The organization formerly known as START is now Coastal Keepers, an independent branch of Sanibel Sea School that will focus on organizing community conservation initiatives. The Board of Directors of SanCap START wanted to be able to have a more local impact without being tied to a larger, state-wide organization, so they decided to merge the two nonprofit organizations and become fully focused on locally relevant conservation issues.

"We very much enjoyed and benefited from our linkage with the larger state-wide START organization, but we want to focus all of our efforts and expend all of our monies in our own community, executing initiatives that will benefit our islands, funded by our residents," said Dr. Bruce Neill, Sanibel Sea School's executive director. 

He explained that merging SanCap START with Sanibel Sea School seemed like the most obvious and efficient next step, because the two nonprofits share an overarching mission. “I believe that the future of successful, small, mission-driven businesses like ours lies in the creation of partnerships to help minimize costs, share resources and maximize return on mission investment,” Neill said.

“Sanibel Sea School is in the business of conservation and education,” he added. “Combining business activities with START just makes a lot of business sense. The missions of the two businesses are very complimentary and our shared business infrastructure will only help us advance that mission with greater efficiency.”

Sancap START has long had a very close association with Sanibel Sea School, and this business combination makes that relationship more official and structured, but will not significantly change the projects that Coastal Keepers carries out. Planned initiatives include a continuation of the Bring Your Own Bag program, a partnership with local businesses to reduce disposable plastic use and distribute free reusable shopping bags on the islands, documentary screenings on environmental topics, a campaign to minimize the use of plastic straws in island restaurants, and more.

This structural change is a significant addition to the conservation education offerings at Sanibel Sea School. “We have long been able to communicate about environmental challenges the oceans face to young people, but that is really only half of the story. With Coastal Keepers, we will be able to sort of go the full way and not only educate young people about challenges, but then be able to demonstrate how we effect solutions to those challenges,” said Neill.

Coastal Keepers has plans to launch a new website in the coming weeks, and will be introducing some of their new initiatives soon. Look for the Coastal Keepers team distributing free, reusable canvas shopping bags at Bailey’s General Store on December 30th.