On Wednesday evening, the New Haven Environmental Advisory Council convened at City Hall for its monthly meeting to discuss pressing environmental issues in the Elm City. The meeting featured updates on the city’s performance in the “Sustainable CT” program, a potential ban of single-use plastic bags and the introduction of ordinances to reduce vehicle idling.

Council members, who are appointed by Mayor Toni Harp, act as officials liaisons between New Haven residents and the New Haven government on environmental issues. The primary objective of the council is to provide advice to Elm City administrators, ensuring that the municipality is able to attend to environmental decisions sufficiently. 

After various committees briefly updated the council on their respective issues, Project Manager Dawn Henning and City Engineer Giovanni Zinn announced that the city was awarded Bronze Certification by Sustainable CT — a voluntary certification program which recognizes Connecticut municipalities for their efforts to become more sustainable. In recent months, the city has been introducing energy-saving measures such as fuel cell technology, shoreline management and LED public lighting.

Henning said that the council had been discussing the certification for a while, and was satisfied with New Haven’s award. But other council members expressed mixed feelings — some wished the city had received the more prestigious “Silver” award.

Next on the agenda was the introduction of an ordinance to reduce vehicle idling.

Chris Schweitzer, program director of the New Haven Leon Sister City Project — a nonprofit organization promoting social justice, education and sustainable development in the New Haven and Leon communities — highlighted that the city does not currently have a mechanism in place to enforce a law that makes idling for more than three minutes illegal. Schweitzer suggested allowing police and parking officials to administer $50 tickets for the violation.

“So much of climate change is just driven by the wasteful things that we do in our everyday lives,” Schweitzer said. “Idling for more than three minutes may seem like a very small thing. But it is symbolic of the ways in which we just waste so much without benefitting anything from it.”

However, during the meeting, some attendees raised concerns that the currently proposed ordinance was not yet specific enough to be feasible. Esther Armmand, a member of the council and legislative assistant for policy analysis, pointed out that it is necessary that the specifics of the policy — especially its fiscal impact — be made clearer before it is presented to the Board of Alders.

A restriction in single-use plastic bags was also on the table at the Council’s meeting.

“Every time someone buys something in a single-use plastic bag, they create waste that is extremely difficult to dispose of,” Laura Cahn, the environmental advisory council’s chair, said. “There is a worldwide movement that recognizes this and New Haven should be a part of it.”

Armmand, who was appointed by Harp and is working with Cahn on the issue, said that the Council has not fully hashed out the details of how the restriction will come into effect, but is in the process of drafting an ordinance.

On Wednesday, Cahn emphasized that the council’s primary goal is to encourage people to find alternatives for a more environmentally friendly way of living.

“It’s a long process, but, once implemented, it will have a significant impact,” Armmand said.

The council also discussed other issues, such as plans for a New Haven Bird Contest, limits on leaf blower use and light pollution. The meeting was finally adjourned after more than one and a half hours.

The Environmental Advisory Council meets on the first Wednesday of every month.

Ayumi Sudo | ayumi.sudo@yale.edu .