From the Norwalk Hour- Stephanie Kim.
WILTON — More than 60 community leaders gathered at the library on Tuesday.
The all-day event, “How Green Could Wilton Be,” brought together community members involved in town government, business, faith, educational and environmental affairs.
Daphne Dixon, Wilton Go Green’s newly hired executive director, welcomed those attending with opening remarks.
“Our mission is to promote sustainable living in all areas across all sectors. It’s a pretty big job,” she said. “And our vision is to be the most environmentally friendly sustainable town in Connecticut.”
Building on that sentiment, Wilton Go Green President Peg Koellmer applauded the community for being a leader in advancing the culture of conservation and education, both locally and statewide. She also emphasized the importance of having an event like the symposium to make continued strides in the four focus areas of energy, food, recycling, and land and water.
“We’re moving from visions to actions, but we need to move more quickly,” she said. “So let’s roll up our sleeves and join in this effort.”
Before the group separated into facilitated breakout sessions, keynote speaker Gary Cuneen offered insights from his 15 years as the founder and executive director of Seven Generations Ahead, a nonprofit based in Oak Park, Ill., with the mission of promoting ecologically sustainable and healthy communities.
He was invited by Wilton Go Green Symposium Chairperson Tina Duncan, who came up with the idea of hosting the symposium. They know each other from her other role as president of the Lumpkin Family Foundation, a nonprofit in east central Illinois that was the first funder of Seven Generations Ahead.
“It’s very encouraging what you all are doing here through Wilton Go Green in really trying to make sustainability happen and have it ripple out and impact the other communities,” Cuneen said. “Like what you’re doing here today, (communication) is a vehicle. You have to bring people together, you have to provide learning, networking, sharing and collaboration opportunities.”
The morning and afternoon breakout sessions were 90 minutes each, during which people discussed and analyzed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats relevant to the focus areas.
At the end of the symposium, each group presented their top three initiatives.
The food group identified increasing food production and structure, increasing awareness about local and seasonal eating, and protecting resources. The recycling group prioritized engaging town agencies, improving effective communication to the public, and reducing food waste. The land and water group focused on addressing the storm water issue, improving land use and the overall connectivity of open spaces, and refining property management and maintenance. And the energy group zeroed in on investing in community energy, improving town ordinances and implementing home energy efficiency more effectively.
Overall, each group praised the town for its progressive, collaborative nature but suggested improvement in education, awareness, and implementation of such initiatives at the individual level.
In his final remarks, Cuneen challenged the room of town leaders to build off of the momentum that was generated at the symposium.
“Sustainability is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. But it has to be a marathon that’s got logical steps and structures and is thinking long-term about how to move these things forward,” he said. “The easiest way to get derailed is to not put those things in place.”
Similarly, Duncan closed the symposium with words of encouragement.
“Even with our best intentions and all these thoughts, it’s hard work and we all have to just keep trying and understand that change is hard but it does pay off,” she said.
Wilton Go Green plans to hold a community-wide forum in January 2017, with a recap of the symposium, a facilitated feedback session and dates for four follow-up workshops in the same focus areas to establish action plans and milestones for the developed initiatives.