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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

The Greening of Fairfield County: One Woman’s Mission to Protect Natural Resources

Apr 01, 2014 02:46AM ● By Nicole Miale

Daphne Dixon

Daphne Dixon was 10 years old when she first realized the power of Mother Nature. She was living in Sacramento, California during a severe drought and vividly recalls ordering a glass of water at a neighborhood restaurant. All eyes in the room glued to her while her father quietly warned her that she’d better finish every drop. Growing up in a region prone to earthquakes, wildfires and drought shaped a mindset that now powers her life mission as an environmentalist and activist. “I was attuned to the reality from a very young age that natural resources are something that have to be respected and protected,” Dixon says. “This is all I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl.”

“This” refers to the various green events and enterprises Dixon has built – with the help and support of various partners along the way – under the umbrella of a company called Conscious Decisions. In 2007, she made Fairfield County her adopted home and enrolled in a Master Gardener program at Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford. Later that year, she organized and held her first Green Faire at Bartlett with 25 exhibitors. A success from the start, the next Green Faire will be in November in Stamford.

Dixon is well known in the county for organizing and holding Green Drinks networking events in Fairfield, Stamford and Bridgeport. Perhaps she has gained the most acclaim in recent years for the vibrant and successful Live Green CT festival, which will celebrate its fifth year in 2014. Live Green CT is held at Taylor Farm Park in Norwalk each September and has become a flagship event for Dixon and green businesses in the area. The event attracted 5,000 people over two days in 2013 and Dixon expects that to increase again this year as she adds new and ever more inspiring community members to the lineup of exhibitors.

“I have these events – whether it is Green Drinks or Live Green or the Green Coast Awards – so people can gather and learn and be in joy,” she explains. “For me, there is nothing better than gathering people in the name of protecting our resources.”

Dixon has taken her mission one step further this year, working with local government and businesses to hold Resilient Communities workshops, which has now been renamed the Smart Town Network. There was one event in Fairfield in the fall of 2013 and another is planned at Yale in June of this year. Additional workshops in Stamford and Sacramento are in the works. The Smart Town Network workshops are one day events where community, business and municipal leaders are invited to hear presentations about local projects that are raising the standard for environmental protection while also providing economic payback. “It is essential for our country to move forward and stay a world leader,” she states. “To do that, we must have all three groups involved in sustainability projects that matter.”

She names the Connecticut-based Winter Bros. sanitation company as an example of a green business leader for their forward-thinking approach to single-stream recycling. “Leadership and towns have to make it easier for people to do the right thing,” Dixon explains. “Systems need to support and make it easier for people by setting the example in a way that doesn’t create hardship. Single-stream recycling is a great example. People are happy to recycle if you don’t make it too complicated.”

Although Dixon’s business is based in Fairfield, she has strong ties to many towns in the county from her years organizing events and working with business and municipal leadership all along the coastline and up Route 7. “You can’t do just one part and have it all work,” she says of her various enterprises. “Knowing and supporting the businesses, working with the municipalities and educating the consumers are the key elements to having a successful event and making a real impact. You can’t cut out one part of that equation and have a sustainable positive result.”

Whether it’s a Green Drinks event on a Wednesday night in Stamford, the Green Coast Awards to celebrate people and businesses that have made a difference or Live Green CT itself, Dixon’s motivation is the same and her joy in the progress is palpable. “I have these events so people can connect and ideas can grow,” she says. “That is the way we can slowly change minds and habits to keep our country strong and vital.”

Nicole Miale is Publisher/Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Fairfield County.

Connect with Daphne Dixon at DaphneDixon.com. For more information about specific events, please visit LiveGreenCT.com or GreenDrinks.org/CT or SmartTownNetwork.com.