Sustainability office? Stamford residents are putting forth green ideas

Stamford – Shortly after her election, Mayor Carolyn Simmons created a climate council to recommend policies that would make the city greener. More than a year later, “more” is what the residents want.

They want more native plants, more composting sites, more oversight of programs already in place, more flood mitigation, more community education about light pollution and more bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

And maybe an eco-festival in the city center.

David Corris, a member of the Mayor’s Council on Climate and chair of the Downtown Stamford Special Services District, told attendees at an online forum earlier this week that the council plans to give Simmons a set of policy recommendations that she can evaluate as she drafts. City fiscal budget 2024-25. The goal, he said, is to send those recommendations to Simmons in September.
“We’re really focused in the month of May on community engagement,” Korres said, adding that the council plans to hold a second in-person forum on May 20 at the Stamford Government Center.
One of the attendees, Robin Stein, once the head of the city’s land-use bureau, called the actions Simmons included in the recent executive order on climate change “commendable.” They include asking Stamford’s COO to put together a “green fleet plan” and asking the Bureau of Land Use to put together an emissions reduction plan.

But Stein said he worries about who will ensure all of these procedures are completed. Last year, the Simmons administration created a Director of Facilities and Sustainability to oversee city-owned facility maintenance and sustainability initiatives, but Stein said Stamford needs more.
He said Stamford should form a sustainability office with a full-time staff dedicated to coordinating climate initiatives and developing a community engagement programme. He said officials could model them on sustainability offices in other cities.
“I understand that Stamford hates adding staff positions to the budget, but given the amount of federal and state grants that are becoming available, these jobs may well pay for themselves,” Stein said.
Other ideas put forward during the public forum included placing “container farms” in parks, reducing the use of plastic at events in the city, holding an eco-fest downtown, increasing opportunities for textile recycling, informing residents about how to reduce light pollution from their homes, and promoting a kegging program. Aquarion deducted rain and improved pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.

Melanie Holas, co-chair of the Pollinator Pathway Stamford community group, noted that the House amended the city’s blight law last year to encourage residents to grow front yard lawns. But Holas said the city could take more steps to support pollinators, such as committing to planting 70 percent native plants and 30 percent non-native plants on municipal property in the future.
“It would be a really good example for the people of Stamford,” said Holas.

Holas, a member of the Stamford Parks and Recreation Commission, also called on the city to do more to address flooding at Cove Island Park and Cummings Park.
Karen Forrest, a volunteer with the city’s food waste recycling program, talked about how residents can bring leftovers to the Katrina Megatt recycling center, which has had compost since 2021.

“We’re trying to find other locations where we can install what we call the ‘big green machine,'” Forrest said.
The city planned to install another composting machine at the Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens last year to reduce travel time for residents who live in North Stamford. But the city’s director of recycling and sanitation, Dan Collilory, told The Stamford Advocate there were power issues at the site. He said the machine is now being set up at Fairgate Farm on the west side.
Colleluori said residents brought about 43,000 pounds of leftovers to the recycling center last fiscal year and the total this fiscal year is expected to be about 75,000. He said the city is seeking funding to purchase additional machines to put in other neighborhoods.

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