SARASOTA COUNTY - As climate change intensifies, many across the globe are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint. For one Sarasota non–profit, it's going solar. Now they are spreading their newly adopted eco–friendly habits beyond the Suncoast.

With help from the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, Girls Inc. of Sarasota County now has the largest array of solar panels in the county. Girls Inc.'s motto is "Strong, Smart, Bold". Kelly"They can influence both their home, living environments, their community, and larger statewide, even national or international issues," said Kelly Romanoff, Innovation  & Impact Office of the Barancik Foundation.

It was why young women at Girls Inc. made for the perfect candidates to tackle one prominent problem. "We have massive challenges facing us in regard to environmental sustainability and equity," she said.

The Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation laid the groundwork, donating $575,000 to the non–profit in 2017 to transition their Tuttle Avenue headquarters into a site powered by the sun through 564 solar panels.

With an estimated $200,000 cost savings on electric bills over ten years, Girls Inc. of Sarasota County CEO, Angie Stringer called the project a game changer. She said, "Not only is it a cost–saving initiative for us, so we're able to use the finances that we're able to save from our electric bill and put it back into our programs. We're able to allow more girls, who otherwise would not be able to afford to come to Girls Inc."

The non-profit flipped the "on" switch earlier this month. But the bigger change is happening under the roof. "The girls and the staff together have created an entire curriculum and program that's a sustainability and conservation curriculum. So, their recycling, they're upcycling their art materials, we have a wonderful garden that the girls grow their own vegetables," Stringer said.

The group created a compost system and planning an inaugural "Recycle Ball" dance party. Ideas brought to life through their very own sustainability council. She said,"They created the curriculum and as a result of that, the older ones have been teaching the younger ones."

Girls bring those ideas home with them, hoping to create a ripple effect beyond the S

 

uncoast.