Tag Archives: Andrew Colabella

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.

Finding A Pearl In Plastic Straw Debate

Pearl at Longshore has joined the movement to lessen the use of plastic straws.

The popular waterfront restaurant has gone a step beyond changing its practice, too. The other day Andrew Colabella — the RTM member who is introducing a townwide plastic straw ordinance — talked to the staff about the importance of the effort.

He described the negative effects of plastic on the human body, land and — particularly appropriately for Pearl’s location — water.

Andrew Colabella addresses the Pearl staff at everyone’s favorite spot: the patio.

“Pearl has always been committed to community and the environment,” the restaurant says.

Straws will no longer be offered with beverages unless asked for. All straws, stirrers and cocktail picks have been replaced with similar items in bamboo and paper.

Pearl understands that people suffering from Parkinson’s and other neurological and muscular disorders need plastic straws. They will still be available for those diners.

Restaurant owners hope that after Colabella’s presentation, their front-line employees — servers and bartenders — can raise awareness, answer questions and alleviate concerns of customers.

No more plastic straws at Pearl.

Plastic Straws: The Sequel

The drive to eliminate (or diminish) plastic straws in Westport — reported yesterday on “06880” — is a multi-pronged battle.

RTM member Andrew Colabella — the youngest elected official, and a member of the body’s Environment Committee — brought up the idea and started researching it then.

He has met with over 16 managers, owners, chefs and staffs of Westport’s many restaurants.

His goal is “to change the material of a product that we use for a couple of minutes at convenience” — which then sits in a landfill for hundreds of years. 

Colabella is taking aim too at styrofoam containers and cups, even plastic foodware.

He has gotten signatures on a petition, and has drafted an ordinance. He’s contacted the Westport Weston Health District and Conservation Commission about enforcement, and is using their feedback for a final edit.

As of now, these restaurants have joined the campaign:

  • Terrain
  • Amis
  • Spotted Horse
  • The Granola Bar
  • Westport Farmers’ Market
  • Joey’s By The Shore
  • Little Barn
  • Saugatuck Sweets
  • Viva Zapata’s
  • Match Burger Lobster
  • Rizzuto’s
  • Sakura
  • The Pearl at Longshore
  • Westport Pizzeria
  • Bartaco
  • Winfield Street Coffee & Deli

Meanwhile, Staples High School students — and even younger ones, like Bedford Middle Schooler Michael Rossi Pontoriero —  have worked to eliminate plastic straws, and plastic wrapping on individual utensils in Westport schools. Details will be finalized this fall.

It takes a village — to rid a village of plastic.

Andrew Colabella Grades The Fireworks: A+

Andrew Colabella is a lifelong Westporter. The 2007 Staples High School graduate worked for the town as a seasonal employee from 2004 to 2014.

Today he’s an RTM representative. Inspired by last night’s 62nd annual PAL fireworks, he writes:

This year’s fireworks were far better than last year’s.

Lasting 28 minutes, introducing shapes, emojis, the letters “USA” and a great big finale, Grucci — a 6th generation family with an expertise in pyrotechnics — gets an A+.

(Photo/Ted Horowitz)

Westport PAL quickly shut down a couple of vendors selling toy machine guns. Other vendors sold toys that lit up, cool hats and other stuff.  Most importantly they brought back Michelle Pauker to the national anthem. She gave us chills that lasted into the fireworks. Another A+.

Parks and Recreation, from guest services and clean-up crew to their supervisors opening the gate 30 minutes earlier than expected (causing little to no traffic), left patrons and visitors beyond ecstatic.

Parking was fantastic. With 200 passes left unsold, foot travelers were copious. Carmen Roda, Rick Giunta, Jen Fava and Ed Frawley were on the ball, making entry and exit smooth. Their enthusiastic, hardworking crew of employees worked nonstop all morning, afternoon and into the night, to help everyone enjoy the show. Guest Services also get an A+.

Parks and Rec operations supervisor Dan DeVito helped out by collecting fireworks tickets in the Soundview lot. The process was quick and easy.

Police, fire, emergency services and mutual aid from other towns — including bomb-sniffing dog and officers patrolling on foot, bike and car — ensured that all was quiet. Another A+.

Trumbull and Norwalk were among the towns providing support last night.

Compo Beach lifeguards, dressed in their finest reds, offered first aid. Injuries were simple and few. A dozen missing children were returned to their parents. One husband was reported missing by his wife. Jonathan was found. (Sorry Jonathan 😂) A+ again.

Joey’s by the Shore employees were on target with their meals and services. Cleanliness was stellar. I can still taste the food. 😋 A+!

Kids hung out behind the lifeguard shack and mingled, carrying out typical mischievous (and safe) behavior.

Unfortunately there was some confusion about patrons reserving tables and leaving them unoccupied (that’s a big no).

One other negataive: After the sand and dust settled and everyone left, the trash and litter left behind on the beach was greater than last year. There were more water bottles, beach chairs, plastic toys and vendors’ specials, food wrappers, tinfoil, Ziploc bags and other garbage than last year.

As I drove around last night, observing crews working into the night, house parties rocked the neighborhood. Young kids in love walked with people they just met, catching a glimpse of the red moon together on a bench, or leaving a party wandering into the darkness to find what may or may not become the next unplanned adventure — it all reminded me how this is my last 4th of July in my 20s.

(Photo/Suzanne Sherman Propp)

I’m no longer young and able to enjoy these things I once did. Yet I find myself at the lifeguard shack every year, greeting old faces, familiar friends, new people, surrounded by lifeguards and guest services colleagues and first responders who I stand by so proudly.

It’s hard to face. I’m getting older, and I am not ready for it. But I’ve loved Westport since I was young enough to remember, and fall harder for this town every day.

Last night I got to see families and friends enjoy the fireworks as much as I do. And everyone got a kick out of my outfit, which I proudly wear every year.

Andrew Colabella celebrates the holiday.


It Takes A Village To Beautify A Town

Town officials perform tons of thankless tasks.

They read mind-numbing reports. They sit through mind-numbing meetings. They put up with a lot garbage.

Today, they had enough of that trash.

In the wee hours of Westport’s Green Day, RTM member Andrew Colabella and his friend Franco Zaffina — a 2003 Staples graduate — headed to Grace Salmon Park.

The popular pocket park off Imperial Avenue attracts tons of visitors. Sometimes, some forget (ahem) to pick up after themselves.

You can’t see it here, but Grace Salmon Park attracts plenty of garbage. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

By 9 a.m. Westport Rotarians, residents of Gault Park and Marvin Road, Homes With Hope founder/RTM rep Jeff Wieser, Parks and Recreation director Jen Fava, 1st selectman Jim Marpe, assistant town attorney Eileen Lavigne Flug and the Westport Garden Club were there too.

Clad in gloves and boots, armed with trash pickers, and roaming the high tide line and marshlands, they filled over 25 garbage bags.

Among the loot: styrofoam cups, bottles, cigarette butts, and — mostly — dog droppings.

A small part of the big haul. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

It took 2 hours to clean the entire park.

But Garden Club members were not done. They hauled out shovels and edgers. Magically, their green thumbs beautified the garden beds.

That’s just one of the many spots benefiting from today’s Green Day. All across town, other groups, families and individuals did their part to Make Westport Green Again.

Colabella could think of no better way to celebrate his 29th birthday.

“Westport is my home — along with 27,000 other residents,” he says.

“There’s about 34 square miles of land and water. We are responsible for every inch of our environment. Please clean up after yourselves — and your dog — and dispose of waste properly.

“There are garbage cans at every park. Don’t throw trash into the marsh, where animals live.”


The 1st World Trade Center Attack: 25 Years Later, A Westporter Remembers

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the 1st terrorist attack on US soil. Seven men packed a rental van with over 1,300 pounds of explosives, drove into the World Trade Center parking garage, and ran.

The explosion killed 6 adults and an unborn child. It injured more than 1,000 people, creating a 93-foot hole that leveled the entire garage.

But the goal — to bring down both towers — failed.

One of the victims was John DiGiovanni.  The Long Island resident parked one floor below the van. As he got out of his car, the bomb exploded. John dug himself out of the concrete, rebar and debris. He was rushed to St. Vincent’s Hospital, where he died of internal injuries. He was 45 years old.

John was not married. His closest relatives were the Colabella family.

Yesterday, the Colabellas — longtime Westporters — celebrated John’s life, along with the 6 other families who lost loved ones.

Andrew Colabella — an RTM member from District 4 — says, “Bound by terror, life’s paths crossing one another, some friends and some strangers, our families were brought together to cope and speak, to celebrate and cherish their unique spirits and souls that brought light to our lives, and existence on this earth.”

Andrew Colabella honors his father’s cousin, John DiGiovanni.


Serene Scene

Today’s snow was as nice as any in mid-March can be.

It was lovely. It was light. The roads were warm enough to melt it instantly. Kids got a day off from school. (Bonus: A 3-day weekend.)

Alert “06880” photographer Andrew Colabella captured this gorgeous Compo Beach scene:

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

Spring is right around the corner. Daylight Savings starts tomorrow night. (Turn those clocks forward!)

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Temperatures will plunge to the mid-teens tonight. It will be c-c-c-cold all weekend.

Snow arrives Monday night. It may snow all day Tuesday, and linger Wednesday. Winds will blow up to 40 miles and hour.

You know how happy we were with that mild winter?


Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #95

In honor of autumn, last week’s photo challenge featured Andrew Colabella’s orange-filtered shot of some trees and reeds.

They could have been many places in Westport. Lots of alert “06880” readers zeroed in on the Longshore/Gray’s Creek/Compo Beach Road area. They were close.

But only Peter Barlow and Diane Bosch knew that the shot was taken in Longshore’s lower parking lot — beyond the golf course. It showed the east bank of the Saugatuck River. Click here to see the gorgeous image (and read all the ohsoclose responses).

This week’s photo challenge is also seasonal. The season was spring — but this Adirondack chair perches on the grass all year long. If you know where it is, click “Comments” below.


(Photo/Fred Cantor)

Sweet New England

Today’s weather is a washout.

But it’s been a magnificent fall in Westport — with the kind of foliage that we (especially realtors) dream about.

Alert “06880” photographer Andrew Colabella captured this magnificent scene just 2 days ago:

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

Expats: Eat your hearts out!