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DISCLAIMERThis blog is personal opinion, and is not representative of the views of the Westport School District or Board of Education.
Category Archives: Environment
The Westport Historical Society‘s new “06880 + 50” exhibit — visions of Westport in 2067 — is fun. It’s thought-provoking. It’s clever.
Over a dozen local architects contributed ideas. From a reimagined river to out-of-the-way parking for driverless cars, it’s more focused on what’s really possible than an idealistic Jetsons world.
Many of the concepts deal with downtown. One firm took a different approach.
Michael Greenberg & Associates built on their founder’s lifelong association with Westport. The Staples High School graduate grew up in a town filled with artists and other creative people. He believes Westport remains a community that embraces “progressive change,” committed to taking care of the planet both environmentally and socially.
He’s seen builders embrace the “bigger is better” model, but believes it will end. Single family homes on 1- and 2-acre lots, with driveways, pools and manicured lawns, are environmentally wasteful, Greenberg says.
That lifestyle has created isolation, and a disconnect not only to nature but to each other, he adds.
So Greenberg — who reveres barn and antique materials — envisions a Westport that goes back to its roots. He imagines smaller homes, surrounded by open space, community farms, and places to care for the elderly and young.
These “new villages” will develop, he thinks, as millennials (and the generations that follow) realize the importance of downsizing and living responsibly.
In the WHS exhibit, Greenberg explains, “the smart and concerned folks of Westport” will establish a new “Farm Zone.” New homes — on the edges of main roads — will surround working farms.
Everyone will pitch in to help traditional farmers. Produce would be available at indoor/outdoor markets. Greenhouses would further support independent sustainability.
Some historic homes will be repurposed to house farm workers and town employees. Others will be retrofitted for day care, crafts and lecture halls.
Main roads will be kept, but “infill” roads — all our lanes and cul-de-sacs — will be eliminated. Pedestrian and bike trails will take their place.
Housing will be clustered in new “quadrants.” Higher density of units and elimination of secondary roads will dramatically increase open space, used for recreation, biking and hiking trails and sculpture gardens. Kids could play — and get dirty.
New homes — modular, for ease of construction and minimization of waste — will emphasize efficiency and quality, not size.
Power comes from solar, wind, geothermal “and sources not yet invented.”
Greenberg created a sample “quadrant,” now mounted on the WHS exhibit wall. It’s bounded by the post Road, Long Lots, North Avenue, Roseville Road and Cross Highway.
“As a citizen of the planet, I am excited that the way we live now will not be the way we live in the future,” says Greenberg.
“The people of Westport will be leaders in making this concept into a reality.
“Now is the time to meld the past with our future. We have to move away from this wasteful, unhealthy present. We have to move as if our lives depend on it — because they do.”
You can tell Halloween is coming. CVS, Walgreens, Party Harty and pop-ups are chock full of ghosts and skeletons — plus Kit Kats, Hershey bars and other fine foods, most of them the size of small planets.
It’s a great time to be a kid.
Unless you’re allergic.
When Blake Hofmeister was 3 1/2, he ate an M&M. In a delayed reaction he broke out in hives, and could barely breathe. Tests showed he was allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish.
His mom, Lisa, learned to scrutinize food labels. Now a 1st grader at Kings Highway Elementary School, his life — and his family’s — has never been the same.
A year ago Lisa heard about FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education). The non-profit works to improve the quality of life of people with food allergies.
Last month, she helped organize a charity walk/fun day at Sherwood Island. The event drew hundreds, and raised over $150,000.
Now — as Halloween nears — Lisa is focused on her next effort: the Teal Pumpkin Project.
The national initiative promotes the inclusion of all trick-or-treaters in a holiday that excludes some.
Participation is simple. Parents are encouraged to buy inexpensive toys, rather than candy. They place a teal pumpkin or sign from FARE outside the home, indicating there are non-food treats inside.
“Parents are surprised how easy this is,” Lisa says.
Kings Highway has gotten on board. A “Pumpkin Palooza” fundraiser the Friday before Halloween includes magicians, music and other non-candy fun.
“Halloween used to be my favorite holiday,” says Lisa. “I loved the costumes, the candy, everything about it. Now I’m so nervous.”
She loves welcoming trick-or-treaters to her Old Hill neighborhood home. Last year, participating for the first time in the Teal Pumpkin Project, she was excited that many children — even those without food allergies — chose toys over candy.
“I want Blake to enjoy Halloween, like other kids,” she says. “I don’t want him to feel like an outsider.”
FARE makes it easy to take part. The website provides links to resources, including flyers, yard signs, ideas for non-food treats, and a trick-or-treat bag.
The Teal Pumpkin Project is not the food police. Giving candy is still okay.
But for kids with food allergies — as well as celiac disease and other issues — it can be a life-saver.
It’s a regular “06880” feature. Not as frequent as bad/entitled/obnoxious parkers, but still annoyingly often.
The gross garbage dump in Parker Harding Plaza.
The most recent “06880” post was on June 14.
One of the 18 comments was from the Downtown Merchants Association:
The Westport DMA has developed a detailed plan for improving downtown maintenance, where a majority of the costs will be handled by businesses, with some contribution from the Town for public areas, including roads, public parking lots and public buildings. This is to include both summer and winter maintenance, as well as trash.
The Town portion is still under discussion, made more challenging in the current budget climate. However, a specific plan to vastly improve the trash situation and general appearance for Parker Harding is in an advanced stage of collaborative approval (which will include a consolidated and upgraded trash area) and hopefully will be accomplished this summer.
Well, summer has come and gone. This was the view an hour ago:
Oh — you want a closeup of whatever it is the arrow is pointing to?
Yep, that’s some form of vermin.
Just the thing to enjoy with your grande vanilla bean creme frappuccino.
Visitors to the Sherwood Island pavilion know Claudia Schattman’s artwork.
Now her many fans can do more than admire her next project. They can donate funds — not to her “tree” mosaic-in-the-making, but to help plant them.
Friends of Sherwood Island is sponsoring a “100 Trees for 100 Years” drive. The goal is to help purchase trees, shrubs and grasses to replace the dozens of mature trees lost to Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, and mitigate significant habitat loss.
The mosaic is a collection of plates, teapots, stained glass and knickknacks Schattman collected at tag sales, flea markets, even local beaches.
Donor names will be placed around the perimeter (minimum donation: $275). To donate, click here.
Falls seems like it’s finally here.
Last week though, temperatures soared into the 90s. And Staples High School students Abi Genser and Michael Lederer dropped in on downtown businesses whose wide-open doors spewed air conditioning onto the (large empty) sidewalks.
Excuses ranged from “the head office says it increases business” to “I’m not the owner. I don’t make those decisions.”
Abi and Michael were not impressed. They’re members of Westport’s new Earth Guardians group. Along with the Westport Green Task Force, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Merchants Association, they encourage businesses to keep doors closed when the air conditioning — or heat — is on.
Of all the stores they visited — accompanied by Earth Guardians founder Carla Paiva and Green Task Force member Pippa Bell Ader — only one had its door closed.
Kudos to Marine Layer!
To be honest, I’d never heard of this store before Pippa emailed me.
But their closed door will make me more — not less — interested in checking it out.
This month’s devastating hurricanes got Cynthia Gibb thinking.
The 1981 Staples High School graduate — a noted actress (“Fame,” “Search for Tomorrow”), now a vocal coach back in her hometown — is concerned about the worldwide impact of climate change.
But she’s a firm believer in the adage “think globally, act locally.” She writes:
America has just experienced 2 historic storms back-to-back, and I am feeling frustratingly helpless. Climate change is here.
I have known this was coming for a long time. I learned about global warming back in the mid-80’s when I joined a group called Earth Communications Office, a Hollywood group with the mission of educating Americans about the changes in our climate.
Everything I learned back then has unfortunately been coming to fruition. That means that still ahead are horrific droughts, fires, floods, the extinction of many animals and insect species, the movement of our tree line north (affecting farming and quality of life for all who live in the south) — among other catastrophic events.
Last spring, at the Staples High School science awards ceremony, a scientist told the audience that we could expect to see Miami underwater in the foreseeable future. I wonder if he knew it would happen so soon?
I get overwhelmed by this knowledge. Climate change deniers sit in the White House, and run the EPA. Trump has said he will pull us from the Paris agreement. Pruitt wants to roll back environmental laws. It’s terrifying and infuriating.
Yet one thing that gives me hope is that there are forward-thinking folks, making a difference. Some of them are right here in Westport.
Our RTM recently passed the Net Zero in 2050 Initiative. We’ve joined the governors of Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, California, Colorado and Washington in pledging to exceed the goals of the Paris Climate Accord. In fact, the northeastern states have already reduced their carbon emissions by 37% since 2008.
Earthplace has screened the documentary “Idle Threat.” These are great starts.
But the solution has to come from citizens, as well as government.
I’ve been asking myself, “What can I do?” Cash donations to flood victims won’t stop future disasters.
In his new book Climate of Hope, Michael Bloomberg encourages everyone to do their part. I have finally figured out what mine is: I am making a conscious choice to obey Connecticut’s Do Not Idle Law.
I recently learned it is illegal for all vehicles — including buses, trucks and passenger vehicles — to idle for more than 3 minutes in our state. After just 10 seconds of idling, we waste more fuel than stopping and restarting our cars. Even in cold weather, engines need only 30 seconds to warm up.
So I no longer idle in the school pick-up line, or the Starbucks or bank drive-through. If I want to continue a phone call or listen to the radio, I turn off my engine and turn on my battery.
If it’s hot, I roll the windows down. If it’s cold, I leave them up! It’s really easy and simple, now that I’m in the habit — like remembering to bring my reusable bag to the grocery store!
I feel better now that I am doing my part and setting an example for my kids that we can change our behavior, even if it’s inconvenient. It’s a small gesture, I know. But if 26,000 of us do it in Westport, we can set an example to the rest of the nation — where every day we waste 17 million gallons of fuel due to idling.
This is also important for children in our town, who can suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases due to car emissions.
This is a call to action, fellow Westporters! I invite anyone reading this to join me in turning off your engines whenever you can. After all, there is only one ozone layer.
And we all share the same air.
(Click here to sign Westport’s no-idle pledge.)
Hurricane Harvey brought incredible human suffering — and heroism — to Houston.
But there were plenty of stories — awful, and inspiring — about animals too.
Earlier this month, 2 teams of Connecticut Humane Society employees traveled to Texas, for 10 days each. The groups relieved their Texas shelter colleagues, who had worked nonstop on relief efforts.
The CHS group administered medical treatment, tested dogs for heartworm, fed, cleaned and distributed pet food, at several sites.
Meanwhile, after a long journey, 22 dogs from areas affected by Harvey arrived at CHS. They’d already been in shelters, looking for new families, before the hurricane hit.
Bringing them to Connecticut gives Texas shelters room to house pets waiting to reunite with families.
The pups here are being spayed, neutered and treated for any medical conditions before being placed up for adoption.
All of this takes money. So on Sunday, October 1 (12 to 3 p.m.), Southport Veterinary Center is hosting a fundraiser.
It’s at the Ned Dimes Marina — coincidentally, on the first day that dogs are allowed back on the beach.
The event is a “sit-in.” Southport Veterinary will contribute $5 to the Connecticut Humane Society for each dog that can sit on command for 2 minutes — and $1 per minute after that.
It’s first-come, first-served. Dogs can be bribed — er, rewarded — if necessary. But they must obey the command on their own free will.
Dog (and people) treats are available for contributions. Microchips can be checked too, at no charge.
The “sit-in” is a clever concept. Of course, after sitting for a few minutes, all those dogs have a big, wide beach to romp on.
And it’s theirs through March 31.
(For more information — and to contribute, if you can’t be there — click here.)
A couple of Sundays ago, Julie Gannon was canning tomatoes.
Hours later — at 6 p.m. — she had 18 jars lined up. They were sterilized, prepped — but she had run out of tomatoes.
She texted Lloyd Allen. The owner of Double L Market quickly replied. He had 2 boxes left. She could pick them up the next day.
Immediately though, he texted back again. He wanted to know if Julie was in the middle of canning.
When she said yes, Lloyd said he knew what that was like. He offered to drive to the store from Wilton, and open up.
At 7 p.m. he was there — with a huge smile.
Over and over, she thanked him profusely. Each time, Lloyd said he was glad to help.
“He’s always so positive and helpful,” Julie says of the popular farm stand owner.
“He has amazing products, and homemade soups, sauces and tamales. When you shop at Double L, you always feel like you’re dealing with a friend.
“Lloyd always tries to help in any way he can. That’s special and rare. I love Lloyd!”
“06880” does too. That’s why Lloyd Allen is this week’s Unsung Hero!
(To nominate an unsung hero, email email@example.com)