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It's Time to Put Your Town
on an Energy Diet
John F. McKeon
John F. McKeon
Mayor, West Orange
New Jersey Assemblyman, District 27

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As part of the ‘Great Light Way’, 21 five foot tall, hand-painted light bulbs are on display across the township, reminding and encouraging residents and businesses to ‘Go Lite on Energy’ this summer and fall

The summer of 2007 will go down in the annals of New Jersey’s history as the moment our state took the lead in our nation’s fight against global warming as the most comprehensive reduction initiative in the country was signed into law by Governor Corzine.

As Chairman of the Assembly Committee on the Environment and Solid Waste, I was one of the prime sponsors of the Global Warming Response Act. Decades-long studies on global warming, the resulting scientific hypothesis and warnings of global environmental disaster have, at long last, become accepted knowledge in mainstream culture and at the state and local level across the country. Yet, our Federal Government has lagged behind in accepting the data or implementing sustainable remedies for this crisis.

As evidenced by our state’s commitment to fight global warming and the initiatives of individual municipalities in the face of this leadership challenge, it is clear that while one must think globally, we must act locally, and act now.

To that end, in West Orange, the town where Thomas Alva Edison invented and brought to market over 1000 patents, launching our country into the industrial age, we celebrate his most famous invention—the light bulb—as a symbol of our commitment to reduce energy consumption. West Orange is on an Energy Diet.

Saving 20 Percent The West Orange Energy Diet is a grassroots, town-wide, comprehensive energy conservation program with a goal to reduce energy consumption in 2007 by 20 percent. A 20 percent reduction is a lofty goal, but we set the bar high to communicate the urgency that is necessary to begin the long road back to global environmental health.

The West Orange Energy Diet is designed to establish a “culture of conservation” in the community. Residents and businesses are encouraged to participate by reducing their consumption of energy through a series of educational opportunities, administration examples and community activities.

The program involves residents, businesses, the Board of Education and the municipal administration in a comprehensive plan for energy conservation with three distinct elements.

Education The first and most important element is education. Creating a branded program with a title and logo enabled us to imprint the conservation message on all township communiqués and documents. Access to energy conservation information is available through our web site, local cable access station and township newsletters. The informational effort is enhanced by cross-promotional initiatives at all township events.

Additionally, unique and entertaining Energy Diet programming has been added to the township calendar. A few of the highlights of these events include the Kids Crusader Campaign Kick-Off, where middle school children were charged with leading the conservation efforts in their homes and schools; the Conservation Compact Contest, where residents who pledge to conserve energy may win an energy star rated appliance; the seven time National Library Association award-winning West Orange Library summer reading series, dedicated to the effort with a program called ‘Power Pack’; and my personal favorite, the ‘Great Light Way’, where 21, five foot tall hand painted light bulbs are on display across the township, reminding and encouraging residents and businesses to ‘Go Lite on Energy’ this summer and fall.

Changing Behavior Behavior Modification is the second most important element in the success of an energy conservation program. We encourage our residents to drive less, and walk and bike more by handing out bike whistles and installing bike racks at our public buildings. Energy Diet clings adorn light switches across the township. I have pledged that in the future, all new non-emergency automobiles purchased by the township will be hybrid vehicles.

While we focus our efforts on the global warming effect of the burning of fossil fuels and our dependence on foreign sources of oil, we should note that studies show that 70 percent of our energy usage is related to our buildings.

The most effective energy conservation techniques that we can implement are to turn off the light switch when we leave a room, boot down our computers when we are not using them, unplug appliances when not in use and lower our thermostats in the winter and raise them in the summer.

Recycling household and business waste will further reduce overall energy consumption, affecting the size of one’s carbon footprint. A carbon footprint is an evaluation method coined to analyze the amount of CO2 (gas that when released into the environment depletes the ozone layer and causes the temperature of the earth to rise) emitted in the course of our daily lives. These small efforts that one can engage in immediately will make a measurable difference in the amount of energy consumed.

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West Orange Liberty Middle School incorporated energy consrevation elements into its design

Greening Our Infrastructure Infrastructure remediation is the third element that the West Orange Energy Diet focuses on to reduce energy consumption. Inexpensive options include replacing light bulbs with the energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. Compact fluorescent bulbs use 75 percent less energy and last up to ten times longer than standard incandescent bulbs, creating immediate energy and dollar savings for consumers. Note that compact fluorescent bulbs should be recycled and not disposed of with regular household waste as they contain mercury.

Insulating one’s home or business with simple items like weather stripping and caulking are also low cost, high savings, infrastructure remediation techniques. Replacing appliances and office equipment with Energy Star rated units will lower energy usage and costs. Finally, we should invest in alternative forms of energy such as solar, geothermal and wind.

Green Building While green building technology is currently more expensive than traditional methods, the more we invest in green building products the lower the costs will become. Energy conservation elements can be included in new construction plans that are not significantly higher in cost than traditional products. For example, in the construction of our new Liberty Middle School, compact fluorescent fixtures are installed in all rooms, lighting and Energy Star rated heating and cooling systems are on use sensors and timers, the highest level of insulating construction materials are in use and the building layout maximizes the use of sunlight relative to heating and cooling considerations.

The first step to creating a culture of energy conservation is to identify areas of energy waste. Encourage your residents and businesses to take the Energy Audit found on the Board of Public Utilities web site. Municipalities, as well as their Boards of Education, should engage in a complete energy audit of their buildings and vehicles including behavioral applications of employees, and define a comprehensive capital campaign that will enable you to implement infrastructure remediation as quickly as possible.

Join West Orange and other municipalities across the state by getting involved with the League’s Mayors Committee for a Green Future. Visit for more information. And finally, put your municipality on an Energy Diet. The West Orange Energy Diet is a municipal matrix for conservation, one that can be instituted in cities and towns nationwide. If you would like a template of the West Orange Energy Diet, contact my office at 973-325-4100 or email,

Mayors across the state of New Jersey are taking initiatives to reduce energy consumption in their communities. Working together at the municipal level, we can stem the tide of the effects of global warming and begin to reverse the damage, ensuring a healthy environment and bright future for our children and grandchildren.



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