Category Archives: Environment

Electric Car Club Charges Ahead

Westporters own 266 electric vehicles. That’s the 3rd highest number in Connecticut. Greenwich leads, with 511.

But — at 1% of our total registered vehicles — we do rank first in the largest number of EVs per capita. That’s 3.5 times the statewide average.

Those are a few of the interesting facts to come from the Connecticut EV Club. That’s the new name for the Westport Electric Car Club. As EV popularity rises — there are 35% more plug-in vehicles in the state than a year ago — the local organization is growing too.

Robin Tauck (center) lent selectmen Jim Marpe and Avi Kaner (left) her 2 electric vehicles at an Electric Car rally. Kaner liked driving it so much, he bought this Tesla P85D model. On the right is former Westport Electric Car Club president Leo Cirino.

Bruce Becker is taking over from founder and longtime president Leo Cirino.

Other changes include partnerships with groups like the Acadia Center and Lime Rock Historic Festival, plus conversations with state transportation and energy officials.

One upcoming initiative: lobbying legislators to change the law prohibiting Tesla from selling directly to customers. (Connecticut allows cars to be purchased only through independent dealerships. Tesla sells direct from the manufacturer.)

State residents have reserved over 3,000 Model 3s — Tesla’s highly anticipated $35,000 vehicle. Club officer Barry Kresch estimates that 250 to 300 of those are in Westport.

So — despite the club’s name change —  our town will continue to have an outsize influence on statewide EV policy and affairs. “This is an environmental-thinking place,” Kresch says. “Its leaders are very green-conscious.”

And, he says, with 20 or so public charging stations — including both train stations, the library and Staples High School — Westport’s commitment to electric vehicles remains strong.

(For more information on the Connecticut EV Club click here.)

Electric vehicles lined up by the Staples charging stations (from left): Chevy Bolt, Tesla S, VW, Tesla X, Nissan Leaf.

Daffodil Mile In Bloom

It’s been a long, hard winter. Sometimes this feels not like April 21, but January 111th.

Don’t tell that to the daffodils. Willowbrook’s famed “Daffodil Mile” is now in full bloom.

That’s great news for the thousands of drivers who pass the Main Street cemetery every day — and the many more bikers, joggers and walkers who wait patiently for the display.

Over the past 10 years, families and friends of Willowbrook’s “residents” (aka dead people) have donated 35,000 bulbs. Each year the line of yellow flowers grows.

Next year, 10,000 more bulbs will be planted.

And in the coming months, cemetery trustees will release details on a new cherry blossom mall.

PS: The cool weather is good for one thing. This year, the daffodils will bloom longer than usual.

(For more information, click here for the Willowbrook Cemetery website.)

Westport Wins Another Award. It’s Not One We Like.

Valerie Seiling Jacobs and Ian Warburg — co-chairs of Save Westport Now — write:

In 2016, Westport beat out 26 towns in the tri-state area for the highest ozone values. Our levels exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality Standard of 75 parts per billion, by at least 10%.

The latest data indicates that things may be getting worse in Connecticut.

Of course, high ozone levels are bad for the environment and our health. They’re linked to asthma, cancer, heart attacks, pulmonary problems, hypertension, and childhood development issues.

Gas-powered gardening equipment — mowers, hedgers, trimmers and especially leaf blowers — now accounts for 5 to 10% of the total emissions in the US.

A town like Westport probably produces about 25,000 tons of carbon emissions per year — just from lawn care. That’s like adding 5,000 cars to our already congested roads. (On a per household basis, it’s like driving an extra 10,000 miles a year.)

One gasoline-powered leaf blower produces more emissions in half an hour than 40 cars idling.

These machines pose other significant hazards. The exhaust streams from leaf blowers, which often blow over 200 mph, stir up fine particulate matter that often contains pesticides, fertilizers, mold and rodent feces. The fumes can take days to settle down, which makes them especially dangerous for children and pets.

Then of course there’s the noise. Most of these machines exceed the safe decibel limits set by the WHO, EPA and OSHA. Some experts recommend creating “safe zones” around schools and parks to protect children from the noise and other pollution created by leaf blowers.

Save Westport Now believes that by capitalizing on new technology and adopting greener gardening practices, we can reduce the threat these machines pose — and still maintain our beautiful gardens.

This Friday (April 20, Town Hall, 12:30 p.m.), Dr. Jamie L. Banks — executive director of Quiet Communities — will lead a discussion on what Westport can do to protect families from the hazards of gas-powered gardening equipment. She and her colleagues have helped other towns around the country adopt best practices to address the problems caused by this equipment.

We’re sure she can help ours.

(For more information, email ContactSaveWestportNow@gmail.com)

Whittingham Cancer Center: Care With A Hometown Heart

Tony Menchaca’s 2006 colonoscopy was clean. With no family history of colon cancer, he was happy to wait 10 years for his next one.

But when he saw blood in his stool in 2013, he had another procedure. Diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer, a foot of his colon was removed at Norwalk Hospital.

The disease had spread to his lymph nodes. He faced 6 months of chemotherapy.

Tony Menchaca

Tony — a Westporter since 1990, whose 3 boys earned fame as Staples High School wrestlers — had a choice. He could undergo chemo at world renowned Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York, or at the much smaller Whittingham Cancer Center at Norwalk Hospital.

His surgeon, Dr. James McClane, described the value of a local center. It was important, he said, to think about ease of access, and the personalization of a smaller facility.

Tony chose Whittingham. Four years later — and cancer-free — he is very pleased with his experience.

“I got super treatment,” Tony says. “The level of expertise is comparable to New York. And the amount of caring was phenomenal.”

(Whittingham Cancer Center recently affiliated with Memorial Sloan Kettering. MSK medical and radiation oncologists are now onsite at Norwalk Hospital.)

Over 6 months, Tony underwent 12 rounds of chemo. He’d go in on Monday, for 3 hours of infusion. On Wednesday, he returned to have his pump disconnected. The next day, he went back for a booster shot.

Tony drove himself to his appointments. He did not want his wife Sara or his kids hanging around the infusion suite.

However, the setup encourages loved ones or friends to be there during treatment. “If you want people around, it’s great,” he notes.

Whittingham Cancer Center

Tony’s oncologist, Dr. Richard Frank, was very accessible. “I always saw him,” Tony says. “He’s a great guy, and like most of the doctors there, he’s local.”

So local, in fact, that he plays sax in the popular doctor-dominated rock band DNR.

“I may not have had that level of exposure to a physician in a larger cancer center,” Tony says.

But, Tony says, the heart of Whittingham is its chemo suite infusion nurses. They’re the ones he spent most of his time with. He can’t say enough about their expertise and concern.

The real eye-opener, though, was “the value of a local cancer center. If he spent 6 months commuting to chemo, Tony believes his recovery would have been far harder.

Even before his diagnosis, Tony had ridden in the CT Challenge, a bike ride fundraiser for cancer survivors. He’s now done it 7 times.

His other major effort is Whittingham’s 3K walk and 5K run. It’s doubly special this year: the 15th annual event for the cancer center falls on the 125th anniversary of Norwalk Hospital.

It’s Saturday, May 5 at Calf Pasture Beach. That’s just a couple of miles from his Westport home, so of course Tony will be there.

It’s not like he has to go all the way to New York for exercise.

Or excellent, life-saving cancer care.

(For more information on the Whittingham Cancer Center Walk & Sally’s Run, click here.)

Pic Of The Day #365

This red fox is a regular in the Greens Farms neighborhood. Today he was spotted on the stone wall by the cemetery at Hillandale Road. (Photo/Allison Feuer)

Wakeman Town Farm Grows Its Community Space

Two weeks ago, hundreds of kids scampered around Wakeman Town Farm.  The first-ever Eggstravaganza featured an egg hunt, egg toss, egg painting, several Big Bunnies for photo ops, many more real bunnies and fuzzy chicks, plus cocoa and coffee.

It was fun, family-friendly — and one of more than 50 special events held recently in and near WTF’s Tim’s Kitchen. The new community space — including a classroom — opened last fall.

The sustainable agriculture center always hosted farmer camps and apprentice programs. Now it’s expanded its offerings to 12 months a year.

It was Double Easter Bunny Day for this youngster at Wakeman Town Farm. (Photo/Tomira Wilcox)

The word is getting out: You can rent the space too.

Wakeman Town Farm hosts developmentally challenged adults from STAR in a cooking series; a media brunch to promote the Westport Library’s Flex program; a Christmas bazaar benefiting Homes with Hope; a photo shoot for Melissa & Doug toy company, along with corporate and non-profit meetings, birthday and anniversary parties, bar mitzvah bunches, fundraisers and private barbecues.

Of course, regular programs continue: preschoolers and their parents participate in Mommy & Me; middle schoolers learn knife skills; Staples students garden; Westporters of all ages attend cooking classes, and agricultural traditions like canning and preserving the harvest stay strong.

Coming up: a Women’s Business Development Council presentation on starting a restaurant; a new Cookbook Club focused on changing your gut bacteria; a Wine, Cheese & Chocolate event; Green Day; a BBQ cooking class with Bob LeRose of Bobby Q’s, and a culinary nutrition class.

Staples High School senior Ella De Bruijn and volunteer Ellen Goldman assist Anne Campbell in Wakeman Town Farm’s Tim’s Kitchen, at an Asian appetizers cooking class.

During the 4-year planning and budgeting stages, a few town officials were skeptical that the new space would be cost-effective — or that it would be used very much.

Both questions have been answered.

Like every other Westporter, they’re invited to Wakeman Town Farm to see for themselves.

They’ve got plenty of events to choose from.

(Wakeman Town Farm hosts a Volunteer Day from 10 a.m. to noon tomorrow: Saturday, April 14. Interested teenagers and adults can learn about spring and summer events, programs and farm jobs that depend on volunteers. Among them: giving tours, manning tables at events like the Maker Faire and Dog Festival, planting organic garden beds, and tossing burgers and painting faces at Family Fun Day and Green Day.)

A big crowd gathers outside Tim’s Kitchen for last weekend’s Wakeman Town Farm Eggstravaganza. All told, there were 1,400 eggs. (Photo/Tomira Wilcox)

Pic Of The Day #351

Nyala Farm, after yesterday’s snow (Photo/David Squires)

They’re Back!

Spotted near Terrain yesterday.

Welcome home!

(Photo/Susan Iseman)

Jane Green Bakes Cakes For Apes. Now You Can Too.

In 2014, Sophie Pollmann — a Swedish-German woman who’d lived in rainy England for 16 years — finally took the advice of her friend, Westporter Jill Johnson Mann.

Sophie Pollmann

Jill convinced Sophie that this is a great place to live. The charity Sophie works for — International Animal Rescue — offered her a job as US director.

She and her husband sold their 11-acre home in Kent, and moved with their 3 kids to the cozy Compo Beach neighborhood.

The only problem: Sophie had to leave her beloved chickens behind.

Problem solved: Jill’s friend — best-selling author — Jane Green kept chickens. Plus, she’d moved here from England too.

The women hit it off. They share an office. Jane has MCed an IAR event for Sophie.

Jane Green

And now Jane is pulling out her well-worn oven mitts, and helping out with Cakes for Apes.

The idea is simple: You bake a cake (or cakes). You sell them to friends, family and colleagues. The money goes to IAR’s orangutan project in West Borneo.

The organization — which (of course) encourages the use of locally sourced, natural, sustainable and fair trade ingredients in all cakes — makes it especially simple. They offer thousands of recipes online.

When you sign up, you get a fundraising pack. It’s filled with ideas for successful bake sales. (Or — you can’t take the England out of  Sophie and Jane — a tea party.)

So where does Jane Green fit in? She’s one of many celebrities who have donated recipes. Hers is a lemon and almond tart.

Cakes for Apes will be held April 23-30. But you can start planning for this jolly good project now.

(For more information, call Sophie: 203-919-7386. To sign up for Cakes For Apes, click here.)

Orangutans, at the IAR rescue center.

Vani Court’s New Buddy

Alert “06880” reader Jonathan Greenfield loves Westport. These days, he loves it just a little bit more. He writes:

The residents of Vani Court exemplify the absolute best in neighborly values. They truly reflect all that’s wonderful in Westport.

That quiet street off South Compo — which still consists of many post-war Capes built for returning veterans in the 1940s — is where my rescue dog Buddy Holly ended up 2 days in a row after he pushed his way past my daughter, and through an open door.

My 9-year-old son gave chase. I grabbed a leash and ran to the car, as my 4-year-old daughter pointed the way.

I tried to obey the South Compo speed limit, but panic set in. My son and dog were nowhere to be found.

Buddy, at the beach.

We often include Vani Court on our daily walks. Maybe Buddy was there!

As I turned onto the road, I saw a commotion.

My son arrived out of nowhere — on a bike, which he’d gone home to retrieve. I got out of my car, and learned that 2 drivers had seen my son running along the road. They offered him a ride, to help. He declined, saying he could not get in a stranger’s car!

At the same time, residents on  Vani Court had come outside with their own dogs and treats, hoping to nab Buddy. He darted from one dog to the next, having a great time.

Tim Luciano came close to nabbing him. James McLaughlin tried to lure Buddy into his backyard.

The chase became exhausting. But when Jesse Daignault appeared with his dog Milo, Buddy took interest. With lightning fast hands, Jesse grabbed Buddy’s collar.

Victory! Jonathan Greenfield with Buddy, on Vani Court.

But Buddy was just getting started.

The next day — just as my youngest was leaving for preschool — Buddy pushed her aside. He was ready for another adventure.

This time I took a different approach. I followed him calmly, so I wouldn’t chase him away. He headed back to Vani Court.

Dan and Kelly Merton were out with their golden retrievers. Like a magnet, Buddy went to them. Another mini-circus developed.

Eventually Buddy headed back to our house. He wouldn’t come in though. My wife followed him back to Vani Court.

Soon, I got a text from my wife. Iris said, “Got him!” Melissa Wilson had come out with her dog. She and James McLaughlin lured Buddy into her backyard.

As soon as I got home, I called an invisible fence company. I’m also setting up dates to continue Buddy’s training, so he can run with us and be safely off leash.

We are extremely thankful for everyone who helped. Vani Court is such a special place.

It’s not just the charm of the postwar Capes. It’s the people. They so easily express what it’s like to be neighbors. Thank you!

Buddy, back home with Zach Greenfield.