By LOIS KINDLE
When the Circle Pond Tiny Home Community was named a winner of The Sustany Foundation’s 2019 Sustainable Business Awards at the Tampa Theatre, its owner, Debbie Caneen, was elated.
“When they called out my property’s name, I raced to the stage,” she said. “It was such an honor for it to have been selected as a winner by the students of USF’s MUMA College of Business. “And I was proud to be recognized by the foundation, which promotes sustainability in our community and connects us with other like-minded business partners.”
Circle Pond Tiny Home Community received the award May 22 at the 11th annual Green Carpet Gala awards ceremony. The event honors companies and organizations of all sizes throughout the Tampa Bay area that embrace what it calls the triple bottom line: environmental stewardship, economic impact and social responsibility.
“We recognize companies that are doing things in a better way to affect people, the planet and profit,” said Lorrie Belovich, executive director of The Sustany Foundation. “Although our organization puts a bit more emphasis on the environmental piece, we’re the only organization in the Tampa area that places emphasis on all three.”
Belovich explained that the foundation recognizes every step forward, both small and large. “We’ve given the award to more than 100 organizations since 2007,” she said.
The Circle Pond Community is a former mobile home park that was repurposed in 2017 into a 4.5-acre affordable living community of tiny homes. Caneen removed the trailers from the property and by introducing sustainable housing, reduced electric consumption by 300%. She also began growing fruits and vegetables in a community garden and planted all kinds of fruit-bearing trees. Waste reduction, through composting and recycling, became a priority, as well. “I wish more companies would look into ways they could reduce their carbon footprint,” Caneen said. “Actually, we can all have a goal of zero waste to help.”
Residents, who are all paraprofessionals, pay as little as $450 a month to rent a site for their tiny home. Rental fees also cover water, sewer, garbage, electricity and lawn maintenance. Other environmental amenities include beehives and a well on the property. A pond in the center of the community is full of edible fish like tilapia, bass and perch.
This is not the first time Circle Pond Tiny Home Community has been recognized. Last September, Caneen received a $1,000 Fulfill Your Destiny grant through the Helen Gordon Davis Center for Women as part of its Business Builder’s Award, and the money was used by Caneen to buy organic vegetable starts for the community garden.
This year, 45 finalists were selected from a field of more than 100 nominees, and 21 winners were named. Circle Pond Tiny Home Community was nominated by Sandy Council, president of the Ruskin Community Development Foundation. Council attended the gala, as did members of Caneen’s family.
2019 Sustany Award Recipients:
A Simpler Place Farm & Market
Tampa International Airport
Circle Pond Tiny Home Community
The Florida Aquarium
Auburn Supply Group
Good Vibes Juice Co.
Zildjian Catering & Consulting
The Venice Golf and Country Club
Mangrove School of Sarasota
Legacy Vacation Resorts
Florida Native Plants Nursery
Salt Palm Development