Tag Archives: environmental awareness

Dawn Henry’s Cross-Country Ride To Environmental Activism

Two years ago, Dawn Henry bought a Tesla.

It was not to save the planet. “I just thought it looked cool,” she admits.

The Westporter was a successful marketing executive. She’d spent 12 years working with Diageo. Now she was a sought-after consultant.

Environmental concerns were off her radar. “I vaguely knew about climate change,” she says. “But I wasn’t paying much attention.”

Dawn Henry

She flew to California to pick up the electric car, then drove it home. At nearly every charging station along the way, she chatted with people who were interested in renewable energy.

There were, for example, 2 solar installers from Germany. They talked for 45 minutes. Dawn learned a lot.

Back home, she watched documentaries and read about climate change. She realized that the effects will not be “300 years from now. It’s happening today.”

The 2016 election galvanized her. “What Scott Pruitt is doing to the EPA, the fossil fuel money that’s going into politics — our government is moving backwards,” she says.

She joined national organizations. She went to conferences, and got trained as an advocate.

She lobbied Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, and Congressman Jim Himes. “They’re great on the environment,” she says. “But I realized there’s not a lot that’s going to happen nationally. It’s more on the local level.”

Dawn Henry and her son Charles at the Climate March in Washington, DC, in April 2017.

She took the Climate Reality Project course in Seattle. The brainchild of Al Gore, it was “amazing,” she says. Back home, she made presentations at the United Methodist Church, the Fairfield Senior Center and Fairfield University. Soon, she’ll speak at the Westport Senior Center and Bartlett Arboretum.

Dawn joined the board of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Westport’s Green Task Force and the Electric Car Club.

“It’s hands-on. You can see results,” she says of the community organizations. “Energy, waste, water, conservation — they’re all important.”

So how does Dawn assess our town’s awareness of and commitment to environmental concerns?

“We’ve got good history and momentum,” she says. “There’s Net Zero” — the goal is to be fully sustainable by 2050. “The plastic bag ban. And we’re expanding our EV charging stations.”

Dawn Henry presenting at Indivisible’s ICT4 “Evening of Action” at the Unitarian Church last month.

Through her involvement in environmental issues, Dawn says, she has met “so many great people, in Town Hall and around town, I’d never have known.”

But, she notes, she and her fellow activists have “way more ideas and ambitions than we have hands to do them.” She invites anyone interested in helping to contact her (dawn@henrystrategy.com).

If you want, she’ll show you her Tesla.

It is pretty cool.

Green Day

Happy Earth Day!

In honor of today’s holiday, “06880” shines a light on “On the Green.”  Like many aspects of the green movement, it’s local, little-publicized — and potentially very important and impactful.

“On the Green” is a wiki — a collaborative, interactive website — where users share ideas, information and thoughts about sustainable environmentalism.

Nancy Kuhn-Clark — a Westport Public Library reference librarian — started “On the Green” in 2007.  She and library director Maxine Bleiweis wanted to cover environmental issues locally, inclusive and creatively.

“We figured no one needed another boring list of books,” Nancy — a realistic librarian — says.

Find "green parenting" books on the wiki.

“On the Green” is anything but boring.  Topics include organic gardening, green homes, green parenting (“green mothers,” there’s a blog for you!) and green pets (as in natural dog food).

There are links to green restaurants like Sugar & Olives, The Dressing Room and Le Farm; sections on farmers markets, green businesses, green products and green travel (who knew there is such a thing as a green RV?).

The “Green Gifts” section includes ideas like tree seedlings, eco-clothes and compact fluorescent light bulbs (“You’re so sweet — these bulbs are just what I wanted!”).

Westport-specific information includes “Westport Library Greener Than Ever,” the Green Village Initiative, and our plastic bag ban.

The wiki is a work in progress — the “Discussion” and “Video” pages are a bit thin — but there is plenty here to feast on (organically, of course).

Here's what a green RV looks like.

Nancy’s background is in English and education — not environmentalism — though in her hippie days she held build a log cabin in Nova Scotia, cooked on a wood-burning stove, and planted organic veggies long before green became the new black.

“On the Green” is mentioned on the Library’s home page, and appears in its newsletter.  Mostly it’s marketed by word of mouth.  It got a boost in 2008 when Wetpaint — the wiki’s software host — awarded it a Golden Paint Can as “Civic Superstar.”

Celebrate Earth Day by checking out “On the Green.”  Nancy Kuhn-Clark thanks you — as does the planet.

Staples Goes Green

Staples’ colors were always blue and white.  Now it’s green.

That’s green, as in “environmentally aware.”

The school’s ecological consciousness is displayed in many areas.  A meeting yesterday examined how the new “edible garden” — to be constructed next month — can best serve every Westport school.

Today at 2:15 John Rountree will lead a discussion on how to put solar panels on Staples.

On May 30, a free EcoFest concert at Levitt Pavilion will use local bands and booths to spread awareness of environmental issues. 

This week, students gathered data to help pass Westport’s plastic bag ban in other Connecticut towns.

Last month’s Earth Week celebration raised $2,000.  The money will help fund solar panel kits in the Dominican Republic, recycling bins for Staples, even a composting system for the cafeteria.

Staples High School Club Green

Many initiatives are organized by the school’s Club Green.  But, says advisor Mike Aitkenhead, environmental awareness reaches every group.

“Students are motivated.  They debate and discuss issues around lunch tables.  They care, and they understand the importance of preserving our planet.

“Wonderful things can happen in Westport.  It’s been marvelous and inspiring to be a part of all that has been going on.”

Staples students are not perfect.  Too many drive to school alone; too few take the bus.  They leave garbage all around, and don’t recycle enough.

But — judging by increased consciousness this past year — those changes will come too.

From Staples Players reusing playbills to students refilling water bottles instead of buying new ones, a new, green day has dawned.