Where in the U.S. do people recycle most? Well, if the success of recycling centers is any indication, it’s Connecticut.

A new list from business intelligence site SizeUp.com ranks the top states for recycling based on the per-capita revenue of recycling centers. Connecticut tops the list with revenue between $1,501 and $1,600 per capita, ust ahead of New Jersey ($1,401–$1,500). Vermont, at No. 3 on the list, is the only other New England state in the top ten.

SizeUp CEO Anatalio Ubalde says that since recycling centers receive many government dollars, the list is a good indicator of each state’s commitment to recycling.

When the list is broken down by municipality, however, the top spot went to Proviso, Ill., with between $14,000 and $15,000 per capita generated by recycling centers. But Hartford landed fourth, with per-capita revenue between $4,251 and $4,500.

SizeUp recently launched a “Best Places” tool that allows users to rank the best cities, metro areas, and states for every industry in the country.

 The state of Connecticut will step up its efforts over the next six months to make the state better equipped and prepared to handle the potentially devastating effects of Mother Nature.

The Connecticut Climate Preparedness Plan has been finalized by the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), coming after several devastating storms hit the state in late 2011, 2012 and early 2013. The plan was required by Public Act No. 05-98, “An Act Concerning Connecticut Global Warming Solutions.”

With the new plan in place, DEEP commissioner Dan Esty says the department will work to enact a number of “action items” over the next 18 months, including:

• Develop a Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan in cooperation with the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security

• Incorporate the considerations of climate change and sea level rise into the 2013–2018 Plan of Conservation and Development

• Partner with UConn to establish a Center for Climate Resiliency at Avery Point to promote efforts statewide

• Develop resilient energy infrastructure (the state recently announced a Microgrid Program to keep essential services powered during severe outages)

• Work with municipalities to prevent failures at sewage treatment facilities

• Assist the Department of Transportation in the resizing of culverts to accommodate increased storm flows

• Support post-Storm Sandy rebuilding efforts along the coastline

• Collaborate with Department of Insurance and insurance industry to reduce losses of life and property

• Protect and conserve open spaces as part of the state’s Green Plan

• Include strategies in the revisions of state Wildlife Management and Forestry plans

• Provide technical assistance to municipalities developing their own adaptation plans

 NEW HAVEN — Hard to get greener than at a folk festival, but this is certainly a way.

The Connecticut Folk Festival & Green Expo will take place September 7 at Edgerton Park in New Haven, featuring a large bill of local folk performers and more than 75 booths of green information and activities.

The Green Expo will feature exhibitors, educators and vendors that will provide food and workshop activities for children and adults. Vendors include City Seed, Barefoot Books, Edge of the Woods, Elm City Market, Marrakech, the New Haven Land Trust and the New Haven Museum.

Performers this year include Brother Sun, Daphne Lee Martin, Darrell Scott, Kindred Queer and Goodnight Blue Moon.

The festival itself will earn Renewable Energy Credits from 3Degrees to offset electricity used by the festival, and Global Environmental Services/John’s Refuse will compost food waste.  More information can be found at ctfolk.com.

 

The 2013 edition of the annual GreenFest will take place this year at Quassy Amusement & Water Park in Middlebury September 7-8 from noon to 6 p.m.

The event will features speakers and vendors to promote and educate the crowd on green lifestyle, economics and healthy living, from speakers including Lebanese-Armenian artist and activist Peter Jam, and Eric Hansel, founder of Sustainable Master Plan, which strives to create a national sustainability plan. The GreenFest is also seeking requests for proposals from green business interested in giving the Quassy park a green makeover.

Performing bands and musical artists include Jam, as well as Connecticut acts the End of the World Band, the Mighty Ploughboys, Jamie Lapine and Station, from New York City.

The park’s beaches and attractions will be open to attendees. More information can be found at greenfest.ws.

 

The Live Green Connecticut green living and family festival will take place September 15-16 at Taylor Farm Park in Norwalk to promote green living through speakers and educational events.

Exhibitors come from various industries, including the Connecticut Green Building Council, Habitat for Humanity, Yogapata, Title Boxing Club, SolarCity, PurePoint Energy, E/Environmental Magazine, radio station WEZN-FM, Xerox, the Connecticut Sierra Club and Frito-Lay.

The festival will also include musical performances from artists including Matt Dyer, Ken Coulson & the Gatsby’s Green Light Band, Scot Albertson, P.J. Pacifico, and Arthur Lipner & the Wilton Steel Community Band.

More information may be found at livegreenct.com.

 LEED-ing the way to more sustainable construction projects

 

New Haven’s newly constructed Gateway Community College boasts a diverse student body, accomplished faculty and curricula geared toward student needs and workforce placement.

But one of the accomplishments about which Gateway administrators are equally boastful is its LEED certification.

Being able to cite the four-letter acronym as a construction characteristic is a source of pride these days for facilities being built and refurbished throughout Connecticut and beyond. But just what does it mean for a structure to have Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design-certified status? Not only that, who decides which facilities earn that status, and how is it conferred?

LEED recognizes the importance of incorporating sustainability in modern building plans, explains F. Todd Renz, president of Branford-based OR&L Construction Corp., and a LEED accredited professional specializing in building design and construction.

“It’s a realization of how important it is and how it contributes to best practices,” says Renz. “It’s smart building — more of a mindset of how projects should be built and approached.”

LEED is a designation recognized internationally that ensures a structure has been built or reconfigured as acutely energy efficient, and has heightened internal environmental quality and decreased CO2 emissions. Any kind of building can qualify for LEED status, including commercial, health care, educational and private homes. There also is a LEED designation for neighborhood development, which considers characteristics such as smart growth and green building as part of a neighborhood’s overall design.

Sustainability is “part of our overall approach,” says Renz. He notes that for every project OR&L routinely optimizes the ability to recycle materials and minimize waste, for example. In fact, LEED standards are embedded in all OR&L undertakings, Renz adds.

“LEED-certified buildings are more healthy, and they are better buildings to work in,” Renz notes. For example, “They have low VCOs — volatile organic compounds, which have cancer-causing potential. LEED-certified buildings [tend to harness more natural] daylight, which makes people happier.

“So not only does it [LEED certification] have an impact on the building, it has a better impact on the occupants, on the employees [who] work in that building, so they have a better experience,” concludes Renz.

Part of the prestige of LEED certification is having to successfully negotiate a set of rigid requirements.

“If you want to be a LEED-designated project, there’s an administrative procedure,” notes Renz.

LEED certification falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Green Building Council. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., USGBC is made up of business and organizational members, as well as state and local chapters that accept individual members (advocates and LEED professionals among them).

The mission of USGBC, as outlined in its 2012 annual report, is to “transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.”

In the two decades since its founding, that mission has taken on global momentum, as USGBC President, CEO and founding chair S. Richard Fedrizzi describes via written commentary in the report.

“USGBC grew from a gathering of three founders in 1993 to a movement of millions today. We created a platform around which we could congregate, and you [organizational and individual USGBC members] supplied the passion, the energy, the ingenuity and the outstanding projects and products,” Fedrizzi wrote.

To apply for LEED certification, a project must go through five basic steps. First, it music choose a rating system, based on the type of project/building. Next, it must register online, and pay a registration fee. A certification application must then be submitted, along with a certification review fee, which varies by size and type of project. The review process is the next step. The final step is the certification decision. (This process is somewhat different for home and neighborhood development certification).

USGBC uses a rating system to assess projects seeking LEED certification. Points are earned in accordance with a project’s adherence to green building standards. Points that can be earned for a newly constructed school, for example, center around site selection, brownfield redevelopment, “development density and community connectivity,” access to public transportation and alternative transportation (such as bicycle-friendly accommodations), open-space maximization, and reduction of light pollution, among other factors.

The number of points earned determines a project’s LEED certification level.

Several buildings in New Haven, for example, are LEED-certified at advanced levels. They include the LEED-Platinum 360 State Street high-rise, Yale Sculpture Building and Gallery, and Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; LEED-Gold Barnard Environmental Magnet School, Yale’s Stoeckel Hall, and Gateway Community College; and LEED-Silver Pfizer Clinical Research Unit and Yale’s Chemistry Research Building.

USGBC promotes LEED certification because of benefits that it says includes resource conservation, decreased operating costs, healthier environment, added structural value, and potential financial rewards such as zoning allowances and tax rebates.

Currently there are 102,742 projects worldwide participating in LEED, according to statistics in the USGBC 2012 Annual Report. These projects total more than 9.9 billion square feet of construction area.

LEED professionals are divided into three major categories: “green associate,” “accredited professional” and “fellow.”

LEED green associates have demonstrated knowledge of up-to-date green practices and principles by passing a two-hour exam. LEED accredited professionals are highly knowledgeable about green procedures. They must have worked on a LEED project and must demonstrate via exam both general knowledge ad expertise in a specialty area. They have a specialty area choice of building design and construction, homes, interior design and construction, neighborhood development, or operations and maintenance. LEED fellows are AP specialists who have been nominated by other professionals.

Around the globe, there are 196,537 persons who have earned LEED professional credentials, the USGBC 2012 annual report notes.

Over the past decade, the number of persons in Connecticut with LEED professional credentials (AP, specialty or green associate) has soared, from just 36 in 2002 to 1,694 in 2012, according to USGBC.

Renz’s standing as a LEED professional (he’s also a former board chairman of the USGBC Connecticut chapter) is an asset for clients looking to build LEED-standard facilities. When Hartford Hospital wanted to establish a medical office building in South Windsor, for example, it enlisted OR&L to handle the project. The two-story, 16,000-square-foot satellite, located at 1559 Sullivan Avenue, is certified LEED-Silver.

“It’s awesome, it doesn’t use a lot of energy,” says Renz, who counts the project among his favorites.

 Of the top five types of LEED-certified building owners in Connecticut, 35 percent are corporate, 23 percent are higher education, 13 percent are investor, 11 percent are K-12 education and six percent are nonprofit, according to USGBC.

Most LEED certifications in the state have been sought for new construction, but there have been periods over the past several years when certifications for existing buildings equaled or surpassed those for new structures, according to USGBC. In 2011, for example, of the 24 projects that were LEED-certified, half were for new buildings and half were for existing ones. In 2008, LEED certification of existing buildings was double that of new structures (eight as opposed to four).

Renovating an older building with a LEED goal can be more difficult than introducing LEED standards to a new project, concedes Renz. Replacing old equipment, preserving original architecture in a building located within a historic district, and waiting out an audit period are just a few of the hurdles. But it’s worth the effort to refurbish older buildings with LEED objectives, he says.

“There comes a point where it does make sense,” Renz notes. “If you’re going to do a renovation, it does make sense. LEED [certification] would be great, but at least a LEED approach.”

Often an outside consultant with LEED credentials is called on to help earn certification.

Marta Bouchard, a member of the USGBC Connecticut chapter’s board of directors and its education committee, is one of those consultants. She is an environmental designer for Atelier Ten, which offers environmental engineering and consulting services. Through Atelier Ten, a global company with a branch office in New Haven, Bouchard provides LEED consulting services for institutional and commercial projects.

“We can get pulled into a project at any stage,” explains Bouchard. However, she notes, being able to advise on a project from the outset is ideal.

“In our experience, the best way to incorporate environmental design strategy is at the beginning of the project,” she says.

“There are a lot of standards the construction and building industry have developed that haven’t always been mandatory,” says Bouchard. The LEED rating system, she notes, helps “building designers and building teams to start thinking about health standards and energy standards”.

Bouchard adds that a company does not have to break the budget to be LEED-conscious.

“One of the biggest misconceptions we’ve observed is that environmental stewardship has to cost a lot of money,” Bouchard says. “There are many environmental solutions that don’t cost a lot of money or don’t cost extra money than what you otherwise would be doing.

“Consultants like ourselves are often seen as an extra service,” Bouchard adds. “But we’ve seen that for the building owners and design teams that partner with us [they realize] the long-term benefit of working with folks that challenge the norm.”

Adopting environmental standards such as those incorporated in LEED criteria is “the way our design and construction world is headed,” says Bouchard. Energy efficiency is at the forefront of everybody’s minds — turning out lights, running fans that are energy intensive. “For the building world,” she says, “we can make a difference with our buildings” by highlighting environmental stewardship and qualitative issues such as air quality that enhance human health.

“What we like to remind folks is that fundamental building design incorporates core principles,” and it is worthwhile to “think about the environment” and “get those ideas under discussion early on,” Bouchard says.

Renz agrees that projects looking to establish and/or enhance their green profile should be geared toward that end from the beginning of the planning process.

“The LEED process is more of independent study, independent design,” says Renz. “It begins very early in the stage. When a project is going to go down the path of sustainability, the path has to address that.”

Currently, Renz notes, “There’s a trend to a more sustainable building,” although the United States lags behind Europe, which is much more environmentally conscious with its building designs and accommodations.

“The fact is that a LEED-thought-out building is better than one that isn’t,” Renz says. “It’s just smarter living.”

 

 Cost still the biggest hurdle

 

The Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA) has released the results of its 2013 Sustainability and Connecticut Business Survey.

Sponsored by UIL Holdings Inc., parent of the United Illuminating Co., the survey gauges Connecticut companies' commitment to environmental principles in their business operations and the impact of those efforts on business performance, stakeholder relations and communities served.

Key findings this year include:

• Two-thirds (66 percent) of Connecticut businesses surveyed are engaged in sustainability. This is up from less than half (47 percent) in 2007, when the first survey was conducted, but down from 74 percent in 2010, when the most recent survey was taken.

• Among companies engaged in sustainability, the strongest areas of involvement are energy efficiency (90 percent), waste management (77 percent), and green purchasing (74 percent).

Renewable energy is the area of greatest interest among businesses for future activities, according to the CBIA survey.

Cost is the main hurdle to going green, cited by 65 percent of respondents.

Though slightly more than half (53 percent) of the companies surveyed say current economic conditions have not changed their level of commitment to sustainable business practices, 11 percent have stepped up their efforts, while nine percent have made green practices less of a priority. Eighteen percent say green practices are part of their DNA.

Tellingly, a clear majority of companies (72 percent) find Connecticut's environmental regulatory climate more restrictive than other states'.

Nearly one-third of businesses surveyed (32 percent) require others in their supply chain (manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and retailers) to adopt green business practices. Twenty-eight percent say that their own customers have requested or stipulated that they incorporate green business practices into their supply chain; and nine percent have received similar requests from vendors.

Of those companies that have adopted sustainable initiatives, 81 percent reported that going green has been worth the time and investment. Benefits cited include a boost to the bottom line as well as improved employee morale, public image and client/customer relationships.

"The share of Connecticut companies engaged in sustainability has dipped from nearly three-quarters to slightly more than two-thirds in the last three years," says CBIA economist Peter Gioia.

The 2013 Sustainability and Connecticut Business Survey was emailed to 5,035 businesses in late April and early May; 434 businesses took the survey, for a response rate of nine percent and a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percent.

 

 Rail commuters’ long wait is over

 

WEST HAVEN — After literally decades in the planning, designing, building and arguing stages, the West Haven railroad station is finally a reality.

Metro North service is slated to begin Sunday, August 18, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for noon the next day (August 19).

The newest commuter rail station on Metro North’s New Haven Line, the facility is notable for its environmentally friendly features. Designed and constructed for the state’s Department of Transportation  to meet Connecticut’s Compliance Manual for High-Performance Buildings, the new facility is the state’s first “LEED Silver” equivalent railroad station.

The $80 million station is just the second too open on the New Haven Line in a century, after the Fairfield Metro station opened in 2011.

The station features a landmark structure housing rider amenities including waiting room, ticketing, lavatories, tourism kiosk and display areas, and two high-level platforms with arched canopies to accommodate up to 12 rail cars. It also features a pedestrian bridge connected by two stair/elevator towers, a “kiss-and-ride” drop-off area, covered bicycle storage, taxi stand and commuter parking area.

Rail passengers will pay $6 a day to park at the station. Six-month parking passes are available from CTRides (ctrides.com) for $300.

Metro-North began considering adding a station in either West Haven or neighboring Orange in the 1990s to fill the ten-mile gap between the New Haven and Milford stations — the longest such gap on the New Haven Line. Both town governments were supportive of a station, which was then slated to cost $25 million to $30 million.

 NEW HAVEN — The federal Department of Transportation has determined that the Tweed Regional Airport air traffic control tower, along with 148 other contract control towers at small airports nationwide, will remain open through the end of September.

The determination was announced last month by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who in a statement said that the Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 will provide the Federal Aviation Administration with enough funding to keep all 149 contract towers open through the end of the federal fiscal year, which is September 30.

Tweed, along with 148 contract air towers across the U.S. were originally slated for closure as a result of sequestration. The airport has approximately 40,000 enplanements and around 70,000 unique flyers each year and is one of the only small airports in New England to have commercial service.

 WINDSOR LOCKS — The Connecticut Airport Authority has announced new daily nonstop service from Bradley International Airport (BDL) to Atlanta (ATL). This new route, operated by Southwest Airlines’ subsidiary AirTran Airways, will begin November 3 and is available for sale now. Delta also flies from BDL to Atlanta.

“This is great news as the CAA continues to make significant contributions to the state and regional economy,” said Gov. Dannel P. Mallow in a statement. “I am pleased that Bradley continues to add important service offerings to its route menu; these new daily nonstop flights will enhance access to another key business and leisure center in Atlanta. Southwest Airlines continues to be a great partner at Bradley International Airport.”         

Added Bob Montgomery, Southwest’s vice president of airport affairs, “The Hartford-Springfield area continues to be a great market for Southwest Airlines and we are pleased to be able to add this new Atlanta service.”