There must be something about helping the planet that makes one happier and generally more fun to be around. It’s not a sentiment often associated with government employees, but Alison Higgins, sustainability coordinator for the City of Key West, sees great things for the city and is doing something about it. She isn’t just finding cleaner, greener ways for Key West to operate (she helped spearhead the Duval Loop), she walks the walk. Her garden is also filled with every vegetable possible, even a macadamia nut tree. Who knew you could do that here?
“Sustainability is complex. It deals with transportation, energy, water; I get to play in all those fields,” said Higgins. The California native graduated from University of California at Santa Barbara and perused internships before in landing in the Keys. Then she spent 14 years with The Nature Conservancy “using a chainsaw to cut down invasive exotics Keys-wide.” Then six years ago, Higgins landed the city’s top job dealing with anything from compost to bicycle use to supporting greener business initiatives.
“When we make progress at a local level, we make great progress. It really is the best job; everything I try to do is positive.” Higgins already hinted at a new loop bus on North Roosevelt and more bike racks and bike fixing stations around the island – hooray. However, making the city a better place isn’t all this eco-friendly woman can do, “I taught the first python catching classes in Florida, landing me a quote on The Daily Show. And I got quoted by Al Gore!” she said. Also, she was born on Earth day: mic drop.
Full Name? Nickname? Alison Marie Higgins. Have never been an Ali, although I was an Ali-Cat in middle school.
Do you have a life credo or motto? “…But the good news is…” OR “15 Minutes late? Right on Time!”
What significant conservation changes have you seen and been a part of in Key West? With Nature Conservancy and other natural areas managers, we completely restored the 50-acre island of Scout Key. With GLEE (Green Living and Energy Education), we worked with residents, businesses and local governments to make green changes throughout the Keys. With the City of Key West, we’ve changed how ROGO works, introduced the Duval Loop and have many other things in store.
When it comes to the environment and Key West, what do you see for the future? We are primed to make big changes in transportation alternatives, alternative energy, and climate change adaptation.
Where did your love for building a better environment come from? No idea. Always had it. Maybe because I was born on Earth Day?
This is very important: should we wear tutu’s/costumes to work? Any chance we can!
What’s the most illegal thing you’ve done? Does running out of gas on the 7 Mile Bridge count?
Favorite Key West events? Papio’s Kinetic Parade and the Zombie Bike Ride.
What job would you be terrible at? Waitress. I have no balance and can never remember what I want to order, much less other people.
What skill would you like to master? Keeping cilantro alive. It’s my only herb that won’t last. (Now I feel better. -Ed.)
If invisible in Key West, what would you do? Hang out at the dog park and throw balls.
Who is your alter ego? Jigsaw puzzle girl. Or maybe that’s a nemesis. I can’t pass one up.
Favorite guilty pleasure? Barely-cooked brownies.
If you could grant Key West one wish, what would it be? One Green Human Family. 🙂
What quirks do you have? I love scavenging—finding free stuff and turning it into a float or fixing it up and reselling it. However, mostly I hoard it, because I don’t have the time.
Lunch with one famous person, whom would you choose? Snuffleupagus. Don’t you just want to hug him?
Finish these sentences…
My friends and family would describe me as … loud.
My autobiography would be titled … “How Am I Still Here?”
I can never refuse … salty, crunchy snacks.
When I go, I will go … Probably loudly. Luck’s gotta run out sometime.