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Seacaucus Is Doing Its Part
for the Planet

Mayor Gonnelli
By Mayor Michael Gonnelli
Mayor, Seaucus

Secaucus has always been a long-time leader in green initiatives and currently maintains the highest rate of recycling tonnage in Hudson County (72 percent). We’ve passed an ordinance to “upcycle” fallen trees and embraced solar energy and alternative-fuel vehicles. As a recipient of the New Jersey Clean Energy program, we have installed upgraded boilers, switches, thermostats, light fixtures and sensors in our public buildings. The Sustainable New Jersey grant allows for the inventory, maintenance and improvement of municipal trees.

Any tree that falls within our town is taken to CitiLog Enterprises, an urban sawmill in Newark, for reuse as lumber. The process is a form of upcycling (the practice of taking something that is considered waste and turning it into something of greater use or value). The company allows municipalities, tree service providers, and others to deliver their biomass to their urban sawmill for free. They will then upcycle the biomass by producing lumber and basic finished products for sale within the communities. CitiLog transformed what was once an abandoned, overgrown brownfield into Newark’s first truly zero waste business. Any biomass that cannot be upcycled is used to produce  green electricity and heating.

Since CitiLog has become one of our Preferred Green Vendors, they have assisted our community by donating enough upcycled lumber to build 12 garden boxes in Fountain Park. In addition, we purchase fencing and benches for the park made from upcycled urban trees. Like Secaucus, CitiLog understands the importance of giving back to the community. In addition to sponsoring a training program for at-risk, inner city youth; the company actively seeks to employ veterans and former prison inmates.

Solar Palels installed over two parking garages
Solar panels were installed over two parking lots at the Secaucus Municipal Complex as part of a town-wide program.

In Secaucus, we have been replacing older vehicles with energy efficient hybrids that use a rechargeable energy storage system combined with a fuel-based power source that produces fewer emissions and uses less gas than traditional vehicles. These hybrids are used for traffic patrol, the office of emergency management (OEM), and other municipal departments. Our town has also acquired a natural gas vehicle and we are in the process of installing a natural gas filling station. In addition, we have banned the practice of idling in our town. This is a hazardous habit that wastes fuel and emits toxins into the environment and the community.

As a complement to our alternative fuel plans, we are also implementing a renewable green energy program. Because solar panels produce renewable energy that doesn’t have a negative impact on the environment, they have been installed on our town’s public buildings (schools, public works and municipal parking lots). The panels also reduce our expenses for utilities. This initiative has been fully funded through the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and Hudson County. Earlier this year the town participated in the Hudson County Cooperative Purchasing System to publicly bid on a joint electricity purchase to reduce the electric rate and consumption through alternative green methods. The initiative was astonishingly successful and generated a 32 percent rate reduction. We expect these savings to double once our solar initiatives are fully implemented.

Secaucus has always maintained a strong working relationship with agencies including the Hackensack Riverkeeper and the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, which dates back to 1969. The Hackensack River has many protected estuaries, marshes, creeks and streams that are home to migratory birds, endangered fish and protected wildlife. These agencies, in addition to many local groups such as Ernst and Young and our local Boy Scout troops, contribute to the ecosystem by holding river and park clean-ups. We are fortunate to have the Dinosaur Field Station, a park designed to preserve open space on approximately 20 acres of county land. Secaucus collects a small parking fee per vehicle to be used toward local environmental programs, such as a community garden, annual green festival and tree planting projects. The community garden serves as an educational experience for young people, while giving back something to the community.

cut trees piled at CitiLog
Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli and Environmental Committee Chairperson Amanda Nesheiwat tend flowers in garden beds made from repurposed waste wood
Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli and Environmental Committee Chairperson Amanda Nesheiwat tend flowers in garden beds made from repurposed waste wood
Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli and Environmental Committee Chairperson Amanda Nesheiwat tend flowers in garden beds made from repurposed waste wood

Even the smallest initiatives such as changing indoor lighting or even unplugging equipment that is not in use has a big impact on reducing one’s carbon footprint. As mayors, we need to always think about future generations and the kind of planet we are leaving for them

 

Editorial from New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 89, Number 9, December 2012

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