Get to know ... Robin Bates-Mason: President of local environmental group, Planet New Canaan
NEW CANAAN — Robin Bates-Mason always liked gardening, but she never thought she would head an environmental group.
Originally from Darien, the 45-year-old is president of Planet New Canaan, a local organization that aims to raise awareness about environmental efforts. In the past six months, the organization has shown documentaries at the library and partnered with businesses in town through “go-green” initiatives.
Bates-Mason talked about her interests and future projects with Planet New Canaan.
Q: When did the interest in environmentalism begin?
A: Not sure exactly, I would say about 10 years ago. I would go to people’s houses in New Canaan and Westport — it was just people I knew — and we would talk about environmental things. It was just when people were starting to use reusable grocery bags.
I was looking for an environmental group in New Canaan. There was New Canaan Environmental Group, but it’s no longer around. I was trying to find a group, and a little over a year ago I was at Grace Farms for lunch and they were advertising a sustainability day and I was talking to someone who was interested.
We started talking and she said, ‘We will help you,’ and they brought director of environmental Adam Thatcher, who said to come use us and our facilities. We went to community foundations about getting a sponsor and gave us a few groups we could go to.
We’re still working on a sponsorship but working with the Nature Center — we had a screening there. We’re not sponsored yet, but they are helping us.
Q: How’s the relationship with the Nature Center?
A: They’ve been letting us use their facilities for monthly meetings. Our most recent screening there was with “Wasted” (a documentary featuring) Anthony Bourdain. We sought to have certain initiatives and as our name gets out, we’re getting more people to contact us. We’re able to function as a real board and committees do their things. Margot Bright is our secretary and Katie Owsley our treasurer and we have a programs committee made up of three people.
Q: You mentioned a recent trip to a recycling center in Stamford?
A: We just recently took a field trip to City Carting (a recycling center in Stamford). What we’re working on is (showing others how) to recycle properly and also what you can recycle.
Jay Greco was showing us around City Carting. He came with us and gave us a rundown of how everything worked. They have a single-stream system, and what we got from it is that things change in what can and cannot be recycled because there’s a market for it and that ebbs and flows.
Right now, we’re putting our plastic bags in the recycling and there’s no market for them there, but if you take it to the grocery bags, that’s cleaner. Once it’s in the single-stream, it gets dirty. We’re just trying to get this information out there. We’ll be going for the next few weeks to show people what they can and can’t recycle and get that information out.
Q: What are some other projects?
A: One of our first initiatives was with Stewart’s — for two months every time you used a reusable bag, you would get a 5 cent discount, and Stewart’s would match that toward the New Canaan Sports Booster Club. They were great about that and we raised over $460.
Q: Any work with other environmental groups?
A: There is the Darien environmental group. (A member of their group) came to our last meeting and we would love to work with them. They’re a 501(c)(3) and one of the initiatives we’re talking about is reducing plastic. We’re hoping to have something this fall — a friendly competition between Darien and New Canaan.