Photo |  Alabama Coastal Foundation

The 2019 Lifetime of Conservation Achievement Award was created by artist Bruce Larsen and will be presented to Jimbo Meador at the Green Coast Council’s Sustainability Summit Jan. 25 at the University of South Alabama.

By Catherine Rainey, Contributing Writer

Consider the phrase “environmentally friendly.” Do you think of recycling or harvesting organically grown crops? Maybe you think of clean solar or wind energy as alternatives to our current reliance on fossil fuels. Either way, it’s a phrase that’s becoming harder and harder to avoid, especially in work environments.

“The Green Coast Council, which the Alabama Coastal Foundation leads, has organized the Sustainability Summit every year since 2015,” said Mark Berte, the foundation’s executive director. “It is always the last Friday of January at the University of South Alabama. The purpose of the summit is to help the private, public and social sectors understand the economic and environmental benefits of using sustainable business practices.”

But what does this mean? The Alabama Coastal Foundation (ACF) is a nonprofit created in 1993 with the purpose of improving the coastal environment we call home. This is especially important because Alabama is known as the most aquatically biodiverse area in the U.S. Many of its aims involve education and working with all people to spread awareness and knowledge about the coast, including its flora and fauna.

Various educational events are put on by ACF every year. Water festivals, where members of the team go around to several local elementary schools and give 4th graders a hands-on experience with our coastal way of life, usually take place in the spring.

The Mobile Bay Estuary Corps is a summer program for middle school-age children who are interested in learning more about environmental and biological sciences. This activity is a collaborative effort between ACF and Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Another opportunity for youngsters to learn more about our coast, and demonstrate what they already know, is the annual Coastal Kids Quiz put on by ACF and Conservation Action through Education. In its 18th run this year, the winners benefit their school and teachers. Private and public elementary schools can participate by picking a team to represent their school. From its inception, the quiz project has awarded more than $119,000 to winning students and $24,500 to winning teachers.

Children aren’t the only people who can benefit from the ACF. Cocktails for the Coast takes place each year, providing attendees with local music, food and drinks while simultaneously involving education and networking.

Connect to Your Coast is an event that happens numerous times a year. This affair is an easy and fun way for individuals to learn how to protect our precious environment.

The Green Coast Council, an initiative of ACF, is a forum for leaders in businesses and industries that encourage and practice sustainability concepts. By promoting actions and holding meetings, the council helps provide positive environmental leadership on the Alabama coast. Its mission is to protect and improve our coastal areas through education, cooperation and participation. To become a member, you need only possess an active interest in managing and sustaining our environment.

Each of these organizations works in collaboration with the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, a group founded in 2004 by the governors of Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana and Texas. It assists in managing the Gulf with a comprehensive ecosystem approach. By helping fund what needs to be focused on and promoting knowledge, this council assists in restoration, research and community outreach, among other incentives.

At the Sustainability Summit, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Jan. 25, you can bank on gaining an extreme amount of knowledge concerning our environment and the individual impacts we have on day-to-day life. “We have an impressive lineup of presenters this year,” Berte said, “starting with Chandra Wright, director of environmental and educational initiatives at The Lodge at Gulf State Park, who is our morning keynote speaker. In addition, we have presenters on topics such as coastal resiliency, aquaculture, energy efficiency and local government recycling. Also, Jimbo Meador will receive ACF’s Lifetime of Conservation Achievement award during the lunch portion of the day. The summit will wrap up with a ‘Sustainable redevelopment through historic building rehabilitation’ plenary session led by Greg Montgomery of Clean Source Capital and AlabamaSAVES.”

It’s not every day you can witness so many environmental experts in one place. Maybe you’re wondering if this event would benefit you; it’s not just for business owners or people who already involved in coastal life.

“As a learning organization, we survey the participants after each previous summits to get their feedback,” Berte said. “When we asked ‘would you encourage others to attend the 2019 summit?’ last year, we were delighted to see that 92 percent (59 percent strongly agree and 33 percent agree) of the people responded they would!

“From green building practices to climate change to sustainable agriculture and energy conservation, there is always something new for attendees to learn and put into practice at the Sustainability Summit.”

For more information visit or call ACF at 251-990-6002.