Meet the movers and shakers urging us toward environmentally friendly living.
Fairfield County is home to hundreds of people, products, and services making our communities a little greener. Towns from Greenwich to Fairfield are putting environmental preservation and sustainability at the top of their priority list. Part of the motivation is to preserve natural resources and keep residents healthy, and part is good business: Millions of kilowatt hours—and dollars—can be saved through efficient lighting and air conditioning. Here we highlight a few local standouts.
1. Green Mowing
One day, three years ago, Dan Delventhal, a Fairfield resident, had had enough of loud, noxious power mowers. He launched MOWGreen.US, a full-service, earth-friendly landscaping company, which uses pollution-free modern and retooled “reel,” or push, mowers, as well as good old-fashioned trimming, raking, and sweeping.
“I wanted to get gasoline out of the mix,” he says. “For the same price as conventional ‘dirty’ lawn care, we can do the job and reduce the environmental impact of power mowing, which creates 10 percent of U.S. air pollution.”
Delventhal is now working on converting self-propelled gas mowers into hydrogen-fueled mowers, a new way to make the mowers more eco-friendly without scrapping them.
“My initial agenda was to get rid of noise and pollution, but the business is also creating jobs, and we’re reducing chemical pesticides and fertilizers that are poisoning the populations.”
Beside, he adds, “People pay to exercise. Why not walk behind a push mower and be paid?”
2. Greener Towns
Darien: The town has reduced its energy consumption and continues to look for efficiencies, identify alternative energy sources, and investigate LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. Darien Library is projected to be the first LEED gold-
certified library in New England.
Fairfield: This town pioneered green building and clean energy initiatives in schools and municipalities, holds summer and winter farmers’ markets, fights for land preservation, and is home to green networking events.
Greenwich: This longtime leader in land conservation and stewardship is home to Audubon Greenwich, which offers education and conservation initiatives and a 285-acre sanctuary. The Greenwich Land Trust has dedicated itself to protecting open space for more than thirty years, preserving and maintaining 729 acres. Office projects include the 425,000-square-foot Greenwich Office Park, which has registered for LEED status. In 2009 an environmental task force tackled key issues such as artificial turf, energy conservation, cleaning products, green buildings, pesticides, recycling and public transportation.
Norwalk: Many buildings on the Norwalk/Wilton line, including GE Capital Real Estate’s space in an eight-story, 350,000-square-foot building on the Merritt River Campus and Sun Products’ 56,000-square-foot corporate headquarters, earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification.
Stamford: The big news is a $16 million waste-to-energy project, which involves burning pelletized sewage sludge to produce electricity; installing solar panels at Rippowam Middle School and the Highway Department Facility; building the new Interdistrict Environmental Magnet School to LEED® silver standards; and implementing an Energy Improvement District. In the commercial market, giants like Pitney Bowes encourage commercial landlords to provide environmentally sensitive space.
Westport: In 2008 Westport became the first town on the East Coast to ban plastic bags. Now its Green Task Force is negotiating a single-stream recycling contract to help residents choose a clean energy source and choosing hybrid cars for its municipal fleet.
3. Greener Schools
Administration: When it comes to environmental responsibility, our schools practice what they teach. Students collect and recycle papers, bottles, caps, drink pouches and cans. Students at Fairfield’s Sherman Elementary and Unquowa schools plant edible gardens, which supply the cafeteria. At Stamford’s Dolan Middle School, the head custodian built a mobile compost cart. Darien’s Royle School hosts
Trash-Free Tuesdays. Greenwich schoolkids observe Earth Hour by turning off their lights for one hour. The Greenwich Schools’ Green Committee raises awareness of issues such as the no-idling law, initiatives such as the recycling of sneakers and crayons, and programs for reusing books and coats.
Students: For ten years Wilton high schoolers have assisted the DEP in stocking roughly 400 trout in a local river, monitoring the growth of flounder in the Norwalk River, and replanting native wildflowers and grasses in areas that require habitat restoration. Last year Staples High School students pioneered an impressive Eco Fest.
School Buildings: Schools are improving air-quality standards and turning to nontoxic cleaning products. In fact, the state legislature has proposed that only green cleaning products be used in Connecticut’s public schools.
Greenwich: In April 2009 the Greenwich Board of Selectmen passed a resolution regarding the safety of artificial turf playing fields in town. This resolution established the Artificial Turf Working Group to monitor current research and concerns. Greenwich Academy was recognized in 2009 as part of EPA’s Green Power Partnership for using green power.
New Canaan: In 2008 New Canaan Country Day School received a national award for the greenest school building in the state by including recycled building materials, using solar panels and low-impact paints and carpets, maximizing use of daylight, and by installing efficient low-water-use systems.
Westport: Public schools here implemented an indoor air-quality program, and Staples High School is installing solar panels purchased through clean energy credits from more than 500 residents who made the switch to clean energy sources.
4. Metro Green Apartments
The new Metro Green Apartments (metrogreenapartments.com) in Stamford is a community of fifty green apartments, public plaza and streetscape with custom light fixtures, walkways, a rain garden, and lush curbside plantings. It’s also affordable housing. It boasts a rainwater harvesting system and green building materials with recycled, low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) components. Westport’s 597 residential complex (597westport.com) is green too, pursuing silver LEED certification.
5. Fairfield University
In 2009 Fairfield University was named one of the nation’s “Cool Schools” by the Sierra Club for its achievements. These efforts include its earth-friendly Fairfield Jesuit Community Center; Earth House, a university apartment in which four students will live by sustainable principles; the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Audit to reduce the school’s carbon footprint; a hybrid campus bus; car- and bike-sharing programs for students; and major recycling programs. It earned a 2010 Energy Star CHP Award for its combined heat and power plant.