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12/22/2019 11:00 PM

Opportunities, Excitement as Guilford Earns Silver Certification for Sustainability

This month, Guilford joined a select group of Connecticut municipalities as it was recognized as a Silver Certified community by the Sustainable CT program, which encourages towns in the state to achieve a high level of efficiency, diversity, and equity in areas from culture to infrastructure.

First Selectmen Matt Hoey and members of Guilford’s Sustainable Task Force accepted the silver award at the annual convention of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, putting Guilford alongside only 13 other towns that have reached this level of sustainability.

Hoey said the certification is not only an honor of which Guilford residents can be proud, it also opens up further possibilities for the town in a multitude of different realms through grants and other connections.

“Things like rain gardens come to mind immediately,” Hoey said. “Community gardens, the development of bioswales to reduce stormwater runoff—there’s a host of things.”

Sustainable CT lists nine action categories on its website that set out a roadmap for towns to create a community that is sustainable in not just one area, but across all of its operations and planning, from housing to public services. Each individual action has points attached to it; for a town to be Silver Certified, it must have completed at least one action in every category.

Guilford scored 410 points out of a maximum of 1,920, with other silver-certified towns receiving between 400 and 900 points.

Hoey said that many actions required for the certification were the things the town had already been doing before it started its application for Sustainable CT.

“For many years, quite honestly, we have been doing many of the things that have been identified as best practices for communities to maintain sustainability or be considered sustainable,” Hoey said.

Hoey cited the 2012 Coastal Resiliency Plan that resulted in three major actions taken toward protecting coastline and maintaining safety in Guilford, which earned the town 20 points right off the bat.

Other initiatives that earned Guilford points included recycling of electronics and using renewable energy in municipal buildings.

Of the nine categories, Guilford scored the most points for “Dynamic and Resilient Planning,” with a total of 65 for five actions taken in that category. It scored the least for “Healthy, Efficient, and Diverse Housing,” with one action taken for 10 points.

Sustainable Guilford Task Force Co-chair Terri Cain said she saw the community’s ability to collaborate, as well as a spirit of volunteerism, as driving the town’s efforts toward sustainable practices. She also lauded town officials for being involved in efforts to make the town equitable and sustainable through their everyday work.

“We have a staff that has been forward-thinking around sustainability already for some time,” said Cain. “And so we do have a reputation in the state for being one of the greener communities, one of the communities that has paid attention and has people who are sort of gathering around this concept.”

Cain said that working through Sustainable CT’s program has helped Guilford organize and build a roadmap for the future, even as the town already had been working toward many of the goals outlined in the program.

Many actions for which Guilford received points are simply plans or commitments, Cain said. Following through with implementation will earn Guilford more points.

“Our job as the task force is to move this forward,” Cain said, “as far as getting the information to the town staff and organizing that information in away that helps people think, ‘When I have a choice, what are my choices, and how do I find that one that is best for the environment?’”

Cain cited Guilford’s commitment to buying sustainable supplies and products as something that might motivate local businesses and residents do the same thing.

As far as grants and opportunities, Sustainable CT does not actually pay grants themselves, but instead connects towns with organizations that do provide those grants and opportunities. Cain said a potential seminar hosted on sustainable lawn care could be funded through an organization that the town connected with through Sustainable CT. Another program to reduce food waste through composting could also be bolstered by connections through Sustainable CT, Cain said.

In the big picture, though, Cain said that the certification is just the beginning, and that both town officials and residents will need to continue to keep up the good work toward a sustainable future for the town.

“We’re looking for our friends and neighbors here in Guilford to be involved in this as well,” she said.

For more information about Sustainable CT, visit