Getting Beyond "The Choir"

July 29, 2014

Written By: Sakib Ahmed, UNHSI Climate Fellow

Bridgeport, Connecticut truly lives up to its name as the “park city.” As one of the smallest cities in the United States with one of the largest ratios of parks-to-developments, it is hard to believe that Bridgeport can get any greener. However, the city has been doing just that, but a different kind of green.

This infographic aims to introduce local residents to the benefits of using solar energy.

This infographic aims to introduce local residents to the benefits of using solar energy.

BGreen Bridgeport is the city’s initiative to become more resilient in the face of climate change and encourage green business growth, while reducing the city’s carbon footprint. The Mayor, Bill Finch has run his campaign on transforming Bridgeport into a sustainable city with projects ranging from solar installations, building permeable pavement, expanding parks, and increasing recycling in schools and public facilities.

Although there is so much happening in Bridgeport, hardly any of its residents know about it. This is due to a lack of communication channels within the city. In my first three weeks at Bridgeport, I learned a lot about their initiatives and the difficulties of communicating them to a diverse demographic such as Bridgeport’s.

An effective communications strategy in Bridgeport requires an understanding of the audience and their information streams. As some Bridgeport residents are from lower income households, it is difficult to target them through web campaigns. The older residents prefer print media and one to one interactions.

Unfortunately, an issue that persists in Bridgeport is a lack of alternative forms of communication tools and information streams. Some information about projects cannot be made public due to the nature of the partnership between Bridgeport and private companies. Much of the work that is in-progress has various stakeholders who disagree on whether to publicize their work, due to the fear of revealing their intentions to competitors or facing criticism from the public before the project is completed.

My work has focused largely on authoring articles for their website and crafting fact sheets with graphics about technical papers, as well as creating a marketing campaign for the reopening of Pleasure Beach. I have learned that graphics elicit a positive response from Bridgeport staff. However, it is difficult to gauge the public’s engagement with information that is disseminated through the government; because unlike a private company the government cannot track their profit margins or brand recognition as indicators of a successful communications campaign.

In Bridgeport, only a few communication channels are employed, the most frequent being Web and Email. All other sustainability communications are coordinated through working groups and consultants. Focusing on digital media has brought to light the concern of whether it is greener to go paperless and communicate solely via the web. According to the Institute for Sustainable Communications, digital media may be worse for the environment than print.

I have learned that Sustainability in Bridgeport resonates with the public when it is framed as a way to create jobs and reduce expenditures, as well as improve public health. My primary objective is to highlight the mayor’s accomplishments in areas that are tangible and relevant to the voter’s such as community and culture.

The Image below is a letter I wrote for the Mayor’s office to be published on the Pleasure Beach Pamphlet. It is intended to illicit a sense of cultural history and revitalization of the city for future generations, while also taking a stance on the protection of the environment.


The unique partnerships that the government has formed with green businesses in the city is incredible. An initiative that I am currently working on is the partnership between the Mayor’s Conservation Corps and the solar energy company Posigen. The Conservation Corps is sponsored by the city and its objective is to provide youth an opportunity to be employed in the summer preforming community service activities. The partnership with Posigen will allow the solar company to employ youth to assist in the marketing of Posigen’s solar installations to low income households. These programs are meant to erode the skepticism that many Bridgeport residents have about green technology, while simultaneously preparing youth for jobs in the green sector.

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