CT Mirror / Cloe Poisson

Connecticut has been rightly proud of the Connecticut Green Bank, which invests in clean energy projects and helps residents and businesses to finance renewable energy projects, making them more affordable.

This innovative bank, founded in 2011, has become a model for other states, and the Inflation Reduction Act encourages green banks to be created across the country by providing clean energy project funding for local green banks. Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey just announced a green bank for our neighbor.

Susan Eastwood

Ironically, as others emulate the Connecticut Green Bank, our legislature has undermined the Connecticut Green Bank’s  purpose and integrity by changing the legislative mandate for the types of projects they can finance. In a last minute deal as the 2023 legislative session careened to its unimpressive end, the legislature added incineration – the least green way of dealing with waste, and one of the dirtiest forms of energy – to the Green Bank’s list of allowable projects (See Public Act 23-170, Section 21, page 28-29). 

A Harvard study defined “greenwashing” as “a form of marketing in which a company tries to make itself appear more environmentally friendly than it actually is, a practice the report describes as “talking ‘green’ but acting dirty.” “

Setting the Green Bank up to finance large waste management projects, has created a Green Bank that is no longer green. I call that greenwashing. 

The 2023 legislative session began with loud concern from municipal leaders about our growing excess of waste and the high costs of managing so much of it by shipping it out of state, and legislators agreed that setting policy to solve the waste crisis was a priority for this year’s session. Several bills were introduced that would have significantly reduced the amount of single-use plastics in our trash and would have diverted food scraps (20-30% of the municipal waste stream) to composters or anaerobic digesters. These proposals died along the way.

Instead of focusing on reducing our waste, the focus became management of the burgeoning waste stream through continuing to burn our waste. Gov. Ned Lamont and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection introduced an omnibus waste bill which did pass, but in a whittled down form with support for actions which can actually set us back in our efforts to reduce our waste, i.e., incineration. Keeping those dirty plants financially solvent or building new ones will require a steady stream of mixed waste, and disincentivize reduction. Whether you call it “waste-to-energy,” “advanced recycling,” “chemical recycling,” “pyrolysis” or “gasification,” it is all incineration, which emits toxic dioxin, carbon monoxide, mercury and other contaminants, and is a large contributor to the high rates of asthma and other chronic diseases in our state. 

This is an unsustainable situation, but true solutions for waste reduction and recycling are available. We must see through the greenwashing and focus on waste reduction through food composting, efficient recycling, and unit-based pricing policies. Instead, the legislature has chosen to continue on the mistaken path they took when they chose to rely on so-called “waste-to-energy,” a very inefficient and polluting technology. And it is not “green.” Allowing the Connecticut Green Bank to finance these facilities is antithetical to their mission. 

In fact, if legislators wish to be honest they should change the name of the Green Bank. But to what? A financial institution intended to promote clean energy and help us to meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals that now may support polluting facilities does not deserve to be called “green.” Perhaps “Bank of the Easy Fix,” or the “CT Brown Bank?” 

The Greenwashed Bank, straight up.

Susan Eastwood of Ashford is Chapter Chair of the Sierra Club Connecticut.