Green Grows the Garden State

Jerseyans embrace sustainable energy, recycled building materials, computer reclamation, and other eco-smart ideas.

Campus: Rutgers University is adopting a series of energy-saving technologies to reduce its carbon footprint. Last fall, the school started replacing energy-gobbling incandescent lightbulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescents in 600 New Brunswick campus buildings, a project that is estimated to reduce electricity use by 42 million kilowatt hours, saving the school up to $5 million annually.Other steps include replacing old, deteriorating underground hot water pipes—which let heat escape—with new pipes (for an energy saving of more than $2 million a year) and substituting a biodiesel blend for diesel fuel in school vehicles. A proposed 5-acre solar farm on the Livingston Campus would generate 2.4 million kilowatt hours of electric power per year—about 10 percent of the campus’s energy needs—and save the university $700,000 annually.

Supplier: So you’re intrigued by the new green materials like bamboo flooring, recycled-glass pavers for patios, toxin-free paints, and so on. Now where do you get them? Try Green Depot (greendepot.com), which opened its first showroom in New Jersey last fall near the northwestern edge of Newark Liberty International Airport. The Brooklyn-based company stocks green building and interior materials, including recycled-denim insulation, compact-fluorescent lightbulbs, air purifiers, and natural wool carpets (which, unlike synthetics, will biodegrade when discarded). Staffers help customers find the right materials as well as a network of contractors accredited by the U.S. Green Building Council’s program for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

E-recycler: Computers, cell phones, and other electronics can harm the environment if tossed into landfills—virtually nothing in them is biodegradable, and some contain mercury, lead, PCBs, and other toxic substances. Last year, a Lakewood-based electronic-waste recycling company took in 77,032 pounds of old televisions, 48,145 pounds of discarded computers, plus monitors, printers, air conditioners, video and digital cameras, stereos, and more, for a total of 192,580 pounds of salvage. The company, Supreme Asset Management and Recovery (SAMR), set up about 50 sites in and around New Jersey, including FirstEnergy Stadium in Lakewood, where people could drop off their electronic white elephants. SAMR plans another collection this month in honor of Earth Day (866-509-7267; samrecovery.com).

Restaurants: In addition to his musical and philanthropic accomplishments, Tim McLoone has become a Shore restaurant magnate, owner of McLoone’s Pier House, McLoone’s Rum Runner, and McLoone’s at Favorites. Beyond good food and hospitality, the three establishments are eco-friendly—the first in Jersey to be Green Certified by the Green Restaurant Association. (Nationally, a total of 111 restaurants have been certified.) Of the scores of steps restaurants can take—such as using organic food and composting leftovers—McLoone’s trio has done 32, including adopting water-saving technology, non-toxic cleaning chemicals, chlorine-free paper, and increased recycling. McLoone’s? McClean!

Expo: The Garden State will host its first environmental festival from April 25 to 27 at Liberty State Park. Sponsored by PSE&G, the Global Green Expo is designed to inform people about the environment and motivate them to work for eco-progress in their communities. Green products and nonprofit organizations will be showcased; and workshops will cover topics such as green building and remodeling, local produce, and energy-efficient transportation. Keynote speakers are slated to include actors Ted Danson and Ed Begley Jr.; author Deirdre Imus; supermodel Emme; and Animal Planet host Jeff Corwin. A portion of proceeds will go to Friends of Liberty State Park to plant trees to offset greenhouse-gas emissions, as well as to an environmental literacy program for New Jersey schoolchildren. (Fri–Sat, 10 am to 6 pm; Sun, 10 am to 5 pm; $15 for one day, $25 for two days, $35 for three days. $2 advance-purchase savings. Children twelve and under free with adult. Central Railroad Terminal, Liberty State Park, Jersey City. globalgreen2008.com.)

Researchers: It is well established that when people take carbon out of the earth and burn it for energy, carbon dioxide emissions float in the atmosphere, trapping heat and causing global warming. What’s not so clear is how a fast-paced world addicted to fossil fuels can slow down the rate at which carbon dioxide is emitted. In 2004, physicist Robert Socolow teamed up with fellow Princeton professor Stephen Pacala, an ecologist, to figure out how to keep CO2 emission levels stable for the next 50 years. (That would be a major achievement, since CO2 emissions are actually expected to double in that time.) The duo came up with fifteen ways to reduce our carbon consumption. By their calculations, if any seven are implemented, greenhouse-gas levels can be stabilized. Their suggestions, however, are challenging: double the fuel economy for 2 billion cars; double nuclear-energy generating capacity; capture and store carbon produced by power plants, to name just three. Al Gore referred to their work in An Inconvenient Truth. They made Time’s 2007 list of the world’s most influential people. They created the map; now it’s up to us to follow.

Preservation: Late last year, the D&R Greenway Land Trust celebrated the preservation of its 10,000th acre of land along the former path of the Delaware & Raritan Canal. Since its founding in 1989, the trust has protected bucolic land in the Delaware, Raritan, and Millstone River watersheds by working out non-development pacts with landowners or by acquiring property with funds from the state Green Acres program and the Agricultural Development Committee. In preserving some of New Jersey’s most beautiful open land, the Trust also makes it a priority to provide access to the public.

Scholarships: Cipriano Landscape Design in Ramsey just launched its Keeping it Green Foundation, which will award $10,000 annually in scholarships to college students pursuing environmental careers. The company also offers internships to high school and college students, and hosts workshops on conserving water while gardening and protecting mature trees in landscape designs. “The greater the knowledge, the better equipped people are to make informed decisions about the environment,” says company president Chris Cipriano.

Queen Elizabeth: Long known for its industry, highways, and the Bayway Refinery, the city of Elizabeth has shaken off those pollution-filled associations and was just named one of “America’s 50 Greenest Cities” by Popular Science—the only New Jersey location to receive that accolade. In surveying cities with populations of more than 100,000, the magazine gave points for recycling, public transit, and the widespread use of renewable energy. Ranked at No. 45, Elizabeth got high marks for its water quality, access to mass transit, bio-diesel plant, and the 2.5-mile bike trail along the Elizabeth River.

Eat Local: The Garden State’s famous sweet corn, blueberries, and tomatoes, not to mention dairy products, bok choy, and poultry, among other things, taste great, but they also don’t have to travel far to your kitchen table. In addition to cutting travel distance—which can reduce a product’s carbon footprint—supporting local farms helps the Garden State live up to its nickname. Every county has at least one roadside stand, pick-your-own farm, or community farmers’ market. Most have several. See nj.gov/jerseyfresh for a list of local produce markets as well as Jersey restaurants that use local ingredients.

Walk Hard: Great as mass transit is (and New Jersey Transit is the nation’s largest statewide public-transit system), walking is the most environmentally friendly form of transportation. The website WalkScore.com rates the walkability of towns around the nation by calculating the number of grocery stores, movie theaters, schools, parks, restaurants, and so forth within walking distance, giving bonus points the closer those services are to the submitted home address.
The software’s major drawback is that it can only see coordinates on a map, so it doesn’t take into account sidewalks, topography, or safety. At least it gives people a sense of how foot-friendly their towns are. High-ranking municipalities in New Jersey include Morristown (97 out of 100), Hoboken (95), Sparta (95), Westfield (95), Dover (94), Cranford (92), Pitman (91), Red Bank (91), and Ridgewood (91). The site deems towns with a score in the 90s to be “walkers’ paradises”—likely to have fewer honking horns and exhaust fumes, too.

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