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The 2012 Green Awards

by Lindsey Getz
South Jersey has made great strides toward sustainability thanks to a number of innovative, eco-friendly initiatives, as evidenced by this year’s list of Green Awards. You voted and we heard: The following companies, organizations, and leaders are setting the example for what it takes to be eco-friendly.

Government Advocacy
When Richard Gannon and Michael Torpey decided to form the New Jersey Business Council for Clean Energy (NJBCCE), the idea was to create a network of New Jersey businesses and leaders who are finding practical solutions in meeting the growing energy needs of consumers through clean and efficient energy. Though it only officially launched in early March, the NJBCCE is on its way to meeting those goals.

These co-executive directors bring a lot to the table in their mission to help guide the clean energy market. Torpey, an attorney, brings a solid reputation and credentials from Trenton (he was Gov. Christine Todd Whitman’s chief of staff and is a Gov. Chris Christie fundraiser) and expertise in solar as he’s involved with solar power policy issues. Gannon, who was a senior official in Gov. Jim Florio’s tenure, has a small piece of ownership in a company doing LED lights and retrofits and brings knowledge of the energy efficiency side.

“We didn’t reinvent the wheel or create something brand new here,” says Torpey. “We just took a good idea we’ve seen applied in other states and applied it to New Jersey.”

Gannon adds that when it comes to member recruitment, businesses have been incredibly receptive. “This is really a brand new venture but we already have 120 members,” he says. “We have everyone from solar installers to engineering companies, HVAC contractors, electrical contractors, wind companies and more.”

Leader in Education
At Burlington County College (BCC), the focus has always been on innovation when giving students opportunities to transfer to four-year colleges or move directly into the workforce. That’s why it made sense to implement a green energy program encompassing four associate degrees: Applied Science in Energy Management, Applied Science in Alterative Energy Technologies, Science in Sustainable Energy Studies, and Science in Sustainability-Policy and Management.

“These degrees add value to both our college operations and to our students,” says Dr. David Spang, vice president of academic programs and chief academic officer. “These programs are very timely and serve a definite need for our region and our country.” BCC is the first county college in the tri-county area to offer such comprehensive green energy-related associates degree programs. “As we move forward, green energy is not just a national issue, but an international one,” says Dr. Victor Brown, dean of the Division of Science, Math and Technology. “We developed these programs in direct response to the industry’s needs.”

Healthy Air
Kevin Gatto, stylist and owner of Verde Salon in Collingswood, says it was his staff that encouraged him to build his salon “green.” Everything used, from building to paint supplies, is eco-friendly, including recycled wallpaper, bamboo floors and energy-efficient lighting. And so is every product that’s used. “Our hair color is low or no ammonia, and there’s no formaldehyde in our nail polish,” says Gatto, who adds he has had a huge personal health benefit from a healthier salon environment.

“My doctor had told me I was borderline asthmatic from all my years working in a salon and breathing in fumes,” admits Gatto. “Since working in this new environment, it hasn’t been an issue. One of the biggest compliments I get is how nice the salon smells, and I know it’s because of the lower toxins.”

Stewards of the Land
Laurel Creek Country Club has been recognized as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary by Audubon International since 2002, an achievement attained by only 847 other golf courses in the world. “In order to achieve certification, a high degree of environmental quality must be demonstrated in wildlife and habitat management, outreach and education, chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation, water quality management, and environmental planning,” explains John Slade, golf superintendent. He says the country club has been able to reduce expenses and help the environment by decreasing mowed turf areas. Currently less than 40 percent of the property’s acreage is mowed. “This unmowed rough acts as a buffer for the ponds, decreasing runoff potential,” he adds. “And it’s meant less fertilization, less pesticides, and, of course, less fuel being used.”

With the help of an irrigation designer, Laurel Creek has also been able to precisely target its irrigation needs and reduce overall water use. “The original system was putting out 40 to 45 gallons of water per minute and, with the new ones, it’s only about 12 to 15 gallons,” says Slade.

He feels part of their responsibility is to be “stewards of the land.” “There are a lot of misconceptions about golf courses being big polluters, but we take the issue seriously,” he says.

Fueling the Future
The principal subsidiary of South Jersey Industries, South Jersey Gas (SJG), recently opened a compressed natural gas fueling station in Glassboro. With 16 vehicles currently in operation and another 13 expected by the end of 2012, having a station was critical as a place to refuel the vehicles. “Our ultimate goal is to replace all vehicles with natural gas vehicles, which we estimate being around 170 total,” says Todd Gordon, manager of commercial and industrial energy efficiency consulting. “We plan to not only take advantage of natural gas for ourselves, but to make the station available to third-party fleet vehicles and even eventually construct different stations.”

Gordon says natural gas costs approximately one third less than gasoline at the pump and produces up to 30 percent less greenhouse gas emissions compared to diesel and gasoline-powered vehicles. “It’s clear that in order to continue, you have to be a good environmental steward. When technology exists to help reduce your carbon footprint, you have to take advantage of that.”

Trend Setter
When Peter Spirgel, managing shareholder and chief operating officer of Flaster/Greenberg, decided to buy an electric car, it opened his eyes to the need of having more car chargers available in the area. As an incentive for clients and employees of the firm to follow in his footsteps, Spirgel decided to install two electric car chargers in the Cherry Hill law firm’s parking lot. “I’m trying to lead by example by being an early adopter and getting one myself,” he says. “There are a lot of misconceptions about these cars and the fact that we’re so used to how gas-powered automobiles work that it’s a new and scary concept in many ways. But early adopters will hopefully start a trend and show that it’s quite possible to own one of these.”

In addition to the car chargers, Spirgel says that the office is focused on recycling and reducing paper waste. “We also installed sensors on all light switches so that the light goes off when nobody is in the room,” says Spirgel. “It’s really the little things that can ultimately make a big difference.”

Grassroots Effort
Going with the “think globally, act locally” mentality, the idea for a grassroots organization that could make Cherry Hill more sustainable began in 2007. “It was just a few of us that were concerned about the future we were leaving for our kids,” says Lori Braunstein, founder and chair of the board of trustees for Sustainable Cherry Hill. “We started working together with the mayor’s office to focus on Cherry Hill.” That included solar panels on town hall, the use of environmentally friendly products in municipal buildings, and the “greening” of municipal transportation.

Since becoming a nonprofit in 2008, the group has become more of a regional entity. “Our philosophy is focused on educating and engaging,” says Braunstein. “We are reaching people who don’t identify as environmentalists and showing them that there are ways for everyone to [go green.] The people that come to our events are from all over South Jersey. The idea is to learn from each other.”

In 2011, Sen. Robert Menendez referenced the group as part of the inspiration for his federal Sustainable States Act legislation, showing the larger reach the group is beginning to have. Says Braunstein: “Going forward, I think we’ll continue with our regional focus but also begin to play a bigger role in mentoring other communities and providing a structure for both people within Cherry Hill and the rest of South Jersey to be part of something larger.”

Changing the Ways
Having graduated college with a degree in environmental studies, Barry Draycott says he never felt comfortable in his career at a tree care company using traditional pesticides and fertilizers. So when he began thinking about his own business, he knew he wanted to concentrate on a healthier path. He launched Tech Terra Environmental in Mount Laurel, a supplier of environmentally friendly materials to lawn care providers, landscaping companies, municipalities and schools.

“The natural way of doing things can still produce good results,” says Draycott. “So my goal is not only to supply these materials but to educate landscapers and lawn care companies about ways to develop healthy properties that if not completely pesticide-free are reduced greatly and still get good results in cost-effective ways.”

Draycott says in the past five years, the response has changed dramatically. Consumers now demand that landscapers and lawn care companies care for their properties in a safer manner.

“Ironically, the Green Industry [landscaping] is one of the last industries to actually go green because everyone has been traditionally taught how to use pesticides,” he adds. “But we host seminars and offer education on how to change that. The truth is it’s easier than everyone thinks and we’re here to help.”

Green Entertaining
As the first wedding and banquet facility on the East Coast to go 100 percent solar, Lucien’s Manor in Berlin is setting an impressive example. By constructing a 406-kilowatt solar canopy, generating more than 450,000 kilowatt hours of clean, renewable energy, the facility has eliminated an estimated 7,710 tons of carbon emissions—or the equivalent of planting 308,400 trees during the life of the system.

“It was a little intimidating in the beginning, but something that is definitely doable and we’re proud we did it,” says facility owner Chris Kolovos. He says the facility’s LED lighting alone has cut electricity usage by about 25 percent.

“Once we went solar, it gave us the inspiration to revisit everything,” he says. “We retooled our entire facility to be greener.”

Water Conservation
A new housing development in Camden’s Cramer Hill section called Neuva Vida III will be the first urban community of EPA WaterSense homes in the nation thanks to a grant from New Jersey American Water. “These homes are being built with water conservation in mind every step of the way and comply with the EPA’s WaterSense program,” says Peter Eschbach, director of communications and external affairs for New Jersey American Water. “For instance, the hot water has to be designed in a way that you get the hot water quickly; you don’t have to let the water run for five minutes to heat up.”

Eschbach adds each house will also have all WaterSense-labeled appliances. “And even on the outside, the landscaping will use drought-tolerant plants that keep water conservation in mind,” he says.

“Some people may think it’s unusual for a water company to want to conserve water, but the fact is that we spend an awful lot of time and resources treating the water and making sure it’s safe and delivered properly, so the last thing we want to see is that it gets wasted,” says Eschbach.

Off the Grid
Joe Ehrenreich, certified landscape professional and general manager of Young’s Landscape Management, Inc., believes everyone has a duty to take care of the planet. As part of the Green Industry, it felt right for Young’s Landscape to adopt an even greater effort, he says. The company moved to a solar electricity generating system in 2011 and now generates 61kW of solar power to operate its seven buildings.

“The system prevents 219,600 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere,” says Ehrenreich. “It also protects clean water from contamination and avoids the release of nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide into the environment. As we plant trees, shrubs and grass, which have their own ecological benefit, we’ve found that going solar is just another way we can help reduce the chemicals we’re putting into our atmosphere.”

Total Overhaul
When Jon Perper, owner of the Playdrome Entertainment Center in Cherry Hill, made the decision to make green changes in his life and business, it snowballed into a total overhaul. “Once I started, I just kept seeing there was more and more I could do and the effort continued to grow,” he recalls.

Perper almost instantly began greening the Playdrome, switching to LED lighting and warm air hand dryers, cutting back on disposable foam products, and greening his back-office operations. Most recently, he has planned a solar installation that will offset 75 percent of the electricity consumption of his business, and he founded his own wholesale supply company, ZLED Lighting. “Getting involved in the lighting business has been very rewarding because I can actually see how many kilowatts we’re taking off the grid,” says Perper.

He’s also helped his fellow members of the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America to go green. “I realized that we could take this to the bowling industry as a whole,” he says. “It’s helped 5,000 other bowling organizations become greener.”

Clean Power
LS Power recently broke ground in West Deptford for its first natural gas-fueled co-generation plant in New Jersey, a project that will utilize state-of-the-art combustion turbine technology with advanced emission controls. This plant will help the state reduce its dependence on outdated coal-burning facilities, as it is touted as a clean, efficient and cost-reducing energy source for the state. Scheduled for completion in 2014, the plant is expected to produce 738 megawatts of electricity—enough to power more than 700,000 homes.

“This is an important project in many ways,” says Tom Hoatson, director of Project Development for LS Power. “We will add a clean and cost-efficient power generation resource in New Jersey while supporting the local economy. It is also the culmination of years of development effort, good commercial execution and strong support from key stakeholders.”

Geothermal Leader
As an engineering firm for geothermal heating and cooling, Concord Engineering, of Voorhees, has worked with more than 30 New Jersey schools and earned four New Jersey Clean Energy Awards. “We’ve been designing and recommending geothermal technology since 1991—long before the green movement gained popularity,” says CEO and founder Michael Fischette. “We’ve recently seen a huge increase in interest for what we’ve been pushing for the last 20 years and it’s been great. It’s like New Jersey is finally hearing what we’ve been saying about geothermal technology.”

Geothermal technology is the ability to create heat from the natural warmth of the earth and from warmth created by solar energy absorbed at the surface. Fischette feels that if it were to be associated with some of the same tax incentives as solar power, then it would really take off. “We understood the advantages of this technology early on but knew it would take a long time to evolve in that it required building trust so that the public could see why this technology is so impressive. We’re finally reaching that point.”

Sustainable Food Service
It was on a flight home from vacation that George Cranmer, director of Food & Nutrition Services for Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, got the idea to employ new technology to support the sustainability movements in food service operations. “It just hit me that we should be doing more,” says Cranmer. “Food waste in particular is a leading contributor to the methane gas that pollutes most landfills.”

Cranmer and his team rolled out a variety of efforts including the use of a pulper/waste dehydrator that reduces patient trash waste by 80 percent. The pulp that is left, along with any other compostable food waste, is put through a composting machine called an Ecorect system that turns up to 36 tons of solid food waste annually into a soil additive, which the medical center then gives to the Camden Children’s Garden.

The Lourdes Food & Nutrition Department team has employed other green initiatives as well, such as switching to Energy Star appliances and selling leftover fryer grease to be converted into biodiesel.

“Our management team felt that an operation as large as ours, where we generate 1,800 to 2,200 meals per day, has an obligation to the community, and ourselves, to do more to improve our sustainability efforts,” Cranmer says.

Showing the Way
The Burlington County Bridge Commission and Burlington County Government recently implemented a “Greenbacks to Go Green” program, which includes upfront funding for facilitation of an energy audit for government-owned facilities such as courtrooms, town halls, community centers and schools, and more. If those improvements involve a serious dollar investment, the county offers a “lease bank” to provide low-cost loans.

“The program is aimed at assisting the towns, schools and other local entities in getting past the complexities and acronyms involving green energy projects,” says Freeholder Director Bruce Garganio. “The game plan, of course, is to make it easier for them to take advantage of the grants and loans which will, at the end of the day, enable them to [achieve] capital improvements and garner some serious utility savings.”

More than five dozen local entities have reached out so far to participate, which Garganio adds “is the mark of a good program. … The real winner, of course, is the taxpayer.”

Companywide Effort
With government cutbacks in defense funding, officials at Lockheed Martin knew they needed to diversify. The corporation has been involved in ocean energy, which uses waves to generate power plants, since the 1970s, but new initiatives in the last several years have included innovative technologies like parabolic solar systems and biomass energy, all based at the Moorestown facility. Along with that, there have been multiple in-house initiatives to help employees go green as well. Lockheed launched its Go Green Program in 2008, with “Green Teams” forming throughout the corporation aimed at reaching specific eco-friendly goals within five years. The Green IT Team, for instance, aims to reduce CO2 emissions by evaluating computer programs, completing a power analysis, and changing desktop power settings.

Earlier this month, Lockheed announced it had achieved its Go Green benchmarks a year ahead of schedule. The company met or exceeded its goals of reducing water use, waste-to-landfill and carbon emissions by at least 25 percent each since 2007 levels.

“Taking action to preserve resources is fundamental to securing against operational risks, extending the value of our business model, and expanding and enabling sustainable, profitable growth,” says Bob Stevens, chairman and chief executive officer.

Solar and Beyond
According to PSE&G, its Solar 4 All program will add 80 megawatts of solar electric generation capacity to the company’s electrical system by the end of this year. Creatively utilizing space on brownfields sites and utility poles, it’s enough solar energy to power about 13,000 New Jersey homes. “The power produced goes directly into the electric grid, making it available to be used by all PSE&G customers,” says Fran Sullivan, company spokesman. “It provides an increased amount of clean, carbon-free, renewable energy.”

The company also offers numerous grants to help others go green. In January, the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) was awarded a $1 million grant from the company to implement a geothermal project for its wastewater treatment plant. The project is expected to save the CCMUA around $80,000 per year by utilizing the natural energy available from geothermal heat.

Through PSE&G’s Hospital Efficiency Program, $79 million was distributed across the state last year. Lourdes Health System, Deborah Heart and Lung Center and Cooper University Hospital all received energy efficient upgrades from the program.

VA Municipal Model
Gloucester Township is the latest among municipal leaders setting the example for what government can do to achieve a responsible carbon footprint. The township received Sustainable Jersey bronze certification status in 2011 due in part to its new solar array on the roof of the township building, LED traffic lights installed throughout the township, its implementation of single stream recycling, its new Energy Master Plan and audit of all municipal buildings, and community education initiatives such as a recent rain barrel workshop.

Because any municipal savings equates to taxpayer savings, residents can even view the township website and see the real-time solar energy generation taking place on the rooftop system, which is expected to save $4,900 a year in electric costs. So far, 29 tons of CO2 has been saved, along with 749 trees and 3,372 gallons of gas.

And they’ve only just begun. Gloucester Township is looking at three other major solar projects: one on a brownsfields location (the Owens Corning field), a shared service agreement with next-door Chews School; another at the GEMS landfill; and the third involving a more extensive project that will see solar panels on the roofs of all the township schools and municipal-owned buildings.

“Government has to provide its services in a more efficient way,” says Mayor David Mayer of the first reason he wanted to reduce energy costs. “One of the first things I did as mayor was look at energy costs, and we came up with a plan to reduce that line item.” The second reason? “It’s the right thing to do and it’s great for the environment. It’s a win-win.”

Green Engineering
Rowan University’s College of Engineering received a $750,000 grant in 2011 for its project—Algae-Derived Biofuels—that looks to use algae as an alternative to traditional biodiesel fuel. Dr. Kauser Jahan, a professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering program, has called algae one of the most “promising alternatives” currently being explored.

“Our mission is to not only look at alternative processes to produce biodiesel, but also to quantify the carbon footprint of these different processes,” adds Dr. Mariano J. Savelski, a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

The engineering school has also worked with local pharmaceutical companies to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in pharmaceutical production. “Instead of disposing of waste solvents, we’re looking at alternative techniques to recover them and also looking at how that improves the carbon footprint of their impact,” says Dr. C. Stewart Slater, a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

“We are educating the future generation of chemical engineers with the right tools and with a focus on sustainability and making it an integral part of whatever they do in their future as engineers,” says Savelski.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 2, Issue 4 (April, 2012).
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