The City Plan Commission last month submitted a plan to the Board of Alders to make New Haven one of Connecticut’s leading cities in highlighting and encouraging sustainability.

The commission recommended that the alders approve New Haven’s participation in the newly formed Sustainable CT Municipal Certification Program, a voluntary statewide program administered by the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State University.

“Municipalities can benefit from having this framework, having strategies and goals that are clearly identified — that allow for groups, community stakeholders, city staff and local leaders to organize around,” said Sustainability Coordinator in the Hartford Mayor’s Office Shubhada Kambli, who was involved in the program’s launch and now sits on its board of directors.

Once municipalities in Connecticut approve participation in the program, they enter a system in which they can earn recognition for efforts and achievement in sustainability and resiliency. The program provides a range of recommendations and best practices for actions, each of which are assigned a point value. Each municipality can determine an individually tailored menu of actions with shared guidance and support structures from fellow cities and program leaders.

When registered cities are ready to be evaluated and have earned enough “points” — through actions such as creating a watershed plan for certification — they submit applications on a rolling basis to the program. Accumulating points will result in cities receiving bronze or silver certification, which lasts for three years.

More than 200 municipal leaders and city stakeholders in Connecticut formed the program over several years, and the plan finally came to fruition last fall. According to the program’s website, 13 municipalities are enrolled in the program, although Director of Sustainable CT Lynn Stoddard said some cities that only recently joined the program have not been added to a map on the site.

The program launched last November, and applications to join its inaugural certification class are due in September. By the end of October, certification levels will be determined, and in November, an awards ceremony will take place at the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities Annual Convention, where the program was originally conceived.

“The planning process was all through last year and prior to that,” Kambli said. “The formal launch was in the fall at the annual [Connecticut Conference of Municipalities] Convention.”

While similar programs exist elsewhere, the Connecticut program is tailored to the specific needs of the state. One program that was especially helpful in modeling possible outcomes and designs for the Connecticut program was New Jersey’s Sustainable Jersey program, Stoddard said.

Beyond certification, however, the program will eventually provide more opportunities to its participating cities. The program works in conjunction with fellowships and other sources of funding to support cities in their efforts to earn certification. Eventually, as the network grows, the program hopes it will also become a channel for cities in different parts of the state to communicate and support each other in their sustainability efforts, Stoddard said.

If the City Plan Commission’s proposal is approved, New Haven will become eligible to apply in the first cycle of certifications. Other cities already enrolled include Hamden and Milford, which are both in New Haven County.

“Because we involved so many of the towns in co-creating the program, we know that a lot of them are out there passing resolutions [to recommend or implement participation],” Stoddard said.

As it recommended participation in Sustainable CT, the City Plan Commission noted that the program would complement other sustainability plans New Haven has already undertaken, including Vision 2025 and the Climate and Sustainability Framework.

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu