TAMPA — University of South Florida student Jeb Bjorn recycles and rides his bicycle, all part of his interest in working toward a greener, more sustainable, environment.
So the 26-year-old geography major decided to take a bus Wednesday from his Davis Islands home to check out the Tampa Bay Green Business Summit at the Tampa Convention Center.
He liked what he saw.
There were green businesses hawking solar panels and water softeners. Others were touting the benefits of insulation and hybrid cars. There were plenty of politicians milling about, including Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker.
Bjorn said he was most interested in what Iorio had to say about the Nov. 2 ballot initiative that, if passed, would increase Hillsborough's sales tax by a penny to pay for light rail, an expanded bus system and improvements to roads and bridges.
"I really hope the vote passes in November," Bjorn said.
Iorio, who said she drove her hybrid car to the event, said there have been many small changes in the way people live in recent years, pointing to recycling, automatic lights and other energy-efficient technologies.
"The feeling is our lives are changing every day because of greening initiatives," said Iorio, who called for passage of the transit tax.
"Change will come at such a rapid rate," she said. "We have to be flexible and do business in different ways."
Specialty companies and entrepreneurs doing business in different ways also were at the summit.
Matt Mayer stood at a booth with a stack of towels and a block of blue insulation. He works for Blue Point, a Tampa company, and talked about the benefits of recycling blue jeans to use for insulation.
He said it requires hundreds of pairs of recycled jeans to insulate a home, but the product is fire-resistant. The towels he had on display were made from recycled cotton and soon will be sold online and at some Bed, Bath and Beyond stores starting in January, he said.
Jane Lomas-Michals, 52, car-pooled to the event. She works as a green business consultant in Largo. She said her company tries to help small businesses develop plans to decrease their energy use, including using more efficient lighting and environmentally friendly paint.
One of the companies she worked with will open a green gas station in Dunedin later this month.
"It's on the forefront," Lomas-Michals said. "We're trying to get in the door with those folks."
Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 226-3435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.