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Natural Awakenings South Jersey

New Jersey – A State on Track to Achieve Its Sustainability Goals

Nov 01, 2013 02:41PM ● By Linda Sechrist

As New Jersey residents and leaders in business communities, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions and local governments continue to appreciate the benefits of their state’s natural environment— clean air, fresh water, waterways abundant with fish and other wildlife, clean energy options, public parks and open spaces as well as healthy places to work and live—they are awakening not only to the fact that these characteristics are what help to make their communities unique but also to the need to protect them, one municipality at a time.

Sustainable Jersey

Sustainable Jersey is a free and voluntary certification program for municipalities that want to go green, save money and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term. Launched in 2009, the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization provides tools, training and financial incentives to support and reward communities as they pursue sustainability programs.

The Sustainability Institute at The College of New Jersey

The Sustainability Institute at The College of New Jersey is a major helper in New Jersey’s sustainability movement. This “think and do tank” is focused on societal capacity to understand and act on complex and technical issues, which are often difficult to understand and generally require a new level of cooperation among key decision makers and the public.

The institute engages in research, pilot projects and large-scale policy development and education programs to build a collective capacity in understanding the key trends that threaten New Jersey’s future high quality of life, and devise and implement solutions. Located on the campus of The College of New Jersey, in Holman Hall, the institute builds on New Jersey’s core institutional strengths in energy, land use, natural resources, community form and decision-making processes. It also draws from the rich well of the college’s academic resources including faculty, students and research facilities.

To help advance sustainability throughout the state, the institute also provides financial resources, which are generated by grant applications for funding from public and private organizations.

Playdrome Bowling & Entertainment Centers

In 2007, Jon Perper, owner of Playdrome Bowling & Entertainment Centers, attended a mayor’s breakfast, where Lori Braunstein, former executive director of Sustainable Cherry Hill was giving a presentation. “Lori inspired me and piqued my interest when she talked about how Earth, as we have known it, might not be here for future generations if we don’t implement sustainable practices now,” explains Perper, who notes that his longtime interest in conserving energy is partially due to the fact that it’s the second highest expense at his bowling centers.

Jon Perper

On Playdrome redecorating projects, Perper gave away or sold items that could be reused or repurposed. Even bowling shoes are recycled and customers receive bowling rewards for donating shoes. Gun clubs can pick up old bowling pins to use for target practice. “We don’t want to add to the landfill,” advises Perper.Perper, who attended Sustainable Cherry Hill seminars, learned about sustainability practices that he could implement and invited his employees to get involved. “I learned early on that I couldn’t do everything that needs to be done all at once or by myself,” says Perper. By continuing to implement simple things such as putting blue recycle bins in the bowling centers, separating recyclables, installing instant hot water sensors on faucets, replacing paper towels with hand dryers, having employees bring their own cups to work instead of using plastic cups, replacing the company copier with a more energy and waste efficient model, and silver coating the roof to reduce the heat load on the building, kept Perper moving towards achieving his goals. “Eventually we got to a sustainable status that we felt proud of,” quips Perper, who used the bowling centers to test the efficiency of LED lighting and then created ZLedLighting, a lighting business that distributes to electric supply houses. All boxes, in which items for the bowling business were shipped, are reused to ship lighting products.

ecoShine Mobile Detail

In 2009, Randall McGinnis was working as a benefits consultant when he saw an article about a waterless carwash in an entrepreneurial magazine. “I was looking for a new career and since I’ve been eco-conscious ever since I was a kid trading in glass bottles and cans in for a nickel, I knew that this was not just a new career for me but also a great niche service,” he says.

The ecoShine equipment fits into the fuel-efficient hatchback car that McGinnis drives. “We don’t have to carry water so we can set up in center city Philadelphia, Camden and Gloucester in a parking garage adjacent to a high-rise building and while people work, we can wash their cars,” says McGinnis, who cites statistics published by the International Car Washing Association. A car wash uses 50 gallons of water per car. Homeowners use about 100 gallons of water and risk toxic chemical water run-off.

Burlington County College

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) recently awarded the Culinary Arts Center at Burlington County College (BCC) a Silver Certification Level, making it the first LEED-certified higher education building that incorporates a historic building in New Jersey.

The BCC construction project consisted of the restoration and adaptive reuse of a historic building, the demolition of two adjacent non-historic buildings, and the construction of a new two-story structure that connects the historic building to the existing BCC Mount Holly Center. The modern finishes were stripped down to the structural elements and the spaces were restored to a historically appropriate appearance.

Students learning to install solar panels

The Culinary Arts Center in downtown Mount Holly is located at the site of the former Farmers Trust Building, which was built in 1814 in the Federal style, and is listed on both the State of New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. The project was also subject to review by the State of New Jersey Historic Preservation Office and locally by the Mount Holly Historic Preservation Commission.

The bank was restored on the exterior and a new addition was built along Mill Street. The building is now being used as the culinary arts center,” says Susan Ryan, construction manager for the project. “One of the unique things about the Culinary Center is the rain tank under the courtyard that collects rainwater and discharges it slowly. We got LEED credits for that and for the management of waste materials that were the result of the demolishing and renovation,” she advises.

BCC Degrees in Sustainability

During the last three years, Bob Brzozowki, project director and academic coordinator for NASA III (BCC’s Center for Sustainability and Alternative Energy, which is under a NASA grant), was helping to build and implement the curricula for degree programs in energy management and alternative energy technologies. Now in operational mode, qualified faculty members, who are from various industries or private businesses involved in solar and geo-thermal installation, teach the classes. These curricula support and expand BCC’s Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) program offerings within green technologies. A required 135-hour internship program managed by the career services department is built into the associate of applied science green degree programs, which are designed for students wanting to enter the workplace upon graduation. Career services places students in internships and helps connect them with outside employment opportunities.

“We want to provide an education and guide students to either go directly into the job market with an associate degree or have students transfer their two-year degree to a four-year institution, like The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, BCC’s new green degree Guaranteed Admission Program partner,” explains Brzozowki, who notes that BCC is also working on a green pilot program of study with New Jersey vocational technical schools. This creates a continuous educational pipeline that starts in grades nine through 12, progresses to a two-year community college and then culminates at a four-year college.

BCC LEED-approved Culinary Center

Sustainability involves long-term changes, which are happening slowly. Fortunately, residents, businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions and local governments are taking actions that sustain the momentum and support it in ways that are meaningful.

The Sustainability Institute, 407 Holman Hall, 2000 Pennington Rd., Ewing, NJ, 609-771-2832. Visit ecoShine Mobile Detail, 856-857-8040 or Playdrome, visit PlaydromeBowl.comBurlington County College, 601 Pemberton Browns Mills Rd., Pemberton. Call 856-222-9311 or visit

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