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The Sustainable Vernon Initiative

How Does It Benefit You?

Vernon joined the Sustainable CT Program in 2019 created by the CT Conference of Municipalities - towns and cities working together to improve everyone's life. But all politics is local so how does it benefit you and your family in Vernon?

The Vision of Sustainable CT is: Communities strive to be thriving, resilient, collaborative, and forward-looking. They build community and local economy. They equitably promote the health and well-being of current and future residents, and they respect the finite capacity of the natural environment.

Participating benefits Vernon and you through its environmental impact, greenhouse gas reduction, improved health & wellness, cost savings, community economic well-being, community climate resilience, community building and equity. It touches most aspects of our lives and can make our community a better place to live and work. Our neighbors in Coventry, Hebron and South Windsor were recognized in 2018.

What does Sustainability mean?

The United Nations defines sustainability as 'ensuring that we meet our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.' We usually think about this as applying to energy and the environment. They do, but this program is more as it focuses on not just the environment, but also the economy and our social life - things that apply to all areas of our lives.

How does Vernon's program work?

We are provided with a menu of voluntary actions to continually become more sustainable. There are 9 categories, each with a number of possible actions from which to select. To become certified we must choose and implement at least one action from each category earning points depending on the difficulty of the action selected. Certification gives us recognition as a town that cares about improving the lives of its residents, but also makes us eligible for grant funding to help achieve these goals.

To give you a better idea of what the categories and actions are, and which might apply to you and your family, they are summarized below. Vernon won't do all of them, but you can see the direction we are taking. You only need to scan the list to gain an understanding of what is involved.

1- Thriving Local Economies

  • Commit to purchasing sustainable goods & services.
  • Support & encourage residents to use local businesses.
  • Increase job opportunities in the sustainability sector.
  • Encourage businesses to reduce energy consumption & use clean energy.

2- Well Stewarded Land & Natural Resources

  • Engage in watershed protection and restoration through education and planning.
  • Create a natural resource & wildlife inventory.
  • Manage for drought and town water use, provide water conservation education.
  • Implement low impact development (LID).
  • Manage woodlands & forests; facilitate invasive species education & management.

3- Vibrant & Creative Cultural Ecosystems

  • Map tourism and cultural assets.
  • Support arts and creative culture and demonstrate your commitment.
  • Develop a plan to strengthen community through a sense of place.
  • Provide an arts and culture program for youth.

4- Dynamic & Resilient Planning

  • Integrate sustainability into POCD and zoning.
  • Develop agriculture friendly practices by supporting farms and farmers.
  • Assess climate vulnerability.
  • Inventory & assess historic resources; prioritize preservation efforts.

5- Clean & Diverse Transportation Systems & Choices

  • Implement Complete Streets to allow safer access for all methods of transportation.
  • Promote effective parking management; encourage walkability.
  • Encourage smart commuting through alternative commuting methods.
  • Promote public transportation, walking and bicycling.

6- Efficient Physical Infrastructure & Operations

  • Develop and implement an energy plan.
  • Track and reduce town energy use.
  • Increase use of renewable energy in municipal buildings.
  • Install efficient street lights.

7- Strategic & Inclusive Public Services

  • Develop effective community communications.
  • Encourage healthy & sustainable food networks.
  • Recycle additional materials and compost organics.
  • Consider the health impact of new projects.

8- Healthy Efficient & Diverse Housing

  • Do a housing needs assessment - what is needed and where?
  • Increase affordable housing options.
  • Assess and improve energy and water use in Multifamily housing.

9- Inclusive & Equitable Community Impacts

  • Create processes for a more inclusive community.

Is this a One and Done program?

In 2019 we earned a Silver Certification, the highest level awarded. But we must reapply with new initiatives in 2022. To retain our certification or strive for a higher level (levels are bronze, silver and gold) we must plan ahead and continuously improve. Vernon's leadership continues to emphasize the program so that every town department, commission and organization has their own goals to achieve and to be evaluated on.

The timing is particularly important because we will soon begin work on our 10 year Plan of Conservation & Development (POCD). The POCD is a requirement for every town and involves residents. Our last POCD was published in early 2012 and can be read here. It is an important project for reviewing what is important to our community and how we balance economic development with livable space. The result is a report that guides our decisions over the next ten years and creates a 'To Do' list for town departments and commissions. The Sustainable Vernon effort should mesh nicely with the POCD development.

Success and continuous improvement depends on residents showing interest in the program - letting our administration know we care and encouraging them to continue. Do tell our local elected officials that this initiative is important to us.

How can you learn more about Vernon's initiative?

You can learn more about the Sustainable CT program by visiting their website at SustainableCT.org.

This initiative is too promising not to get behind and hope to see succeed.

Updated December 2021

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