'Make every day Earth Day'

Some of Fairfield’s top environmentalists share their secrets for green living in observance of Earth Day.

cott Thompson, chairman of the Fairfield Clean Energy Task Force. (Shawn O’Sullivan photos)

Scott Thompson, chairman of the Fairfield Clean Energy Task Force. (Shawn O’Sullivan photos)

Scott Thompson

Chairman, Fairfield Clean Energy Task Force

Try to keep track of your carbon footprint. There is an online calculator you can use. Over the last seven years we’ve taken actions like getting solar panels, then a hybrid car and then and eventually the Nissan Leaf electric car. There is very little maintenance in an electric car: no oil to change, no exhaust, no transmission, and no cooling system. When you factor in gas and maintenance savings, electric cars are hands down cheaper.

We’ve got a biomass stove as our primary source of heat.

For yard maintenance I have totally eliminated the gas can. When I first moved here I had a snow blower, lawn mower a leaf blower; I got rid of them all. Black & Decker makes a great set of tools run on batteries, and my lawn mower is electric as well.

When we started, our carbon footprint was about 26 tons per person per year. Last year we were at 5 tons. Our goal is 4 tons. Through the Solarize program we are adding more panels onto the front of the house. This will make about 120% of our electricity, setting the stage for a second electric car, and will take us down to 4 tons.

Fairfield’s Clean Energy Task Force is wants be a resource, to make it as easy as possible for people to make these decisions. Prior to Solarize Fairfield, we had 38 homes in the first seven years of solar incentives in Fairfield. In the four months of Solarize Fairfield we doubled that number. We are very excited about some of the programs we are doing. One of the hardest things is getting people over the shock of how easy it is.

Analiese Paik, founder of Fairfield Green Food Guide

Analiese Paik, founder of Fairfield Green Food Guide

Analiese Paik

Founder Fairfield Green Food Guide

Forty percent of the food produced in this country goes to waste. That’s from field to plate. That is an alarming statistic. We as consumers waste on average 254 pounds a year of food per person. There are things we can do.

When you go out to a restaurant order less, or share with someone, or take a doggie bag home.

Don’t buy more than you need; we tend to buy things in bulk and then watch half go bad in the refrigerator. The problem with food waste is not only the money we have spent, but also all the inputs along the way of water and fossil fuels, which are finite resources. Fossil fuels are used on the farm, in transportation and in packaging.

The money we pay for food is not a full reflection of what’s being wasted. Raw food waste is can go into compost.

You can also be a more sustainable eater if you just stop buying bottled water. Buy a stainless steel Thermos. Water is no better from a plastic bottle.

Another important thing is to try to eat local in season. This supports our local food-shed. Find out about the local farmers markets and farm stands. Or join a CSA, (community supported agriculture) farm. Many of our local farms are sustainable. The amount of packaging is reduced significantly, and trucking, refrigerating and thus fossil fuel use goes way down. It’s a win-win for everyone.

http://fairfieldgreenfoodguide.com

Andrew Graceffa, president of the Fairfield Bike Walk Coalition and chairman of the Fairfield Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Advisory Committee

Andrew Graceffa, president of the Fairfield Bike Walk Coalition and chairman of the Fairfield Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Advisory Committee

Andrew Graceffa

President, Fairfield Bike Walk Coalition

Chairman, Fairfield Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Advisory Committee

Think about transportation choices. Fairfield does have a lot of walkability. People should take advantage of local businesses and the multi-use trails around town.

The bike/walk coalition is really trying to help build routes that will allow people to have alternative options for their in-town trips. This has so many ripple benefits: both health and economic. It also gives the government a sign that people want this.

Within two to three years the downtown area will be seen as more safe for biking, with a bike route on Mill Plain Road that goes from Brookside Drive to the Fairfield theater. We can also get kids to walk to school. It will get the parents out and about, and they can meet their neighbors. It turns them into advocates.

 

Larry Kaley, Fairfield Earth Day chairman and co-chairman of the Fairfield Clean Energy Task Force

Larry Kaley, Fairfield Earth Day chairman and co-chairman of the Fairfield Clean Energy Task Force

Larry Kaley

Fairfield Earth Day Chairman

Co-Chairman, Fairfield Clean Energy Task Force

The Earth Day Committee is now planning to have events every month. Our theme is that Earth Day is every day.

The approach I have to environmental issues is we need to keep bringing it out. It’s like teaching. Your classes change. If we keep reiterating ideas eventually there is more acceptance with people who might be more resistant to change. If your actions are environmentally correct then you will make a difference.

Some things you can do are garden: Grow some of your own food; and you can maintain your property in an environmentally friendly way.

I’ve noticed a lot more people interested in solar panels now that I have them, although it’s not as easy now that the incentives are over. How much money are you saving by subsidizing solar, or say, geothermal, whatever those incentives might be. There is a savings, in health costs, in environmental degradation.

On April 27, during Fairfield’s Earth Day celebration at Fairfield Warde, there will be a Q & A session focusing on environmental issues having an impact on Connecticut. Congressman Jim Himes, State Sen. John McKinney and representatives Kim Fawcett, Brenda Kupchick and Tony Hwang will be participating. People can come and give ideas and opinions.

Earth Day, and Clean Energy Task Force, offer, at different times and different ways, opportunities for people to learn.

www.Fairfieldearthday.org

Jim Motavalli, environmental journalist and speaker

Jim Motavalli, environmental journalist and speaker

Jim Motavalli

Environmental journalist and speaker

Greenhouse emissions are very closely tied to fuel economy. It pays to have the most fuel-efficient car you can get, and probably the smallest car you can live with- because it’s very hard to make a fuel-efficient 7 passenger SUV. Often people choose a bigger vehicle than they actually need; they choose a vehicle for a trip they might make once a year. What’s better to do is use car sharing, which is available in Fairfield and enables you to get a truck when you need it, and have a smaller vehicle for most of your daily use and commuting. You really shouldn’t be driving around in 15 mpg vehicles. You want to get the most fuel-efficient vehicle you can that will lower your carbon footprint. I am impressed by how many people now own electric cars in Fairfield. We now have four charging stations. I’d like to see some public buildings in Fairfield including the train station offer electric vehicle charging, and I think it could be solar- that’s a great way to do it. If you charge your electric vehicle from solar power you have a 100% clean energy loop.

Milan Bull, director of Science and Conservation, Connecticut Audubon

Milan Bull, director of Science and Conservation, Connecticut Audubon

Milan Bull

Director of Science and Conservation, Connecticut Audubon

What is harming not only Fairfield, but really the whole country is the influx of invasive species that we have now. Everywhere you look, all the plantings people put in their yards are cultivars. Nurseries sell them as disease- and insect-resistant because they come from another country, usually Asia. If you bring a plant in from Asia it either it can’t do well, or it does really well — as there are no predators to eat it. Insects and plants evolve together. Plants evolve toxins so insects don’t eat them and insects develop mechanisms to get around this. So if you take a plant from another country and bring it over here, it has toxins our insects haven’t had to deal with, so they can’t eat that plant. Because insects don’t eat them, we now have all these neighborhoods that are so full of foreign insect-resistant species that there are no insects for the birds. That decreases biodiversity. On a large scale it’s a big problem. It throws a monkey wrench in the whole web of life.

One thing I would suggest is that people learn about what native plants that are beautiful and attractive and can still be helpful to wildlife. They should plant these when they are buying a house or landscaping.

Another thing is to reduce the use of pesticides. We need to look at a better way to manage insect control other than put hard-core chemicals out. Consider having a little birdscaping area in your yard where things are natural.

Keep in mind that we are trying to live with nature, not against it.

http://ct.audubon.org/plant-native-species-0

Daphne Dixon, director of Green Towns, executive director of Conscious Decisions and co-founder of Live Green Connecticut

Daphne Dixon, director of Green Towns, executive director of Conscious Decisions and co-founder of Live Green Connecticut

Daphne Dixon

Director of Green Towns

Executive director of Conscious Decisions

Co-founder of Live Green Connecticut

I see Fairfield as a model for green community around the country. It has won different awards, a Green Coast award; an award from the Green Building Council.

What I love most about living in Fairfield is Fairfield Green Drinks. It gives anyone the opportunity to come and hang out with really nice people in a comfortable setting and learn something about whatever the featured organization is about sustainability. We do this once a month. In four years we’ve had about a thousand people come and go, and worked with hundreds of organizations and businesses to support their green message.

I do outreach all over the country, and the thing I find truly exciting is that Fairfield is the most active community page on Green Towns, which is a website for people to share green initiatives and find out how green your town is. We work with groups like Keep America Beautiful, and Waterkeeper Alliance.

I talk with people in California, Houston, Georgia. Every time they want to see an example of a town that’s really engaged, I show them Fairfield. Green Towns is both a local and national answer to how we can all share what we are doing to hasten sustainability.

I would encourage everyone to join our town page and put their profile in and say ‘I care.’ It builds community.

http://www.greentowns.com/ct/fairfield.

Bob Wall, director of Marketing for the Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority

Bob Wall, director of Marketing for the Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority

Bob Wall

Director of Marketing

Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority

Most people don’t understand that there are many opportunities to “find” money right under their roofs. When considering home improvements, a basic starting point ought to be getting a home energy assessment such as the Home Energy Solutions program. A qualified team will come into your house and replace bulbs, do caulking and weather stripping. With these changes you can expect to save about $200 a year.

After the assessment is finished, the contractor will highlight further cost-effective energy improvements such as insulation, equipment upgrades, fuel conversions and solar electric or hot water systems. There are many attractive rebates and financing options that can help a homeowner take advantage of these upgrades. Typically, the savings on your energy bills will be greater than the monthly payment of the loan or lease used to pay for the improvements. Once the financing is paid off, the homeowner can pocket the full amount of the energy savings, month after month. Not only is this good for your bottom line, it’s good for your comfort, health and home value as well as our environment and economy.

For complete information on smart energy choices, homeowners should visit www.EnergizeCT.com, which is a new “one-stop shop” for all of the state’s energy programs.

Annelise McCay, gardens coordinator, Fairfield Public Schools

Annelise McCay, gardens coordinator, Fairfield Public Schools

Annelise McCay

Gardens coordinator, Fairfield Public Schools

Start a little garden. Plant your salad greens and your carrots and put a tomato plant in and grow your own little fresh salad in your back garden. You could grow lettuce in your window boxes. Use your own compost from kitchen scraps to fertilize, as long as you are not using heavy chemicals. The ladybug and the praying mantis are my heroes.

That’s what I try to teach the kids. Let’s get this next generation back in touch with the earth. I grew up playing in the woods and I don’t see many kids doing that anymore. Get them away from the screen and have them do a little digging in the dirt. There is nothing more natural for a kid. See what’s under a rock and look at all the life that’s happening in the soil. There is a whole ecosystem going on. That was play is about. It should be a natural part of childhood, and those lessons are so easily learned in a garden.

Once you start picking your own fresh tomatoes and fresh lettuce and making a salad you or your children have grown there is ownership and pride. It tastes better when you grow it yourself. It has not only brought families together, with the effort of putting in gardens in community centers and schools it has brought community together in a beautiful way. We need to care about these things.

Peter McKnight, chairman, Eastern Fairfield County Sierra Group

Peter McKnight, chairman, Eastern Fairfield County Sierra Group

Peter McKnight

Chairman, Eastern Fairfield County Sierra Group

Try and use greener lawn products. Instead of chemical fertilizers you can use corn gluten meal, which is a weed killer as well as a fertilizer. Also, good old-fashioned compost makes a great lawn fertilizer.

When you are mowing your lawn, try to be sure to keep the depth of your grass to no less than three inches, which also helps to suppress weeds.

Chemical fertilizers contribute to the growth of pond scum by seeping into the ground water and feeding algae in ponds and lakes. Instead of chemical pesticides which people use to kill grubs and insects, you can use parasitic nematodes or milky spore disease-obtained easily online or at a good garden center. There are some high strength vinegars you can use to kill weeds. There are also some iron containing weed killers available. But if you have weeds already you have to do some spot weeding.

Personally, I love dandelions. I think they are pretty.

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