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."

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.