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County Promotes Sustainability In ‘Hillsborough Love’ Event

Man rides scooter
Participants were given test-rides on electric scooters, cars and buses at the "Love Hillsborough" event Thursday

People taking a lunch break in downtown Tampa Thursday had a chance to take a spin on an electric scooter, grab a reusable bottle and learn about other sustainable ways of living during Hillsborough County's first "Love Hillsborough" event.

More than 40 public and non-profit groups were at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square including Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), the Museum of Science and Industry and Tesla, which had almost 100 people sign up for a free test drive of their electric vehicles.

Sheila McNamara, sustainability manager for Hillsborough County, said the sustainable options shared at the event can replace activities people do now like buying single-use plastic bottles.

"We love Hillsborough. We love living here, working here, playing here,” she said. “We want to make sure that we keep that quality of life going for our own purposes and also for future generations as well."

Commissioner Pat Kemp, walked from tent to tent and took a test ride on a Proterra electric bus that HART hopes to begin installing in the next few years.

"We have zero (electric busses) right now, whereas other cities in Florida have at least a few, Miami has just purchased 33," Kemp said. "We need to be moving in that direction because it's a cost savings over the long run, and we don't have carbon footprint. It's a good experience and can give a whole new way for people to look at our buses and public transportation."

While Hillsborough has no electric buses now, Kemp said about 25 percent of the county's fleet of vehicles is still made up of cars that run on electric, gas-electric hybrid and compressed natural gas power.

Some people visiting the showcase liked the vehicles, but were mostly interested in ways they could be greener in their everyday lives.

"I'm interested in what I can do personally and what type of legislation is in the books to help the community," said Karen Frimmel, who works at the State Attorney's Office downtown.

Kemp agreed that public policy about sustainability is critical in a place like Florida, which is growing. In 2018, almost 600,000 people moved to the state, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Whether it be solar panels -- energy efficiencies,” Kemp said, “thinking about how we use water on our lawns, and using less. There's just a million ways that we can make a difference."

Dylan Rudolph is the WUSF Radio News Intern for the spring 2020 semester.
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