About GLEE: A Short History
Founded in 2005 as an event that inspired the forming of a non-profit organization, GLEE’s mission has always been to create action through education and information about sustainability. The non-profit volunteer-based and member-supported organization has influenced positive change through sustainable measures while developing a collaborative network of individuals, businesses, agencies, utilities, non-profits and municipalities.
GLEE education efforts target individuals, businesses and policymakers by using various forms of outreach and education such as community events, educational workshops, certification programs and information-sharing summits.
Individuals throughout the Keys benefited from GLEE’s Green Living Expos, where businesses exhibited green goods and services and agencies and non-profits helped educate by hosting workshops and demonstrations. Green Living Expos drew more than 2,000 residents and visitors in one day, providing up to 30 green workshops and offering more than 100 exhibits. Alternative transportation, renewable energy, waste reduction, resource conservation, rainwater harvesting and healthy foods were the focus of expo education efforts. The volunteer-driven Green Living Expos positioned GLEE as the forerunner of the Florida Keys green movement.
In 2007, GLEE volunteers in Key West organized the first R4 Fair, an event designed to educate and promote R4 Practices — Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Rot (aka compost). The November fair soon became a keys-wide tradition with R4 Fairs held annually, in four strategic locations throughout the Florida Keys. These events provided opportunities to collaborate with students and teachers, environmental clubs, and student culinary and construction programs. Through these events, GLEE established a presence in the school system and developed a rapport with staff and administrators.
The Keyswide Sustain-Ability Program (KSAP) engaged policymakers and municipal staff in quarterly green-themed educational summits. The broad expanse of participation from state agencies, utilities and local government employees, as well as elected officials, helped create a government network of green information sharing while encouraging sustainable practices. The first KSAP summit was held in 2008. Each summit provided a program that includes institutional reporting and an educational program. Informational topics have included water conservation, municipal options for waste management, biodiesel use and production, and two World Café discussions on creating a sustainable vision for the Florida Keys.
The Green Living Awards recognized individuals, businesses, agencies and municipalities for accomplishments in sustainable measures.
In November 2009, GLEE launched the Green Business Program. Designed as a DIY certification program to help businesses green operations through natural resource conservation and waste reduction, the GBP also helps businesses save money. The tools provided have served workplaces as diverse as in-home offices to a large sheltered workshop with a café, nursery and plant store. The program tools, which assist with energy and water conservation, require a waste audit process and a utility baseline for measuring success. The downloadable tools are available to all at no charge on the GLEE website.
The Key West Community Garden was first planted in 2008 and has since provided hundreds of pounds of organic food for over 40 families. The project demonstrates resource conservation by collecting and recycling tens of thousands of gallons of rainwater. Tons of organic “waste” has been rescued from the incinerator through composting, which produces homegrown soil teeming with nutrients. The garden, which also hosts public workshops, is open to individuals, families and student groups, among others, and is so popular there is a waiting list for participation. A fund developed by GLEE volunteers has been created to support other community garden projects in the Keys.
Other Events and Collaborations
GLEE was instrumental in creating a county Green Initiatives Task Force, assisted Key West in developing and adopting a Climate Action Plan, encouraged county officials to create a Recycling Coordinator position and continues to partner with others to promote green government practices in the Keys. GLEE also provides ongoing workshops on recycling education, green business applications, and rainwater harvesting.
In November 2010, GLEE sponsored EcoWeek Florida Keys, a series of events that highlighted low-carbon, eco-friendly events and activities for tourists and locals. While EcoWeek demonstrated the benefits of eco-tourism, GLEE mounted community Green Expos in Key Largo, Marathon, Sugarloaf and Key West. A World Café to share sustainable visions also served to engage policymakers and residents in the week’s activities.