Fairfield Now - Fall 2009
Class of '85 profile
Paul and Leslie Tuttle: Living the Green Dream
By Meredith Guinness
For the first week they had them, Paul "Chip" Tuttle '85 didn't even notice the small birds milling around his Salem, Mass., home. The "birds" were chickens - his chickens.
The tiny hatchlings, which have since grown into a brood of four silver-laced Wyandottes foraging for bugs in the backyard garden, are one of the most noticeable additions to the family's modern green lifestyle. In the past few years, Tuttle, his wife Leslie Tuttle '85, and their three children - Libby, 15, Annie, 13, and William, 11 - have made changes big and small in an effort to live a more sustainable urban life.
"I was kind of oblivious to the whole thing back then," Leslie Tuttle, an interior designer, said of her days at Fairfield. "But then you see An Inconvenient Truth and read (Michael Pollan's) Omnivore's Dilemma and other things and you realize how important thinking about the environment is. I likened it to smoking: We didn't know we were doing something stupid. Now we know. So what can we do to fix that?"
Just living in a small city is part of their plan. The family uses public transportation whenever possible, the kids walk to school, and they shop at locally owned stores. "When I'm being good - which is not all the time - I can spend a couple of days without getting into the car and get everything done that I need to do," Leslie said.
Three years ago, she was part of a group of women who lobbied for community gardens in Salem. Once approved, they bought fencing and manure and tilled the soil in part of a city park. The first year, 60 families had garden plots they might not have had room for at home. This year, there are 160 plots in two parks and a waiting list of 30 gardeners.
The family also does lots of small things at home to protect the environment. They compost, and the chickens eat much of the kitchen waste that would go into the trash stream. They buy fluorescent bulbs and green cleaning supplies and don't use plastic bags. Milk and vegetables come from local farms.
Chip Tuttle, a partner in an advertising firm that counts the Red Sox and New Balance among its clients, said he was a bit surprised to see his wife, a finance major, become so passionate about the environment. "I never saw this coming," he said, with a laugh. "The chickens took a little getting used to. But even I've warmed up to them."
And so have the neighbors. The family had to go before the city zoning board of appeals when a neighbor complained about the birds. But other neighbors rallied and the Tuttle children did research and spoke before the board, convincing them that the chickens were simply "pets with eggs," said Leslie.
Environmental awareness even creeps into Chip's career. His firm recently did some work for Clean Power Now, a company creating wind farms on the east coast. "It's times like that when the kids think what I do is cool," he said.
In the end, the kids are the reason for much of what the Tuttles are doing. "One of the benefits of a Jesuit education is it certainly gives you an open mind," said Chip, who is a member of Fairfield's Trustees Advisory Council. "When all these ideas were proposed in the household, I think there was a sense that part of what we're doing is educating our kids. I think that's consistent with what we learned at Fairfield."