Sustainable Suffield is a town task force of appointed volunteers who work to promote environmentally sustainable initiatives and educate the community.
Its recent projects range from the support of townwide clean-ups to helping create a composting pilot program at Spaulding Elementary School.
Recently, I spoke with Sustainable Suffield Chairwoman Anna-Kristin Daub-Murphy about the task force. Edited and condensed remarks follow.
Q: What was the origin of the task force, and how are you funded?
A: We formed one year ago as the successor to the Suffield Environmental and Sustainability Task Force, which started in 2019. Our members are Colin Moll, Ginny Bromage, Etienne d’Otreppe, Lauren O’Hara, Lisa Coatti, Trina Gomes, Terrence Stearns, Libby O’Hara and me. We receive continuous funding through the State of Connecticut’s 5¢ surcharge on miniature liquor bottles commonly called “nips” that are sold in town. The cumulative surcharge is given back to Suffield every six months and currently totals about $14,000 annually. We’ve also received generous support of time, money and services for specific initiatives from townspeople, the Rotary Club, Suffield DPW, Suffield Youth Services and USA Recycling and Hauling.
Q: Specifically, what did your task force accomplish in 2023?
A: Here’s a rundown:
1. We supported two townwide clean-ups. The first was spearheaded by Beth and Mel Chafetz in April and collected almost 2,500 lbs of trash. We helped plan the event and paid for signs, trash bags, t-shirts and a pizza party. The second clean-up yielded substantially less trash due to a lower volunteer turnout.
2. We surveyed townspeople about their interest in composting and concluded that a townwide program is not feasible now.
3. We bought 200 home composting bins for a residential pilot program after raising $6,000 from 126 donors and receiving a $9,000 matching grant from Sustainable CT. It’s a statewide group that in part promotes best sustainability practices. The Town of Suffield is a member.
4. In October, we hosted our first educational program on recycling and composting with a speaker from the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
5. We helped develop a composting program at Spaulding Elementary School by collaborating with Suffield High School’s Sustainability Council, USA Hauling, the Spaulding staff and Suffield Youth Services. The initiative kept 576 lbs. of food waste out of the landfill in November alone. USA Hauling provides a collection container and hauls it away weekly to a Massachusetts biomass company where the food waste is converted into renewable natural gas, compost and animal bedding.
6. With the help of USA Hauling, we created a program to divert methane-producing pumpkins from our landfill. They dropped a container at the Suffield landfill for residents to load with their pumpkins. Then, the town DPW mixed the pumpkins with landfill leaves and other vegetation and delivered the nutrient-rich blend to participating area farmers.
7. We’ve created a two-sided 11” x 17” Suffield Recycling and Disposal Guide for town residents with the help of Tony Peterson (the author of this article). It’s inserted into this issue of the Suffield Observer. USA Hauling donated half the printing and distribution costs.
Q: What are your plans for this year and beyond?
A: We’re planning a town-wide tag sale in the spring so residents can sell usable items instead of throwing them away while buyers have the opportunity to buy used instead of new, which supports sustainability. (See separate article on page 2 of this issue.)
We intend to guide and educate residents on home energy efficiency projects such as solar and heat pump installation.
There will be more townwide clean-up days.
We will assist in expanding the composting program to the Intermediate and Middle Schools. We plan to provide more opportunities for residents and businesses to compost or divert their food waste. And, we plan on exploring other ways to reduce food waste.
We value the input and collaboration of Suffield’s youth. After all, they will endure the effects of climate change longer than older generations. Student leadership continually inspires us so we intend to work with Suffield High’s Sustainability Council and other youth groups on many more initiatives.
If you’re passionate about protecting our environment and feel you could contribute to the cause by joining Sustainable Suffield, please contact me, Anna-Kristin, at firstname.lastname@example.org.