonard’s co-worker, Sophie Bajack, proposed the idea of starting a beach cleanup on St. Pete Beach.

“I shut her down right away,” said Leonard. “There’s not enough trash on this beach to make a tangible result. People are going to pick up two straws, and be like, ‘why the hell did I wake up early and come out to this?’ I said no.”

She did like the eco-friendly concept, however, and the idea of helping the environment. From that, the TWEC was born.

The TWEC, as described on the organization’s Facebook page, is an organization that plans to “lessen the footprint they leave on the environment” through education, teamwork and outreach. TWEC attempts this by preserving wildlife and maintaining clean waters.

Leonard and Bajack are the founders of the TWEC with TradeWinds is the sponsor. TradeWinds provides meeting spaces, snacks and merchandise giveaways for the organization and partner, Keep Pinellas Beautiful, donates gloves, safety equipment and cleaning supplies.

“There’s food. You get a free T-shirt that says, ‘Eco Team’ on it. It’s completely free,” said Leonard.

Recently, TWEC adopted its first sea turtle nest which will hatch anywhere from 68-102 eggs. They have also created their own beach cleanup that takes place twice a month.

The first beach cleanup was June 8.

“We picked up 68.9 pounds,” said Jessica. “We had like 25 garbage bags full. It was horrifying.”

Since then, TWEC has hosted beach cleanups every second Tuesday and fourth Saturday of the month. Pickups take place from 8-11 a.m. Volunteers begin at the TradeWinds Island Grand property and end at Guy Harvey Outpost Resort. Volunteers are as young as 7 years old and any employee or community member can attend.

“Last cleanup, we found a fire extinguisher, a knife, and a rolled-up dollar bill for — it was definitely a drug-related paraphernalia. You find a lot of condoms and just weird stuff,” said Leonard.

Eco team member, Victor Cifuentes, 28, believes in “lessening footprints” on and off the beach. At the bar where he works, he cuts six-pack rings before throwing them into the trash. Cifuentes worries the plastic rings will eventually end up on the beach and hurt sea life.

“You got to respect where you live,” said Cifuentes.

 

US needs stricter rules for sand mining

 

The Earth is running low on sand and gravel. Photo courtesy of Ashley Vedral

Sand and gravel are mined all over the world and used to create concrete for the structures and streets humans take advantage of every day. Manufacturing concrete is not the only thing sand and gravel are mined for and because of the continuously rising demand for sand, the world is beginning to run out.

An article by David Owen for The New Yorker states a beach volleyball tournament held in Toronto imported 35 semitruck loads of sand. In addition to the reporters eyewitness account, he also cites a study done in March 2014 by the U.N. Environmental Programme’s (UNEP) Global Environmental Alert Service regarding the fact that Earth is losing sand faster than the environment can naturally produce more.

“Globally, between 47 and 59 billion tons of material is mined every year, of which sand and gravel … account for both the largest share (from 68-85 percent) and the fastest extraction increase,” the UNEP study said. “Surprisingly, although more sand and gravel are mined than any other material, reliable data on their extraction in certain developed countries are available only for recent years. The absence of global data on aggregates mining makes environmental assessment very difficult and has contributed to the lack of awareness about this issue.”

The world’s demand for sand and gravel in construction projects is rising as humans construct roads and buildings while working to replenishing shorelines. Alone, China constructed approximately 90,968 miles of roadways in 2013.

“[C]ement demand by China has increased exponentially by 437.5 percent in 20 years, while use in the rest of the world increased by 59.8 percent. Each Chinese citizen is currently using 6.6 times more cement than a U.S. citizen,” the UNEP study said.

The study goes on to note that sand, once mined and extracted from land quarries, riverbeds and streams is now mined and extracted from the ocean and coastlands. Resources from inland areas are declining due to the over mining.

However, sand is still extracted from these areas. This is due in part to the lack of legislation regarding mining of sand and gravel. What follows is an excerpt from ThreeIssues.sdsu.edu which states U.S. law.

“Sandmining from streambeds in the U.S. is regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 33, Chapter 26, Subchapter IV, Section 1344: Permits for dredged or fill material),” it said. “Under this legislation, the government is authorized to deny or restrict the specification of any defined area as a disposal site, whenever it is determined, after notice and opportunity for public hearings, that the discharge of dredged or fill materials into such area will have an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas), wildlife, or recreational areas.”

The entirety of the law can be found here. The law shows that the U.S. is able to issue permits, however, there is no definite law stating punishment for over mining or making any areas illegal to mine from.

Another reason sand is still extracted from areas that are beginning to run low is that certain projects require specific types of sand and gravel.

“For concrete, in-stream gravel requires less processing and produces high-quality material, while marine aggregate needs to be thoroughly washed to remove salt,” the UNEP study said. “If the sodium is not removed from marine aggregate, a structure built with it might collapse after few decades due to corrosion of its metal structures. Most sand from deserts cannot be used for concrete and land reclaiming, as the wind erosion process forms round grains that do not bind well.”

If more strict laws are not put in place around the world, it is possible the Earth could run out of sand in the future. UNEP suggests that a lack of monitoring and regulating leads to over mining and a great deal of damage to the environment.

Over mining of sand and gravel is also drastically affecting marine life.

“The mining of aggregates in rivers has led to severe damage to river basins, including pollution and changes in levels of pH,” the UNEP study said. “Removing sediment from rivers causes the river to cut its channel through the bed of the valley floor (or channel incision) both upstream and downstream of the extraction site. This leads to coarsening of bed material and lateral channel instability. It can change the riverbed itself.”

Although this issue is one that is not widely known, it is staring to garner attention as popular news sites report on it.

The New Yorker

New York Post

Smithsonian

NPR

New York Times

Tom Scott via YouTube

The entirety of the  UNEP Global Environmental Alert Service’s study can be found here.

Clearwater Celebrates Its Sugar Sand “FantaSea”

Clearwater’s Sugar Sand Festival is celebrating its fifth annual exhibition.

This year the festival included new entertainment, several nights of fireworks, concerts, and movies, as well as private DJs and the Shepherds VIP Lounge Experience.

If you are a sand fan you can enjoy the Master Sand Sculpting Competition which takes place inside the 21,000 square foot tent. Seven master sculptors will create their own artistic piece in addition to the main sculptures. Barbara Sanchez is a local visitor that has been to the Sand Festival for the last 5 years.

“I love to just come and enjoy with my family,” Sanchez said. “It is a very unique experience for the family and especially for the kids. My grandchildren get so excited with all the games they have.”

Each year the festival has a new theme. This year is the Sugar Sand FantaSea, a Magical Adventure Above and Below the Sea. As the name describes, you can find  all types of sea-themed characters, like Spongebob Squarepants, mermaids, polar bears and pirates.

Lisa Chandler, the event coordinator, said they expected 38,000 people to see the show.

“We want people to come and enjoy. We have live music, food and games,” she said. “Sugar Sand is what makes Clearwater different. It’s not only the beautiful sunsets and the warm water, but it’s people and the events we try to organize that keep people coming back.”

The tickets are $10 for adults, $6 for kids 6 and older, and $8 for seniors, military, law enforcement, firefighters and teachers. For more information visit http://sugarsandfestival.com/.

Clearwater Beach Spring Break Parking

Spring break is coming up and Clearwater Beach is offering something that will make visiting the beach less of a hassle.

The beach opened Pelican Walk Parking Garage on Poinsettia Avenue at the end of January. The goal was to help with parking problems that occur on the beach.

Jason Beisel, the Public Communications Coordinator of Clearwater expects the garage to improve the flow of traffic.

“Especially this time of year with spring break… we have an influx of visitors,” said Beisel. “But what we built it for is so people have a place to park.”

The location used to be a single level parking lot, but the new garage offers 702 spaces. It also helps beach employees who had trouble finding parking for a reasonable price. Parking in the garage costs $2 an hour or $20 a day.

“Some lots around here, you can pay up to $50 a day to park,” Beisel said. “So, we have contracted with some businesses where they pay a flat fee and they’re able to park here and it helps alleviate some of the parking problems for employees.”

The garage cost over $11 million to build. Most of the money came from parking fees collected on the beach and tourism dollars. A smaller portion came from taxpayer dollars.

“It just helps the whole beach and the economy to bring people out here so they can enjoy themselves and spend money at all the different shops,” Clearwater resident Tim Lavelle said. “It’s just good for everybody.”