5 Questions With Lindsey Nieratka, Boca’s Sustainability Manager

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  1. Tell us about yourself, your background and what a sustainability manager does.

I entered the field of municipal sustainability in 2015 when I became the sustainability coordinator for the City of Hollywood. My work up until that point had primarily been focused around biology or conservation in some way. Through work in community based conservation and later for a small nonprofit, I noticed that conservation efforts worked best when there was a cultural or legal framework that encouraged or supported them. That’s when I started to look at local governments and learned about municipal sustainability positions. A sustainability manager helps direct sustainability programming of a City and makes sure that principles of sustainability are integrated into the way a City and the community operate. As a resident of Boca Raton I am very excited to be doing this work where I live.

  1. Why is it important for a city to have a sustainability manager?

Although sustainability is often seen as being “green” sustainability is actually based on what are called the three pillars. These are the environment, the economy, and social equity. A city’s sustainability program should look for ways to improve the environmental quality and health of the community, reduce the community’s environmental impact, and increase resiliency all while also making wise use of fiscal resources and ensuring that all members of the community are experiencing benefits. That is a lot to balance! The role of the manager is to try to make sure that the right aspects are being communicated to the right people and to be a cheerleader and driver for sustainable actions and policies throughout the City.

  1. July was “plastic free” month. What did the city do to implement that?

Plastic Free July raises awareness of the ways we use plastic. For me, there is a logical disconnect between the way the material is designed to last forever and the way that we use it to make disposable products, some of which are thrown out within minutes of purchase or use! This has obviously had a profound impact on our oceans, beaches and marine life. Beach clean ups and encouraging recycling are important, but ultimately, we have to take a hard look at how we are consuming. For Plastic Free July, which is an international awareness effort, the City asked residents to try a handful of small actions, such as using reusable water bottles and skipping a straw, to reduce some of their plastic consumption. I hope that these small actions grow into a larger awareness of what we are consuming and ultimately lead to individuals making larger changes.

  1. Tell us about some of your initiatives for the city of Boca moving forward.

I am currently in the process of writing a Sustainability Action Plan for the City. Over the next few months I will be working closely with other staff to determine the right goals, metrics, and actions that we should be pursuing over the next five years or so. I will also be reaching out to the community for their thoughts and input on where the City should focus. This plan, once approved, will be my blueprint moving forward.

  1. How can residents and business owners become involved in the city’s sustainability initiatives?

The City’s Sustainability webpage has great information about the ways in which the City is already sustainable. The “Take Action” page hosts a new topic monthly, like Plastic Free July, that will give residents and businesses some ideas of ways they can contribute. In addition, the Boca Raton libraries have many books and documentaries about environmental issues and lifestyle guides towards living a lower impact life. Our parks offer another opportunity to learn and participate in Boca’s sustainability efforts. Gumbo Limbo is obviously a wonderful resource to learn about our oceans and the impact of things like plastic and artificial light on sea life. Lake Wyman Park has a few demonstrations of environmental practices, including solar panels, a wind turbine, and a rain barrel.