As Executive Director of St. Johns Riverkeeper and a longtime advocate of all things “green” in Northeast Florida, Jimmy Orth has been practicing and promoting sustainability on the First Coast for many years. But it wasn’t until he met his wife, Genora, that he became more of an urbanite.
Genora has been living in Riverside all of her adult life, and she’s always been interested in gardening and growing her own food. Their nine-year old son, Eli, also has a love of plants and protecting the environment. The first thing he did when I arrived at their Riverside home was show me a frog he recently caught. During the interview, Eli was quick to respond right alongside his parents: “I started gardening because I like broccoli and I like to have frogs in the garden!”
Jimmy explains that he wasn’t always into sustainability. “I got my start right after school. I remember going to the twentieth anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1990, and then when I moved to Jacksonville I started getting involved in the Sierra Club and worked with the Riverkeeper.”
For them, part of sustainability is simply about living in a small house, Jimmy says. “It uses less energy and there is less yard.”
Genora explains that they were fighting weeds and all kinds of pests, before they finally tore up most of the grass and re-planted using native species and easy-to-maintain shrubs. “It’s actually not a big lifestyle choice,” Jimmy says. “It’s just about being conscious.” They do simple, commonsense things like limiting water and electricity when they can, but Genora points out that they never feel deprived. They also raise their own chickens and Genora attends “Lost Skills” classes to expand her knowledge of sustainable practices. Her next project is to learn about beekeeping.