Working for a green future: Groups discuss Sustainable CT initiative

Members of various groups in Milford, and citizens met Saturday to discuss Sustainable CT, an initiative that unites groups around the state in promoting green efforts.

The City of Milford took a vow of sustainability earlier this year. At its January meeting, the Board of Aldermen passed a resolution to join Sustainable CT, a statewide volunteer certification program aimed at encouraging and rewarding municipalities for their sustainable efforts.

Open Space and Natural Resource Agent Steven Johnson introduced the discussion Saturday at the Milford Public Library, mentioning groups involved such as Milford Environmental Concerns Commission, Milford Energy Advisory Board, Milford Conservation Commission, The Sierra Club, Milford Environmental Protective Initiative, Milford Speaks Out, and independent volunteers, like those who clean litter from the town.

“One of the challenges is that we don't talk together as much as we could,” Johnson said. Previous environment talks have proven successful, he said, and connecting the right people together is key in making any impact.

Johnson cited successful city efforts such as the replacement of amber-hued, high pressure sodium street lights, with LED lights, that saves 50% of power. He also cited a Google maps search of electric vehicle charging stations, of which 28 appeared under the city's zip code, and 869 local properties that demonstrate solar energy usage. Talks are ongoing and informal, as members work to determine how to mutually and effectively communicate formal recommendations to the mayor.

Ryan Keeler is a Milford resident who will be a part of the group, due to his expertise in sustainable development. He said the group will not be a regulatory entity, but a means for communication between the groups and Mayor Ben Blake. He said some of his perspective may include how open space and economic development share interests and needs. He said open space is inherently associated with the notion for profit, but understanding natural benefits with bio diverse species that live in a given space, and future potential laws that could affect land, is crucial to developers and the community at large.

Keeler, in addition to others present, highlighted the need for the establishment of a greener culture. Such automatic responses, like using plastic bags at the market, or using Styrofoam take-out containers, contributes to how people view the environment. Alice Garlock, a local student, understands this about creating culture. She said she surveyed 500 people for her college sociology course, which revealed that when seeing a littered property versus a clean property, people are more likely to litter. She says that knowing others are cleaning, or seeing it occur, deters littering. Garlock routinely cleans Milford, and re-purposes garbage to produce beds and toys for animal shelters.

Johnson said Milford was the sixth or seventh town to join the statewide effort. A general advisory plan was submitted May 1, and a more cohesive final plan, and application, will be submitted August 24. The city must satisfy at least one action in each of nine categories, involving inclusive and equitable community impacts, well-stewarded land and natural resources, efficient physical infrastructure and operations, vibrant and creative cultural ecosystems, dynamic and resilient planning, clean and diverse transportation systems and choices, strategic and inclusive public services, thriving local economies, and healthy, efficient, and diverse housing.

Grants may be provided when a city is certified on a series of levels to further attempt to progress green initiatives, which is funded by the non-profit and its donations.

Milford is proving to play somewhat of a leadership role in the statewide initiative. Jason Prignoli, on the Milford Energy Advisory Board, and Diane Lentakis, a member of Milford Energy Advisory Board, 350 CT, and Sierra Club, will share an overview of the group and spread awareness, via a Minute with the Mayor series on May 25 at 10:30 a.m. They will also highlight details on upcoming initiatives on the public access channel in June.

“We have a planet that's about five billion years old. Milford is going on 379 years of European settlement,” Johnson said. “We have an opportunity to re-think how Milford is going to look in the next 379 years.”