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A Village Mentality to Sustainability

“Pride, Preservation, Conservation.” This simple motto speaks to the ways that Walton County values its tradition and has made it a group effort when it comes to protecting this special destination.

After all, the path toward improved sustainability often involves many small steps from a wide range of people.

With its New Urbanist culture of pedestrian-friendly existence, Seaside has been a hub of the area’s sustainability movement. The Seaside Institute was founded on a mission of promoting such practices through education and design. They serve as an incubator of progressive ideas, bringing together like-minded practitioners to share and spread new concepts.

In the Fall of 2021, the Institute assembled a panel featuring the owners of several prominent local businesses. Their conversation covered some of the best Environmental Social Governance (ESG) strategies for creating practices that can have a lasting impact on the community.

Bud & Alley’s is one of the restaurants that has long been at the forefront of the movement. Owner Dave Rauschkolb sources nearly all of his vegetables from regional farmers and growers, and all of the fish is fresh from the Gulf. They have a paper-only policy on straws, to-go containers and bags. They were also the first restaurant on 30A to shift to zero plastic, using only products that come from glass containers. Many other local establishments have followed suit.

Over at Black Bear Bread Co., they have a similar mission when it comes to mindfully sourcing only the freshest local ingredients. Using many area farms and artisans also allows them to serve up unique creations. Playfully describing their office and production facility as the “Google of coffee,” Amavida Coffee is now carbon footprint neutral. Every bag sold of their signature Atmosphere blend supports the offset of 100% of CO2 emissions at the company.

Centered around building community, fostering well-being and encouraging discovery, YOLO Boards + Bikes provides sustainable incomes and viability in their 14,000-square-foot distribution center. And The 30A Company creates t-shirts by blending cotton and recycled plastic bottles (up to 8 of them per shirt). This helps eliminate waste while keeping bottles out of the waterways. In addition to their own efforts as companies, both The 30A Company and YOLO are founding partners of The Sonder Project, whose mission is to empower impoverished communities through high-impact, sustainable development.

Sustainability, of course, also involves protecting the local landscapes. Surrounding all the businesses and homes here is pristine natural beauty, 40% of which is preserved for nature. This includes the coastal wilderness of state parks and forests, as well as nature trails and rare coastal dune lakes. These offer countless opportunities for visitors to get out and explore, whether on the water, on foot or on horseback – hopefully inspiring them to make a difference as well.

Aerial View of WaterColor
One of the groups working tirelessly to protect these beautiful areas is The St. Joe Company. Many of Northwest Florida's state parks, state forests and wildlife refuges were created at least in part with land from St. Joe. With a keen eye for forest management and wetlands conservation, the company has placed more than 170,000 acres into permanent conservation since 1997.

While there’s plenty of work left to be done, the spirit of sustainability is alive and well. Walton County is even seeking an affiliation with Keep America Beautiful to further efforts toward keeping our destination clean and improve the “green” mindset that’s growing. The positive impacts of all these efforts will continue to spread throughout the community, reinforcing the true sense of interconnectedness here.

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