West Hartford Named a Climate Leader by Sustainable CT

Verogy Co-Founder and COO Seven DeNino (left) speaks at a celebration of the new solar installation on the roof of Town Hall in October 2019, while Mayor Shari Cantor (center) and Energy Specialist Catherine Diviney look on. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-Ha.com file photo)

Sustainable CT released the list of 2022 certified communities, and an inaugural list of climate leaders that includes West Hartford.

By Ronni Newton

The Town of West Hartford earned silver-level certification from Sustainable CT for the first time in 2021, and this week it was announced that West Hartford is among five towns in the organization’s inaugural cohort of “Climate Leaders.”

“West Hartford is very proud to be honored as one of the first five towns to receive Sustainable CT’s Climate Leader Designation,” said Catherine Diviney, the town’s energy specialist, who has worked with municipal leaders, staff, committees, and others within the community on range of initiatives. The other towns named Climate Leaders – through a program that Sustainable CT piloted in 2022 to support the acceleration of municipal actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the changing climate – are Fairfield, Glastonbury, New Britain, and Stratford.

“We are being recognized for a particular emphasis on implementing climate or energy-related actions in the program – such as being a bicycle-friendly community, reducing the energy use of our municipal buildings, using renewable electricity, and adopting a Climate Crisis Resolution,” Diviney said.

The Climate Crisis Resolution was adopted unanimously by the Town Council in January 2022, and requires the town, under leadership of the town manager, to work collaboratively with stakeholders – including the town’s Clean Energy Commission, Conservation and Environment Commission, Pedestrian and Bicycle Commission, and the Sustainability Advisory Group – to assess the climate change impact of its future decisions and actions, to continue to improve air quality, and to and move toward net-zero carbon emissions related to municipal activities as soon as practicable.

“It is an honor to be recognized by Sustainable CT as one of the first five communities in the state to be named a ‘Climate Leader,'” Mayor Shari Cantor said. “I want to thank our staff and my elected colleagues for their commitment to action on combatting climate change, building on resilience, and their dedication to a more equitable community.”

“We are thrilled to be recognized as a Climate Leader by Sustainable CT,” Town Manager Rick Ledwith said. “Our sustainability work continues to be a community-wide effort led by our Town Council, our staff, and the many volunteers who serve on our various sustainability commissions like the Clean Energy Commission, Conservation and Environment Commission and Pedestrian and Bicycle Commission. We know through these collective efforts that we will continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help make our town and state more resilient.”

Sustainable CT, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, is an independently-funded, grassroots, statewide, voluntary certification program that supports sustainability best practices in Connecticut municipalities. According to the organization, thus far 62 municipalities – 37% of the state’s communities, but 90% of the population – have earned some level of Sustainable CT certification. Each certification, which is awarded after rigorous evaluation by independent experts and Sustainable CT partners, lasts three years.

Before earning silver-level certification in 2021, West Hartford had been bronze-level certified. To earn certification, a municipality is examined and awarded points in categories that range from community building to support for arts and culture, clean transportation, diverse housing, and long-term resilience with a focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion when implementing sustainability actions.

“Congratulations to our first-ever Sustainable CT Climate Leaders and our 2022 certified communities,” Lynn Stoddard, executive director of Sustainable CT, said in a statement. “We are inspired by the leadership and commitment of these communities. From elected officials and town staff to resident volunteers, these certified towns and Climate Leaders are improving opportunities and the quality of life for all.”

“We are thrilled to recognize additional communities that are using the Sustainable CT framework to build long-term resilience to climate change,” Bryan Garcia, co-chair of Sustainable CT and president and CEO of the Connecticut Green Bank, said a statement. “Our support for equitable communities, affordable housing, clean and efficient transportation and energy, and resilient and accessible food systems, helps to strengthen and unify our communities faced with the impacts of climate change and its effect on our economy.”

“I love that Sustainable CT keeps raising the bar for municipalities. I hope that West Hartford, and the other Climate Leaders, can serve as resources for towns who are looking to move in that direction. Everyone is busy; and, with tight budgets and scarce resources, it is so important for us to collaborate with and learn from each other. I know that we [West Hartford] will be looking to collaborate more when we decide to go for Gold certification in the future,” Diviney said.

“We appreciate the work of Sustainable CT and we will continue this commitment to be a greener, vibrant, thriving, inclusive, and caring community,” Cantor said.

Sustainable CT’s Awards Celebration, which will recognize all 2022 certified communities and Climate Leaders, is planned for  Monday, Nov. 15, from 3-6 p.m., at West Hartford Town Hall. More information about the event can be found on the Sustainable CT website.

Sustainable CT is independently funded, with strong support from its three founding funders: the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, the Common Sense Fund, and the Smart Seed Fund. Additional support is provided by the Connecticut Green Bank and many community foundations.

For more information about the organization, visit sustainablect.org.

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