Office of Sustainability faces uncertain future

Following the premature departure of its director, Christine Eppstein Tang, the New Haven Office of Sustainability is evaluating its earlier initiatives to plan for the future of Elm City environmental efforts.

The Office of Sustainability previously consisted of Tang and of Giovanni Zinn ’05, who served as a consultant from City Hall’s engineering department. While Tang’s replacement has not yet been named and the appointment of a new director is contingent upon funding, Zinn has received a full-time city position and is serving asthe acting head of the Sustainability Office.

Tang’s position was created by a three-year contract largely supported by a federal grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which ended in September. City Hall had found additional funding for what would have been the last six months of Tang’s contract from a variety of sources, the largest being energy conservation funds, and is still deliberating on the possible uses of the funds now that Tang has left.

As Director, Tang worked to improve city sustainability in different areas including food policy, community outreach and recycling, Chief Administrative Officer Robert Smuts ’01 said. She also worked on putting together an “overarching” sustainability plan for the city, Smuts said, which treated the city both as a corporate entity and as a community.

The plan — which is nearly finished but was put on hold as Tang contemplated leaving — touched on several sustainability issues such as transportation, land use, air and water quality. Smuts said the sustainability plan will need coordinated effort as it is launched, meaning it will require a person to dedicate significant time and effort to it for successful implementation.

In the wake of Tang’s departure, City Hall may decide to discontinue a stand-alone Office of Sustainability depending on the availability of funds. In this case, initiatives covered by the Office of Sustainability would be housed in other departments.

Zinn, who Smuts said handled many of the day-to-day operations of the Office of Sustainability under Tang, will continue his work on these initiatives. His responsibilities include the relaunch of the recycling program, which according to Smuts involved community outreach and saved the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

They also include energy conservation projects in City Hall, such as switching off the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems when not in use and installing energy-efficient ultra LED light bulbs in street lamps across New Haven. The city also undertook initiatives to improve air and water quality, including retrofitting charging stations at the New Haven port to make it one of the cleanest in the county.

All of these programs, City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04 said, are a “win-win” for the city, as they are environmentally friendly and help the city save money in the future. New Haven’s recycling initiatives alone, Smuts added, have more than doubled the amount of material recycled in the Elm City and saved City Hall hundreds of thousands of dollars since they began.

Zinn could not be reached for comment.

Of the 10 largest cities in New England, New Haven is home to the highest percentage of people who walk to work.

Comments

  • Sara

    Half of Downtown is a parking lot, there are no safe bike lanes in the city center, and 20 pedestrians have been killed in New Haven just in the past 10 years. If New Haven wants to be sustainable maybe it should start addressing the fact it is so car-oriented. Otherwise this program is an absolute joke. The other stuff Smuts mentioned is window dressing.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Yesterday it was: **Safety Dance Unsafe.**

    Today it it : **Office of Sustainability Unsustainable.**

    What next? **Sports Unsportsmanlike?**

    **Students Unstudiers?**

    • btcl

      one of your best comments ever