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In October, the Town of Madison was certified as a Sustainable CT community, a statewide voluntary certification program that recognizes municipalities for a variety of sustainable initiatives. With the certification in hand, Madison wants to keep up the momentum by targeting plastic use in town.
Director of Planning and Economic Development Dave Anderson, along with First Selectman Tom Banisch and Energy and Efficiency Committee Chair Woodie Weiss, led the town through the Sustainable CT application this year. The town received a bronze award and Anderson said the town wants to start working for the higher silver award in the coming year.
“I think there are several benefits to the program,” he said. “One is that for the town, it kind of creates this umbrella over all our different departmental efforts and gives us almost a beacon to look toward. Some of the actions that we got points for involved things we had done in the past like the smoking ban down at the town parks, some of the recycling efforts, all of the solar projects.”
To keep working toward that silver certification, one initiative the Chamber of Commerce just premiered is Turn the Tide on Plastic, a voluntary effort in town to get households, schools, and businesses thinking about plastic usage and waste.
“We focused in on the plastic and it does tie into the sustainable Connecticut efforts because I do think for me, we do want to position our town as being a little bit of a leader in sustainability and this is one way to do that,” Anderson said. “Some towns are adopting ordinances to force businesses to take certain behaviors and we are trying to do it a little more organically and just encourage people to do the right thing.”
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Eileen Banisch said the focus of the initiative is to educate people about what plastic does to the environment and get folks thinking about making easy changes to their lives, like remembering to bring reusable bags to the store.
“Really what we want is we want people to want to do this, not have to do this,” she said. “I mean, when you think of the waste it is just unbelievable.”
Eliminating plastic—everything from straws to single-use bags—is a conversation occurring around the country and around the world. Anderson said Madison wants to be a part of that, particularly because of the town’s location.
“Obviously a big part of it’s our position on the shoreline and what can we do,” he said. “We recognize that Long Island Sound contributes to our vitality, so whatever we can do to protect it is part of our program.”
Both Anderson and Banisch said one of the nice discoveries made when the initiative rolled out last week was learning how many businesses already use paper bags and how other sections of the community have also taken on various plastic initiatives.
“I found out that the Country School was doing a plastic initiative at the same time we were doing this,” said Anderson. “I told them about the chamber initiative and then they jumped onto the tagline Turn the Tide on Plastic. They are doing a bunch of education within the school. My daughter is doing a pre-K program there and she came home the other day and started telling me all about how we have to recycle these certain things. It’s amazing when you tell little kids about things like this how they just latch onto it.”
The Country School, a private school in town, started looking at plastic waste when last year two 5th-graders, Ryan Hustis and Tanner Weiss, gave a presentation highlighting the dangers of plastic to the environment and what the school could try to do to help curb that problem.
Students at the school have now designed reusable bags and infographics to help people know how to properly recycle, and have engaged in various cleanup efforts across town. All and all, seeing so many facets of town jump onto this concept is very encouraging, according to Banisch.
“People are really excited about this,” she said.