Is Hudson County “Going Green?”

PlantIf you need to ask what “going green” means, then you are probably not part of the movement to conserve energy, and well, in a nutshell, save the planet.  Of course you have heard of global warming and the dire predictions by former Vice President Al Gore and a host of scientists from around the world. But what are we doing right here in Hudson County to conserve energy and make our environment safer for generations to come?

There was a time not that long ago, when Hudson County was known for its toxic waste dumps, much of it created by factories that produced carcinogens that leaked into the land, air, marshes and local rivers.   But in the  1980’s,  there was a slow but steady change to start cleaning up the toxic sites, along with  a massive new urban renewal  of the waterfronts in Hudson County that  drew corporations  and developers to Hudson County.  Today, Hudson County is considered by many city, state and national organizations as one of the most progressive counties when it comes to cleaning up and protecting the environment.

One program that has been in the forefront to help revitalize the Hudson County landscape is the Hudson County Brownfield Pilot Program. A national program funded by the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up, and redevelop land. Brownfields are property, where the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties takes development pressures off of undeveloped, open land, and improves and protects the environment.  The Hudson County Brownfield Pilot Program was recently awarded the Environmental Excellence Award by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. Elizabeth Spinelli, the Executive Director of the Hudson County Economic Development Corporation, the organization that runs the pilot program is thrilled with the award. “We’re very proud of this award and it proves that we can do great things as a team.” The Hudson County Brownfield Pilot Program works with stakeholders from  four participating communities to provide technical, communications and legal counseling services with the goal of identifying appropriate brownfields for redevelopment and marketing efforts.

In Bayonne, a city that is moving into the future with great ideas, like the redevelopment of the Bayonne Military Ocean Terminal, has gone solar with the Bayonne School District.  Funded by the New Jersey School Construction Corporation and the New Jersey Clean Energy Program, the program called, The Photovoltaic Project, creates energy for the schools through the use of 9,500 solar panels installed on the roofs of nine public schools. The program can generate enough energy to power upwards of 400 homes. The photovoltaic installation is the largest on the East Coast, and will save the city close to $700, 000 dollars.  Last October, at the unveiling of the solar panels, Mayor Joseph Doria of Bayonne, spoke on the importance of the solar panels. “This is the future,” he remarked. “We need to find other alternate means of energy and the PV project is a smart, practical and effective way to boost the cause of clean energy.”

With the development boom in Hudson County over the past decade, it’s important that developers are on the bandwagon when it comes to using environmentally friendly materials, and creating green space for their residents. But Steven Marks, the Director of Planning for Hudson County, hasn’t seen much in the way of action from developers so far. “There has been much talk about green building practices, but very little has actually come before the county planning board which would be considered “green” (LEED certified). (LEED = Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design by the US Green Building Council).  However, the Goldman Sachs building in Jersey City is a LEED certified platinum building.”  Another promising “going green” project is the revitalization development project set to break ground in 2008 in Journal Square.  “While I have not seen the plans yet, I understand the new anchor development at Journal Square will also be LEED certified,” Marks mentioned.   Marks is hoping a trend in green building is taking hold in Hudson County.

Another green trend that some developers are offering, including Donald Trump, with his new Jersey City property, is having Zip cars available for residents.  Zipcar is the world’s largest car sharing service with hundreds of Zip cars throughout New York/New Jersey.  Zip cars, are small, fuel efficient cars available 24 hours a day, that can be rented for an hour, day, or longer. The trend is growing fast across the country, and offers a real option against owning your own car. It may not be for everyone, but it is a viable way of cutting down on congestion.

Getting Americans to give up their cars and use mass transit has never been easy. But more people are using mass transit especially in Hudson County. The Path, Light Rail and bus systems in and around Hudson County have become the smart way to get where you’re going.  Hundreds of thousands of people travel to and from Hudson County every day using mass transit.  A recent study in a national magazine stated that people who live in cities or densely populated areas tend to walk more and stay healthier due to the walking. Getting people to use mass transit is not easy in a country that only has one national train line, Amtrak.

Over the past two years, more than 400 mayors across the country, including 21 towns in North Jersey, and four towns in Hudson County vowed to cut their global warming pollution by signing the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, and recently, the National Association of Mayors voted that every student in America should attend a “green school” in the future.  In the end, the mindset of “going green” is here: recycle, drive less, consume less, and plant a tree.

In 2005, speaking at the National Sierra Club Convention, former Vice President Al Gore said it all. “The good news is we know what to do. The good news is, we have everything we need now to respond to the challenge of global warming. We have all the technologies we need, more are being developed, and as they become available and become more affordable when produced in scale, they will make it easier to respond. But we should not wait, we cannot wait, we must not wait.”

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