Leon Co., FL
Tessa has been a member of SSDN for two years. She joined after starting work in sustainability for Leon County. Originally majoring in business, Tessa spent two years in Spain teaching English. From her time there she was able to experience a different way of approaching sustainability. She has a masters in sustainability and interned in Australia. In Leon County, Tessa runs the office of sustainability managing energy plans, a variety of projects, educational efforts and community outreach.
Tessa joined SSDN after being called by an existing member who recommended it as a valuable resource. She has been a part of a membership committee and has been a part of a variety of meetings. The network has been a way for her to informally ask coworkers questions and get advice. Her involvement with members has been limited by her distance from major cities. Despite this, the network has been a way to connect and she hopes to be able to do more in the future.
What are you working on right now?
An energy plan for the area, green purchasing efforts, and urban agriculture ordinances. Lots of smaller projects including working on illegal dumping. In the next year the hope is to have more EV stations in the county. There are a few now but it’s something that she hopes to expand. The county has also been doing work to encourage green building. With three LEED certified buildings in the area as well as a net-zero building that the county built as a model for what can be done, the ball is rolling. Alongside other departments, they’ve been able to host a variety of events to engage the community. These have included summits for both sustainable tourism and outdoor recreation, having 50 and 220 attendees respectively.
What makes sustainability in your area unique?
In Leon county, sustainability refers to energy and recycling the majority of the time. While the southeast overall tends to be father behind on sustainability, Florida has been especially slow to move on the concept. The program began with just recycling but has grown to include energy conservation, integrate equity, and think about the bigger picture. Most people in the area are on board with these efforts and understand the importance because they see the effects of climate change in their own communities. People are surrounded by fragile ecosystems and any change in the water table is a big issue. The weather in Florida also makes weatherization increasingly important as storms become more intense. Demand for energy is driven by the need for AC, even just as a way to dehumidify. Despite this, state legislation remains unsupportive of solar efforts that could help meet the demand.
What do you love most about what you do?
Seeing change enacted. It can be easy to get bogged down in negativity but I don’t feel that way in this job. Broad changes can be made with internal support. I actually get excited about changes and projects because every day is different.
What are you most proud of?
Little projects, like recently developing a green team. They had their first meeting last week and are going to do a bunch of fun projects. You enact so much more change when cross pollinating like that.
What is one thing people should know about you?
I love adventures, and am super outgoing and love always doing something different.