One of New Canaan’s most unique and active nonprofit organizations is hosting its major fundraiser in about two weeks. Planet New Canaan’s Green Gala will be held 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14 at the Carriage Barn Arts Center (tickets here). Sponsors include Walter Stewart’s Market, Northeast Building Supply, Karl Chevrolet and NewCanaanite.com.
We put some questions to the nonprofit organization’s president, Robin Bates Mason, ahead of the event.
Here’s our exchange.
New Canaanite: For our readers who are not familiar with Planet New Canaan, please tell us a bit about the organization’s history and mission.
Robin Bates Mason: Katie Owsley, Margot Thorsheim and I founded Planet New Canaan in 2017 as we wanted to create an environmental group to serve the town of New Canaan. We were lucky to have help from Grace Farms, New Canaan Community Foundation and New Canaan Nature Center, the latter becoming our financial sponsors in 2018. During this time we had many New Canaan residents join our board, helpling to build up our program offerings and initiative work. In 2021 we became a 501(3)c and have been working to make New Canaan more sustainable ever since.
As for our mission, it is to bring awareness about environmental issues facing New Canaan and the broader world. Through educational presentations, community outreach and initiatives, we hope to inspire action that improves our town’s sustainability.
What are some of the notable achievements of Planet New Canaan in the past few years?
We have had some excellent programs, thanks to our Programs Committee and they continue to put together great programs which are relevant to New Canaan residents, including an upcoming program about Spotted Lantern Flies. We started a pumpkin recycling program to divert reusable food from the waste stream and last Fall we delivered over 10k pounds of pumpkins to three farms to feed their cows. After we learned that most Christmas Trees were destined for landfill, we created the Christmas Tree recycling program with the help of The Town of New Canaan and Exchange Club of New Canaan – it should be noted that Steve Benko was also a huge help in getting this program off the ground. In 2023 over 800 Christmas Trees were mulched and spread on New Canaan Nature Center trails. We helped launch the town’s food scrap pilot program and created a New Canaan reusable bag with Walter Stewart’s Market and New Canaan Community Foundation to promote reusable bag use and highlight all the great organizations, annual events and places in New Canaan. We have an annual native plant sale with Copia Home and Garden which benefits a member of New Canaan Pollinator Pathway as well as an annual river clean up in town with Surfrider Foundation. We have many different recycling programs but probably our most well known “recycling program” is the Swap Shop at the New Canaan Transfer Station which launched in Nov. ’22.
How is Planet New Canaan supported and how important to its fundraising is the Green Gala?
We have been lucky to receive donations from the public but when we got the green light for the Swap Shop, we knew we needed to raise more funds. Thanks to money raised at last year’s Green Gala, we were able to use those funds for the Swap Shop as well as our other initiatives and programs. We are raising funds this year for our ongoing initiatives and a hopeful new redeemable bottle and can initiative. Weston Conservation Commission invited us to visit their bottle and can collection program at the Weston Transfer Station last March. Cans and bottles with a deposit are collected and sorted and the money raised goes toward their high school sports programs. We were told they raised $12k in 2022 and as the redemption fee in CT is going up from 5 cents to 10 cents in January, 2024, they expect to make double, if not more in 2024 as their program grows. We are working with the Planet New Canaan Youth Board, made up of New Canaan High School and St. Luke’s students, to create a similar program in New Canaan to benefit local non-profits. Funds raised from the Green Gala will go towards building the bins and getting the program started.
How did the inaugural Green Gala go last year?
It was so much fun. The Historical Society was such an amazing venue and our guest bartenders, Steve Karl, Mad Dog Russo, Doug Stewart and Chris Schipper did a great job. The band Rock, Paper, Soul was fantastic and though a little chilly, we had clear skies.
What can attendees and supporters of the Green Gala expect this year?
This year we are moving to the Carriage Barn in Waveny Park with live music from Kwame Henry Jones of New Canaan Farmers Market, hor d’oeuvres from Rosie Restaurant and drinks from our guest bartenders: Tom Stadler, Selectman Nick Williams, Laura Ault, Rev. Elizabeth Garnsey and George Wright. Our event greeters will be Swap Shop volunteers Judy Gilroy and Joan Jaworowski. Sustainable award recipients will be William McDonald for his work preserving Fireflies and Rose Bonura of Rosie Restaurant for her work with NC FRWD and Planet Youth Board to recycle food scraps at Rosie Restaurant. We will also have a silent auction with some fun items, including quilts created by Planet New Canaan board member Diane Maglaris which were the most popular items last year. We are hoping for another great event.