Coalition to Improve Sustainability in Connecticut Taps into Yale Expertise
Sustainable CT, a new Connecticut initiative helping cities and towns create more sustainable practices, hosted a public information session at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies on January 9.
Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles and events posted prior to July 1, 2020 refer to the School's name at that time.
A new Connecticut initiative is bringing together tools and resources from across the state — including expertise from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies — to help the state’s cities and towns adopt more sustainable practices.
Modeled after similar projects in other states, Sustainable CT will make available best practices, peer learning, and certification opportunities to all municipalities. By convening stakeholders from across the state, the initiative will “promote creative thinking and problem solving within and between municipalities” toward the common goal of sustainability, said Laura Francis, a selectman in the town of Durham and chair-elect of Sustainable CT’s board of directors.
Also serving on the board of directors is Brad Gentry, senior associate dean of professional practice at F&ES and co-director of the Yale Center for Business & the Environment (CBEY).
He calls the partnership “a great fit” for some of the work being done at Yale.
In many ways, Gentry says, the Sustainable CT collaboration is similar to other partnerships in which F&ES works with others to advance sustainability efforts on a global scale, including the Global Network for Advanced Management — a collaboration of graduate schools that connects resources and stakeholders — and the 100 Resilient Cities program, a Rockefeller Foundation-led partnership that helps cities worldwide become more prepared for physical, social, and economic challenges.
“Those aren’t that much different from what Sustainable CT is about,” said Gentry. “It’s examining how you can bring together networks of communities in a way that they can learn from each other and become more sustainable or resilient.”
“I think that’s a really important question for the school to be working on and training our students to help address.”
The partnership, Gentry says, also presents an opportunity to introduce state leaders to some of the F&ES-based programs and initiatives that are already promoting sustainable practices in New Haven and beyond — from the Hixon Center for Urban Ecology, which integrates research, teaching, and applied projects to enhance urban environments, to the Yale School Forest’s Quiet Corner Initiative, which promotes sustainable land management practices for neighbors of Yale-Myers Forest, located in northern Connecticut.
“It builds nicely on the work we’re doing and takes it to the state level,” Gentry said. “Having a chance to link those deep, but so often separate, Yale programs and assets to make the region and state stronger seems like a really valuable opportunity.”
Sustainable CT is introducing the project statewide in a series of public information sessions, including a regional launch held at F&ES on Jan. 9.
The initiative was developed under the leadership of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State University, which had been helping communities confront a range of sustainability challenges, in partnership with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.
“We had done a lot of work with towns on energy and resilience in climate,” said Lynn Stoddard, director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy. “We certainly had the interest of providing more support to cities and towns — and figuring out a framework to do that.”
Specifically, she said, the partnership will create an infrastructure for addressing common challenges, but will be flexible enough to help municipalities identify solutions that work best for them. And it will offer an online platform and public events to highlight success stories and potential funding opportunities.
In addition, a certification program will offer valuable recognition of sustainability advances being made in all corners of the state and promote friendly competition among municipalities, Stoddard said.
The initiative will provide support to communities on a range of activities, including watershed management, recycling programs, efforts to reduce energy use and tap into more renewable energy sources.
Three Connecticut-based philanthropies — the New Haven-based Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, the Hampshire Foundation, and the Common Sense Fund — have funded the program's development and launch.