5 Questions For... Daphne Dixon, Fairfield environmentalist and co-founder of Live Green CT!
FAIRFIELD — Daphne Dixon came to Connecticut at the turn of the millennium and has made her mark on the state’s environmental scene.
In 2008, Dixon co-founded Live Green Connecticut!, which, for five years, hosted an environmental family festival at Norwalk’s Taylor Park Farm, bringing together thousands of area residents to share environmental ideas.
Throughout its tenure, Live Green has organized over 200 environmental workshops, events, and festivals throughout the state, including the Resilient CT Workshop at Fairfield University, The Green Faire Business Expo, and, most recently, an end of Summer craft beer and zero waste festival.
In addition to her work with Live Green, Dixon serves as Executive Director of Wilton Go Green and on Fairfield’s Sustainable Task Force and Meatless Monday committee.
Q: How did you come to live in Fairfield?
A: I grew up in Sacramento, in Northern California, and was always intrigued by the East Coast and interested in living back here. I studied English literature at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), where I met my husband, who was also interested in living on the East Coast. We moved to the land of Fairfield in 2000, and it was a big move, but we thought living back here would be a good opportunity, and it has been.
Q: When did you become interested in environmental topics?
A: It’s something I grew up with. Growing up, we had horses and rode them along the American River. I used to go there all the time and have always been connected to nature and animals. There was a severe drought when I was growing up and all the lawns went brown and as a child, it was scary that there was no water. At the same time, there was the oil crisis. I had a sense natural resources don’t last forever, and that influenced my decisions.
Q: How would you describe your work?
A: When I first started doing environmental activities here in Connecticut, it came out of a desire to share information and bring people together. I was meeting so many people with expertise and knowledge and wanted everybody to learn from each other. I started doing all these events not because I’m necessarily an event person, but because I saw value in people getting together to share projects, ideas, and programs because there were so many projects across the region that were invisible to people in other towns. I’ve always been focused on bringing people together to share in different ways.
Q: What are some of your current initiatives?
A: I recently worked on a pilot program in Fairfield called Start In Your Own Front Yard, which brings people together to do clean-ups around town. We’ve done three clean-ups at Gould Manor Park this spring and summer and we’re planning another for July 22 at Sherman Green and in downtown. The idea came when I stepped out of my house to go running and saw there was litter — cigarette butts, plastic bottles, straws, and I started seeing it everywhere. I thought, what if everybody, wherever they live, just took care of our own front yard? We’ve had 40 volunteers so far and picked up close to a thousand pounds of litter, including 2,000 cigarette butts and hundreds of plastic bottles.
Last year, Live Green also started Last Taste of Summer Craft Beer Festival in September at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park in Greenwich and we’re doing it again this year. The previous Live Green festivals in Norwalk led me to want to reach more people — hidden environmentalists who want to do good but don’t think of themselves as environmentalists. I learned craft beer drinkers have a lot of the same values as environmentalists because they care about buying local and community. At last year’s craft beer festival, we brought in information about zero-waste programs and it was really fun. It’s important to bring people together in a casual and fun environment because I think environmental topics are more easily spread when people are in a relaxed setting, with friends, and open to learning.
Q: What are your thoughts on the future of environmental resiliency?
A: I’m very optimistic about the future. I have a lot of hope that we as a community, as a state, and as a country are going to rise to the occasion and make choices that put our Earth back on track. In 2015, the United Nations agreed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals and I think it’s essential that people have an appreciation that even local work has an impact throughout the world.
For example, the Start In your Own Front Yard program to remove litter supports goal 14: to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development. What if every community decided to clean up its litter? Sometimes people think individual actions don’t matter, but all those plastic islands in the middle of our oceans were created by individual peoples choice to litter. These programs sometimes seem small and insignificant, but collectively, they are powerful.