Mayor Bernie Platt planting a tree with John Amato, Town Council vice president, Councilwoman Sara Lipsett
and members of American Legion Post 372.
Think globally, act locally—it’s a philosophy that is truly being embraced here at Town Hall these days. I pledged in January that making Cherry Hill a more sustainable, conservation-oriented community was a top priority. Since then, we have been working hard, with the help of a passionate group of residents, to come up with progressive, pragmatic ways to make this vision a reality.
On March 10, Town Council passed our 10-point Green Action Plan. This resolution calls for a thorough energy audit through the New Jersey Clean Power Program, which will be preceded by the installation of 100 kW solar panels on the roof of Town Hall and the implementation of RecycleBank throughout the township.
As many of you are aware, RecycleBank’s high-tech concept involves equipping homeowners with wheeled recycling containers embedded with a microchip that contains an online account number registered to the household. Collection trucks equipped with special computers scan the container’s barcode, calculate the weight of the recycled material, store the information in a databank, then credit the home with “RecycleBank Dollars.” A pilot program was launched in the Knollwood area last fall, and while we had high hopes for the concept’s inception, I was astonished at the pilot’s success. Recycling rates almost doubled in that area during the six-month test run!
In addition to saving us millions of dollars in landfill tipping fees, I’m confident RecycleBank will boost Cherry Hill’s status from being the number-one recycler in Camden County to the number-one recycler in the state.
The solar panels will also save the township money in the long run, in addition to reducing our carbon footprint. The resolution regarding the solar panels—unanimously passed by Town Council in March—allows us to apply to the New Jersey Clean Energy Program (NJCEP) for a $280,000 rebate in order to supplement the funding of the project.
Other components of the Green Action Plan include facilitating township-sponsored environmental events and educational forums, which will be used not only to educate but to solicit input from residents and businesses. These initiatives include becoming a Clean Power Community Partner with the NJCEP; replacing incandescent light bulbs in our municipal buildings with the much more energy efficient compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and light emanating diode (LED) bulbs as well as promoting their usage throughout the town; adopting an annual tree-planting program for carbon offsets; integrating hybrid and fuel-efficient vehicles into the township fleet; and exploring green building incentive plans for future construction and development.
And while we are busy implementing environmentally friendly practices at Town Hall, we will be encouraging our citizens to do the same. Each year, a typical home emits about six tons of carbon dioxide from the energy used for heating, cooling, lighting and appliances—that’s more greenhouse-gas emission contributing toward global warming than a car produces annually! By using the New Jersey Clean Power Choice Program (via the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities), every Cherry Hill household that signs up can avoid producing more than 10,000 lbs. of carbon output per year. To learn more about the program or register, visit the NJCEP’s Web site at www.NJCleanEnergy.com.
Changing up some our long-held daily routines can make a difference as well. For instance, next time you head to the store to buy a single item, decline the plastic bag it’s inevitably placed in. Or, bring your own bags with you when shopping. Plastic bags are difficult to recycle, and most are sent directly to local landfills where, as they’re not biodegradable, they remain for a lifetime or blow back into our streets.
With the aforementioned Town Hall initiatives as well as those enacted in homes and neighborhoods throughout the Cherry Hill community, we hope to counteract much of the environmental degradation that is happening around us from this region’s rampant industrialization and unfettered development. Our waterways and air are rife with pollution, many species of wildlife are endangered or pushed to the brink of extinction, and our landfills are overflowing with waste. We cannot continue this way and expect future generations to have a quality of life similar to the one we enjoy.
I was also proud to join a coalition of municipal leaders across the nation in endorsing the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which is a call to arms for reducing global-warming pollution at the local level.
Specifically, the agreement strives to meet or exceed the global Kyoto Protocol target for reducing pollution by taking action in our own communities, such as setting emission-reduction target goals, adopting and enforcing land-use policies that reduce sprawl, preserve open space and create walkable communities, adopting initiatives that encourage alternative transportation options (e.g., bike trails and car pooling), and purchasing Energy Star equipment and appliances for government usage.
Many of the goals laid out in the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement are parallel to the ones Cherry Hill has outlined in our Green Action Plan. It’s encouraging to me that other municipalities across the country will be enacting similar initiatives, as the leadership void at the federal level on environmental preservation is a disgrace. Scientists are in agreement that climate disruption is a reality and that human activities are largely responsible for increasing concentrations of global-warming pollution. The impact of such atmospheric degradation can be seen in global sea-level increases of four to eight inches during the course of the 20th century, a 40-percent decline in Arctic sea-ice thickness, and nine of the 10 hottest years on record occurring in the last decade.
Climate disruption of the magnitude now predicted by the scientific community is and will continue to be extremely costly to human and natural systems throughout the world, including increased risk of floods or droughts, sea-level rises that interact with coastal storms to erode beaches, more frequent and extreme heat waves, and greater concentrations of smog.
Where the federal government has failed to address our worsening environmental plight, we will succeed. We have to. And if we all work together, we can ensure that, going forward, Cherry Hill is a beacon of green light for the state, the region and the country.