Sustainability in New Haven
Before the panel discussion, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp described some of the initiatives adopted by the city to be a better environmental steward, from producing its own renewable energy to the addition of bioswales to improve water management.
And she described the importance of key partnerships to achieve these initiatives, including with the F&ES-led Hixon Center for Urban Ecology and the Urban Resources Initiative, which creates green jobs for city residents while also maintaining public parks, planting trees and installing green infrastructure.
“We already share a limited space,” she added. “We might as well learn to share resources, transportation options, and most importantly share responsibility for increased sustainability. We’re certainly working toward that end in my Administration, and I know you’re working toward that end here at Yale.”
“We have passionate, wonderful people who come to our agency to be active protectors of the environment and do innovative energy policy,” he said, “not to push paper.”
When the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development examined business sectors where the state could be a national leader, Smith said, one area that stood out is green technology. “This is a place we think we can be strong and we can grow faster than the average state, or even faster than the average country,” she said.
And over the past few years the agency, along with Connecticut Innovations, the state’s venture capital arm, have offered support to help the sector get there. In addition to investing in 13 green tech companies since 2011, the state offers numerous programs that help new and established companies thrive, including mentoring help and assistance finding talent or partners, she said.
Kennedy, a survivor of bone cancer, says the health impacts of contamination inform the way he thinks about environmental issues. And as co-chair of the state Environment Committee he has worked, with Albis, on a series of initiatives to address such threats, including a new law banning tiny plastic “microbeads” in cosmetics and efforts to reduce toxic substances at schools and playgrounds, and to protect the state’s honeybees and other pollinators.
Another area where policymakers can better protect public health, and the environment, Kennedy said, is by requiring producers and shippers to be responsible for some of the products that have become commonplace — and costly to dispose of — from mattresses to shipping materials.
“Making producers responsible for the lifecycle of those products is something that I think is a creative way to address this problem and not use additional resources,” he said.
Klee, whose research at F&ES was focused on the principles of industrial ecology, said a more thoughtful management of these materials could also create new economic opportunities.
“There is opportunity in waste,” he said. “There are new businesses that will come into [the] market and say, ‘Hey, I can take that clean stream of scrap tire, of mattress material, of glass or packaging, and turn it back into something and grow jobs right here.’”