Category Archives: Environment

Pic Of The Day #1003

Bridge between Earthplace and Lillian Wadsworth Arboretum (Photo/Michael Tomashefsky)

Stand Cafe Attracts Hard-Core Vegans — And Many More

Jenna Jacobs McPartland did not plan on opening a vegan restaurant.

She grew up in suburban Minnesota; moved to New York at 20 to study at a conservatory; acted off-Broadway, got married; got pregnant.

Her husband was killed on 9/11. Six days later, their son was born.

Jenna was lifted by the kindness of friends, and strangers. After hand-writing 1,200 notes — and realizing how many people did not have the support she did, after her husband died very publicly — she helped start September Smiles, a non-profit to help non-9/11 widows deal with tragedy.

Jenna Jacobs McPartland

Jenna remarried, and moved to her husband’s home in Weston. She finally reached Broadway — with a walk-on role in “Oklahoma!” for one night, 3 days before it closed.

She divorced, and married her “third and final” husband. Jenna now lives in Westport, with her blended family.

A few years ago she read “Eating Animals,” by Jonathan Safran Foer. She had already given up red meat, but now went fully vegan. As part of “learning how to really cook,” she attended New York’s Natural Gourmet Center. She graduated in 2015.

Jenna began looking for Westport locations, to start a vegan restaurant. Last year she bought the Stand Juice Bar at Fairfield’s Sportsplex. It was the right opportunity — she would not have to build a customer base from scratch.

Now called the Stand Vegan Café — with a full menu — she’s made it her own. She believes in “whole, organic, non-GMO, local plant foods for the planet, the animals, our bodies, and our spirits.” (She also believes “a yummy cookie is totally worth it once in a while!”)

Jenna calls her menu “very comfort food-y.” Breakfast (served all day) ranges from tofu broccoli quiche and ancient grain oatmeal to Belgian waffles and a very popular Seitan bagel sandwich.

Lunch includes soups, a hummus plate, sandwiches and wraps, cauliflower-based mac and cheese, salads and toasts. There’s a full bakery, and of course juices and smoothies. Many of the dishes can be made gluten-free.

Stand Cafe, where the food is as good as it looks …

“It’s a gentle introduction to veganism,” Jenna explains. She realizes non-vegans resent being called “unethical or wrong” for their diets.

Jenna is proud that “a lot of non-vegans come in and love what we serve.” She’s threading the needle, with food that’s “interesting enough for hard-core vegans, but approachable enough for skeptics.”

Good food, she says, is “all about high-quality ingredients, with high-quality techniques.”

The Stand Café is “almost a zero-waste establishment.” A farmer collects all her scraps for his fields. Nearly all material is compostable.

She pays her employees above standard restaurant rates. “We’re a family,” Jenna says.

… including dessert!

That’s not entire selfless, of course. With 6 children ages 21 to 9 in her blended family, she needs “a life outside my restaurant. Everyone who works here loves what we do. We feel like we’re achieving something together. We all look out for each other, and cover each other.”

Besides her “Oklahoma” walk-on role, Jenna Jacobs McPartland did not make it to Broadway. But her Stand Café is now a shining star.

(Jenna also supports local artists. Every 3 months, she features someone different on her walls. Next up: Westport artist Lisa Stretton.)

 

Zero Waste Roundtable Set For Wakeman Town Farm

Reducing the amount of daily waste is a priority for many Westporters. But although we want to do the right thing, we don’t always know how.

Wakeman Town Farm does.

This Monday (January 13, 7 to 8:15 p.m.), the Cross Highway sustainability center hosts an environmental awareness event. The multi-generational roundtable will offer information on how Westport schools combat waste, how we can incorporate initiatives into our own homes, and what we can do to help government effect greater changes.

State Senator Will Haskell will moderate the discussion. Participants include Stacy Jagerson Fowle and Ashley Moran, elementary school teachers who have helped lead the district’s push toward composting and zero waste; Bedford Middle School 7th grader Samantha Henske, a student leader in the fight for climate justice, and RTM member Andrew Colabella, who helped implement Westport’s plastics ban.

Monday’s event is free, but registration is required. Click here to register.

Greens Farms Elementary School offers 3 choices for waste. To find out what your family can do, head to Wakeman Town Farm on Monday night.

Downtown Employee Seeks Innovative Solution

One of the things I love about reader emails is that I never know what’s on your minds.

I get dozens a day. They range from the usual (entitled parking, sunset photos), to the obscure (“What was the name of that restaurant where …?”), to the unexpected.

The other day, a woman wrote with an issue I’d never thought of. But it’s one at least 50% of “0688o” readers probably have. She says:

I am a local resident and employee in downtown Westport.

I work for a small nonprofit. Our building is full of other small businesses. Our landlord is fantastic. However, this building was not intended for modern working lives. The entire building shares one tiny bathroom. We have no place to expand.

I am a few months pregnant with our first child. I am looking for the right accommodations post-pregnancy: a private, clean place to pump breast milk.

This should not be the way women have to pump at work.

I am sure many other employers on Main Street do not have the right accommodations for pumping either. I can’t be the only future mom working downtown with this issue.

I wonder: Are there shops with pumping facilities that are interested in opening up to other downtown merchants?

This could be for women shopping downtown too — not just working women.

Or maybe Westport could come together to find a merchant (or several) to sponsor sites that would be available to rent, or just use for the general benefit of the community.

This could be an interesting branding and social responsibility opportunity for local businesses — and another way to demonstrate Westport thinks outside the box. It could also be a way to utilize one of our many vacant storefronts.

My husband has worked in Westport for 10 years. We purchased a home and moved here in May.

We have found Westport to be a giving, supportive community. As the town focuses on innovative support for local businesses, this is another issue that needs addressing.

I reached out to the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, but they’ve been understandably quite busy with the holiday season.

There you go, “06880” readers. I’m sure you’ll be great at crowd-sourcing ideas. Just click “Comments” below!

(For Connecticut laws regarding breastfeeding, click here.)

Westport Gets Lit

Think your electric bill is high? Consider street lights.

The town of Westport pays $250,000 a year to keep those overhead lights on. It’s one of our largest Eversource charges.

Can we do anything about it?

We just did.

Over the past few months, the Public Works Department has been replacing all 1,273 street lights on state and town roads — most of them high-pressure sodium — with photometrically designed LED bulbs.

They focus on the road, without overspreading light into yards and windows. They last 20 years — double the old ones.

The new LED lights focus on the road. (Photo/Katherine Bruan

Thanks to 2 other types of savings, they’ll pay for themselves in just 5 years.

According to Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich, Eversource charges a lower rate for LED bulbs.

And — because street lights are un-metered — the utility estimates their annual cost. LEDs use much less electricity. So in addition to a lower rate, there will also be a lower usage calculation.

The department began installing the bulbs in mid-October. The project is nearly done.

Residential areas get bulbs with lower wattage than the Post Road. All include “smart” controls, meaning the brightness can be adjusted as necessary.

The new light bulb at Taylor Place.

The new lights can also be dimmed — or even shut off — after midnight, if Connecticut changes regulations to allow that.

The new bulbs are less than 3,000 lumens. There’s a slight change in hue from the old ones — but Ratkiewich calls it “hardly noticeable.”

Westporters have noticed some new lights though: Those that replaced burned out bulbs. Eversource had not been diligent about fixing them.

Now — having purchased the LED bulbs from the company — they’re the town’s responsibility.

Other municipalities throughout Connecticut are moving to LED bulbs too.

What a bright idea!

(Hat tip: Sherry Jagerson)

[UPDATE] Rid Your Yard Of Deer. Eat Well For A Long Time, Too.

[UPDATE] Reader Amy Ancel points out that bow hunting is illegal in Westport. However, it is legal in other towns — with a permit.

Brian Burns is a 1994 graduate of Staples High School, where he starred on a state championship soccer tam. Now living nearly 300 miles north, in Calais, Vermont, he builds furniture and plays bluegrass guitar. He and his wife Dillon have 2 sons, Sarge (14) and Dewey (13).

In his free time, Brian is a bow hunter. Surprisingly, it takes serious effort — and luck — to find deer in northern Vermont. However, when visiting family here, he sees them everywhere. 

So — knowing how much homeowners here hate deer — Brian has an offer. He writes:

I hope to find Fairfield County landowners who will let me bow hunt deer on their property.

I am a very safe, ethical, quiet and responsible hunter. I’ll happily share as much venison with you as you’d like.

Typical deer hunting hours are the 90 minutes surrounding sunrise and sunset.

Bow hunting is a close range pursuit. Most shots are within 20 yards, from an elevated position, so arrow flight is short and very controlled.

Bow hunting

Ideally, properties would be 3 acres or more (the bigger the better!), and have deer on them during daylight hours.

Archery season for private land in Fairfield County starts September 15 and runs through the end of January. I’m able to get down there a few days each year.

Connecticut regulations require landowners to sign a consent form each year. I can supply that for anyone interested.

I hope to get down this January to give it a try. Please contact me (bbrianburns@aol.com) if you are interested.

Thank you so much. Happy holidays!

Boy Scouts’ Good Deed: Recycling Christmas Trees

Sure, yesterday was magical. Christmas is, you know, the “most wonderful time of year.”

But today. Christmas is so yesterday. Boxing Day is for Brits. Us go-getting Americans need to throw away the toys that no longer work. Toss out the leftovers.

And think about getting rid of that big Christmas tree too.

Fortunately, there’s help. At least for that last task.

Boy Scout Troop 39 of Westport will happily pick up your tree. That once beautiful, soon dying and needle-dropping symbol of recent holiday cheer can be disposed of with one simple mouse click.

The big day is Saturday, January 11. This is the 11th year in a row the Scouts are providing the service, so they’ve got the drill down pat. (And it’s a green drill: The trees are recycled as mulch. Typically they collect and chip enough trees to provide the town with 5 tons of garden mulch!)

Boy Scout Troop 39 to the rescue!

To register, click here. Reservations are limited so — unlike Christmas shopping — don’t delay.

Place your tree by your mailbox by 6:30 a.m. that morning.

The suggested donation is $20 per tree (cash or checks made out to “Boy Scout Troop 39” are fine). I’m sure the Scouts would not refuse higher amounts. Funds go toward activities like food drives, community service projects and backpacking trips.

The Boy Scouts are well known for “good turns” like helping old ladies across streets. Bush league. In Westport, they help little old ladies — and strapping young men — dispose of big old Christmas trees.

NOTE: The Scouts can’t accept wreaths or garlands (the wires ruin tree chippers). You’re on your own for those!

(Hat tip: Nanette Buziak)

The Straw That Stirs The Drink Is Now Carbon Fiber

Betsy Fischman Flor had a dream job. She started a blog — Booze Menus — that helped New Yorkers figure out which restaurant, bar or club to drink at, based on neighborhood, price range, specialties and clientele (trendy, hipsters, power scene, tourists…).

Talk about great research!

But then her husband got transferred to Indianapolis.  😦

Betsy Fischman Flor

Two years ago at a speakeasy there, Betsy was served a cocktail in a copper cup — with a copper straw.

It wasn’t great. She and her friends talked about how the world was changing.

Her husband — an engineer — had a very engineerish reaction: “I wonder if we could make a reusable carbon fiber straw.”

He could.

Carbon fiber is a high-performance, lightweight yet strong material. Though commonly associated with exotic cars, motorcycles, planes and bikes, it makes a great (and BPA-free) drinking straw too.

The product is called Lustir. A combination of the words “lust” and “stir,” it’s pronounced “luster” — which means “a gentle sheen or soft glow, especially that of a partly reflective surface.”

It’s got a hashtag too: #SipResponsibly.

It comes in 2 sizes: tall straws for  highball glasses, short ones for lowballs. Each kit comes with 4 straws, a cleaning brush, and a carrying pouch.

Lustir straws, cleaning brush and carrying pouch.

Betsy milked her cocktail contacts. Once she confirmed a charity partner — Virgin Unite‘s ocean cleanup initiatives get 5% of all sales — she was ready to launch.

She works from her Westport home. She and her husband moved here 10 months ago, attracted by the vibe, the beach, and proximity to New York.

Betsy also loves the town’s environmental and sustainability focus. She was particularly impressed with the plastic straw ban.

Though Lustir is sold in boutiques in New York — and in a cool shop in Taiwan too — most sales are done online.

Savvy Westporters could also pick them up the other day at Temple Israel’s Hanukkah party.

Of course, Betsy says with a smile, they also make great stocking stuffers.

Photo Challenge #260

Last week’s Photo Challenge — showing what looked like a valve — drew this in-depth comment/possibly tongue-in-cheek explanation from John Terpening:

Spillway gate valve for Nash’s Pond overflow protection. You can see by the reverse thread (counterclockwise arrow) that it also acts as a survey marker for determining when Westport was founded in 1681. By the fact that it was stamped into the valve three times it relates to the number two (also stamped) that most second graders have to be told something three times in order to retained it. The valve is located on the east end of the dam in order to avoid large waves as the prevailing winds are from the west.

Interesting– but wrong.

The image can be seen at Winslow Park. It is — according to the photographer, Jay Dirnberger — the “last remaining structure from the sanitarium” at the property on the Post Road, at North Compo.

No one correctly identified the photo (click here to see). No wonder: We’re too busy chasing our dogs (or chatting with friends) at the park to look down and notice. And the sanitarium is long gone. But what a building it was!

Here’s another magnificent building. If you know where in Westport you’d see it, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

Pic Of The Day #976

Longshore golf course wildlife (Photo/Carolyn McPhee)