CLEARWATER — Sheridan Boyle is Clearwater’s first sustainability coordinator, charged with guiding department heads and staff as they implement the city’s environmental “Greenprint.”
The Oldsmar resident, who has nurtured animals and the environment since she was a kid, turned it into a career while at college in Asheville, S.C.
“Warren Wilson College had its own farm, gardens, and a campus-wide recycling program,” Boyle said May 22. “We were required to work for room and board, so I worked in the campus recycling program, picking up trash from every building and food scraps from cafeterias.”
She had such a passion that the college hired her as an environmental organizer to engage people in recycling and sustainability issues. Her love of animals is also evident in her LinkedIn profile, which says she was a large animal technician at Appalachian Animal Hospital, a medical manager at an animal rescue/adoption center, and an intern at a wildlife center.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology at Warren Wilson, which included training in environmental science.
In March 2018, a few years after moving back to Oldsmar, she was hired by the city of Clearwater as a full-time recycling specialist, working in the General Support Services Department.
So, what does a sustainability coordinator do?
“It depends on the city,” Boyle said, explaining that every city has its unique plan for recycling, reducing carbon emissions, and shrinking energy bills. Her job is to help the city meet its goals in the “Clearwater Greenprint: A Framework for a Competitive, Vibrant, Green Future” adopted by the City Council in 2011. The document identifies a series of actions to reduce energy consumption, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions — while stimulating the local economy.
She sees herself as a facilitator rather than a czar.
“I want to hear the ideas that the city staff has,” she said. “We will meet any challenges and overcome them together. I have met with a number of people in the city already, and others have already asked to meet. City departments want to do these things.”
Some of the Greenprint goals had been met before Boyle became sustainability coordinator, including the transitioning of the city’s buses, trucks and other gasoline-powered vehicles to natural gas.
Boyle pointed to the Citywide Complete Streets program, which also was underway. It calls for more bike paths, safe crosswalks, and other traffic engineering to encourage people to bicycle, walk, or rideshare in the city to reduce carbon monoxide emissions.
“Complete Streets suggested putting timers on city traffic lights to keep traffic flowing,” she said. “When cars have to wait in congested traffic, it creates concentrated emissions.”
The city also hired Honeywell in 2011 to help it more accurately manage its air conditioning and other systems to save energy. The company introduced building management software through the city’s Ethernet network to provide real-time monitoring, management and optimization of the city’s facilities on a continual basis, Boyle said.
The company, which did the same in support of Newark, New Jersey’s Sustainability Action Plan, also urged Clearwater managers to switch to LED lighting in all the city’s buildings.
Honeywell also suggested room occupancy sensors to automatically turn lights off when areas are unoccupied and reducing the power consumption of desktop computers.
Boyle outlined other areas — including partnering with businesses and residents — where she sees more work ahead:
Urban agriculture and food production, i.e. community gardens
Clearwater residents take advantage of a number of common plots for growing vegetables and flowers. Planting helps produce carbon dioxide for cleaner air, not to mention beautifies an area. “Plant material stores carbon, which benefits local wildlife and local residents,” said Boyle, who is also vice president of Oldsmar Organic Community Garden in Oldsmar.
Recycling yard waste from private homes and city parks
Logs, tree limbs and other plants take up space in landfills and produce methane gas. Burning sticks and leaves in the backyard produces air pollution. The answer: Have homeowners either start their own composts or leave the detritus on the curb for a private company to transform into compost and other gardening products. To find a city recycling center, call the Solid Waste/Recycling Department at 727-562-4920.
Florida-friendly landscaping with native plants in city parks, large spaces like public and private golf courses, and private yards
“Such landscaping retains water much better, so you don’t have to do a lot of watering,” Boyle said. “Native plants and flowers don’t require fertilizer, which can be expensive. Remember, our native pollinators are designed to identify native plants.”
Boyle, who also sits on the board of Ocean Allies, a nonprofit that highlights businesses who protect the environment, would like the city to designate Greenprint-friendly businesses. “We can promote green businesses on the city’s Website so tourists can go by and see those places.”
The City Council created the sustainability coordinator job a few months ago after city residents repeatedly urged the city to hire someone to mitigate the causes of climate change and its effects, rising seas.
Though Boyle has been on the job only a few weeks, she was far from an unknown quantity, City Manager William Horne said.
“She comes highly recommended by people she has interacted with within the city, as well as her references,” Horne said. “She is passionate about making Clearwater a better community and wants her work to reflect what Clearwater values highly from an environmental, quality of life and resiliency perspective.”