Saturday, September 29, 2012

ECoin's First Project A Success

Middletown’s Environmental Collective Impact Network (ECoin) reached its first goal, resulting in a positive, measurable outcome for the environment. The group facilitated the retrofit of exit light signs, which replaced incandescent 40-watt bulbs with high efficiency 4-watt LEDs. The initial goal was to facilitate 50 retrofits, and ultimately 86 were done. Once the original goal of 50 was surpassed, the group re-set the goal to 100. However, it was hard to find that many more places around town that had incandescents that need to be retrofitted. The energy efficient exit signs were provided at no cost to local businesses and nonprofits, thanks to a $1,200 grant from the City of Middletown’s Clean Energy Task Force.

The reduced environmental impact of these 86 LED exit lights represents just over $4,000 worth of electricity per year, the equivalent of removing nearly 4 average cars from the road or reducing gasoline combustion by about 2,100 gallons per year. This was calculated using an online estimation tool on the Department of Energy's website. Changing one little thing like an exit sign might seem like a small step, but these signs are turned on and lighted at all times, so the savings really do add up when factored together. In the process of contacting facilities about the LED retrofits, ECoin incidentally introduced some businesses to energy efficiency programs and practices and started additional conversations encouraging businesses to go a step further on their own.

A little less than one year ago, ECoin was established to mutually reinforce the work being done by various groups to preserve the natural environment and improve the general quality of life in our city. ECoin now serves as a unifying force among local environmental nonprofits, city commissions, and representatives from the business community. It was created by John Hall through The Jonah Center for Earth and Art for the purpose of streamlining communications and concentrating efforts on specific goals, thus elevating the real measurable impact of environmental activism in Middletown. Hall explains that it is not always very clear if efforts around education and raising awareness really translate into positive impacts for the environment. He notes that multi-faceted problems call for pooling of expertise and concentrating actions. He stresses the importance of collaboration among members of the environmental community. And while it is a great demand to ask groups to dedicate more time to work together, it will eventually result in positive outcomes.

At regular ECoin meetings, participating organizations share information about their individual projects and support each other’s efforts. ECoin also went through a process of establishing goals and selecting and prioritizing specific projects for the group to work on together. The initial process took several months and entailed meetings with brainstorming for ideas and reviewing and vetting all the proposed projects. The high-level goals identified were energy efficiency, open space land preservation, waste management, low impact design, reduction in pesticide use, and making the city more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

The proponents of these general areas wrote out specific achievable goals that would have a measurable effect on the environment. Next, each proposed goal was ranked using an elaborate scoring system that resulted in a list of projects ranked in order of priority. The criteria for ranking the projects included how well it fits in with the organization's overall goal, how achievable it is, and how easy it is to measure the impact.

Meetings are hosted by the Rockfall Foundation at the DeKoven House. Regular participants in ECoin include the City of Middletown’s Conservation Commission, Recycling Advisory Council, Urban Forestry Commission, and Clean Energy Task Force; South Church’s Earth Ministry; Wesleyan University’s Sustainability Department and the Center for the Arts; Middlesex Community College’s Sustainability Committee; Middletown Garden Club; and the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District. Liberty Bank Foundation, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, and St. Pius X Church have also attended meetings and expressed interest in supporting ECoin’s mission in the future.

In order to respect everyone's time, the group is very disciplined about keeping the meetings limited to one hour. Discussions focus on behavior rather than education. Soon, the group will be moving onto their next project with another specific goal in mind. For more information on ECoin’s activities or meetings, call John Hall at 860-398-3771 or visit to email your question.

Members of ECoin pictured above, clockwise from top left: Katchen Coley, Krishna Winston, Jane Brawerman, John Hall, Jane Harris, Claire Rusowicz, Kim O'Rourke, Sheila Stoane

1 comment:

Judy Walsh said...

Kudos to the ECoin group for their work in replacing the incandescent Exit lights around town with more efficient LED's.
Judy Walsh, Middletown