April 22 is Earth Day, but it’s important to treat every day like it’s that, especially when you are one of the area’s largest business entities. When it comes to environmental responsibility, Destin Commons stays on top of their game. The 56-acre, 500,000 square foot architecturally unique outdoor lifestyle center has more than 90 retail stores and restaurants, as well as 70,000 square feet of Class A office space. This places an important accountability on the center to be environmentally all-encompassing.

From the very beginning, when Destin Commons opened in the fall of 2003, they have practiced conservation in many ways. Reclaimed irrigation water from storm water run-off has been in place in the two ponds at the center. Waste Management has been a big player with their assistance in the recycling of paper products and cardboard boxes utilizing specific dumpsters for this. The mall management office has gone virtually paperless.

Since opening, Destin Commons has made sure to meet and exceed the required amount of foliage and landscape materials to meet all county requirements. BrightView has been the center’s landscape contractor from the beginning. The strong partnership has led to many sound landscape changes over the years in the effort to keep the center at its best, all the while practicing important and safe environmental and horticultural guidelines. Last year, Destin Commons and BrightView earned the Trees Destin’s first landscape award by the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce.

From 2014 to 2016, the center underwent an extensive lighting conversion, replacing conventional lighting with LED lighting, replacing more than 160 light fixtures. There has been more than a 50 percent reduction in energy savings with the new LED lighting alone.

Four electric car charging stations were installed behind Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl & Grill in 2014, followed by four additional car charging stations at Whole Foods Market in 2016. Destin Commons hosted the first National Drive Electric Week Event in Okaloosa County this past fall and will be doing it again this year on Sept. 8 from 5-8 p.m. in partnership with Gulf Power and Juiced Car Dealership.

Whole Foods Market, a green grocery store, also practices a significant sustainable food harvesting operation and purchases their fresh daily seafood locally from Harbor Docks.

“Since our opening one year ago, we have donated 90,000 pounds of food, and we have diverted approximately 120 tons of material from the landfill through our recycling programs,” said Jessica Foy, marketing field associate with Whole Foods Market.

Panera Bread’s food is all natural with locally sourced ingredients. Lush practices ethical buying, organic cosmetics, and they do not do animal testing or use plastic packaging. Sunset Shoes lines such as Patagonia and Toms have strong environmental and eco-friendly product production in place. As well, many of the other stores and restaurants also practice their own individual green/sustainability initiatives.

“We all have the Earth in common,” concluded Destin Commons general manager Bob Perry. “From the center’s projects, our property sub-contractors, to many of our tenant’s undertakings, we’re committed to a healthy and responsible environment. In general, we have had an 18-month recovery of costs because of our energy savings initiatives.”