Fairfield Sustainability Plan 2020
Download the full Sustainability Plan
Sustainability Plan Modules
A “sustainable” community adopts a formal strategy to safeguard its natural resources, its natural and built environments, and the quality of life for its residents – for now and the future.
The Town of Fairfield has a long history of support for sustainability initiatives. But as our Town grows and develops, it faces growing environmental challenges, compounded by the increasing pressure of climate change. Striving for sustainability has never been more critical and will require embedding the practice of sustainability into Town operations and the everyday life of its citizens.
Fairfield County was ranked as the 19th worst ozone-polluted county in the country in the 2018 American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” report. Air quality is particularly bad during the summer months, driven in large part by wind-borne pollutants from coal, oil, and natural gas-burning power plants in the South and Midwest USA.
The climate is changing, and transportation is a leading cause. Walking and biking reduce energy use, improve air quality, reduce parking needs and traffic, improve personal health and fitness, and invigorate the local economy through increased access to local businesses and tourism. We can achieve these community‐wide benefits through institutional planning and enforcement.
The Sustainable Fairfield Task Force (SFTF) aims to expand its ongoing outreach and education regarding sustainability and environmental preservation, and to encourage Town-wide involvement in activities designed to help Fairfield become a truly sustainable community.
Fairfield is in a region of relative water abundance, but we’ve always had droughts as well as flooding. Climate scientists project that future episodes of drought and flooding are likely to intensify. In addition, our water supply is at risk from increasing population and commercial development.
Energy efficiency and conservation are strategies that help reduce energy consumption in a home or business. Energy efficiency uses technology that requires less energy to perform the same function, or applies methods to reduce energy losses; energy conservation is any behavior that results in the use of less energy. Energy efficient products include LED light bulbs, insulation, weather stripping, caulking, and EnergyStar appliances. Energy conservation practices include prudent heat and air conditioning settings, turning off or dimming light bulbs, and using power strips.
Our national food system is complex and wasteful. The average plate of food travels 1,500 miles to reach our tables and over 4 million tons of food is wasted each year. According to the National Institutes of Health, the adverse environmental and health effects of pesticides are becoming increasingly clear. On a positive note, there has been impressive growth in farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture (CSAs), and other outlets for farmers to sell wholesome, unprocessed products directly to consumers. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service has noted a sharp increase in local food sourcing by restaurants, retailers, and regional distributors.
Trees are a large part of Fairfield’s heritage and sense of community. In the 1800s, Fairfield residents Annie B. Jennings and Mabel Osgood Wright were pioneers in forest management. Following their example, the Town continues to embrace its responsibility as a steward of its forest resources by protecting and enhancing the many environmental, cultural, and economic benefits of trees.
Sustainable buildings feature environmentally responsible and resource-efficient choices throughout a building’s life cycle. Among the guiding principles are integrated design (linking architecture, structural engineering, optimized energy performance, and life cycle planning), water conservation, enhanced indoor air quality, low-environmental-impact materials, and assessment of climate change risks. Such standards promote fiscal responsibility, protect occupant health and productivity, and demonstrate environmental stewardship.
The State of Connecticut’s “Green Plan” established a goal to protect 673,210 acres (21%) of the state’s land as open space by the year 2023. Ten percent of this open space is to be State parks, forests and wildlife areas. The other 11% is to be owned by Towns, private non-profit land conservation organizations, water companies, and the federal government.
Fairfield’s beaches, rivers, and tidal marshes are coveted natural resources – centerpieces of its beauty and recreational offerings. But sitting in a coastal flood plain that was largely tidal marsh before being developed are over 3,800 (15%) of our homes, five churches, historical homes and buildings, and essential town operational infrastructure.
October 2017 CIRCA (Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation) projections anticipate a sea level rise of up to 20 inches by 2050 for coastal Connecticut. It also projects more intense and frequent weather events leading to increased risk of both coastal and inland flooding.
In 2005, the Town pledged to reduce its municipal energy usage and to obtain 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. A 2014 aerial survey of Fairfield homes indicated that about 5,000 Fairfield homes have rooftop solar potential. With current incentives and market conditions, “going solar” has tremendous economic benefits for Fairfield residents.
Connecticut has adopted a Materials Management goal of diverting at least 10% of solid waste materials from trash by 2024 using a baseline year of 2014. There is a current bill in the state legislature that targets no more than 700 pounds of waste per capita by 2022 and 500 pounds by 2024.
Fairfield’s Purchasing Department has provided invaluable support in ensuring that purchasing decisions take into account environmental preservation and sustainability, both locally and in accord with more “global” concerns. This support aligns with the department’s overall mission of “obtaining the best value proposition – quality, cost, and delivery – for all products and services purchased.” Now, the Town has an appealing opportunity to formalize and broaden its purchasing procedures in line with environmental and sustainability goals.
Our homes are our sanctuaries – an extension of who we are – with the ability to evolve and reinvent themselves with the times. Our homes are also our largest expense and typically the source of our largest energy and natural resource footprint. Homeowners planning renovations and new home builds enjoy an exciting array of sustainable choices including “green” building products, EnergyStar electric appliances, solar shades, ceiling fans, heat pumps, solar power with or without backup battery storage, automation, and electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. It’s even possible to build net zero/passive homes.
Sustainable landscaping strives to be attractive while maintaining environmental balance with minimal use of maintenance resources. Typical features include native plants, minimally invasive soil management techniques (no tilling or mulching), application of compost, and reduction of stormwater run-off with bio-swales, rain gardens and permeable paving.
Sustainable transportation supports the mobility needs of society in a safe, efficient and equitable manner- consistent with human and ecosystem health. About 50% of a typical two-car household’s carbon emissions are from transportation sources. Consumers should purchase a fuel-efficient, low-polluting car, keep their vehicle well maintained, and adopt good driving habits including observing the speed limit and consolidating trips. Use of mass transit, ride-sharing, biking, walking and telecommuting offer further opportunities to reduce transportation emissions.
Over 200 miles of sewer pipe link 85% of residences and 100% of commercial properties to Fairfield’s Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF), operating under the authority of the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA). The facility is valued at more than $100 million, and is operated by 18 certified town employees.
Each day the WPCF returns about 8.5 million gallons of water, cleaned in accordance with state and federal standards (>95% of pollutants removed), to the Long Island Sound.
Fairfield’s wetlands and watercourses are an irreplaceable but fragile natural resource, essential to the Town’s ecological health. They are an interrelated web of nature essential to an adequate supply of surface and underground water, providing hydrological stability and control of flooding and erosion. They recharge and purify groundwater, supporting many forms of animal, aquatic, and plant life. These valuable water resources are carefully monitored and regulated by many Town bodies, the CT Department of Energy Environmental Protection (CTDEEP), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).