Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Breaking Ground Presents at Greenbuild!

Mary Tappouni of Breaking Ground Contracting, Corie Baker of C Squared Design and Lisa Sheppard with the City of Jacksonville Planning and Development Department presented a fantastic session on historic green at the recent USGBC Greenbuild Conference in Chicago. The session proved to be extremely informative and was well-received by the attendees. The topic matter is really relevant in today's market not only because the housing market is driving more renovations, but because renovation with an emphasis on green and LEED is becoming more and more mainstream.

Mary, Corie and Lisa take renovating green one step further with the idea of renovating green on historic buildings. Lisa stated, "The greenest building is the one already built," a quote from Carl Elefante, which kicked off the presentation's focus on why to renovate, and more importantly, why renovate green. Corie presented information from the architectural standpoint on what makes historic buildings green, and Mary brought it home with the practical application and construction processes for the actual green and LEED renovation of an historic building.

Breaking Ground is so proud of Mary for being accepted as part of this panel for this coveted speaking engagement and for her seemingly effortless presentation of the material! Kudos to Corie for putting together the submission package! Great going make us all proud!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Me and Green Does It Again!

Me and Green, Breaking Ground Education's children's book about sustainability and our connections to our home, planet Earth, has just won it's third award. Just last week, Me and Green was named as a finalist in the category of Children's Education in the USA Book News 2010 Best Books Awards. To see a listing of all winners and finalists in the 2010 USA Book News Best Book Awards, go to:
To order your copy of Me and Green, go to our web site at It makes a great gift for your children, students, parents and teachers! We also have a class set of 18 books available for a great holiday teacher gift and comes complete with bookmarks and a reusable grocery bag....I promise, your child's teacher doesn't need another wooden apple with a pen or apple apron! I speak from experience!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Water War?

When I was a kid, we used to visit friends of our family who had a home on Little Gasparilla Island. The sign on the water closet (a.k.a. commode) said,
"In the land of sun and fun,
we NEVER flush for number ONE."
This was in the early 70s. Living on a beautiful island in Florida, they knew how precious water was, both for drinking and for the pleasure of it.
What is the state of our water, both in quantity and quality, and what is needed to properly manage the future of this natural resource? These are a few of the key questions that were addressed at the recent "Water's Role in Northeast Florida" panel disucussion presented by the Jacksonville Business Jornal and sponsored by JEA and Jacksonville University.
The panel consisted of a diverse group of experts including a scientist/educator, author, a businessman and an attorney, all with specific expertise on this topic. This diversity allowed for frank and spirited dialogue on how our water is be evaluated, used and abused and what we can do to ensure that we have enough clean water for drinking and enjoyment for future generations.
This is a topic that we at Breaking Ground find viable and extremely important as sustainable contractors, and it is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Growing up as a native Floridian, I am a water baby. I grew up playing in the Hillsborough River, skiing in Tampa Bay and surrounding lakes and fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and Boca Grande. I walked along the beaches of the west coast most of my life, and now walk in the sand along the Atlantic Ocean now. Forget that water is a necessary resource for life...water is also a resource that brings great joy and economic prosperity.
So what was the main concensus from the panel?....CONSERVE! Not suprising, huh? Yes, we have a lot of water. But only a tiny fraction is drinkable. The rest has to be treated, which takes energy and produces waste. So, we have to change the way we think about water! Is this really a news flash? We learned when I was in elementary school to turn off the water while we brushed our teeth, and that was more years ago than I like to admit. However, we're still having the same conversations. We cannot continue to waste our potable water on our lawns, and pouring pesticides and fertilizers on said lawn is contributing greatly to the toxicity of surrounding water bodies. Is it really that difficult to make small changes? Is it really that tough to change the mindset about how we landscape our communites? Is it really so hard to use native and adaptive plants that thrive in our challenging climate? Do we have to blow grass into our storm drains, which, by the way, does not go to some water cleaning goes into the rivers, lakes, streams and tributaries! It really isn't that hard. It's easy. The Earth is our home. Period. We need to protect her, love her and change behaviors that will help her to thrive and flourish, not suffocate and die.
As Forrest Gump says, "That's all I've got to say about that."

Friday, July 30, 2010

Me and Green Wins Indie Award!!!

We are so proud!

Me and Green has won the National Indie Excellence Award in the category of Evironmental/Green! The NIEA contest shines a spotlight on self- and independendently-published books that demonstrate excellence. National Indie Excellence Award judges are professionals from all aspects of the independent book industry, from book cover and interior designers and professional copywriters to publishers, writers, editors and more. They select award winners and finalists based on overall excellence of presentation. For more information on the Indie Awards, follow this link:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Go Me and Green!!!

We are so excited that Me and Green has earned its first award finalist title! Our book is a finalist in ForeWord Magazine's 2009 Book of the Year Awards in the category of Juvenile Non-Fiction. The awards are designed to discover distinctive books from independent publishers across of variety of genres The finalists, representing 360 publishers, were selected from 1,400 entries in 60 categories and are examples of independent publishing at its best!

As many of you already know, Me and Green was written by Therese Tappouni of the ISIS Institute, Mary Tappouni of Breaking Ground Contracting and, yours truly, Catherine Burkee. The focus of the book is designed to help children and their families understand their connection to our home, Earth, and how our choices impact this beautiful planet.

The winners of the 2009 Book of the Year Awards will be announced at a special program at BookExpo America in New York City on May 25th. Here is a link to ForeWord Magazine's site for additional information:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Me and Green Goes to School

On Friday, February 19th, Mary, Therese and myself, the authors of Me and Green, traveled to St. Paul's School in Clearwater, Florida, to work and play with children in grades pre-K through 8. We went on a mission to see what these kids know and what they might want to know. What we found is what every good teacher comes to realize very quickly....that we do not necessarily always teach kids, but that kids often end up teaching us!

First off, we found that pre-K kids know a lot! They know that they are connected to their home, Earth, and when asked the question, "What happens when we make bad choices about how to treat our Earth?" they respond with something as intense and true as, "The Earth dies!" So we stand in awe of the 4-year-old teachers who are the future environmental stewards of this planet. We read from Me and Green, and had students engage in an activity about reducing, reusing and recycling, and imagined what happens when 300 million people in our country alone choose NOT to do this!

We also connected with 5th-8th graders. What a remarkable experience to talk and work with kids who are already well on their way to understanding the impact their choices make on the Earth. St. Paul's School is already involved in the Green Cup Challenge where the students track energy and water use and report their findings on line. Our challenge to them: you are the ambassadors, the mentors and the role models for those who follow. We talked about this responsibility and how they can manage it well. They are on board. These kids are aware. They are living it. And in a 2 minute activity about why it is important to preserve our Earth for those who follow, they created charts with responses such as, "So that future generations may have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink," and "So that species of animals will not be extinct." These are the same kids that we sometimes stereotype as having no sense of anything other than texting and iPods.

We had similar experiences with the 2nd and 3rd graders, who were truly excited and involved in discussing and participating in activities related to green! Again, refreshing and empowering.
Me and Green was written to assist teachers, parents and children with understanding connections to this planet, Earth, and we are excited and privileged to be talking with kids about these connections, and working with them to expand their knowledge about how to take better care of her. Education is always the key to change. It is the most rewarding work we can do.

Are We a Contractor or Educator?

The answer is....both! As Director of Education for Breaking Ground Education Services, a division of Breaking Ground Contracting, people often remark about how unconventional it is that a construction company also promotes education. Each time I hear these remarks, it becomes even MORE clear to me just how much sense it makes that a successful construction company like Breaking Ground Contracting blaze the trail of education in green, sustainable and LEED* building and workplace safety. After all, buildings use the greatest amount of energy...WAY more than our vehicles. So, it stands to reason that we do our part to enlighten the industry to environmentally sound ways of doing business. We don't just believe it, we live it! The foresight of President, Mary Tappouni, began many years ago with her passion for building, nature and the environment. Her vision drives her company, and those of us who have the privilege of working for Breaking Ground Contracting have been infected by her passion for green building and the desire to couple sound building practices with environmental responsibility. It is our mission to educate other contractors, architects, engineers, subcontractors, developers and anyone else who wants to listen and learn, about the ways we can all do our part in building green for the future...the future of our industry, our children and our world.