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Earth Day is April 22, but this year Sue Dannenhoffer and her fellow North Haven Conservation Commission members are celebrating early to bring environmental education to as many people as possible. (Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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While Sue Dannenhoffer thinks every day should be Earth Day, she’s especially focused on Saturday, April 6 when the Conservation Commission will hold its 11th annual Earth Day fair at North Haven High School.
Though this will only be her third Earth Day serving on the commission, Sue says she’s always been conscious about the environment and a big proponent of recycling.
“I recycled even before we had curbside recycling,” she says. “And I still don’t put my stuff on the curb.”
Instead, she brings her recycling down to the recycling center on Saturday mornings because she feels better knowing that her recyclables have been sorted properly.
It’s a message she taught her kids so well that they would bring recyclable and compostable materials home from friends’ houses that didn’t have recycling bins at the time.
“I would find the strangest things in their backpack,” Sue says. “Banana peels and apple cores in their pockets. They got it. This is what they did…You recycle, you compost, you help the environment.”
Though her kids are now in their 20s and 30s, recycling has stuck with her children. That’s why, she says, it’s important to teach people to care for the environment when they’re young.
At home, Sue’s recycling container is bigger than the trash can. She says she tries to throw out only a half a bag of trash every week. And on top of recycling, Sue is big on reusing, too.
“People make fun of me…We use old skis in our garden to tie up our tomato plants, old boots, old buckets, a wagon, we use as planters,” Sue says. “I think it’s important to do that, reuse things.”
Even doing things like donating old clothes, Sue says, is an important means to recycle.
Even though caring for the environment has always been one of Sue’s top priorities, she didn’t get publicly involved with it until Quinnipiac University proposed building a new athletic stadium in 2016.
“I spent a couple years with a lot of people in the neighborhood going to a lot of inland wetland [commission] meetings and planning and zoning meetings in Hamden and speaking out against having the fields go in,” Sue says. “I felt very strongly that they shouldn’t have gone there, that it was bad for the environment.”
She was concerned about the construction because of its proximity to wetlands and Sleeping Giant State Park plus the use of crumb rubber fields. The project passed in Hamden after several revisions, but that process got Sue interested in public policy.
“I became an empty nester. All my kids are grown, off doing their own thing so now I have plenty of time,” Sue says. “I had heard that there had been a person that resigned [from the Conservation Commission.]”
All she had to do from there was write a letter to the first selectman about her passion and why she would make a good addition.
“I never thought I’d be on a town commission. That’s not my thing,” she says.
One of the Conservation Commission’s biggest responsibilities is planning the town’s Earth Day Fair. In fact, it was one of Sue’s first jobs when she joined the commission two years ago.
“We put a lot of effort into finding exhibitors,” she says. “We want people there that are displaying and giving out handouts and making sure they’re environmentally friendly.”
Sue says the celebrations, which take place on Saturday, April 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will have something there for everyone. Many town groups, from the two garden clubs and the library and Public Works Department, will have tables. Meigs Point Nature Center will bring reptiles to show and A Place Called Hope, a bird of prey rescue, will demonstrate one of its raptors starting at 11 a.m..
About 50 exhibitors will be at the event and kids will have the opportunity to enter a fact-finding scavenger hunt, gathering answers to questions about the environment and a chance to win movie tickets and a family pass to the Peabody Museum.
The Conservation Commission will also be giving out gloves and reusable bags to help encourage people to pick up trash and cut down on single-use plastic bags.
Sue says it’s all about educating people—and especially kids—about caring for the environment.
“We try to gear it towards families and kids because that’s where it starts. You have to start with the kids and get them interested in the environment and recycling,” she says. “That’s why we go with ‘Make every day Earth Day’ because every day is Earth Day. We’re on this Earth every single day.”
To nominate a Person of the Week, email Nathan Hughart at n.hughart@Zip06.com.
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