At the Environmental Advisory Council’s monthly meeting on Wednesday, the council gave updates on efforts to maintain soil health throughout New Haven and encouraged textile recycling.

New Haven Solid Waste & Recycling Authority Executive Director Pierre Barbour presented an initiative to recycle textiles in the weeks leading up to Earth Day in the form of a textile recycling drive. Barbour’s presentation on textile recycling received a round of applause from community residents and council members alike, and he noted the various ways in which Americans have failed to recycle textiles in recent years.

“The average citizen in the United States throws out 81 pounds of clothing and textiles. And a lot of it ends up in the streams,” Barbour said. “It’s a huge to-do when you think about everything that can be resurrected out of the streams.”

According to Barbour, a wide variety of textiles can be recycled, including shirts, jeans and even stuffed animals — which can be used in car seat cushions. He noted that there are a variety of economic benefits to textile recycling. For example, 1,800 gallons of water are used to grow and harvest cotton necessary to make a pair of jeans, according to Barbour. Additionally, recycling clothes with the New Haven Solid Waste & Recycling Authority — which is free of charge for New Haven residents — at its 260 Middletown Ave. facility drives down tax costs which would otherwise be allocated to garbage disposal. Every 2 million pounds of textiles recycled has the same environmental net positive as removing 1 million cars from the road.

The meeting also touched on soil maintenance in New Haven,  an issue long-discussed by the council. The use of pesticides is not regulated by New Haven and other Connecticut municipalities. Rather, pesticide use is regulated at the state level.

Chair of the Environmental Advisory Council Laura Cahn said that she had recently testified in favor of a state bill authorizing municipalities to restrict the use of pesticides in certain areas under their jurisdiction. The legislation has yet to see a vote.

“While New Haven has passed a voluntary ban on lawn chemicals, we need your help to let us prevent our residents, animals, plants, soil, air and water from exposure to them,” Cahn wrote in her testimony.

At the beginning of the meeting, Cahn also commented on the University’s decision to replace its soil athletic fields with turf. This is not the first time that the Environmental Advisory Council has discussed the University’s plans to install turf in their athletic fields.

In the February meeting, Cahn raised concerns regarding the process that the University went through to replace the soil with turf. Last December, City Plan Department commissioners unanimously approved the University’s conversion plans despite objections from Cahn and the Environmental Advisory Council. Cahn noted that there was no public hearing on the proposal of the turf field where residents could voice concerns to city officials. According to Cahn, replacing soil with turf takes away the soil’s environmental benefits, such as filtering toxins.

In a February interview with the News, Iris Kaminski — a member of the council and public health lecturer at Yale — said that she is disappointed that Yale and Quinnipiac are installing new turf fields, noting that the environmental concerns should be taken more seriously in the face of climate change.

“We’re going backwards,” Kaminski said. “Ten years ago, it’s great. Now with all we know about climate change you don’t want to add a synthetic surface that the water could go through.”

The New Haven Environmental Advisory Council meets on the first Wednesday of each month at City Hall.

Nick Tabio |