While the Elm City has made progress in promoting sustainability in recent years, city leaders and residents are urging households and small businesses to be more invested in curbing the city’s carbon footprint.
At an Environmental Policy Committee meeting last night, City Engineer Giovanni Zinn ’05 highlighted progress the city has made in recent years, noting the Clean Energy Communities Municipal Pledge signed by Mayor Toni Harp last March. This initiative aims to reduce energy use in the city’s municipal buildings by 20 percent and to increase energy the city obtains from renewable sources to 20 percent before 2018. Zinn also cited the replacement of sulfur-based street lamps with more energy-efficient LED counterparts throughout New Haven as an example of progress in combating climate change.
Despite these programs, Zinn and the alders underscored the need for increased community involvement in this city-wide effort to reduce carbon emissions.
“Community involvement is low, and the mayor has recognized that this should be turned on its head,” Zinn said. “We are trying to be more systematic about how we plan climate change.”
Zinn went on to outline several city initiatives to prepare for climate change, emphasizing plans for green infrastructure. He mentioned, for example, plans to install roughly 200 more of the city’s specially designed flower beds, which absorb excess rainwater to prevent flooding during storms. The city, which has already constructed less than 10 of these facilities, has secured funds for the expansion.
Zinn added that he expects the initiative to present “an opportunity for the community to be involved with their cityscape.”
At the meeting, Annie Harper GRD ’10 of the Yale Community Carbon Fund echoed these sentiments, expressing the importance of involving the broader New Haven community in the city’s conservation goals. She cited Bridgeport, Connecticut, as a city that has successfully engaged residents in combating environmental problems.
Committee Chair and Ward 18 Alder Salvatore DeCola voiced his optimism about the feasibility of the Municipal Pledge’s goals.
“I feel confident that we can make this happen for the city and for our children,” he said.
Still, Ward 25 Alder Adam J. Marchand GRD ’99 took a more cautious tone with regard to public participation. Some households may not have the means to opt for more environmentally friendly equipment — such as LED lights and solar panels — in the homes, he argued.
He also said prompting larger institutions like Yale to participate in the city’s sustainability efforts, rather than focusing on change within individual households, would be a more realistic way of promoting large-scale sustainability within the city.
“Where do [New Haven residents] get the money for it?” Marchand asked the committee. “I haven’t seen the room filled for any environmental issue since I’ve been in office.”
He did, however, concede that Yale has taken visible steps in the right direction.