Category Archives: Environment

How Sound Is Our Sound?

Remember the days of persistent algal blooms in Long Island Sound? When hypodermic needles washed up on shore? When only truly brave souls went in for a swim — and then headed straight for the shower?

Those days are thankfully gone. It’s taken a concerted effort — by government and private agencies, working together and on their own — to clean up the Sound.

But how healthy is it today?

Save the Sound knows. The New Haven-based organization’s new online tool provides 10 years of water quality data, easily understandable by the public.

Compo Beach beckons on a hot day. But is the water as healthy as it looks?

Compo Beach beckons on a hot day. But is the water as healthy as it looks?

One section focuses on the health of coastal beaches, including bacterial pollution that leads to beach closures and water quality degradation.

Rainfall data shows which locations suffer from bacterial contamination as a result of wet weather overflows and runoff, and which suffer in dry weather too.

The Findings & Solutions section offers strategies for reducing water pollution.

Every beach in Connecticut and New York is rated, from A to F. SPOILER ALERT: Compo gets a B-.

It’s not the sexiest site on the interwebs.

Nor is this one of the most irresistible stories I’ve ever posted on “06880.”

But if you care at all about Long Island Sound — and who in Westport doesn’t? — then clicking this link might be the most important things you do all day.

(Hat tip: Wally Meyer)

Plastic Bag Ban Sponsors Respond

In 2008, RTM members Jonathan Cunitz, Liz Milwe, Gene Seidman and Jeff Weiser sponsored the “retail bag ordinance” banning plastic bags in Westport. In response to today’s post about the new CVS bags, they sent this message to “06880”:

RTMWe remain proud of the enlightened action that the Westport RTM took 7 years ago to act responsibly with regard to plastic bags. Ever since Mel Sorcher and Don Wergeles first brought their concerns to our attention, and after nearly a year of organizing, engaging the community, and legislating, the RTM overwhelmingly passed the Plastic Bag Ordinance by a vote of 26-5 on September 2, 2008.

We have been gratified by the strong support that our Plastic Bag Ordinance has gained in the town. It also is gratifying to note that while the ordinance was inspired by a similar, earlier ordinance in San Francisco, ours has been a guide for a number of other towns that have adopted ordinances since 2009.

We conservatively estimate that the town of Westport has eliminated 15 million plastic bags from circulating in our environment, creating a problem in our rivers, Long Island Sound, the Atlantic and beyond. Many Westporters say they are very proud that our town has the distinction of being a leader in the environmental movement, by being the first town east of the Mississippi to ban plastic bags at retail.

CVS bag 1

The CVS bag shown and mentioned in your article this morning directly and intentionally circumvents the spirit of the Plastic Bag Ordinance. While the CVS bag may be technically “legal,” it is certainly contrary to the intention of the law. It’s a way for the plastics industry to stay in the business of providing unnecessary bags.

It is worth noting that the only way plastic shopping bags can be recycled is if the consumer returns them to a grocery store. The recycling rates at grocery stores are well below 10%. The CVS bags will jam Westport’s single-stream recycling machines and continue to be a nuisance, stymying Westport’s recycling efforts.

Westporters have gotten used to bringing reusable bags to the grocery store — and they’ll get used to bringing reusable bags to CVS and Walgreens, all the while being responsible and proud citizens of the environment.

We know that even little efforts make great impact, and show our children that we care about the environment. The plastic bag ban has proven to be successful and should continue to be enforced.. CVS will respond to public pressure. So, next time when you are in CVS, just say no to their plastic bags!

 

Recycling The Bag Ban At CVS

In 2008, when Kim Lake served on Westport’s Green Task Force, the group prodded the RTM to ban plastic bags. The 26-5 vote made this the 1st municipality east of the Mississippi to enact such legislation.

Despite fears ranging from deforestation to the cost of potential litigation, Westporters adapted easily. We now tote reusable bags without a second thought, and find it archaic that out-of-town merchants still use plastic bags.*

So the other day Kim did a double take. Instead of a paper bag, she got this at CVS:

CVS bag 1

I got a similar bag last week. I was surprised too.

Kim — who in addition to being an alert “06880” reader, is also an attorney — fished out the old ordinance.

The CVS bag meets — even exceeds — the legal standards, she says. Any retail reusable bag must have at least 40% post-consumer recycled material. This one has “at least 80%” — according to the bag, anyway.

But read the fine print. It’s “designed for at least 125 uses.” We’re advised to clean the bag by rinsing it, then hanging it upside down to dry.

Yes, and after doing that, you and I will read the 57,000-word terms of service before clicking “agree” the next time we download a new version of iTunes!

CVS bag 2

Kim wonders how “reusable” this plastic bag really is. “It looks a lot like a disposable plastic bag that the rule was written to eradicate,” she says.

What do you think? Is this the beginning of the end for Westport’s plastic bag ban? Does the ordinance need revision? Or should we just bag this whole environmental thing? Click “Comments” below to weigh in.

*Except at Stew’s.

Town Hall Is Out To Lunch

At noon today, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe and town operations director Dewey Loselle decided to take their Town Hall office staff to lunch.

It’s Thursday, so what better spot than the Westport Farmers’ Market?

Rear: Town operations director Dewey Loselle, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. Sitting: Administrative assistant Janet Suchsland, office manager Eileen Francis.

Rear: Town operations director Dewey Loselle, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. Front: Administrative assistant Janet Suchsland, office manager Eileen Francis.

No word on whether they went for pizza, seafood, Spanish omelets, tapas, quiche, hot dogs or burritos — all available every week, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Westporters need not worry about the lunchtime excursion, Marpe says. “We’ve got people covering the phones.”

Christy Colasurdo Celebrates Connecticut’s Farm Tables

Christy Colasurdo  says her son Charlie was “somehow born to be a farmer and environmentalist.” To ensure that other kids would have a place to learn where their food comes from, how to care for animals, what it means to recycle and compost, and just spend time in nature — Christy got involved with Wakeman Town Farm.

While Charlie apprenticed at local farms, Christy — a former New York magazine editor — began writing about the farm-to-table movement. That led to her launch of Graze (now called The Simple Scallion), a service that delivers milk, eggs and the like from small farms to people’s front doors.

Christy Colasurdo

Christy Colasurdo

Christy admires and respects the endless hours of hard work farmers put in: working the land; handling weather, pests and disease; marketing their products; packing and unpacking wares at farmers’ markets, and (these are not farmers of yore) navigating social media to educate people about good seasonal food.

While getting Graze off the ground, Christy met Tracey Medeiros. She’d just published a book about Vermont’s farm-to-table scene.

Christy described Fairfield County, where fantastic chefs are partnering with local farmers, fishermen, oystermen and honey connoisseurs.

A new book was born. Christy identified restaurants, chefs and farmers, then wrote the profiles. Tracey and a tester tried hundreds of the chefs’ best recipes.

A year and a half later, The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook is a beautiful homage/culinary travelogue. From Greenwich to Groton, Norwalk to Litchfield, Christy and Tracey tell great stories, using intriguing stories and stunning photos.

And, of course, mouth-watering recipes.

Preparing a recipe at the Westport Farmers' Market. (Photo/Oliver Parini)

Preparing a recipe at the Westport Farmers’ Market. (Photo/Oliver Parini)

Among the local places and recipes:

  • The Whelk and Le Farm (deviled eggs with cornmeal, fried oysters and pickled red onion)
  • Blue Lemon (fresh peach tart)
  • Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens (Brussels sprouts and petite edibles)
  • Saugatuck Craft Butchery (slow-roasted porchetta with cilantro and smoked paprika; dry-aged steak tartare crostini with pickled garden turnips)
  • SoNo Baking Company and Cafe (strawberry frangipane tartlets; caramel-apple tart)
  • Tarry Lodge (rosa bianca eggplant caponata)
  • Terrain (salt-roasted beets with blood oranges, pistachios and goat cheese salad)
  • Westport Farmers’ Market (various vendors)
  • Wakeman Town Farm (chipotle veggie chili)

Christy Colasurdo book“The chef/farmer relationship often goes unheralded,” Christy says. “Yet it’s exponentially more difficult for a chef to source from small local and organic farms and fishermen than from a large commercial supplier.

“It’s a lot easier to let the Sysco truck pull to the back door,” she adds. “Instead, they get out to the farmers’ market. They take ‘field trips’ to local organic farms. They forge old-fashioned relationships with their suppliers that often include bailing out a farmer with too much zucchini or kale, or asking the farmer to plant special crops like Peruvian purple potatoes or Asian specialty greens, just for their restaurants.”

The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook is available at Terrain and Barnes & Noble. This Thursday, July 9 (10 a.m.) there’s a talk at the Westport Library. At 10:45, Christy and Tracey will stroll over to the Farmers’ Market. Local farmers and vendors featured in the book will be introduced, and Tracey will give a recipe demo using fresh market produce.

Get set for a delightful, delicious day.

Market Thursday

In its 10th year, the Westport Farmers Market is stronger than ever.

Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Imperial Avenue commuter parking lot is filled with smart (and hungry) shoppers.

Pushing strollers or wielding walkers, shoppers make their way from booth to booth. Butchers, bakers, pizza makers — and everyone in between — offers fresh food. (The definition of “farmers” is loose, but the qualifications are strict.)

The Staples boys soccer team was there today too. They volunteered to help carry bags to cars. Any tips went to the Farmers’ Market Gillespie Center project — which is run with Staples’ culinary classes, through Chef Cecily Gans.

It all comes around. And it all tastes very, very good.

Fresh produce is one of the Westport Farmer's Market's most popular attractions.

Fresh produce is one of the Westport Farmer’s Market’s most popular attractions.

Staples soccer players (from left) Sebastian Wick, Kenji Goto, Noah Schwaeber, Graham Gudis and Timmy Liles get ready to volunteer at the Westport Farmers' Market. Matteo Broccolo and Daniel Brill were also there, working elsewhere.

Staples soccer players (from left) Sebastian Wick, Kenji Goto, Noah Schwaeber, Graham Gudis and Timmy Liles volunteer at the Westport Farmers’ Market. Matteo Broccolo and Daniel Brill were also there.

Simply Delicious offers turkey meatballs, blueberry beet gazpacho, kale and corn empanadas, and much more.

Simply Delicious offers turkey meatballs, blueberry beet gazpacho, kale and corn empanadas, and much more.

The Nutty Bunny sign says it all.

The Nutty Bunny sign says it all.

Thirsty? Choose between champagne tea...

Thirsty? Choose between champagne tea…

...and "coffee for humanity."

…and “coffee for humanity.”

It doesn't get more natural than honey -- direct from the bees, with no middleman.

It doesn’t get more natural than honey — direct from the bees, with no middleman.

 

Noorism

Noor Zakka’s grandparents have been in Westport for 40 years. This town has long been a weekend getaway for her.

Three years ago she, her husband and their 2 young boys moved here full time.

The reasons — the greenery and schools — are common. But what Noor has done since arriving here is not.

An FIT graduate in fashion design, she worked in the industry in New York. But, Noor says, she sometimes felt as if she was not accomplishing anything good.

She wanted to create something beautiful — but also give back to the world.

The result is Noorism, a sustainable fashion company.

Noor Zakka sports one of Noorism's summer hats.

Noor Zakka sports one of Noorism’s summer hats.

“We feel that clothes can be well-made, look amazing, be eco-friendly, and leave as little impact on the earth as possible,” Noor says.

Noorism designs, creates and manufactures small collections locally.

Noor wants her products to last. She wants buyers to know exactly where, how and by whom her goods are made.

Her fabrics are sourced from orders that other companies did not use, or are upcycled from used garments. Recycled fabrics and materials are key.

For every item sold, Noorism gives $5 to Charity:Water, a non-profit that provides clean, safe drinking water to developing nations. “The fashion industry consumes a lot of water, and wastes a lot,” she explains.

Her 1st collection is upcycled denim summer hats.

Noorims's summer hat line.

Noorims’s summer hat line.

They’re not cheap: $145. But, Noor says, it takes a couple of hours to turn an old pair of jeans into a sun hat.

“It is kind of a luxury product,” she admits. “But it’s special. Plus, it’s made in America.”

National Geographic Focuses On Westport

Tuesday’s post-storm clouds sent a lot of Westporters scurrying for their cameras.

Most photos ended up on Facebook or Twitter.

Stephen Wilkes’ found its way to National Geographic — and then to the magazine’s very popular Instagram feed.

National Geographic photo of Compo Beach by Stephen Wilkes

(Photo/Stephen Wilkes)

Alert “06880” reader Danielle Dobin spotted it, and sent it to “06880.”

“Natgeo” included Wilkes’ comment: “I was fortunate to see this remarkable sunset from Compo beach, after days of summer storms.” It included the hashtags iPhoneonly, CompoBeach, Connecticut, surreal, clouds, color — and skyporn.

In just 2 hours it’s garnered 167,000 likes, and over 1,150 comments. Most are along the lines of “awesome.” One person called it “weird.” Another said, “where we got married!!”

A woman wrote, “I want to go there.”

The comments came from around the globe. One person said “Lijkt beetje op jouw lucht,” which Google Translate changed from Dutch to “Seems little air on you.”

That’s not as weird as this comment — 刚刚在他家买了一只沛纳海 很牛逼 大家要买表找他,最靠谱的卖家 朋友圈都有标价 — which Google Translate believes says “He just bought a house very fast hardware you buy a Panerai watch to find him, the most likely price the seller has a circle of friends.”

On the other hand, “06880” readers don’t need a translator to look at Stephen Wilkes’ image and say, “that’s our Compo!”

[UPDATE] Bear-ly Noticed

Alert — and concerned — “06880” reader Kate Greenberg saw a bear (black or dark brown, she thinks) behind her house yesterday, around 3 p.m.

She lives off the Merritt Parkway (eastbound). The bear was walking in the woods, between her house and the Merritt. She called the police.

She wonders: Has anyone else reported a bear in the area?

It’s been a tough year for Kate. Coyotes killed her dog in the yard last November, just after dusk.

This is not the Westport bear. But it's close.

This bear is from Alaska. Kate Greenberg didn’t get a shot of the Westport bear.

In mid-afternoon, the Westport Police sent this notice:

Westport Police received two separate reports from residents whose properties border the Merritt Parkway of two separate sightings of black bears. In both instances the bear was observed moving through the properties and did not act in an aggressive manner. The following information regarding the handling of bears near your home was obtained from the CT DEEP website. All sightings should be reported to the Police Department and CT DEEP at the numbers below:

If you see a bear:

  • Enjoy it from a distance.
  • Advertise your presence by shouting and waving your arms or walk slowly away.
  • Never attempt to feed or attract bears.
  • Report bear sightings to the Wildlife Division, at (860) 675-8130.

Experience has shown that a single wandering bear can be responsible for numerous sightings reported to the Wildlife Division. Experience has also shown that, given an avenue for escape, bears will usually wander back into more secluded areas.

People should not feed bears, either intentionally or unintentionally. Bears that associate food with people become problem bears that will not be tolerated by all property owners. Connecticut has the habitat to support more bears; however, the future of Connecticut’s bear population depends on the actions and attitudes of the human population.

The probability of a bear attacking a human is exceptionally low. Therefore, the mere presence of a bear does not necessitate its removal. However, the department may attempt to remove bears from urban locations when there is little likelihood that they will leave on their own and when they are in positions where darting is feasible.

The department attempts to monitor bear activity in developed areas in coordination with local public safety officials. Coordination and cooperation with officials on the scene and local police officials is a key, critical ingredient in educating the public and assuring a safe, desirable outcome in such a situation.

And The Newest Osprey Nest Is …

… atop the cell tower near Merritt Parkway Exit 41.

Osprey in cell tower at Exit 41 - Jo Ann Davidson

This pair — you can see an adult in the photo above, on top of the middle antenna — has an eye for real estate.

They’re close to the Y and the Red Barn. Not far from downtown.

Plus they’ve found a great way to beat the Merritt and Wilton Road traffic.

(Hat tip and photo: Jo Ann Davidson)