Sustainable CT: For a thriving, resilient Granby

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Encouraging residential lawn practices that support pollinators and a healthy ecosystem is an example action in the Sustainable CT roadmap. Photo by Kent McCord

What makes a town a thriving, desirable place in which to live besides low taxes and good schools? Vibrant town centers with a variety of local businesses, shops and restaurants? Open spaces where we can reflect and rejoice in nature’s wonder? Commercial and residential development plans that balance tax base, social equity, and environmental stewardship? An inclusive atmosphere with broad community involvement to preserve these characteristics for future generations? It’s hard to choose; perhaps the answer is “all of the above.”

The catch-phrase in vogue these days for describing this je ne sais quoi of thriving resiliency is “sustainability.” In 2016, municipal leaders and residents from across Connecticut formed an independently funded, grassroots effort to help towns benchmark their sustainable qualities. The effort built a roadmap to “help communities promote economic well being and enhance equity, all while respecting the finite capacity of the natural environment.”

This program is known as Sustainable CT and the Granby Conservation Commission is leading the charge for Granby to become Bronze-certified.

The process is simple: identify action items on the roadmap, take action and submit documentation. A minimum of 13 actions, one in each category, and 200 points gets you to bronze. The journey, however, promises to be both challenging and rewarding.

The Sustainable CT roadmap has 13 separate categories, including obvious green efforts such as increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy, preserving open space and promoting waste reduction and recycling. Less obvious categories are based on a wider view of economic and cultural vitality including promoting local businesses, cultivating the arts and preserving historical structures. In many cases, towns find that several actions have already been completed and only need to be documented to obtain points.

Examples in Granby include our well-crafted Plan of Conservation and Development, which is available on the town website and is a worthwhile read for those interested. And Granby excels in open space conservation, thanks to organizations such as the Granby Land Trust, McLean Game Refuge and Holcomb Farm. As an agricultural town, Granby is also well-positioned to meet actions specifically designed to address preservation of agricultural resources and operations.

But many new actions must be taken for Granby to achieve Bronze certification. There are 68 potential actions identified by the Sustainable CT program and the Conservation Commission is now working to identify what the town should prioritize. “A wonderful thing about this program is that it identifies a comprehensive menu of impactful actions, and we get to choose what we want to focus on,” says Dave Roberts, chair of the Conservation Commission. “We have a committed Conservation Commission to lead this effort, and are looking for engaged residents to join our efforts and help work on actions they are passionate about.” Some of the new actions being contemplated by the commission address historical preservation, food composting and promoting local tourism.

Of the 169 Connecticut municipalities, 129 are currently registered in Sustainable CT program, with 64 of those having already achieved either Bronze or Silver certification. Certified towns near Granby include Suffield, Bloomfield and Windsor Locks, all Bronze, and Simsbury which achieved Silver certification in 2019.

Some of the new projects that Simsbury pursued under its Sustainable CT journey included developing and implementing a pedestrian and bicycle master plan, adopting a water shortage ordinance to guide municipal response during critical water shortage situations.  Equity training for the Board of Education led to the creation of a district-wide Equity Council to “focus on curriculum gaps, identifying opportunities for professional development related to diversity, equity and inclusion, and recruitment and hiring of more diverse faculty.”

A key element of the Sustainable CT program is to ensure that the path to certification, and sustainability in general, is achieved with the active input and participation of as broad a representation of town residents as possible: young and old, married and single, new-to-town and old-timers, all income levels, genders, races and religions. In fact, equity training is a required action, and at least one action must be completed through this “equity lens,” to ensure that all residents are being included.

As part of the Sustainable CT effort, the Conservation Commission needs to develop effective means to communicate with town residents. A regular article in the Drummer featuring a specific sustainability topic will be a central feature of this communications plan. This effort will be largely volunteer-run, with limited impact on our busy town staff, and we need as much help as possible to achieve our goals. Come join us at our monthly meetings and let us know what’s important to you or, better yet, volunteer to help lead one of our Sustainable CT efforts!