Tag Archives: Andrew Colabella

Remembering Joe Saviano

Joe Saviano died last weekend in New Milford Hospital. He was 65.

The first baby born in Norwalk Hospital in 1955 (January 2), he grew up in Westport. He was a champion pole vaulter at Staples High School, where he graduated from Staples High School in 1973.

Joe retired from the Westport Parks and Recreation Department, where he worked for most of his career. He was an avid fisherman, nature enthusiast and photographer. RTM member Andrew Colabella offers this remembrance.

Have you been to a game at an athletic field in town, and noticed the perfectly groomed grass? How about the perfectly edged gardens in town parks? Have you thought about the guy in the tractor who grooms the beach, leaving oddly satisfying smooth lines?

This is a dedication to just one of those talented former Parks & Rec maintanance employees.


At 5 a.m. — bright and early before sunrise, Joe Saviano inspects his tractor and beach rake. Sporting a town polo, a hat he obtained from a garden place or distributor/wholesaler, and a bandanna, he makes his way to Compo Beach.

Joe Saviano

Joe starts on South Beach by the barbecue grills. He slowly raises the benches with the bucket to move them out of the way, then rakes up the charcoal, ash and trash left by washed up waves and last night beach goers.

As the sun peeks over the horizon, it’s time for coffee at Elvira’s. If he’s lucky (which is every day), one of the usual beach walkers, runners or visitors brings him one.

His fans, friends, runners taking a break, even curious dogs, all stop to watch him ride by. If they’re lucky (which is always), Joe stops to say hi, ask how they are, gives the dog a pet, and offers a cigarette to the runners (as a joke).

It’s now past 7 a.m. Time to make a pass on east beach, as the town garbage truck makes its rounds picking up trash cans. Racing from can to can to beat the dust blowing off the beach rake, Joe stops to tell a corny dad joke. That turns into more jokes, and stories of when he was a champion pole vaulter.

Joe closes the cab door, raises the throttle, engages the beach rake, then makes his way to the jetty to loop back to the cannons until every inch of beach is raked — all before the swimmers and sun worshipers lay their towels, chairs and umbrellas out on the sand.

Next up are Old Mill and Burying Hill Beaches. Easy little strips, but a chance for Joe to practice and critique his operating skills, as he removes all the pebbles from the sand, and seaweed that washed up past the high tide line. Spotting a low spot in the beach, Joe shifts the high sand away from the wall to smooth out (all in one shot).

Joe Saviano, working at Compo Beach.

When the beaches are all groomed, Joe rides shotgun in truck 100, with Joey Arciola driving. The two Joes ride from job to job, working together. Joe Saviano chats away; Joe Arciola listens.

On the job site though, barely any words are spoken. The two work in silence and sync. If something is broken they just happen to have the right part, or a way to jerry-rig it. Most of the time, their innovative, makeshift part never needs replacing. 


That was a normal Monday, Wednesday and Friday for Joe.

For over 30 years Joe Saviano maintained town parks, beaches and field. He applied his natural green thumb, immunity to poison ivy and carpentry skills to building bleachers and split rail fences, and growing the greenest grass and most mesmerizing flower beds and gardens anywhere.

Joe was wise when it came to finances too. He always found the craziest deals. Joe’s truck was over 15 years old, but had little mileage. He never paid for a single repair on it!

Joe also never purchased cigarettes. He thought they were overpriced and filled with cancer. So he grew and rolled his own cigarettes, from tobacco he grew or purchased. It never made sense to me, just like his theories about extraterrestrial life, what was beyond our galaxy, and the purpose of some of the jobs we had to do at work.

Joe never sugarcoated anything. He was always straightforward and honest, and spoke his mind. Even if you didn’t agree, you respected his honesty and creative thinking.

When Joe wasn’t at work he could be found at Jr’s Hot Dog Stand, in the first chair. Congregating around him were big town names, high-ranking employees, retirees — all close friends shooting the breeze.

One of Joe Saviano’s favorite spots.

He cold also be found at his mother’s home, tending the garden and taking care of her. Or New Milford, where he settled down to raise his son Joseph Danial. And his vacation spot, his cabin in upstate New York — off-grid, where he fished and perfected his photography skills.

Joe left behind a legacy of talent, hard work, dedication, multiple friends and relationships. He also left his mark on the town, one that will be forever imitated but never duplicated.

Most importantly, Joe left behind his print on this earth.

So the next time you visit a town park, athletic or recreational field, or a beach, Joe’s mark can be found everywhere. Take time to notice the work of the bleachers he put together for you to sit on, the perfectly manicured pesticide-free cut grass with water-based stripes applied by careful eye, the boardwalk you walk on, the wooden guardrails you lean on waiting for your ride, or the barbecue grills you cook on to serve friends and family to as the sun sets.

Hardworking, talented people maintain those areas every day.

Joe was one of those people.

Joe, we’ll miss you!

Joe Saviano kept Loeffler Field — where the Staples High School boys and girls play — looking great.

[OPINION] Eggs Cartons, Over Easy

Alert “06880” reader/ardent preservationist Bob Weingarten has been thinking about recycling — not just old homes, but egg cartons. He writes:

Whenever I go to a Westport supermarket to buy eggs, I see 3 different methods to packaging. (The exception is Trader Joe’s, which only sells eggs in cardboard cartons.)

Eggs are packaged in either Styrofoam, plastic with a paper advertisement on top, or cardboard cartons. Prices range from about $2.29 to over $6. Cardboard packaged eggs are the least expensive.

But that’s not the issue.

I’m concerned about the type of packaging used for eggs. Styrofoam and plastic cartons are non-recyclable; cardboard cartons can be recycled. Non-recyclable waste is a big — and costly — issue.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

I talked with RTM members Dick Lowenstein and Andrew Colabella. Andrew said that enforcing a town ordinance to restrict egg carton packaging is not possible. A packaging ordinance can only be enforced if the eggs were packaged on town premises.

I believe we need to do something.  There are 3 alternatives.

  1. Enact a town ordinance. I think this is possible. Westport passed an ordinance banning plastic bags, although they were not created in Westport.
  2. Encourage residence to only purchase eggs in cardboard cartons.  I switched to cardboard recently, and have no problems with the eggs. After using all the eggs, I recycle the cardboard carton. Very easy!
  3. Encourage our supermarkets to only sell eggs in a cardboard carton, as Trader Joe’s has done.

The use of cardboard cartons does not affect the taste of eggs. But it does reduce the amount of waste we place in landfills, and saves the town money for waste disposal.

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.

Single-Use Plastics Ban: It’s Now The Law

Alert “06880” reader and RTM member Andrew Colabella writes:

As we embark on the 6-month anniversary of the first single-use plastics ban east of the Mississippi, I extend a big thank you on behalf of my co-sponsors: P3, the Conservation Department and Westport Weston Health District.

Last May, the Representative Town Meeting passed an ordinance that prohibits food establishments from distributing certain plastic food service containers to customers. Food products produced and packaged off-site are exempt.

We lead 46 states, along with cities in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii. It takes a village to clean a village, but it takes a town to lead the world. Our intent was to lead with perseverance, ease, and informative alternatives to make the transition smooth.

On November 7, the ordinance took effect in Westport. This means that single- use plastic items such as straws, stirrers, plates, cups, to-go containers, and all expanded polystyrene products such as Styrofoam cannot be distributed to patrons of food service establishments in town.

However, PLA (plant-based) containers are allowed.  In addition, plastic straws will still be available upon request to those who need them for a medical or physical reason.

New straws at Pink Sumo.

The ordinance tried to be realistic in its wording, taking into consideration whether acceptable alternative options for certain products are available. This is why utensils are not covered under this ordinance: There are no viable, cost-effective alternatives readily available.

Plastic utensils for take-out orders are available upon request. Plastic lids are also allowed.

The purpose of the ordinance is to collectively change our behavior, to steer us away from increasing our individual carbon footprint, reducing waste, and incentivizing new product development. This should also result in the added benefit to our food service establishments of reducing their garbage output, and extending the length they hold inventory of these products.

Establishments throughout town have already started switching over to more sustainable serving products. However, the Conservation Department — which is responsible for enforcement — has agreed that all establishments which still have an inventory of single use plastic products may be allowed to use and distribute them past the November 7 date.

It would be counterproductive to force establishments to throw out products that can still serve a purpose. Please be patient and respectful of these businesses, as we all work together.

Single-use plastic is everywhere. (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

The transition will take time. You may note that some newer products look and feel like plastic, but actually are not. This polylactic acid material is a plant/leaf –based product allowed under the ordinance. PLA is beneficial because, if it is incinerated along with other garbage generated in Westport, no toxic fumes are emitted.

PLA is not recyclable with other recyclable plastics, but it is compostable under the right conditions. Unlike plastic which is made from petroleum, PLAs contain no benzene or styrene, which are carcinogenic products, and are made from a renewable resource.

Out of 78 million metric tons of plastic produced yearly, only 14% is actually recycled. At one time China, India, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and other Asian countries purchased our plastic recyclables. They have now ended up in their tributaries, creating floating garbage islands around the world.

These countries no longer accept our recycled plastic products. Westport has always led the East Coast as an agent of change for advancing environmental protection, education, innovation, safety, and reducing waste fiscally and physically. This ordinance is one more example of that effort.

As we change the way we use these products provided by our businesses, which are often disposed of frivolously, we are committed as a town to reduce our waste.

We also expect private industry to introduce more environmentally friendly, harmless alternative packaging products. In the end, reducing usage, reducing demand and increasing inventory lifespan will reduce our waste.

 

9/11: Andrew Colabella Remembers

On September 11, 2001, Westport native and current RTM member Andrew Colabella was in 7th grade at Bedford Middle School. He remembers:

I was sitting in Mr. Summ’s English class. We were called to the auditorium. Another fire drill? Motivational speaker? A boring play? Seemed too soon in the beginning of the year to be doing this.

Mrs. Wormser spoke with Ms. Reneri, standing with Mr. Delgado, about 2 planes hitting the World Trade Center. They had no other information to give.

Why would they call us to the auditorium about that? Planes crash every year. I started thinking, what if there is more to this? My friends said I had no idea what I was talking about.

Terrorism wasn’t new to me. My cousin John DiGiovanni was killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

We headed to lunch at 10:32. Parents were coming to the school picking up their kids. Some cried hysterically as they left the guidance office. Even teachers tried to hide their tears.

I went into the hall to hit the power button on the TV. There it was: 2 smoldering towers. People jumping from the high floors. Maybe they’ll land safely. Maybe they’re bringing helicopters with water to put it out, or throw rope to get them out.

It was serious. It was real.

The iconic 9/11 photo was taken by Westport’s Spencer Platt. He lived near the Twin Towers on that awful morning.

I called home. Dad was safe.

A girl walked out of guidance, crying with 2 friends. I never forgot that memory.

Later I learned about Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. I stood with my mom at Burying Hill Beach, watching smoke pour out like blood from a bad cut.

We had been cut. Nearly 3,000 people died, including 343 firefighters, 71 police officers, and EMTs and military personnel. That’s not counting the countless number of people who became sick and died long after the attacks.

Sherwood Island State Park, my backyard, holds the memory of 161 names — all Connecticut residents who died on 9/11. On a clear day, you can see the Manhattan skyline from the site.

I never forgot. If you’re reading this, you never forgot where you were or what you were doing that day.

As we grow older, more and more people born after 2001 have no memory of it. I’ve spoken with youth, even people my age, who never heard of the 1993 attacks, Pearl Harbor, the Korean War, the Oklahoma City bombing, even World War I.

Educating future generations is imperative. The history of how we got to where we are today, and what we endured as a nation, is vital. We can never forget those who died for no reason. We can never let our guard down.

Our world changed. The unthinkable happened. We were brought to our knees. But we got right back up, and struck back.

Today I have been selected to read 21 names from the podium of Ground Zero. It is an honor to read names of men and women. I never knew or met nearly all of them, but they are known to and loved by others: a parent, child, grandchild, cousin, spouse, but overall, a soul. These are the 21 names:

  • Boyie Muhammed
  • Manuel D. Mojica Jr
  • Manuel De Jesus Molina
  • Justin John Molisani Jr
  • Franklyn Monahan
  • Kristen Leigh Montanaro
  • Michael G. Montesi
  • Antonio De Jesus Montoya Valdes
  • Thomas Carlo Moody
  • Krishna V. Moorthy
  • Abner Morales
  • Paula E. Morales
  • Gerard P. Moran Jr.
  • John Michael Moran
  • Lyndsey Stapleton Morehouse
  • Steven P. Morello
  • Yvette Nicole Moreno
  • Richard J. Morgan
  • Sanae Mori
  • Leonel Geronimo Morocho Morocho
  • And my cousin, John Di Giovanni

“No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory Of Time” is affixed to the Ground Zero wall. Each square is a different color, representing each different, unique person who died that day.

Where were you on 9/11? What were you doing?

Who did you know? Who do you remember?

This is my story. What’s yours?

Andrew Colabella Remembers Sean Brown

A few days ago, “06880” reader and RTM member Andrew Colabella shared his memories of Sean Brown, a Staples High School classmate who died a few days earlier. 

Today Andrew follows up with these thoughts:

Grieving is something we all do at some point. We can never picture or imagine how we will grieve. Suddenly, we are put to the test.

Memories spring to mind. They run as tears hit the page. Life flashes before our eyes, filled with memories. “Who was that in this photo?” “Why do I look like that?” And “wow, we were so young.” Bob Seger said it best: “We were young, and we were running against the wind.”

Rebellious but sensible, stubborn but witty, quick yet relaxed. That was Sean.

Do you ever go to a certain place in this bubble of a town, and flash back? Does something that happened 10 or 15 years ago feel like yesterday?

Do you ever remember when time would stand still in a particular moment of life? Sometimes you wish it would be over with. Sometimes you wish it would last longer.

Sean Brown

Last Sunday, a planned 4-hour gathering turned into a 7-hour reunion. Faces looked the same, voices sounded the same, everything seemed the same…but did it? Morgan Brown put together photos of Sean’s childhood. If only time could stand still like photos, Sean would be here. We would have more time with him, would have done more, said more, been together more.

All roads lead to Westport. And the DNA of Westport is spread throughout the world. As Sean’s father Doug made his way to Los Angeles to pick up his son’s ashes and belongings, he ran into people he’d never met, but who knew Sean from Westport.

Andrew Lunt received some of his clothes, fragments of evidence that this soul existed not only on earth, but in our lives. Proof that we are not dreaming of this short but mighty blond-haired, blue-eyed, raspy-voiced character. If only we could wake up from this nightmare of a friend missing.

Old Mill echoes with splashes of water cascading over the tidal gates. A younger generation has become fond of jumping off the gates into the deep pools, where fish tease first-time fisher kids.

Andrew Colabella and Sean Brown fished here. For decades, countless other kids have too.

Ship’s Corner — where kids once stood outside — went from mannequins with clothing samples to sparkling, shimmering interior design pieces.

At night Main Street was alive with kids playing “Manhunt,” chasing each other from roof to roof as police rushed to put their spotlights on us (but never caught us). The stairs to Onion Alley, where we all met while our families were at dinner, is now Bedford Square.

That Sunday, a warm sun and cool wind brought us together at Evan Harding Point. The people we once knew, but may have lost touch with, came together. Some discovered passion and talent, and became chefs. A sustainable engineer traveled from Florida; old lovers came from Colorado and Boston.

That night, we celebrated Sean Douglas Brown. I wish I could end this happily, but it wouldn’t satisfy what we truly wanted. It wouldn’t be the truth.

What I can end on is that our night ended with this group photo. As the sun and celebration came to an end, our souls came together in the light, because of one soul.

Until we meet again.

 

We Remember: Memorial Day 2019, Part 1

Today’s Memorial Day parade was the first in several years with beautiful weather.

Nearly everyone marched: police, firefighters, non-profit organizations, youth teams, Scouts, Suzuki violinists, a random pediatric dentist.

As usual — and as always deserved — the Y’s Men won the Best Float competition.

Here are a few scenes from today’s parade. More — plus images from the post-parade ceremony on Veterans Green  — will be posted later today.

The start of the route, on Riverside Avenue, was swimming with Westport YMCA Water Rats. (Photo/Jodi Harris)

It doesn’t get more classic than this. (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

Alex Merton — almost 3 — is captivated by a fife and drum corps. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

The theme of the parade was “Thank a Veteran.” This vet received many thanks … (Photo/Beth Devoll)

… as did this veteran … (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

… and this. (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

Page Englehart gives the thumb’s up to a float honoring servicemenbers. Her son Williiam — a Staples High School 2014 graduate — is in the Marine Corps. (Photo/Anne Hardy)

Suzuki violinists played “Turkey in the Straw.” (Photo/Burton Stuttman)

A Myrtle Avenue home honors the holiday. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Police Chief Foti Koskinas greets a young fan on the parade route. (Photo/Marshall Kiev)

Patriot and noted artist Miggs Burroughs marches with the Westport flag — designed, for Westport’s 150th birthday in 1986, by himself. (Photo/Beth Devoll)

The red, white and blue was evident in flags … (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

… and everywhere else. This is RTM member Andrew Colabella.

Andrew Colabella Turns 30

Andrew Colabella is still the youngest RTM member in town.

But he’s no longer in his 20s.

The lifelong Westporter just celebrated his 30th birthday. As he reached that milestone, the 2007 Staples High School graduate reflected on 3 decades in his home town. He writes (and shares some favorite photos he’s taken):

For the last 15 years, I’ve spent my birthday on the bench of “Myrna Wexler” at Compo with my family. I reminisce about my years on earth, waiting for 9:35 a.m.

While I reflect on my personal experiences and stories, I can’t help but reflect on my memories with Westport too.

Growing up, this was not only my home but my play pen. From riding my bike and then my scooter to driving a car, I passed the same buildings, and drove on these roads a thousand times. It never got old for me.

Westport’s roads are very familiar. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

My first time meeting a police officer was when I was 3. I stubbed my toe outside of the Old Mill market. Dave Eason pulled over and gave me a Band-Aid.

I watched Sam Arciola, Foti Koskinas, Dale Call, Ryan Paulsson, Eric Woods, Craig Bergamo, Kevin Smith, Howard Simpson and the great Bobby Myer climb through the ranks, as they watched me grow up.

I remember standing on the train platform. Everyone spoke to each other with their newspapers clenched between their arm and chest. Now, we’re buried in our phones.

Restaurants like Mario’s, DeRosa’s, Mansion Clam House, Doc’s Cafe, Oscar’s, Onion Alley, Bogey’s, National Hall, Swanky Frank’s, Tacos or What? and many more are now distant memories. My taste buds tingle, wishing for them all to come back.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

Going to Longshore on Fridays when Rec-ing Crew was in session during the summer, riding a GoPed to expose myself to hypothermia from the pool on hot days to be with my friends and meet kids from the rival Coleytown Middle School.

Going to Joey’s to hang out with Billy Hess and eat Toasted Almonds out of the old food trailer, then go home and watch Top 10 music videos on VH1 and MTV.

The last few years I’ve been to the movies once or twice. When I was younger, I went to the theaters in Westport to see “Free Willy,” “Leave It To Beaver” and “The Lion King.” Now they’re Restoration Hardware, and the former Pier 1 Imports.

Going to Arnie’s, playing games with my mom and sister, meeting Arnie who had a pool in his living room with a parrot on his shoulder and big Great Dane dogs. Arnie’s turned into Hay Day, where we would run into Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Martha Stewart, Linda Fiorentino, Jason Robards and Christopher Walken.

After the first warm day of the year, my family was at the beach every day by the cannons. What was once my recreational heaven became summer jobs. I worked with Parks & Recreation in high school and throughout college until I graduated from UConn.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

Who would’ve thought that when I turned 16, free to drive the roads of Westport I once biked up and down a thousand times, that I would get stuck next to a Volvo station wagon at a traffic light with Ferrari emblems. All 4 tires spun, as Paul Newman pulled out. (Never underestimate custom work and a Volvo station wagon).

Speaking of cars, who remembers the man at Compo Beach who drove a Chrysler LeBaron with leopard seats? He wore a boat captain’s hat, with a scarf around his neck. I never knew his name.

I also never knew the name of the woman who would come to Compo at night in her sweatshirt and sweatpants in the dead of summer, and jam out to her Walkman, dancing in the sand as people strolled by.

Compo sunsets never get old. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

These recurring events and people I took for granted. I thought they would never stop and no matter where I was, they would play out naturally.

Now I think about the last 3 years. They say your late 20s are your most difficult and loneliest ever. Mine were definitely difficult. I lost friends to car accidents, suicide, drug overdose. I’ve watched friends move away, get married, have kids and land the job opportunities of a lifetime. Buying homes, living in high rises or just traveling the world not knowing what to expect the minute they woke up.

As much as I would love to leave, explore with no home address and be on the move, I would feel empty.

The Italian Festival brings back memories. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

Yet going to work every day from 7 to 3:30, I also felt empty. I had all this time I could fill. I wanted to do more.

It wasn’t until I read an article on LinkedIn that I relaxed about my age and success, and stopped comparing myself to others. It said:

  • At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job.
  • At 24, Stephen King worked as a janitor and lived in a trailer.
  • At 27, Vincent Van Gogh failed as a missionary and decided to go to art school.
  • At 28, J.K. Rowling was a suicidal single parent living on welfare.
  • At 28, Wayne Coyne (from The Flaming Lips) was a fry cook.
  • At 30, Harrison Ford was a carpenter.
  • At 30, Martha Stewart was a stockbroker.
  • At 37, Ang Lee was a stay-at-home-dad working odd jobs.
  • Julia Child released her first cookbook at 39, and got her own cooking show at 51.
  • Vera Wang failed to make the Olympic figure skating team, didn’t get the editor-in-chief position at Vogue, and designed her first dress at 40.
  • Stan Lee didn’t release his first big comic book until he was 40.
  • Alan Rickman gave up his graphic design career to pursue acting at 42.
  • Samuel L. Jackson didn’t get his first movie role until he was 46.
  • Morgan Freeman landed his first major movie role at 52.
  • Kathryn Bigelow only reached international success when she made The Hurt Locker at 57.
  • Grandma Moses didn’t begin her painting career until 76.
  • Louise Bourgeois didn’t become a famous artist until she was 78.

Now when I’m not working, I devote my time and energy to the RTM. I go to schools and educate students about town politics, single-use plastics and composting. I find myself most at ease in Board of Finance meetings listening to Gary Conrad and members talk about line items. I go to every meeting to keep myself up to speed, even committees I’m not on. It’s relaxing, and I want to learn everything about the town I grew up in.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

I’m sitting on this bench as I write down memories, and reminisce about how I got where I am today. I hope to do it next year. The year after. The decade after that. And continue it with my kids and grandkids.

Here’s to 30. Here’s to Westport. The town where everyone holds history and legendary stories that make this town our home. To the RTM (my family away from home), and my family: Frank, Jann, Sara and Roxie.

Andrew Colabella, in his traditional fireworks attire.

Plastic Fantastic Concert

From a young age, Andrew Colabella hated plastic straws. He couldn’t understand how something that was used for just a few seconds could be so quickly tossed aside, then lie around on land or in our oceans for centuries.

He never used a straw. As much as possible, he tried to avoid all forms of plastic. He used metal forks and ate off porcelain plates. But we live in a plastic, throwaway society. The number of plastic cups used and discarded at bars floored him. He thought he was the only one who noticed.

Colabella is now an RTM member. At last he can do something about plastic that goes beyond changing his own habits.

The District 4 representative has already convinced 38 local restaurants and franchises to find biodegradable alternatives to single-uise products.

Now he’s introduced an ordinance to ban plastic straws in Westport. (There are exemptions for disabled people, who need them because other alternatives are not strong enough.) The proposal is making its way through the RTM Environment Committee.

But this is not some quixotic quest. Colabella has partnered with 4 other longtime Westporters, in what they call the Plastic Pollution Project.

Wendy Goldwyn Batteau was inspired by her first boss — the editor of Silent Spring — to co-found Sierra Club Books. She’s worked for decades as an award-winning editor/executive at major publishers, collaborating with Rolling Stone, the New Yorker, Audubon and the Ocean Alliance.

Liz Milwe — in “real life,” a choreographer and dance filmmaker — has a long history of environmental activism. Ten years ago as an RTM member, she helped Westport become the first town east of the Mississippi to ban plastic bags. She’s won awards from the US Environmental Agency and Westport’s Green Task Force.

Ashley Moran is a Saugatuck Elementary School teacher. A founding member of Nurturing Minds in Africa — a non-profit helping educate poor and at-risk girls in Tanzania — she believe that education leads to meaningful change.

Greg Naughton — a filmmaker and producer — grew up in Westport and Weston, in a family of performers. His 9-year-old son is in Moran’s class. Excited by what he learned about plastic straws, composting and the environment, the boy got his dad involved in the cause.

Naughton is also a founding member of the Sweet Remains. The indie folk-rock band has over 35 million Spotify streams.

Which is why and how the Sweet Remains are playing a benefit concert, to raise funds for the Plastic Pollution Project.

The event is Friday, January 4 (Fairfield Theatre Company, 7 p.m.). It starts with a reception in the lobby/art gallery, featuring presentations about plastic problems from P3 members, Westport students and others. The Sweet Remains and P3 founders will be on hand to chat.

It should be a “sweet” concert. And one that helps ensure — in a small but meaningful way — that plastic no longer “remains” on our land and in our seas, centuries after all the rest of us are gone.

(For tickets and more information on the concert, click here.) 

Westport Schools Limit Plastic Straws; Student Takes Aim At Water Bottles

The campaign to lessen plastic straw use in Westport no longer sucks.

The Whelk, Jesup Hall, Kawa Ni, Amis, Viva Zapata, Dunville’s and the Black Duck have all joined in. Dunkin’ Donuts is in the process of phasing them out.

Now comes news that a place that serves many more customers a day than all of these combined — well, maybe not Dunkin’ — has joined the crusade.

RTM member Andrew Colabella tells “06880” that he heard from Deborah VanCoughnett, director of dining services for Chartwells, the company that runs food services for the Westport schools.

Andrew says they’ll severely limit plastic straw use when school starts later this month.

None will be on display. However, students who need one — for example, those with physical disabilities — can simply ask a cashier.

Andrew thanks fellow RTM member Kristin Schneeman, school superintendent Dr. Colleen Palmer, Bedford Middle School principal Dr. Adam Rosen and student Michael Rossi Pontoriero, and VanCoughnett for their work on this project.

It’s an important step forward. But bigger issues lie ahead.

Like plastic bottles.

Yesterday, I got an email from Samantha Henske.

Last year — as a 5th grader at Kings Highway Elementary School — she started a drive to eliminate single-use water bottles. She and her Workshop grouop sold reusable BPA-free water bottles to 400 KHS students. With the money raised, they bought a water filling station for the school.

Samantha Henske, and plastic bottles.

As she worked on the project, Sammi learned not only about environmental effects of plastic bottles (one year of manufacturing uses enough oil to fuel a million cars; a bottle in a landfill takes up to 450 years to decompose; plastics that get into fish and other sea creatures can end up as microplastics in our bodies), but that chemicals in BPA can lead to neurological difficulties and increased growth of cancer cells.

Now — as she enters Coleytown Middle School — she’s moving forward, townwide. Next month, she meets with 1st Selectman Jim Marpe and Westport’s Green Task Force.

This is a sibling effort. She’s doing the research; her sophomore brother Spencer is working on design and technology.

The result is a Change.org petition. The goal is to eliminate single-use plastic water bottles in all of Westport. To sign — or learn more — click here.