Sunday, May 12, 2013

Everyday Plastics: Are the Lifecycles of Water Bottles and Other Plastics Endangering our Own?

By Katie Attinello

Just think: plastics have surrounded us for the last century, their presence so integrated into our everyday lives that we don’t even realize our level of exposure to their ingredients. While plastics have made life easier and more efficient in many ways, our overindulgence in disposable plastic containers, to-go cups, utensils, beauty products—the list goes on—has put us, and the environment, in a tough predicament.

a common culprit

Examining all the various plastics now woven into the material of our everyday lives would be nearly impossible. But a particular common product that has truly made its mark since the late 1980s—and not in solely positive ways—is the lightweight, portable, “disposable” water bottle. That unassuming, misleading little vessel has grown into a staggering eleven and a half billion dollar per year industry. The profit potential behind marketing bottled “spring water” as “pure,” and safer than regular tap water, is astronomical.

Companies are also capitalizing upon our societal tendency to buy things for their convenience. Water bottles are a simple, easily accessible, personalized product that we’re taught we can discard after use. But is there more going on before and after the short time we come in contact with our Dasani bottle that we should be concerned about?

what else are we drinking?

Plastics are made of many different components, depending upon the type of product it will become. It is now fairly common knowledge that chemicals from “food safe” plastics do have the potential to leach into the food or liquid they contain, which in turn pass through your body. Many plastics are manufactured with plasticizers called phthalates, a resin abbreviated to PET, and even now, some (like the blue water cooler in your office) still contain the chemical bisphenol A. Better known as BPA, bisphenol A mimics estrogen in the body. In many studies not conducted by the companies that rely on BPA to produce a profit, it has been linked to “major human health trends” like obesity, diabetes, attention deficit, liver disease, as well as breast and other cancers.

The FDA, which first deemed BPA safe in 2008 only to express health concerns about it in 2010, finally “banned” the chemical from infant bottles last year. But it wasn’t actually the FDA that initiated the change. A statement released by the FDA notes that they did not even receive reports on the safety (or dangers) of BPA because their actions to remove the substance from regulation were based upon the American Chemistry Council’s choice to phase out the ingredient from products. The ACC did this, The New York Times reported, in part to boost consumer confidence in plastics.

So if there was something to worry about in baby bottles, what about the adult bottle trend of portable water?

sacrifce zones

All bottled water is packaged in polyethylene terephthalate, or PET plastic. All PET contains paraxylene, which is a member of the benzene family. One of the largest oil refineries in the United States that produces this compound is located in Corpus Christi, Texas. In an interview for the 2009 documentary Tapped, residents of the town explain their extreme health problems, while others come forward to speak for the many who have died from cancers likely caused or severely agitated by contaminated air, groundwater, and soil. Even numerical data noted in the film suggests that something is off in Corpus Christi: the birth defects rate there is 84% above the state average.

An ex-EPA employee turned activist explains to filmmakers that many years ago, while still working for the agency, he was told he could be fired if he worked with citizens in the town to voice their concerns about the refinery’s pollution. In essence, if the townspeople weren’t already concerned, he wasn’t allowed to suggest that they should be. Today, he calls towns like Corpus Christi “sacrifice zones.” The implications here are that the major water bottle suppliers, Nestle, Coca Cola, and Pepsi, feel the residents affected by the manufacturing of their product are simply not as worthwhile as their bottom lines.

the plastic graveyard

But what is the real bottom line in this industry? There are mountains of research and consumer and scientist initiated red flags in the creation and consumption of portable drinking water, but our empty bottles are not where the cycle ends. As many environmental activists stress, there is no such thing as “away,” so when this commodity’s lifespan comes to the point of disposal, what happens next? Its impact surely doesn’t end at the recycling bin, or even the recycling facilities. In fact, only 20% of America’s plastic bottles end up being recycled each year. The rest are still living in one part of “away,” which actually happens to be a very big and very real place.

According to scientists and activists who troll the Pacific Ocean collecting samples every day, the tragic  findings show that ocean water, even at the furthest point from dry land in the world, has become a “soup” of miniscule plastic pieces. The original products have been crushed into tiny shards of material that fish and other marine animals mistake for food. They eat until they’re full, and eventually die. Many species of marine birds are also mistaking plastic bottle caps (which, surprise, are not recyclable because they’re made from a different plastic than the rest of the bottle), and bringing them back to feed their chicks. One of the most affected and studied species is the albatross. One research group found that 97.5% of chicks tested from the North Pacific Ocean had plastic in their bellies.

This heartbreaking fact seems to also be the ironic full circle mark: our obsession with convenience and penchant for trusting the corporations we buy from has lowered our health to that of animals. We blindly allow plastic chemicals to enter our lives and our stomachs from water bottles, food containers, utensils, fabrics, children’s toys, the interiors of our cars, nearly all we encounter in a day’s time—and haven’t demanded to know exactly what this means for our and the planet’s long-term health.

And while you may argue that many have raised their voices to combat the plastics industry and the beverage companies who sustain it, there simply cannot be change until the consumer refuses to purchase the item. If we continue to buy water bottles, they will continue to be made, and before long we’ll find ourselves like the albatross—filled to the brim with empty promises about the miracle of plastics.

Katie Attinello is a senior majoring in Literature at Ramapo College of New Jersey. 


Tapped. Directed by Stephanie Soechtig. Co-directed and written by Jason Lindsey. Atlas Films. Documentary. 2009.
Plastic Planet. Directed and written by Werner Boote. First Run Features. Documentary. 2009.
Bag It. Directed by Suzan Beraza. Commentated by Jeb Berrier. Written by Michelle Curry Wright. Reelthing Films. Documentary. 2010.

Bottoms Up to Green Beer

By Ashley Intveld

I wasn’t always a beer drinker. By law I really couldn’t be until I turned twenty-one anyway. It was on my twenty-first birthday when I took a swig, swished it around my mouth, and smacked my lips with satisfaction. I liked it, and so I began tasting, trying, accepting and rejecting different brews from different places from there on in.

I had been exposed to a culture that I had never known before; a culture I had previously assumed to be a group of heavy-bellied couch potatoes who washed down their daytime television with whatever six-pack was on sale that week at the local liquor store. I was wrong; the beer culture has nothing to do with how many can be “pounded back” in a set amount of time, at least not the beer culture I was delving into. This culture was about the process, the system, the ingredients, and the taste, rather than the embarrassing photos that may surface after a few too many.

What I’m getting at is this: microbrewers, or small and mostly localized brewers, are artists of a different kind, and their art comes from a long history and the most basic, natural ingredients.
Dating back to Babylonian times, historians speculate that beer has been a part of various cultures for thousands of years. It is said that Babylonian tablets dated around 4300 B.C. detail recipes for beer. Egyptians served beer to royalty and it was included in sacred burial ceremonies. It was also included in dozens of medications for a myriad of health ailments. As time progressed, beer surfaced in pinnacle moments in history (It’s even be speculated that the reason why the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock was because their beer supply was low).

Beer, during the Renaissance and some time after, was the primary dietary supplement. Due to food shortages and famines, beer was the prime substitute for bread.

All Natural Ingredients

Although the history of beer proves its many uses over the years, one thing has always remained consistent: simple, natural ingredients. Nothing artificial, nothing that incubates in a test tube that’s stirred every now and then by some stiff in a lab coat. Water, barley, yeast, and hops, with the occasional chocolate or oat as a special guest: that’s it. Where macrobrewers like Budweiser skimp on the quality of their ingredients and boost the carbonation (Americans love their soda, so the more beer tastes like soda the better, right?) microbrewers moved in a completely different direction: organic and green brewing with quality ingredients and natural carbonation.
Located in the heart of Hoboken, New Jersey is an up-and-coming brewery that features all-organic materials. The aptly named “Jersey Brew” has devoted its entire mission to 100% eco-friendly strategies. From recycled packaging materials to farm-fresh ingredients (they get all their ingredients from local farmers), Jersey Brew is one of several environmentally conscious brewers countrywide. 

Where the brewers of Jersey Brew focus primarily on their organic ingredients, other microbreweries have redesigned the entire brewing system with the Earth in mind. Before I go into how these systems have been revolutionized, let’s take a tour of the beer-making process, shall we?

I took a trip to High Point Brewing Company in Butler, New Jersey to find out more about the ancient craft of brewing. Home of Ramstein beers, High Point Brewing Company is the first exclusive wheat beer brewery in America. The owner, Greg Zaccardi, is a German brewer who came to America to open his own brewery. Not only did he keep his technique, but the ingredients too; they are imported from Bavaria. The tour was about a half-hour long and walked us through the process, step by step.

First, the imported grains are sent through a mill where pressure is applied to each individual grain. The pressure is just light enough to crack the grain, but not crush it, which prepares it for its next step: the Brewhouse. Here, the “brewer’s mash” is made.

Brewer’s mash, or the grains mixed with water, has the consistency of oatmeal. The heat from the water allows the natural enzymes in the mixture to activate and convert to raw carbohydrates and fermentable sugars. The tour guide told us that this boiling step takes about five hours to complete before moving to the next process, where the grain is separated from the sweet liquid, or “wort.” The wort is then collected into a kettle where it will boil up to 550 gallons, and that’s when the bitterness comes into play.

Hops, or tiny flowers that resemble brussel sprouts, are tossed into the mix to boil for two hours. Then, the mix goes into its final stage: fermentation. Yeast is added to the wort, which in about three to five days will convert the fermentable sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol. After the designated three to five days, the beer matures for three weeks and is then bottled for sale and distribution. And that’s the brewing process, in a nutshell.

Environmentally Friendly Brewing

So how has this process gone the way of the environmentally conscious? Brooklyn Brewers, a brewery out of, you guessed it, Brooklyn, NY is powered entirely by wind turbines, which generate the facility’s energy. Not only is that a feat in itself, but this alternative energy source makes Brooklyn Brewery the very first company in New York City to be solely powered by wind. 

Stretching outside the Greater New York area, brewers nationwide have taken strides to deliver quality beer while adhering to the well-being of the environment.

Sierra Nevada Brewery, located in California, and Odell Brewing in Colorado are equipped with solar panels that powers most of their facilities. Full Sail Brewing Company in Oregon uses about 3 million fewer gallons per year than the average brewing company due to their condensed work schedules. Full Sail brewers may have the ideal working hours (ten hours a day, four days a week), but the reduced billable hours reduce energy emissions dramatically.

Great Lakes Brewing Company in Ohio has developed an error-proof “closed loop” recycling system. Everything is therefore used for something, reducing their waste to just about nothing. Not to mention the fact that their distribution trucks run on vegetable oil. Now that’s what I call going green.

While I swiveled in my bar stool at Highpoint Brewing Company sipping my beer, I thought about the innovative strides microbrewers have taken toward a sustainable system; a system that caters to not just the customers, but the world in which those customers live. Green brewing: I’ll drink to that.

Ashley Intveld is an about-to-be graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey, having majored in Journalism and Literature. She will be pursuing her Master’s Degree in English studies at Bread Loaf School of English in Middlebury, Vermont.

Music in Nature

By Alexa Rivera

A rainforest symphony. A cicada concert. The Music in Nature Symposium at Ramapo College grew out of a student’s independent study project.

A music major with an environmental studies minor, Adam Lazor spent a month in Costa Rica studying the sounds of cicadas and birds last summer. When the Feb. 28 symposium began, Lazor took center stage in the Trustees Pavilion and recalled his time studying insect and bird songs.

“The experience was life-changing,” he said.  “Being able to live in a foreign country and study the environment has been a dream come true.”

Lazor, in collaboration with professors at Ramapo College, wanted to showcase this unique project and share this wonderful intersection between music and nature.

"I had read a book called The Great Animal Orchestra by Bernie Krause,” he said, “and that really sparked my interest in the topic of sound ecology and the idea of music in nature. … Being a music major and an environmental studies minor, I think it was inevitable that I would be interested in intersecting the two.”

A featured speaker at the event, Michelle Nagai, has been discussing acoustic ecology and the relationship between music and nature for over 15 years. Nagai holds an undergraduate degree with a concentration in music composition and multi-media performance from Bennington College. ­­She is the founding member of the American Society for Acoustic Ecology, and has a teaching certificate from the Deep Listening Institute.

“I want to start today by actually taking a step away from the title of this symposium, music and nature, and frame what I have to say around three themes that are little bit useful to me in terms of my own work,” said Nagai.  “They are sound, place, and relationship.”

Another featured speaker at the symposium, David Rothenberg, author of Why Birds Sing, enthusiastically discussed his contribution to Music in Nature. Rothenberg is a professor of Philosophy and Music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.His book Why Birds Sing was turned into a feature length documentary on BBCTV and discusses the making of music with birds.

“When I was visiting the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, wandering to my clarinet and playing along with me was this one bird, the white crested laughing thrush, really got  into it and responded,” said Rothernberg.

Rothenberg brought a piece of this unique collaboration to Ramapo College. During his lecture on making music with insects, whales, and birds, he shared some of the collaborations he composed.

After the speakers were finished with their presentations, Nagai lead a sound walk around campus for students who were interested in understanding in further detail how she composes some of her pieces.

The conclusion of the symposium was an evening concert in the Sharp Theater, with performances by Rothenberg and Lazor, to name a few, on various themes of creating music with nature. 

Alexa Rivera is a senior majoring in Journalism at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

Click here for more information on Michelle Nagai 
For further information on David Rothenberg click here

Backyard Pipeline

By Jaimie Moscarello


The Tennessee Gas Company is expanding its territory, the “Northern Upgrade,” through the Ramapo Mountains and miles of New Jersey’s most pristine forests in West Milford, Ringwood and Mahwah. The pipes are going under Monksville Reservoir, part of northern New Jersey’s main watershed where 5 million people depend on drinking water. There are currently four separate projects taking place in Northern New Jersey. Individually the environmental impacts seem minor, but are collectively significant. This article will take a closer look at the Tennessee Gas Company pipeline in Ringwood.


At one time, the Ramapo Mountains were the tallest in the country, but eroded from 2 million years of ice ages. These mountains are the oldest in the country; 10,000 years ago, the last glacial age carved ridges and valleys, rich in iron ore. The area including Ringwood became home to European settlers and iron  industry workers after the land was taken from the Native Americans.

The Ramapough Lenape tribe is native to the Ringwood area. The tribe has a sacred burial ground that takes up a portion of the mountain where Ringwood and Mahwah now border. Chief Perry of the tribe says the cemetery may be the largest in the country, with over 1,000 bodies. No headstones show exactly where the bodies lay.

The Public Archaeology Lab has been hired to look for artifacts showing the history of the mountains. In accordance, companies won’t be able to come and take the cherished land to preserve its historical value. So far, two shoeboxes have been filled with artifacts and donated to the Ramapough Conservancy. Inside the boxes include buttons off of Civil War Uniforms and a 17,000-year-old arrowhead-like instrument.


The Lenape Native American tribe originally inhabited the 582 acres the manor stands on today. Iron mogul Martin Ryerson built the manor in 1807. In 1854, Peter Cooper, an inventor and industrialist bought Ringwood with his son-in-law, Abram S. Hewitt. Hewitt made the summer home larger in the 1860’s and 1870’s, to include 51 rooms with 24 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms and 28 bedrooms.

Because of the power and wealth of the Cooper-Hewitt family, the estate was commonly known as the Second White House.The Hewitt family gave the State of New Jersey the Ringwood Manor in 1936. Tours inside the manor are offered occasionally, but the gardens are open to the public.

The roads surrounding the manor lead to 18th century mines, 19th century houses, prehistoric Indian rock shelters, streams, lakes and furnaces. Because of their age, many of them have been lost over time. The Palisades Park Commission and the NY/NJ Trails Conference have uncovered 200-year-old roads that are now hiking trails open to the public.


Tennessee Gas Company operates a 13,700-mile long pipeline system. The company gets their natural gas supply from the Gulf of Mexico, Texas, Appalachia and Canada, serving the Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions, including New York City and Boston.

Tennessee Gas Company began working on the Northeast Upgrade in March 2011. Their plan is to put in new pipes through 23 miles of New Jersey, including public land for the company’s private use, and connect these into 105 miles through Pennsylvania.

This plan is expected to be complete in November 2013 and cost about $400 million. According to the company’s website, they are the company that is “the neighbor to have.”

It turns out Tennessee Gas Company has a 93% failure rate in a section of Pennsylvania, according to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. Instead of using a half-mile existing right of way, the company routed 7.5 miles of new pipes through intact forest. They have violated permit regulations and have had noncompliance orders placed against them.

I sure wouldn’t want the Tennessee Gas Company to be my neighbor.


Ramapo College of New Jersey hosted the 18th annual Ramapo River Watershed Conference on April 26. An hour of the conference was dedicated to Assessing Cumulative Impacts of Gas Pipelines in the Highlands Region and was presented by students in the Environmental Assessment Capstone course at Ramapo College.

The students researched three major areas of concern about the pipeline construction: ecological, physical and social.

Toxins: Tennessee Gas Company is improperly disposing of materials, including wastewater. The company uses herbicides and pesticides to the land, killing plants and insects that have grown in the forests for ages.

Surface Water: Tennessee Gas Company is using HDD (Horizontal Directional Drilling) for the pipeline construction. This is the safest and cleanest to people, but deadly to fish.

A mile and half away from the construction is the Ramapo River. The chemicals from the construction is infecting the ecosystem including the soil, which in turn, infects the surface water of the Ramapo River, the source of drinking water for millions of people.

Flora/Flauna: Because of the clearing in the mountain, the forest is now fragmented. Trees that are used to living among other trees are now on the edge, and not used to the wind and weather. Wildlife are easier to find for their predators because they have fewer places to hide.  The plants are now exposed to toxic and hazardous materials that they aren’t used to. The clearing caused rodents to leave the forest with rattlesnakes following them.

Tennessee Gas Company was ordered to replant trees for what they took down, however the replants are merely twigs.

Health & Safety: The existing pipes next to the new pipelines are over 50 years old. Because of their age and wear, the pipes are dangerous because of potential leaks. Leaks are only detected when neighbors smell the gas and report it. Even then, emergency personnel are not trained to properly fix leaks and the gas company can’t get to the area as soon as the emergency vehicles can. Explosions are incredibly harmful to the environment. We’ve seen the effects of BP’s oil well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and Exxon’s leak of tar-sands oil in Arkansas in 2013. 

Social: The northern New Jersey towns the four pipeline projects are in have a high minority population, where families have a lower income, lower education, and concentrated youth populations.

The town of Ringwood is still recovering from the paint sludge dumping by the Mahwah Ford plant from the 60’s and 70’s. The people don’t have much trust in their leaders or the people around them. The pipeline and construction has devalued the land.  The construction is noisy and has destroyed the once beautiful views of the mountains. Even though the construction has offered 1,100 jobs to the area, very few are permanent.


“Everything in the environment depends on everything else,” said Judith Sullivan to the Environmental Writing class at Ramapo College last month. What seems like the smallest disruption to us is really a huge disruption to nature. Sullivan explained further that one single ATV ride up the mountain disrupts the environment and cutting down trees to open up the forests has an effect on birds because they won’t cross over the opening. 

We have to treat our environment with care. If we don’t, it will end up harming us.


Join activist groups. Be aware of what’s going on in your community.

The Ramapough Conservancy, a nonprofit corporation founded by Judith Sullivan and Monte Marfilius, is for people who want to preserve and restore the historical significance of the Ramapo Mountains and its beauty.

The Sierra Club is America’s largest grassroots organization, striving to protect the wild places of Earth, promote the responsible use of Earth’s resources and ecosystem, and to educate people to protect and restore the quality of the environment. Check the website for a chapter near you.

The Highlands Coalition represents organizations to protect, enhance and restore the New Jersey Highlands. They also strive to preserve the quality and quantity of the drinking water for the millions of people who depend on water from the Highlands.


Ramapough Conservancy:
Sierra Club:
The Highlands Coalition:
NY-NJ Trail Conference:
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission:
Highlands Coalition:
Tennessee Gas:
Ringwood Manor Info:


Jaimie Moscarello has spent the past year taking classes at Ramapo College. In May she will receive her B.A. from James Madison University with a degree in Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication.

Assessing Pipelines: Students Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement

By Brittany Ryan

Students in the Environmental Assessment capstone course at Ramapo College were given a bittersweet taste of the “real world” for the Spring 2013 semester. The environmental studies majors were finally granted the opportunity to put all four years of our education to the test and integrate our knowledge into a project being implemented in the college’s backyard. While the work was daunting and the demand high, the reward of successfully completing such a rigorous assignment triumphed over the pain.

The class, under Professor Michael Edelstein, was named the Ramapo Environmental Research Collaborative (RERC). The student environmental research firm worked diligently all semester to produce an Environmental Impact Assessment for the major pipeline projects traversing the NJ Highlands Region. The three pipeline projects assessed were the project upgrades of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (TGP), Transcontinental Pipeline Company and Algonquin Gas Transmission. 

This document was requested by our clients, the NJ Highlands Coalition and Ramapough Conservancy, a local conservation group based in Oakland, NJ. The Environmental Impact Assessment was designed to reveal the ecological, physical, and social impacts as a result of construction of the pipelines to the public, to suggest mitigation measures and to assess how the pipeline projects fit into the requirement of completing a comprehensive environmental impact assessment of major federal projects. 

It was the intention of the Ramapo Environmental Research Collaborative to produce an Environmental Impact Statement that properly assessed the cumulative impacts of a major federal action, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. We acted as an independent firm that addressed the project objectively, and revealed impacts that were deliberately disregarded prior to the implementation of the pipeline projects in the NJ Highlands Region. 

Findings Presented at Campus Conference

RERC demonstrated their findings at the “Distributing Gas, Limiting Impact: Responding to the Proliferation of Pipeline Projects” Conference, which was held at the Alumni Lounges on campus on May 2. The event was a success as several spectators commended our thorough research and presentation. The three main groups of physical, ecological, and social were comprised of multiple indicators that each student honed in on. These indicators ranged from toxicology to groundwater and psycho-social impacts.

As manager of the Social Group, I presented on our behalf at two additional conferences, including the Ramapo River Watershed Conference, and was able to witness the findings my team members have compiled. The Social Group studied six different indicators that were responsible for highlighting the adverse impacts in the socio-economic-political realm.

The environmental justice indicator assessed the impacts on socially vulnerable communities, which consists of minority, low-income, lower educational attainment and concentrated youth populations. 

Impacts on Local Communities

A primary focus was placed on the Ramapough Mountain Indian Community, which has already been burdened by existing hazards, such as industrial waste dumped along area streams. These include the Ringwood Mines/Landfill Superfund Site, the Ramapo Landfill Superfund Site and the Suffern Village Wellfield Superfund Site. The Social Group found impacts to include compromised medicinal resources from the Highlands forest, disturbance of cultural reverence, such as burial sites, affected personal finances and the local economy, a decrease in house value, and a disrupted spiritual connection to the land.

Similarly, the psycho-social indicator researched how the project would alter the mental and emotional attachment to place that creates self and community identity. It is important to understand how a community instills values and establishes rootedness, and how this is jeopardized by construction and other project actions. The impacts they found included stress and anxiety about pipeline safety, social distrust, decreased enjoyment of home and lifestyle, changes in social dynamics, and a loss in social interactions among neighbors.

Assessing the key scenic views and related impacts was completed by the visual indicator. This group analyzed how construction links to the diminished values of the nature in the region. And the economic indicator analyzed the strain on public services, influx of jobs, tax increase and revenue, and land compensation.

Finally, the political indicator, which was my responsibility, is a unique component to the Environmental Impact Statement. The political indicator is uncommon, few assessments include this as a category, but Professor Edelstein added this because of the nature of this project. His reasoning proved its purpose after delving into the policies and structure of the permit process and project implementation.

Two of the primary findings revolved around the issues of segmentation and cumulative impact assessment. Segmentation can be defined as the division of a project, program, or decision into component parts or temporal phases. This is a tactic frequently executed by industry to avoid the requirement of a full Environmental Impact Statement. 

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which is a council in the executive branch that works with federal agencies to develop environmental policies, has set regulations under the National Environmental Policy Act regarding these assessments. The CEQ states that the preparation of an EIS is required for “major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.” They specifically outline that significance cannot be avoided through the breaking down of a project into component parts.

In our assessment, we found that TGP had intentionally applied for four separate permits for four connected projects: the 300 Line, the Northeast Supply Diversification Project, the MPP Project and the Northeast Upgrade Project. The company stated in reports that these projects are interdependent and confirmed their reliance on one another to carry the increased capacity of natural gas. 

Segmenting Projects Avoids Full Environmental Report

However, in looking at these segmented proposals, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which approves energy projects and issues permits, only required Environmental Assessments for each permit request. Environmental Assessments are much less comprehensive than EISs and are utilized as a guide to determine whether an EIS should be conducted or not. Given the projects were assessed individually, they concluded a “Finding of No Significant Impact” or a FONSI.

Cumulative impacts are relevant to segmentation, except a cumulative assessment requires looking at a much larger picture. Cumulative impacts are defined under the National Environmental Policy Act as impacts that result from individually minor but collectively significant actions over a period of time.

There are three pipeline projects currently being implemented in the NJ Highlands region and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved each project without considering that they traverse the same environmentally sensitive region. 

Additionally, the Commission’s assessment did not factor in already existing pipeline structures and the potential for future lines to be developed.  Conjointly, these projects impose significant environmental impacts to the area. So aside from reviewing each pipeline project in segments, the agency avoided reviewing the collective impacts from all three projects in the NJ Highlands Region. In several legal cases the courts have upheld such division as a violation of NEPA. This approval was a failure to review the project as a whole.

Perhaps one of the most crucial teachings absorbed from this course was the need to approach situations with objectivity. Throughout the process we shared visits and gathered material from representatives of both the pipeline companies and the environmental advocates. 

After witnessing this, it became clearer the importance of maintaining a balanced approach, which earns more respect from all parties and facilitates any deal-making process. Because my understanding of this was expanded, I know I can be even more successful and exceed further than if I did not grasp this concept. My future as someone who advances environmental policy is much brighter.

Balance is undoubtedly the connecting element of all functions on earth. Without balance stability is lost and certainly no good can come from that. Balance in our ecosystems, in our political institutions and in our personal relationships is essential for improving the quality of life overall. The interdisciplinary nature of this course, as experienced in our EIS process and our team building, is the most powerful teaching component of the semester; the lessons learned are invaluable.  

Brittany Ryan is a senior majoring in Environmental Studies at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

Going Green: Pro Athletes Weigh in on Environmental Issues

By Nick Bower

No matter what uniform they showcase in their respective sport, many professional athletes and leagues are wearing green when it comes to supporting the environment. Despite little recognition from the media for their actions, numerous professional athletes in the United States, and the leagues they play in, are starting to focus their philanthropic ventures on environmental issues.

“Usually I just hear about athletes devoting their efforts to helping sick or less-fortunate children,” Andrew Gould, sports editor for the Ramapo News, said. “But environmental issues are not prevalent in the national spotlight, so athletes are not as inclined to address that cause. Not many athletes get their million-dollar check and think, ‘Now I can finally help combat climate change.’”

Still, there plenty of athletes who are concerned about environmental issues. The Earth Day Network established Athletes for the Earth, which brings Olympic and pro athletes to the environmental movement to act as spokespeople by using their fame to generate environmental awareness.

Athletes for the Earth

Athletes involved in Athletes for the Earth include Olympic Nordic skier Billy Demong, Olympic Alpine skiers Andrew Weibrecht and Allison Gannett, Olympic swimmer Aaron Peirsol, Andrew Ference, defenseman for the Boston Bruins of the NHL, and former NFL linebacker Dhani Jones.

The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) founded the Green Sports Alliance, a non-profit organization whose mission it is to help sports teams and leagues enhance their environmental performance. They are partners with over 160 sports teams in 15 sports leagues. Among some of the more prominent teams they have partnered with are the Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins, Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Giants, New York Jets, San Francisco 49er’s, San Francisco Giants, Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as major NCAA Division I teams.

Green Sports Alliance

The featured partner of the Green Sports Alliance is Major League Soccer (MLS). Because of the NRDC, the MLS created the MLS Works Greener Goals. The goal of this initiative is to help reduce our carbon footprint, raise awareness of environmental issues throughout the United States, and find ways to help “green the game.” MLS Works Greener Goals also regulates environmental community initiatives for each team in the league.

Considering most sports either are played exclusively outdoors, or can be played outdoors recreationally, some may wonder why more organizations like these are not sprouting up all over the place. After all, athletes and sports fans everywhere rely on friendly environmental conditions to enjoy the game(s) they love.

“As a sports fan, I already see climate change affecting baseball,” said Ramapo News Sports Editor Andrew Gould. “Games are snowed out in April and October while most summer games are played on excruciatingly hot days.”

The major sports leagues in the United States are taking notice and are making small strides to make a difference environmentally. The National Hockey League (NHL) founded NHL Green, which partners with and is advised by EPA Wastewise, EPA Energy Star, Beyond Sport (an organization that uses athletes to drive social change), Green Sports Alliance and Natural Resource Defense Council. 

Together, they created the Gallons for Goals campaign, which restored 1,000 gallons of water to a dewatered river through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation for every goal scored in the regular season; 3,822 goals were scored in the NHL season, resulting in 3,822,000 gallons of water were restored. Major League Baseball (MLB) is advised by the NRDC, and MLB commissioner Bud Selig won the first ever Environmental Leadership Reward last September.

NBA Green Week

Perhaps the most proactive league when it comes to environmental issues is the National Basketball Association (NBA). For the past five years, the NBA has partnered with the NRDC to hold NBA Green Week, which this year was April 4-12. During this week, the NBA raises funds and awareness for the environment. 

Players wear NBA Green warm-up shirts for all their games during the week and the NBA highlights league and team environmental initiatives and in-arena awareness nights, recycling programs, and service projects. For example, the New York Knicks take part in “Trees for threes” where they plant a tree for every three-point basket the team makes. The Knicks broke the all-time NBA record for threes made in a season this past regular season.

“The NBA’s commitment to reduce its ecological impact and to help educate basketball fans worldwide about the importance of environmental protection confirms why this league is regarded as one of the worlds’ most responsible sports organizations,” NRDC senior scientist Allen Hershkowitz told

Two of the NBA’s biggest stars, Carmelo Anthony and Steve Nash, are leading the way in environmental awareness.

Anthony of the New York Knicks donated $3 million to Syracuse University to help build the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center. What is unique about this basketball center is that it is one of the only ones that is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Building, based on criteria from the Green Building Rating System. 

The Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center  uses 30 percent less water than typical basketball centers, and 20 percent less energy. More than half of the demolition and construction waste was recycled, while 20 percent of materials used to build it were recycled materials.

“It’s great that Anthony decided to make a permanent impact on Syracuse’s basketball program even though he attended the college for one year,” Gould said. “When a well-known person such as Anthony donates a large sum of money for an eco-friendly stadium, his peers will probably take notice and consider doing it too.”

Trash Talk Basketball Shoe

Steve Nash of the Los Angeles Lakers has taken a different route in raising awareness for the environment. He partnered with Nike to produce the Trash Talk shoe, the first ever basketball shoe made entirely from manufacturing waste. The shoe, which meet’s Nike’s standards for durability, has leather and waste from the Nike factory floor, has a mid-sole made from scrap-ground foam from factory production and laces made from environmentally – preferred material.

Nash also owns a sports club in Vancouver. Like Anthony’s basketball center, it is LEED- certified. It contains a floating bamboo floor, flooring made from 100 percent recycled car tires, rugs made from recycled athletic shoe laces and lighting and appliances that are energy efficient. 

“Everyone in general should try and educate themselves and try and get a little bit better at conserving and thinking about the environment,” Steve Nash told “If we can all just improve just a little bit, we’re going to go miles and miles toward beating this thing and curbing it. It’s important we all keep doing our part and it’ll get more and more contagious.”

Despite all this, the media pays little to no attention to athletes, teams or leagues when they take part in environmental issues. Gould has two theories.

 “Maybe some people are still skeptical to climate change and other legitimate concerns,” Gould said. “Or, and this is a really cynical take, but some athletes pursue charitable causes for the positive publicity, and helping children incites a bigger emotional appeal than funding a building that uses less electricity.”


Nick Bower is a senior at Ramapo College majoring in journalism.

Prudential Center Sets Pace in Environmental Conservation

By Anthony Smith

On March 23, the National Hockey League joined millions of homes throughout the United States for the second consecutive year in celebrating the World Wildlife Fund’s “Earth Hour,” the world’s largest annual action to raise awareness of environmental conservation.

On that date, 18 of the 30 teams that make up the NHL were in action, including the New Jersey Devils, who proudly took part in the event. The Devils did their part by shutting down all non-essential electrical equipment at Prudential Center from 8:30 pm until 9:30 pm during their game against the Florida Panthers at their home arena, Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.

While annually participating in the planet’s largest conservation spectacle is an important step towards helping the environment, the folks at Prudential Center do not stop there. They go to great lengths to make the Newark arena a leader in environmental conservation.

NJ Devils Win EPA Conservation Award

The New Jersey Devils, the building’s main tenant, have long been known for being environmentally conservative, and have won awards from the US Environmental Protection Agency for their donation of unused food from arena events, according to the Wall Street Journal. But that is only the beginning of their conservation of food materials.

The Devils made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012, bringing more fans into the arena than ever before. Add in the 66 non-sporting events that Prudential Center hosted, and you have an end result of the five-year-old building ranking as the tenth highest grossing arena in the world. As the arena continues to gain popularity, the building that holds a capacity crowd of 17,625 for hockey and 19,500 for other events goes through a great deal of food, most notably chicken tenders and fries.

According to a March 2012 Wall Street Journal article, more than two million visitors per year consumed almost 380,000 chicken tenders and over 79,000 pounds of french fries. The high consumption of this typical stadium meal leaves behind a large amount of cooking oil waste, much of which was just being thrown away, loading dock manger Sharnda Robinson told the newspaper.

As a result, a Newark-based company called “Grease Lightning” appeared at Prudential Center offering a solution: converting the 1,500 gallons of used cooking oil into biodiesel fuel.

“Grease Lightning,” founded in 2010, processes and purifies vegetable oil and turns it into renewable energy sources. According to their website, the company works with over 2,500 businesses offering the same services they do for Prudential Center. The environmental-friendly biofuel created from the oil sells for anywhere between $3.20 and $3.50 per gallon, the Wall Street Journal article stated, a price that is not much, if any, higher than the price of a gallon of regular unleaded fuel.

Turning Cooking Grease into Biofuel

Officials at Prudential Center were intrigued and struck a deal to sell the 1,500 gallons of oil per month and buy back 1,200 gallons of biodiesel fuel to power the arena’s back-up generators, plus the “Devils Army” truck, a 1950s-style military vehicle parked in the arena’s “Championship Plaza” on game days as a symbol of the Devils’ fan base, otherwise known as the “Devils Army.”

“The fact that we’re running it all on chicken tenders and fries is pretty remarkable,” said Troy Flynn, vice president of operations at Prudential Center.

Officials at the arena haven’t stopped there. When Prudential Center was being built, $1.5 million of the $325 million spent on the arena’s construction was used to install a state-of-the-art dehumidification system. This system keeps the air in the arena dry and cool, far exceeding the standards put in place by the NHL.

Many arenas in the league require the air conditioning system to be set to a high level to keep the arena cool enough so that the playing surface does not melt. While this is an effective method, it is also a costly method, and one that drastically increases a building’s carbon footprint. The system at Prudential Center also allows officials at the building to not worry about maintaining the temperature in the building as has to be done at other venues.

“Buildings without dehumidifiers demand a lot of human judgment. They have to start their air-conditioners very early in the day and pray once the game starts that they are able to hold that temperature,” Jim Cima, senior vice president of operations, told the New York Times.

Cutting Energy Use by 22 Percent

Humidity levels need to remain no higher than 30 percent inside the building, and the equipment uses sensors, rather than human labor, that assist the dehumidifiers with self-adjusting. The system that is operated at Prudential Center reduces energy consumption by 22 percent, a feat that will pay for itself in less than five years. This will allow the building operators to profit from the money they save, according to the New York Times.

While other venues have made strides to become more environmentally friendly, none have gone further than the efforts by the Devils and Prudential Center, and “going green” is something that the arena figures to expand on in the years to come.

Anthony Smith is a senior Journalism student from Dumont, New Jersey, graduating from Ramapo College in May 2013. He is an aspiring Public Relations professional with intentions of working on sports related tasks and subjects.

The National Football League Tackles the Environment

By Bill Pivetz                                             

From what started as a small organization in the Ohio area has become a globally-recognized company with fans all over the world. The National Football League has become the most popular professional sport in the United States. The Super Bowl is the biggest event of the year, as 109 million people tuned in to watch the Baltimore Ravens defeat the San Francisco 49ers this past February.

In 16 weeks, or longer if accounting for the post-season, 16 NFL teams travel the country to play the other 16 teams. Some travel from California to New York, while others travel within their own state. Regardless of distance, there is a lot of traveling that takes place on bus, car and plane. Until vehicles rely solely on reusable fuel, these forms of travel will impact the environment heavily.

And then there is the massive stadiums’ use of power. “Currently about 72 percent of the energy powering NFL stadiums comes from fossil fuels,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

However, the NFL and its teams can change what they do to help reduce their impact. The NFL has been battling the changing environment for over 15 years. They have a comprehensive, award-winning Super Bowl environmental program. This program has five main initiatives: solid waste management, material reuse, food recovery, sports equipment and book donations, and greenhouse gas reduction.

Super Bowl XLIV was held at Sun Life Stadium in Florida. During their time in Florida, the NFL teamed up with NextEra Energy Resources, the largest wind and solar energy producer in North America, to power the 2010 Pro Bowl and Super Bowl with renewable energy. They also formed a partnership with the US Forest Service and the Florida Division of Forestry and planted hundreds of trees throughout South Florida.

The NFL headquarters moved into a new Manhattan office in 2011 that will be LEED certified. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a “voluntary, consensus-based, market-driven program that provides third-party verification of green buildings,” according to the United States Green Building Council.

Super Bowl XLII was held in Arizona at the University of Phoenix Stadium. They planted thousands of trees in Arizona forests that were blackened by wildfires. They also powered the stadium and the adjacent theme park with clean energy sources from New Mexico wind turbines to California geothermal plants.

MetLife Stadium in New Jersey will be hosting the upcoming Super Bowl. After its construction in 2010, MetLife Stadium is one of the greenest stadiums in the country because of its partnership with the EPA. There were goals set by both the EPA and stadium officials. Goals of the agreement include cutting the stadium's annual water use by 25 percent, making it 30 percent more energy efficient than the old Giants Stadium, increasing total recycling by 25 percent and recycling 75 percent of construction waste.

The stadium’s infrastructure was also constructed with green in mind. There was about 40,000 tons of recycled steel used to build MetLife Stadium and about 20,000 tons of steel was recycled when Giants Stadium was destroyed. The seating was primarily made from recycled plastic and scrap iron. The construction vehicles were using a cleaner diesel fuel, reducing air pollution. Environmentally-friendly concrete was used during the construction. There are also over 1,000 solar panels circling above the stands.

MetLife Stadium isn’t the only stadium becoming environmentally friendly. The Washington Redskins’ FedEx Field has 8,000 solar panels in their parking lot. The New England Patriots are taking part as well. They have 3,000 panels installed at Patriot Place, a shopping center next to Gillette Stadium. The Philadelphia Eagles have about 11,000 solar panels powering their stadium. They also one-upped the other teams by adding 14 micro wind-turbines. The St. Louis Rams and Houston Texans began handing out USB drives, which feature schedules, programs and media guides, to their fans, reducing the use of paper programs.

In Seattle, the CenturyLink Event Center solar array takes advantage of the facility’s new white “cool roof” which conserves energy by reducing the amount of heat absorbed by the roof surface and lowering the need for building cooling. Around the new Cowboys Stadium, work was done on a flood-prone creek outside the stadium, to add natural grasses, trees and trails to create an atmosphere where fans don’t have to rely on their cars for transportation. The San Diego Chargers regularly donates its sod (grass) to local YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The San Diego Chargers regularly donates its sod (grass) to local YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

The NFL is a copycat league, not only game plans, but environmental practices as well. When a team has success with an offensive scheme, like the Miami Dolphins did with the Wildcat offense a couple of years ago, other teams looked to capitalize on its success. Many hope that teams will do the same with the addition of solar panels and energy conservation plans. 

Bill Pivetz is a senior at Ramapo College majoring in journalism.

Going Green: A Growing Business Trend

By Lisa Quaglino

One of the most recent environmental trends is turning your home or business into an ecofriendly space. Today, there are numerous options and products available stamped with an ecofriendly label promising that through production and use, you are contributing to the environmental cause. However, many people question whether these efforts are worthwhile.

One company, The Jumping Jungle, in East Brunswick, New Jersey, has taken steps to become an ecofriendly business. The Jungle, as it is often called, features inflatable rides and party rooms to host birthdays for children. The building is covered in signs with the ecofriendly logo, from the front door to the main walls, even on the cleaning products. Owner Greg Wathen says it was his main goal when opening in March 2009.

“We wanted to make everything we possibly could ecofriendly. I did a ton of research and found products that are both durable, because of the nature of our business, and ecofriendly. Everything you see has in some way incorporated a green product. The carpets are made of recycled material, the light bulbs are efficient, and the paint on the walls is ecofriendly. All the cleaning products we use also have ecofriendly labels.”

The Jumping Jungle is among very few businesses that fulfill the promise to become ecofriendly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by November 2011, less than 20% of businesses which provide arts, entertainment, and recreation to the public are considered all green, with around 40% being considered somewhat green. 

“It takes a lot of energy to keep our rides up and running all day, and they haven’t invented energy efficient inflatables yet, so we had to find other ways to save money. We also try to use as little paper as possible. We use email a lot to relay information to our customers, mail has become somewhat obsolete,” Said Wathen. 

Ecofriendly Business Benefits

Wathen is part of a small group of business owners who saw the benefits in opening a company which provides people with a service and makes them feel good about purchasing it as well. Ecofriendly products have become popular with a large part of the country as environmentalists have pushed the many issues industrialization and technology have created  to the forefront of problems needing to be addressed by society.

An article by CNN Money discusses the trend in ecofriendly small businesses and claims that customers are drawn to the ecofriendly label. One source, Steve Rosen, owner of FranNet, a franchise consulting organization states it best by saying “…it is something that agrees with people's social objectives."

“Whenever I see something with an ecofriendly label I feel a little better about buying it, no matter what the product is. I may not be making the biggest impact, but when it comes to the environment, every little bit helps. That was one thing that I liked about The Jungle when I was looking to get hired. It feels good to be able to say I work for an ecofriendly business.” commented Jumping Jungle employee Caitlyn Newell.

Employees and customers alike find themselves impressed by the ecofriendly logo that covers the building which houses The Jumping Jungle. Wathen has only positive opinions about his decision to go green, although there were some doubts at first due to cost.

“In the beginning, everything is more expensive. Ecofriendly products simply retail higher than the other options. We definitely had some doubts at first, we weren’t sure if it was going to be worth it in the long run but that has proven to be untrue over time. I always get comments about how great it is that we feature green products, and I can honestly say it has persuaded some people to choose us over the local competition,” says Wathen.

Competition is one of the many reasons there seem to be no long term negative impacts when choosing to go green, despite the initial cost. With carpet costing around $2.28 per square foot in some stores, the price to cover an entire commercial building can add up. Despite the high cost at first, the money is most likely going to made back over time, as is the case with The Jumping Jungle. 

Ecofriendly Labels Attract Customers

Between helping to fight off competition, making customers feel good about their choice to buy your service or product, and the overall positive influence on the environment, ecofriendly businesses tend to see profits above and beyond their initial goals. In today’s economy, adding an ecofriendly label to your business is one way to attract customers, maybe even some who might not have considered your business in the first place.

Most importantly, however, is the impact going green has on the environment. Over the past decades, little has been done to reverse the damage that has accumulated due to a lack of interest from numerous sources including the government and much of society. The small steps taken by these businesses shows promise of a more productive future in terms of environmental issues and their solutions.  Whether these improvements are made by switching to green cleaning products or buying the more expensive yet more efficient light bulbs, every little detail counts.

“I have absolutely no regrets about choosing the ecofriendly options for my business. Everyone benefits from going green. Not only have I received the benefits, but my customers and employees have as well. And most importantly I can say I’m doing my part to restore the environment. That, of course, is the long term goal of all of this,” Wathen said.

Going green has been a hopeful vision of environmentalists everywhere, and businesses like The Jumping Jungle prove that helping the environment aren’t the only benefits. These businesses lead the way for others to follow in their footsteps, showing that in the long term, more people are positively affected by ecofriendly choices in all areas of their life. It's small steps like these which will help lead to a more productive future in terms of improvement in the environment.  

Lisa Quaglino is a junior majoring in Journalism at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

A New Threat to Gray Wolves

By Jamie Bachar

More than 70 members of Congress wrote to the Obama administration in March requesting that the gray wolf be removed from the endangered species list.

In a recent letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 66 Republicans and six Democrats argued that the wolves, which recently lost their endangered status in the western Great Lakes region, no longer merit protection in the lower 48 states under the Endangered Species Act, according to the 

Wolves are among the most charismatic and controversial animals in North America. Traveling in packs through the wilderness, wolves are the oldest and largest ancestor of domestic dogs. These animals once ranged from Alaska to Mexico, but today their numbers have dropped drastically.

Wolves have been targeted by bounty hunters for their pelts since the early 1900’s. By the 1970’s, wolves only remained in remote areas of Minnesota and Michigan.

In 1973, Congress enacted the Endangered Species Act and officially protected the wolf that same year. Since then wolf populations have rebounded greatly.

During the mid 1990’s, the Sierra Club successfully got the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reintroduce wolves into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. Today, there are about 1,800 gray wolves in the Northern Rockies and some 4,000 in the Great Lakes states, the noted.

On the West Coast, nearly 60 wolves have moved into Oregon and Washington in recent years. In late December of last year, one of those wolves made its way into California, sparking new hope that wolves may eventually recolonize some of the Golden State.

Wolves were once abundant across much of California with early European explorers documenting wolves as far south as present-day San Diego. All of them were wiped out in the late 1800s and early 1900s, often by government-funded extermination programs to accommodate the livestock industry. The last wolf in California disappeared in 1924, according to the 

Wolves in the lower 48 states occupy just 5 percent of their historic habitat.

Wolves are important to maintaining the natural balance, killing out weak and sick animals to keep populations of elk and deer healthy and in check. The benefits of wolf reintroduction can be seen throughout the region, from the reappearance of willow and aspen trees, decimated by deer herds, and to the return of beavers.

The Humane Society filed a lawsuit in February to restore federal protections for gray wolves that were lifted last year. Since the protections were lifted, hunters and trappers have killed an estimated 530 wolves in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Recently, there was a shooting of radio-collared gray wolves from Yellowstone National Park, prompting Montana wildlife commissioners to consider new restrictions against killing the wolves in areas near the park. Radio collars on wolves are used to track the animals’ movement, often for research. They are also used outside the park to track down and kill the predators following livestock attacks.

Wildlife advocacy groups are pressing state officials to impose a protective buffer zone around the park to protect the species. The park’s wildlife and wilderness views draw 3 million visitors to Yellowstone annually. Hunting and trapping are prohibited inside park boundaries, but wolves range freely across that line, according to the 

Jamie Bachar is a graduating senior at Ramapo College. She is an animal advocate and lover of the environment.

The Fate of Weis Ecology Center

By Ben Reuter

The Weis Ecology Center in Ringwood, New Jersey has been an amazing wildlife learning center for thousands of children and adults. But abruptly, as of December 31, the center closed its doors.

The Ecology Center is a 100-acre area in the forests of Ringwood off Snake Den Road and has been under the wing of the New Jersey Audubon Society (NJAS) in recent years. The reasons behind the closing are related to financial shortages. School-funded programs have not been sufficient in recent years to help pay the bills. The buildings on site date back to the 1930’s and are in dire need of rehabilitation. And economic pressure on the NJAS caused the need for downsizing of their various operations, which included the Weis Ecology Center.

The president of the NJAS, Eric Stiles, said he is very regretful about the closing of Weis and implored residents to understand the need for the NJAS to save money and cut some programs.

“This isn’t a reflection on the hard work done by the staff and the volunteers. We’ve had a great relationship with the Ringwood community, but we have to make some hard decisions in this economy,” Siles said.

In 2010, NJAS closed Weis during the winter months in order to save money in heating costs. Even with the savings, the center has been operating at a deficit for the past 15 years, at a cost on average of $30,000-$60,000 each year.

I remember going to Weis with different educational programs through my Cub Scout Troup as well as various school functions. I remember following the many trails through the woods as well as learning about the wildlife that thrives in the forests around Weis in my childhood and I still frequent the area in search of connecting with the wildlife. 

The many trails that link up with the center’s land are part of the Norvin Green State Forest and connect with regional trails that provide numerous stunning viewpoints of the Wanaque Reservoir and Appalachian ridges of the New Jersey Highlands.

Along nearby trails are two old iron mines. The Roomy Mine is open and you are able to enter the cave and experience what the iron miners’ lives were like in the dark hole. Blue Mine is submerged by water from the Blue Mine Brook, which flows through the Norvin Green State Forest into the Wanaque Reservoir through lush stream banks and waterfalls.

The education gained through the experiences I have had here will forever stick with me as well as the thousands of other people who have explored through these woods.

The closing of the Weis Ecology Center is not the first of its kind for the area. Before the Weis Ecology Center existed, the area was under another name, Camp Midvale, which opened in 1921. In 1935 a group of nature enthusiasts called Nature Friends built an Olympic sized, stream fed pool, the Highlands Natural Pool. The pool became part of Weis and its environmental learning center when the camp was bought by Walter and May Weis in 1974, and Weis Ecology Center was born. 

Highlands Pool Closed by Weis, Reopened by Community Group

In 1994 there were economic problems at the Ecology Center which forced the closing of the Highlands Pool. However, in 1995 residents in the surrounding community of Ringwood and Wanaque offered to take it upon themselves to reopen the pool.  The Community Association of the Highlands Inc. was formed to maintain the Highlands Natural Pool. The pool is still under the control of the local community association and is able to run on seasonal memberships and donations.

The question arises: Will the Weis Ecology Center become a community run program just as happened with the Highlands Pool?

On January 14, there was a public meeting in Ringwood to address the situation at Weis. Many people had written letters and called NJAS President Eric Stiles to voice their opinion not to close the center. Stiles explained that it is not possible for the NJAS to open the center without a bottom line of $40,000 and that he wishes he could change what has happened.

“Weis is so important to so many wonderful people, but even if we were to secure the funds necessary to operate this year, plus the shortfall for next year, and then we were to close at the end of this season, I think people would be off put by that,” Stiles said. 

He also hinted at the possibility that if someone could foot the bill he would be able to open the center back up. “We’re always open to angels,” he said.

New Campaign to Reopen Ecology Center

With the help of the Passaic River Coalition and support of community members, there is hope the center will reopen. Michael Reinhart, Environmental Specialist at Passaic River Coalition, sent out a public message that, “The Passaic River Coalition is interested in finding ways to keep the Weis Ecology Center open and available to the public” and “Once we have a good understanding of how much support is available, we will assess our options.” 

The Passaic River Coalition has preserved 1,600 acres of open space land in New Jersey since the Passaic River Coalition Land Trust was created in 1993. Now they’re looking into adding the acres of Weis Ecology Center to that number.

So the latest fight to save Weis is under way! To join with the Passaic River Coalition (PRC) and local community to save the Weis Ecology Center, hop on the mailing list for updates and information by contacting

Ben Reuter is a junior at Ramapo College of New Jersey majoring in Communications: Writing with a minor in Environmental Studies. He is also an avid hiker and outdoorsman of the New Jersey Highlands Region.

For more information:

Fracking: An Introduction

By Steven Aliano

There are always certain scientific practices or scientific news that come into a heavy light with media exposure. With this exposure comes an influx of questions by the uninformed public. What exactly is this practice? How effective is it? What repercussions come about after this practice is used? How does it affect me, my family, and should I view it as a good or bad idea?

This exposure defines how the public reacts to an issue and how well they can be knowledgeable of the subject to make an educated opinion as to whether or not they are for or against a practice. When you think of things such as the LHC particle accelerator or certain “green” substitutes to life that affect how much pollution is given off by the human race, people will definitely be skeptical; and, hopefully, through the internet and other such sources, they can make an educational opinion that is worthwhile for themselves.

For environmental issues, one of the biggest subjects to come up in recent years has been fracking. People often say, “What’s in a name?” and that is exactly how my own personal interest began in fracking. 

The name itself seemed to emit so much intrigue and mystery, that anyone would be interested in taking a second look and diving for further information. The name seemed to be so informal that there must be some type of controversy behind it. Also, when it comes to any type of process that is involved with petroleum or natural gas, or just any type of basic retrieval of our primary energy source, there must be something behind the name that gives it such an enigma.

Upon looking at the occasional article or internet news story on fracking, I began to realize that there’s certainly a lot more in a name. Besides the actual process itself, the effects that come from it are immense, with such problems as water contamination and other health effects, as well as the split-estate situations for landowners. However, before we get into all that, let’s start at the beginning. What exactly is fracking?

Fracking Cracks Underground Rock Formations

Fracking goes by many other names and pseudonyms, including induced hydraulic fracturing, hydrofracturing, fracing, and fraccing. Fracking is the technique used for hydraulic fracturing, which is the fracturing of rock layers by a pressurized liquid. Some of these fractures are natural, and can create natural conduits through which gas and petroleum from source rocks move to reservoir rocks. 

Fracking is done through a process by which natural gas and petroleum is extracted by using wellbores to drill into reservoir rocks deep underground. Although this technique has been given a lot of press in recent years, it is not a new concept. The first instance of fracking came in the late 1940s. As of 2010, 60% of all natural gas and petroleum has been hydraulically fractured. As of this past year, 2.5 million jobs have been performed in fracking operations worldwide, with a million in the United States.

Those for this process tout its economic benefits, as well as the individual environmental benefits of natural gas, leading to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and a reduction in toxic air pollution. 

However, those against the process point to its various environmental concerns, including contaminated groundwater, air quality, and various health effects described later. Because of these concerns, many countries outside of the United States have suspended or banned the use of fracking, although nations such as the United Kingdom have lifted their bans recently with heavy regulations and restrictions. 

Environmental Concerns

Groundwater contamination has been a major case of concern when it comes to fracking. Firstly, fracking itself uses a gigantic amount of water, between 1.2 and 3.5 million gallons. The injected fluids and the returning surface fluids that are applied in fracking raise concerns over contaminated groundwater, and while the chemicals used in fracking are generally harmless, in high doses they contain carcinogens, and a couple cases of fracking being the assumed case of groundwater contamination have been reported by the EPA. 

“Produced” water is another major issue, which is the water that returns to the surface from the drilling, and contains various levels of uranium, radium, radon, and thorium. Much of this produced water is maintained by self-contained systems of management or by municipal waste water treatment plants, however, the large quantity of this wastewater, as well as the improper configuration of sewer plants, have led to a poor execution of how to treat this waste. Lastly, blown gas wells give off methane, also contaminating drinking water.

In addition to water problems, many health problems have been reported by local residents due in part to fracking procedures. The radiation exposure as well as other gases has played a huge part in the personal health effects of humans and other animals.

These carcinogenic chemicals studied on mice showed forestomach ulcers and epithelial hyperplasia, hematopoietic cell proliferation and hemosiderin pigmentation in the spleen, Kupffer cell pigmentation in the livers, and bone marrow hyperplasia, as well as statistically significant decreases in automated and manual hematocrit (Hct) values, hemoglobin (Hb) concentrations, and red blood cell (RBC) for both males and females.

In another study, an examination of 353 out of 994 fracking chemicals found over 75% of the 353 chemicals affecting the skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, 52% affecting the nervous system, 40% affecting the immune system and kidney system, and 46% affected the cardiovascular system and blood. In another separate examination of airborne fracking chemicals, thirty-five chemicals affected the brain/nervous system, 33 the liver/metabolism, and 30 the endocrine system, which includes reproductive and developmental effects. The categories with the next highest numbers of effects were the immune system (28), cardiovascular/blood (27), and the sensory and respiratory systems (25 each).

Steven Aliano is a junior Communications major at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

For more information:
Graves, John H. Fracking: America's Alternative Energy Revolution. John H Graves, 2012.
Hamel, Stephanie C. Gas Drilling and the Fracking of a Marriage. Seattle, WA: Coffeetown Enterprises, 2011. .
Hillstrom, Kevin, ed. Fracking. Illustrated ed. Detroit: Lucent, 2013. .
McGraw, Seamus. The End of Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone. New York: Random House Digital, 2012.
Obo, Okon. Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking): Procedures, Issues, and Benefits. Okon Obo, PhD, 2013.
Prud'homme, Alex. The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Freshwater in the Twenty-First Century. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012.
Ralph, Peter. Dirty Fracking Business: No More Coal Seam Gas Mining. Melbourne: Theoklesia, LLC, 2012.
Wilber, Tom. Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale. Cornell UP, 2012.