Category Archives: Environment

Photo Challenge #259

The Unitarian Church is a Westport treasure — both spiritually and physically.

For well over half a century, the congregation has been at the forefront of many social justice battles. They’ve provided a home for folks of many faith traditions, and those with none at all.

Throughout that time, they’ve done it in a building that looks as beautiful and modern as the day it opened.

Set back in the woods — unnoticed from nearby Lyons Plains Road — its soaring sanctuary and large windows provide gorgeous, inspiring, ever-changing views of the world.

David Vita’s image of those woods in autumn — framed by church windows — was last week’s Photo Challenge (click here to see). Fred Cantor, Andrew Colabella, Molly Alger, Bill Barron, Stephen Axthelm, Rosalie Kaye, Seth Schachter, Annie Haskel, Richard Hyman, Jill Turner Odice, Carol Hanks, Luke Garvey, Peter R. Powell, Tom Risch, Bobbie Herman, Mari-Eleanor Martino, Susan Miller, Jo Ann Flaum, Jalna Jaeger and Stephanie Ehrman all knew exactly where those woods were.

At least some of those readers are not Unitarian Church members. But at some point, nearly every Westporter has found his or her way there — for a wedding, funeral, service, meeting or program.

If you haven’t been there yet: godspeed.

This week’s Photo Challenge is a tougher one. If you know — or think you know — where in Westport you’d find this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Jay Dirnberger)

How Healthy Are Our Rivers?

Westport’s waterways look beautiful.

You just don’t see the bacteria.

Harbor Watch — the Earthplace-based research and education program — has just released a study of water quality in rivers throughout Fairfield County. All 4 of the Westport rivers studied are not as healthy as they look.

Muddy Brook — which discharges into Sherwood Mill Pond — and Pussy Willow Brook, a Mill Pond tributary, exceeded state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection criteria for E. coli.

Two rivers empty into Sherwood Mill Pond. (Drone photo/Patrick Sikes)

Sasco Brook failed DEEP criteria for bacteria. So did the Saugatuck River — which, with 2 sewage spills last summer, also showed elevated Enterococci concentrations.

The good news: our rivers are pretty good in terms of dissolved oxygen. That’s an important water quality indicator, because many aquatic species rely on it for survival.

Overall, 77% of the 123 field stations studied by Harbor Watch exceeded either 1 or both of the state criteria for acceptable levels of baceria. Click here for the full report.

BD Provisions: Saving The Earth, In Bulk

The average American produces 4 1/2 pounds of trash a day. With 28,000 residents in Westport, that’s 45 million pounds of trash per year. It’s probably tons more, of course; we are not exactly “average” Americans.

BD Provisions has a modest goal: get 5% of Westporters to cut their waste by 5%. That’s still over 100,000 pounds of waste diverted from landfill.

So what’s BD Provisions, and how will they do it?

It’s 2 stores: one in Fairfield’s Brickwalk, the other in Newtown. They call themselves “a carefully curated collection of bulk foods sold by the pound in sustainable containers.”

BD carries everything from basic pantry staples to trendy superfoods. There are over 300 items in all: pastas, rice, cereals, bulk teas, spices, grains, snacks, baking ingredients, nuts, candies, chocolates and more. Everything is sold by weight.

Bins and tins at BD Provisions …

Artisan olive oils, balsamic vinegar and local honey is always on tap. They also roast coffee, so you can take your beans home while they’re warm.

You know that satisfaction you get when you scoop the candy at Fresh Market, and get just what you need? That’s the feeling at BD — except you do it throughout the entire store.

Biodegradable and compostable packaging options further ease the environmental impact. The store encourages shoppers to bring their own bags — even canning jars — from home. (You can also buy them there, to reuse over and over.)

… and shelf after shelf of herbs.

BD Provisions is the brainchild of Westporter Tara DiPippa and her husband Tony, and John and Cynthia Boccuzzi. The DiPippas would love to open another location in their hometown.

Until then, they’re connected to Westport by donating 100% of their hot coffee sales all month long to the Gillespie Center.

Sure, it takes a bit more gas to get to the Brickwalk than a store here — for some Westporters, anyway.

But think of all that waste you’re not creating. We’ll get to that 100,000 pounds per year goal — one coffee bean, oat and nut at a time.

Pic Of The Day #969

Getting all your ducks in a row, at the Compo Beach channel (Photo/Jamie Walsh)

Field Trip For Chickpea Butter

Tom Donigan’s kids can’t bring peanut butter sandwiches (or any nut butters) to school. They were tired of sunflower seed butter.

So — working in Matt Levey’s kitchen — Donigan developed chickpea butter.

It’s nutty, delicious, and a little sweet.

It’s also the first vegan product line for Field Trip. That’s the jerky company whose world headquarters — and only retail store in the world — is located Westport, on the Post Road opposite Design Within Reach.

The all-natural chickpea butter is available in 3 flavors: classic, cinnamon churro and chai spice.

They’re sold online, in over 10,000 stores nationwide — and at the downtown outlet.

And — because Field Trip calls Westport home — Donigan and Levey are offering “06880” readers 20% off, for stocking stuffers or Hanukkah gifts. Just say “06880” — and enjoy!

Westport Cops Go Green — Add Tesla To The Fleet

Savvy drivers know what our police cars look like.

They look like cop cars everywhere.

But this is Westport. The next time you’re pulled over, it may be by a … Tesla.

The newest addition to the Police Department fleet is a fully electric 2020 Tesla Model 3. The 310 mile-range electric vehicle has already been delivered. It’s being outfitted now with all the necessary equipment: emergency lights, siren, computer, weapon rack, and tires capable of speeds over 100 miles an hour.

It’s expected to hit the mean streets of Westport by the end of January.

No, this is not a speed trap by the Minute Man Monument. Although it might be.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas says he “believes in being green.” But his main reason for choosing a Tesla was superior performance, crash ratings, and collision avoidance technology.

Officers will pass on the autopilot feature.

While the purchase price of $52,290 is higher than the $37,000 the department normally spends adding another Ford Explorer, Koskinas expects to more than make up for that in fuel and maintenance savings.

Just in the first 3 years, an internal combustion engine squad car requires about $11,000 in oil changes, oil filters, tuneups and brakes.

Teslas require no annual maintenance. Brakes last 70,000 miles or more, thanks to a motor system that slows the car while simultaneously recharging the battery.

A new look for the Westport Police Department fleet.

Savings on gas are significant too. The Department of Energy’s fuel economy calculator shows the Police Department’s cost per mile will be $0.040. The fuel cost for a Ford Explorer is $0.127 per mile — saving $13,770 in the first 3 years.

Charging the battery is not an issue. The vehicle is expected to be used 200 to 220 miles a day. The police already have a gas pump on their property. They’ll add a Level 2 electric vehicle charger, which will take just a few hours overnight.

The cop car will join the 431 electric vehicles already owned by Westporters. 250 are Teslas. That puts us #1 in the state in both categories (per capita).

EV Club president Bruce Becker believes Westport is the first police department on the East Coast with a Tesla.

FUN FACTS:

  • The Model 3 has an extra trunk in the front of the vehicle where an internal combustion engine would usually be. Officers can use it to store emergency equipment that must be kept separate from cargo in the rear trunk.
  • Every Tesla comes straight from the factory with features like front, side and rear-view cameras that a police department would typically install at extra cost. They can also be used in “sentry mode” to monitor the vehicle and vicinity when it’s parked.
  • The Model 3 has a top speed of 162 mph — faster than all other vehicles in the current fleet.
  • Police cars spend lots of time idling. An internal combustion engine must run to power the lights and keep online computers running while not draining the battery. The Tesla will eliminate those tailpipe emissions.
  • This is not the first EV for Westport’s Police Department. In 2007, a Toyota Prius replaced a car that burned 7 to 9 gallons of gas every day. The current Prius is a plug-in hybrid, but operates almost exclusively in electric-only mode for its daily driving needs.

The Police plan an open house in the spring, for the public to see the new car up close.

Though you can see it in action starting next month, if — suspecting a Ford Explorer — you get pulled over by the Tesla instead.

Trimming The Angela Trucks Tree

Scores of Westporters turned out yesterday to honor a wonderful Westporter.

And they did it in a very fitting Westport way.

Angela Trucks — who died last month at 69 — was co-chair of the town’s Beautification Committee. She dedicated her local life to making Westport look good. She was particularly involved in the Re-Greening of the Post Road.

So what better place to light a fir tree — symbolizing beauty, warmth and freshness — than on the Post Road?

The tree sits in front of Jesup Hall — Westport’s original Town Hall. It was donated and decorated by Terrain.

The patio was filled with people of all ages. There was music, mulled wine from Rothbard’s, and s’mores courtesy of Amis.

The Westport Downtown Merchants Association contributed ornaments and tags. People wrote loving thoughts of Angela, or other loved ones.

(Photos/Ted Horowitz)

Thanks to all, for this special way to honor Angela’s Re-Greening of the Post Road.

Pics Of The Day #964

Last night, Wakeman Town Farm invited everyone to its Christmas tree lighting …

… and as soon as the lights went on …

… the kids got down to business. (Photos/Betsy P. Kahn)

The Mink Of Ford Road

Alert “06880” reader — and avid fisherman — David Ader writes:

I’m a recently retired, now former financial strategist, who has decided to fish until I get bored.

I’m not bored yet.

I like to fish along Ford Road because it’s convenient, beautiful, and there’s not too much garbage for me to clean up to keep the place neat.

David Ader’s favorite spot on Ford Road. Unlike many fishermen, he’s not afraid to give the location away.

For the last while, especially in the morning, I’ve fished beside a mink who keeps me company. The mink bounds along the shore, stops to stare at me in sort of an acknowledgement, and in contrast to the osprey, kingfisher and once in a while bald eagle, doesn’t compete for the trout I dutifully throw back when I catch, which is rare enough.

Today I was saddened to find this fine furry fellow squashed in the middle of Ford Road. That’s a bit gross, I admit, but there was something really lovely going on.

As I watched him from a rock near the bridge that leads to Bridgewater, I saw all the cars and trucks passing by slow down to give the mink wide berth. Some slowed to a real crawl to look at it. Others just went by, still with a sense of respect or at least curiosity.

A cyclist on a very expensive bike, wearing racing clothes, stopped and just stared by himself for a moment.

The mink, in the middle of the road. (Photos/David Ader)

I heard a story that may be apocryphal: Some years back, enviro-activists freed minks from a mink “ranch” somewhere in this county; the minks we encounter are descendants of those coats that never were.

It’s possible, though I imagine cage-raised minks couldn’t survive in the wild and that this one’s line runs back to the beginning, to Indian times surely.

A few months ago I was picking myself up from the bank, having slipped in the river under the eye of that mink, or a relative perhaps. I picked up a stone that was clearly made for some purpose by the original inhabitants.

I liked the mink for its own antics, but too like to think that he’s a holdover from Westport’s more ancient heritage.

I hope another one, or two, show up when the weather warms up.

Oh, I did catch a large rainbow trout as well.

Persona Of The Week: WTF’s Liz Milwe And Christy Colasurdo

If you can’t — or won’t — trek to New York for tonight’s Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center: no problem!

Wakeman Town Farm’s annual tree lighting is this Friday (December 6, 4:30 to 6 p.m.).

That’s just one of the many events taking place regularly at community farm/sustainability center/gathering spot.

This week, Persona’s Rob Simmelkjaer interviews Liz Milwe and Christy Colasurdo. They chat about all the great things happening all year long at WTF.

(Friday’s tree lighting at Wakeman Town Farm is free, and open to all. There’s music, marshmallows, cocoa, cookies — and a collection box for unwrapped toys, courtesy of Al’s Angels.)