Green Dreamin' on Miami Beach

Where to start? Let's check all City of Miami Beach buildings to see how much energy and city money we're wasting, keep a closer eye on construction sites for litter, storm water run-off and dust pollution, maybe we could get the marinas to be cleaner, or even look at wave energy ... yes, we definitely need more solar panels ... and be sure to print city documents on both sides, of course, recycle, and maybe even fly in an environmental guru from Oregon to help us. And be sure to turn up the AC, close the doors and hit the lights when you leave.

On Tuesday night, in the second meeting of the Miami Beach's spanking-new green committee, you could almost see the steam as the advisory group's members and city commissioners batted around ideas they'd like to tackle after Robert Ruano, director of Miami's Office of Sustainable Initiatives gave a rundown of ambitious projects from creating a fleet of hybrid city cars to boosting the city's tree canopy from a paltry six percent to 30 percent by 2017 to retrofitting an old fire station to demonstrate eco-friendly solutions. But, in the end, the Miami Beach commission decided to slow down after one member asked: "Are we going overboard?" And, most agreed. They settled on asking the commissioners to pursue an energy audit and send letters promoting cleaner marinas and leave the rest for future meetings.

Stands to question how did Miami Beach, a place that thrives off and eats from its environmental jewels get behind Miami, not exactly known as an eco-bastion though it's now taking cues from places like Chicago? "I'll let you answer that," said a chuckling Jerry Libbin, a beach commissioner before patting the back of Commissioner Michael Góngora, who chairs the green commitee. "The previous city commission did not consider it a priority but this commission does," Góngora picked up after Libbin walked away.

The next question was tossed to a few of the 15-some members of the public who outnumbered four committee members and four commissioners there. With bands of South Beach yogis and Wild Oats devotees (full disclosure: like me), why isn't a more eco-lifestyle a la Cali already in place? Carlos Schultz, a former stock broker turned philosopher, said Miami Beach is still a "virgin" city when it comes to its web of cultural support to promote earthly awareness: "New York had the beatniks. California had the hippies. Twenty years ago, Miami Beach was empty in terms of culture. Now, you have a lot of upper middle-class 20-year-olds with a lot of time on their hands," he said. "Miami Beach needs to transcend the plastic. Transcend the superficial." So, spending a wad on berries that may or may not be organic, buying dowdy hemp clothes and lathering up in natural soap doesn't really cut it. -- Janine Zeitlin

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Tovin Lapan