Thursday, May 17, 2018

Environmental Writing 2018

Ramapo College, April 2018
(photo/Jan Barry)

The world as classroom. That’s ever more so these days as global climate change raises crucial questions around the world and in our own lives.  A wide variety of global and backyard environmental issues, from farming in the Garden State to world sustainability, caught the attention of 14 student-journalists in the Spring 2018 Environmental Writing course at Ramapo College. The cross-curriculum class drew a lively mixture of juniors and seniors majoring in environmental studies, science, communications and literature.

Ramapo College environmental studies students speak at Ramapo River
Watershed Conference, April 2018  (photo/Geoff Welch)

The class was honored to host a distinguished visiting professor—Thilmeeza Hussain, who teaches World Sustainability at Ramapo College; she is a former deputy ambassador of the Maldives to the United Nations and a 2018 Aspen Institute New Voices fellow—and a number of distinguished speakers. These included Ramapo River Watershed Keeper Geoff Welch, Secaucus Environmental Director Amanda Nesheiwat, Alexa Marques of Teaneck Creek Conservancy, Elliott Ruga of the NJ Highlands Coalition, Josef Corso of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Ramapo College Environmental Studies Professors Chuck Stead, Howard Horowitz and Harriet Shugarman. 

Elsewhere in Bergen County: Bald eagles' home in Ridgefield Park
  endangered by mall construction behind riverside grove of trees, April 2018
(photo/Jan Barry)
The styles and formats the class participants used to engage and enlighten readers range from poetry to press releases, letters to the editor to literary analysis to scholarly essays, magazine feature stories to blogs and specially created websites. The broad range of their concerns are conveyed in several headlines for work posted on the class website,

Monday, May 14, 2018

Sustainable Tips and Other Stories


By Kristie Murru

This year, due to my Senior capstone campaign “REALIZE Your Environmental Impact,” I have been researching sustainable habits and have become more aware of my own individual impact. Although recycling one plastic water bottle won’t necessarily stop climate change, it instills a sense of routine and awareness for how much plastic is actually discarded each and every day. This understanding is the hardest part to me. It’s incredibly difficult to get people to change their routines and so introducing small tips can be a great way to see a greater impact as time passes.

Want to introduce sustainable practices to your everyday routine but confused about how to actually do that? It’s incredibly easy; below on my blog you can find just a few examples.

Kristie Murru is a senior at Ramapo College of New Jersey, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Arts with a concentration in Global Communication and Media. “For my Senior Capstone, I have been working with other students to host sustainability based events on campus under the name REALIZE Your Environmental Impact. The goal of this campaign has been to not only promote sustainability but highlight better recycling practices and minimizing waste.”

The Green Report: A Capstone Project Dedicated to Sustainability

By Chris Bernstein

In the Fall 2017 semester, a senior communications capstone group of four highly motivated and passionate students set out to create and execute a year-long project to raise awareness and educate the student body, faculty and staff at Ramapo College of New Jersey of the environmental and sustainable initiatives going on at the college.

I had no idea what kind of sustainable initiatives were going on within the school. I had seen the solar panels begin to be put up in the commuter parking lot, but that’s about it. As my group and I set out to begin this campaign, I began to learn just how much was going on in the efforts to label Ramapo as a zero-waste campus and to educate students, faculty and staff on how to live sustainably. I also learned just how much a college campus contributes to waste and how easily it is to reduce the amount of waste a student produces.

For Environmental Writing class, I created a website to share what I learned from this project and other environmental studies:

Chris Bernstein is a graduating senior at Ramapo College of New Jersey studying communication arts with a concentration in global communication and media. After graduation, Chris will continue to work with his company full-time as a Digital Marketing Strategist.

New Jersey Highlands: Water, Wildlife and Wilderness Face Development Threats

Monksville Reservoir, Ringwood  (photo/Jan Barry)

By Eileen McCafferty

Do you know where your water comes from? Do you know the threats made towards your water every day? Do you know who is protecting your water? Chances are you have answered at least one or more of these questions with a “no.”

For over six million citizens who live in sixteen counties in New Jersey, they rely on the New Jersey Highlands for their water supply…and they are unaware of the relentless threats the Highlands face. They are also unaware of the people who work tirelessly in order to save the land that provides them with this basic necessity. It is crucial that these threats be taken seriously since water is essential for survival and there is no downplaying that fact.

The New Jersey Highlands is an 860,000-acre area that’s part of an Appalachian mountain  region stretching from Connecticut to Pennsylvania known as the Highlands. It consists of farmlands, forests, small towns, some commercial areas and a huge variety of wildlife and plant life. Drinking water provided to millions of people from Vernon to south of Trenton comes from Highlands streams and reservoirs.

But new development constantly threatens the water supply, wildlife and all over greatness of the area. Population size is increasing, which is making for wider areas needed to house all these people. Also with more people comes more developed areas to install grocery stores, schools, and shopping complexes. Unfortunately, some of these plans for development are not well thought out and create contamination or destroy forests that filter rainwater.

Besides the water supply, many creatures call these forests their home. Many people also enjoy these woods for leisurely pleasures and it would be a shame to shut these enjoyable places down to develop a shopping complex.

Forests reduce flooding 

Exploring the threat to water, it is important to know that when roads are developed, water no longer finds its natural path to sink into the ground, in turn reducing the supply of water that reaches wells and reservoirs. Not only does this create an issue for homes, but this is also an economic crisis. There is more flooding that comes from over development and with flooding comes damage. Many more people in and around the New Jersey Highlands would face flooding damages if they were to rip out all of the trees and vegetation that helps the rainwater be absorbed by the ground. With nothing to block the water, floods are more likely to happen. 

When we think about building homes, many of us do not think that us building homes causes other creatures lose their homes. Due to the over destruction of the Highlands, creatures like the elusive Bobcat have been put on the New Jersey Endangered Species list.

Another loss that comes with the development threats is when farmland is lost. Many people in the area of the Highlands rely on farming in order to provide for their families, and many other citizens rely on that farm production for their food. Over development destroys the security of farmers to provide for their families and other families in the area.

Highlands conservation network 

So who is going to protect this land that millions of people and millions of creatures rely on for life? That’s where the New Jersey Highlands Coalition steps in. This non-profit group, based in Boonton, is made up of dedicated individuals, civic groups and conservation organizations who aim to keep the Highlands protected and the water supply safe for future consumption by area citizens and businesses.

Keeping track of state environmental regulations, regulatory oversight by various agencies, and development proposals, the Coalition does various actions to help safeguard the water supply and biodiversity of the Highlands. They create public education projects in order to bring about awareness for this resource for millions of people. The New Jersey Highlands Coalition also assists local, state, and federal government to raise money for preserving key parcels of forest and farmlands in the Highlands region. The Coalition gives their research findings and opinions to law makers, the New Jersey Highlands Regional Council and other important government officials who decide what happens to the Highlands.

The next time you turn on the water tap, think about this: where does the water come from? Chances are, if you’re north of the Jersey Shore, it comes from the Highlands. 

Eileen McCafferty is a senior majoring in environmental studies at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

Rooney Mara Makes Fashion Debut with Vegan Line of Clothing and Accessories

By Kerry Hadrava

Award-winning actress Rooney Mara has shifted her focus away from films to concentrate on her newly sprouting fashion line. The seven-year vegan has vowed to provide aesthetically pleasing attire that will not put stress on the environment as many “fast fashion” companies do. Her line Hiraeth resonates in sincerity and is 100% vegan.

The name Hiraeth, delicately written upon all her labels, is an old Welsh phrase that roughly translates as homesickness or a curious feeling of nostalgia. 

“In our world today, there’s such an extreme disconnection from everything we do—from the earth we live on, from each other, from the food we eat, from the clothes we wear,” Mara expresses. “We’ve grown so disconnected from everything, and I think it creates that feeling of wanting to return to someplace that maybe we’ve never even been before, but deep down, we know we’re missing something.”

Mara’s new line is simplistic yet stylish...elegant and unique. Her garments are designed to be worn “forever,” therefore reducing the use and waste of valuable resources.  

Her greatest inspiration came from personal experience, says Marra. 

“I realized there aren’t many [faux leather] options available for someone like me who is interested in design and wants high-quality pieces, In fast fashion, you can find faux leather boots that are really cheap, but while it’s cruelty-free in the animal sense, I didn’t necessarily know where those things were made, or if they were cruel toward humans,” she says.

Pieces in this collection will range from $160 to $1500. Please visit for more information.

Kerry Hadrava is a junior at Ramapo College of New Jersey studying for a BA in Communication Arts with a concentration in Global Communications and Media.   

An Unconventional Assessment of Social Impacts in a Contaminated Community

By Andrew Herrera

The borough of Pompton Lakes, New Jersey has had to grapple with a contamination problem which first emerged several decades ago. A local weapons and munitions factory known as the Pompton Lakes Works, owned and operated by the DuPont Corporation between 1902 and 1994, released unknown quantities of heavy metals and toxic solvents into unlined lagoons that migrated into the town’s lake and groundwater (O’Neill and Fallon 2018).

The contamination of surface and ground water in Pompton Lakes has impacted residents’ health, especially those living in homes above the toxic groundwater “Plume” of solvents and chemicals which have migrated into their basements as vapors. Residents have been fighting for a complete cleanup of the Lake and the aquifer, as well as a thorough mitigation of the danger posed by vapor intrusion into their basements, often without adequate government support. Therefore, Ramapo College’s own Turtle Island Consulting, created as part of a senior environmental studies class’s capstone course, has been in the process of preparing a comprehensive environmental assessment of the impacts caused by the contamination. As part of that class, I have contributed a unique perspective to impact assessment which is not normally considered: organizational impacts.

Environmental impact statements have developed an almost codified rubric of different impacts that are supposed to be researched before a development can begin. Different environmental assessments may include additional topics particular to their project, but this group of impacts generally applies to most statements. These impacts, or indicators, typically include physical, ecological, and socioeconomic effects such as air quality, biodiversity, and local economy. My indicator, however, looked at organizational impacts, which is not a widely recognized one.

Organizational environmental impacts

Organizational impacts, broadly speaking, include effects on the political and social fabric of a community. It is not covered in guides to environmental impact statements, such as Betty B. Marriott’s Environmental Impact Assessment: A Practical Guide (1997) and Charles Eccleston’s Environmental Impact Assessment: A Guide to Best Professional Practices. In this report, I am going to discuss the methodology of an organizational impact assessment as well as the findings I made regarding the situation in the borough of Pompton Lakes.

Because the organizational indicator is not a formally recognized category of impact, it can be difficult to define its research parameters. It is a broad and inclusive category of issues. An early task for me was to work with the firm’s advisors, Drs. Michael Edelstein and Ashwani Vasishth, to delineate the actual questions I would need to ask as the organizational impact assessor. We ultimately reached a fairly comprehensive list of concerns. That list focused on the behavior of the responsible parties, regulatory agencies, and citizens of Pompton Lakes. It included questions such as: how have DuPont, the EPA, and the NJ DEP communicated with the community on the health risks associated with contamination; how capable, exactly, are citizens’ groups of negotiating for themselves in disputes over cleanups; and what has local government done in response to the contamination? In order to answer these questions and many others, I needed to consult news investigations, technical documents, and residents of Pompton Lakes.

This work was buoyed by a few prominent sources. One was an expose by The Record titled “Toxic Secrets.” That piece, written by James O’Neill and Scott Fallon (2018), is a thorough investigation of the history of contamination in the community, the resultant health effects, and a variety of communiques, letters, and memorandums sent between the DEP, EPA, and DuPont and its spinoff, Chemours. “Toxic Secrets” was so valuable to my work because O’Neill and Fallon used the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the New Jersey Open Public Records Act (OPRA) to obtain those documents which the agencies had kept stored away from the public. Using FOIA and OPRA can be a lengthy, time-consuming process. O’Neill himself commented that it sometimes took months of asking to see important documents detailing how DuPont frequently delayed the DEP in its inquiries into whether the toxic contaminated groundwater in the borough was migrating as a vapor into peoples’ homes (James O’Neill, personal communication, April 2 2018).

“Toxic Secrets” uncovered previously unknown information on DuPont’s consistent priority of stalling any cleanup of the contaminated area, and it brought information to my attention that I had not even thought to ask. Even if I had, I might not have had the time to obtain the information myself. Between “Toxic Secrets” and its spiritual predecessor, “Toxic Legacy,” which I used when discussing the Ford Motor Company’s contamination of Ringwood, New Jersey, and Ramapo, New York, my work made me realize the importance of an active news media. Without the work of dedicated career journalists, I would not have been able to address nearly as many questions in my assessment.

My findings were also largely dependent on the cooperation of local activists. Individuals such as Lisa Riggiola, founder of Citizens for a Clean Pompton Lakes and the Pompton Lakes Community Advisory Group, and Jefferson LaSala, board member of Pompton Lakes Residents for Environmental Integrity, provided more information on local politics and debates over how to clean up the polluted Pompton Lake and aquifer than any official documents I had seen. As local leaders of the community response to news about contamination, Riggiola and LaSala possessed reports, technical documents, and firsthand accounts of the politics of remediation in Pompton Lakes, and I could not have found those resources anywhere else. Even though the EPA had a fairly extensive list of documents and community updates pertaining to Pompton Lakes on its website, I truly needed to have personal conversations with involved residents to learn what I needed to learn to write about organizational impacts.

Community impact

Although I began this assessment unsure of exactly what significance my indicator held for the overall state of the community of Pompton Lakes, my findings have taught me how important the “organizational” impacts of any project can be. For one, I have learned that the citizens of Pompton Lakes are severely disadvantaged by a lack of communication and support from the EPA and the DEP. DuPont and its spinoff, Chemours, which is now overseeing the site, have consistently proven to be opposed to open and timely correspondence with the community about their factory’s contamination of the water in Pompton Lakes. 

But the government agencies have not supported the citizens either, meaning that, for a collective of concerned residents with no background in environmental science, it is nearly impossible to analyze and criticize the polluters’ plans for cleaning up the borough’s surface and ground water. When they previously had the funding to hire independent engineers who could do so, these citizen groups were appalled but perhaps not surprised to learn that DuPont and Chemours’s plans have largely failed to effect a satisfactory cleanup of Pompton Lake and the borough’s groundwater. Since the dissolution of a Pompton Lakes citizens advisory group which the EPA had organized in 2012, residents have had no consistent communication with the public agencies that possess the resources and expertise needed to challenge DuPont and Chemours’s stubbornness. While the EPA could possibly better enforce a cleanup if the site was added to the Superfund list, the borough council has actively opposed that measure because it fears the stigma of being a Superfund site would depreciate property values and investment.

This disempowerment of the community extends to other prominent social issues. City dwellers feel they do not have a voice as they are being forced out of their homes due to rising rents and property values. Native American communities continue to see their ancestral lands damaged by extractive industries such as oil and gas, because they cannot rally a popular movement large enough to protect their sacred spaces. And, in the borough of Pompton Lakes, residents fatigued from protesting the contamination of their homes for decades are struggling to advocate for themselves when they lack the money and time to do so.

Organizational impacts should be included in every environmental impact statement. They figure into the most critical aspects of development: social harmony, civic engagement, and honest government. As such, organizational impacts hold larger implications for a community than what is dictated by a typical environmental assessment. They can determine whether the residents even have the proper mechanisms in place to ensure active public participation in determining the fate of their community.

Eccleston, C.H. Environmental impact assessment: A guide to best professional practices. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
LaSala, J. (2018, April 8 & 2018, April 19). Personal communication.
Marriott, B. B. (1997). Environmental impact assessment: A practical guide. New York: McGraw-Hill.
O'Neill, J. M., & Fallon, S. (2018, March 02). Toxic Secrets: Pollution, evasion and fear in North Jersey. Retrieved April 09, 2018, from
Riggiola, L. (2018, March 21). Personal communication.

Andrew Herrera is a senior at Ramapo College of New Jersey majoring in environmental studies.

Recycling Clothes In Style


By Mary Waller

Thousands of pounds of garbage is disposed of every year, clogging up landfills and ultimately hurting our environment. There’s one thing hurting the environment more than people may know; which we can all address: fashion.

Many Americans give clothes to organizations that help those who need it and throw out clothes that are too old, worn-out or in bad condition. Yet only 15 percent of textiles are reused and tons of clothes end up in the garbage.

Textiles include shoes, carpeting and stuffed animals, but clothes make up a major portion of the 15% mentioned. The more we waste, the more we buy and this constant production of textiles hurts the environment, so the more we can reuse and recycle the more we can help the environment.

“The EPA estimates that what we do donate each year, that 15%, is like taking over a million cars off the road,” said Bret Jaspers, from the WSKG station in Binghamton, N.Y. who reported that just tossing your clothes in the trash is not the best way to dispose of old clothes. About 5 to 10 percent of landfills’ makeup is textiles, according to Greg Ernst, who runs the Cortland County Landfill in upstate New York.

Only 0.1 percent of all clothing collected by charities and take-back programs is recycled, according to the clothing company H&M’s development sustainability manager, Henrik Lampa. H&M has begun to make sustainability in fashion a priority in their company by starting the Conscious Collection, which are sustainable clothes. The company has been encouraging its consumers to pack up old clothes from any brand and bring them to H&M bins worldwide.

Some fast facts about the impact old clothing in landfills and how they impact global warming are in the illustration below.

While this is a great effort from a popular and trusted company, this initiative is not enough. Americans alone throw away 85 percent of their clothes that they do not want. But almost everything can be reused or made into something else instead of taking up space at landfills and cluttering up Mother Nature.

Besides the space they take up, throwing away old clothes has a bigger impact on the environment than you may think. The clothes you throw away that end up in landfills start to decompose and release toxic air pollutants, including the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane.  Jon Powell, a doctoral student in chemical and environmental engineering at Yale University, explained that there are about 1,200 municipal solid waste landfills, and about 900 of them have vacuum systems that collect landfill gas to produce electricity or to burn. 

Yet most of the landfill gas is let go into the atmosphere, making landfills the third largest source of methane emissions. Powell explains that methane emission are more than 28 times efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, in turn massively contributing to global warming. Even though people do not see it, their old clothes can be seriously impacting the global warming problem.

Recycling clothes helps reduce greenhouse gases and also gives landfills more space, with potentially 100 million fewer pounds of waste (old clothes and textiles) taking up space in landfills.

Besides Mother Nature, who else may benefit from recycled clothes?

Those in Need
Clothes donated to well-known organizations who help those who need clothes often provide more than a good shirt or business suit. Goodwill uses 82 percent of its revenues to help disabled people with training for employment. A good portion of the Salvation Army’s revenues goes to local homeless shelters, rehabilitation centers and family emergency services.

Natural Disaster Victims
Donations also help those who have been affected by natural disasters. Through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), clothing donations are given to victims by organizations like the Salvation Army that help distribute your old clothes to disaster survivors.

“We gather donations, resources, and volunteers in a predetermined staging area so we're ready to help as soon as the federal, state, or local government declares the area safe to enter,” according to the Salvation Army’s website, in regards to disaster victims. 

Those With Disease
Donating clothes helps those with disease. The National Kidney Foundation accepts donations and the donations go to fundraising for the foundation to help fight kidney disease by planning early screening and education programs.

Your Own House
Donating old clothes makes more space in your closet, drawers and helps you stay more organized. 

Donating old clothes is a great way to help prevent the global warming epidemic that so many are trying to stop. There are many organizations that one can consider to find out where and how to donate. Goodwill stores, for instance, will gladly accept donations. They have prevented from over 75.7 million pounds of clothing and textiles from resting in landfills, not to mention the 11,653,240 pounds of material recycled by the company itself.

The Salvation Army is another organization that has committed to taking donations and consequently has helped the environment. They have taken a pledge, outlining 6 points the company has made in regards to sustainability and environmental aid, which can be found here. The Salvation Army pledges to help all living life forms, not just humans, live a sustainable life and look into the future to foresee how what we do today impacts our tomorrow.

People also recycle old clothes for homemade projects that can brighten up their house. An old tee shirt can be made into produce bags found here, an old sweater can be made into a fashionable pillow with the tutorial here, and a bunch of old tee shirts can be reborn into a fashionable, colorful rag-rug with the how-to shown on the side.

The website Pinterest has a lot of tutorials and craft ideas to give old clothes a new life. Other websites that users have created also explain ways to reuse old clothes. Not only average citizens are promoting this eco-friendly fashion, but so are A-list celebrities.

Emma Watson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Olivia Wilde are just some of the celebrities that are starting eco-friendly fashion lines to help live a fashionable and sustainable life. Emma Watson, a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, launched her Feel Good style site, encouraging women to embrace natural beauty and promote eco-friendly fashion. In 2011, Watson was quoted saying, “I will work for anyone for free if they’re prepared to make their clothing fair trade and organic. It’s really hard to get people interested.”

Gwyneth Paltrow has teamed up with Amour Vert to create Goop, her eco-friendly fashion line that’s composed of organic fabrics, silk dyed and printed with low-impact dyes. Every time a tee-shirt is purchased from Goop, the company ensures that a tree be planted in the Tahoe National Forest, promoting sustainable practices. 

Olivia Wilde teamed up with H&M to help support their sustainable fashion line. As a co-founder of the online marketplace Conscious Commerce, Wilde hopes to show that ethical fashion, or fashion that is both sustainable and gives employees fair-wages, is not, “a fashion fantasy but an attainable reality.”

Wilde makes an excellent point. Sustainable and ethical fashion is not a fantasy, but something that is slowly making its way up the fashion-chain and into everyday lives. Reusing old clothes and living a more sustainable life is attainable for almost anyone. Recycling old clothes does not cost money, does not fill up landfills and helps those who need clothes on their backs. This is a trend that will not go out of style any time soon.

Mary Waller, a senior at Ramapo College, is studying for her BA in Communication Arts: Journalism with a minor in Political Science. After graduation in the Fall 2018, she hopes to work in broadcast journalism or public relations.

Zero Waste Kitchen at College

By Ysabella Langdon

Americans annually waste 133 billion pounds of food. The kitchen can be one of the most wasteful rooms in the home, especially a college apartment. Between classes, work, and maintaining a healthy social life, a zero waste lifestyle can be overwhelming when a conscientious student is not equipped with the right resources and tools.

Below are resources and tools needed to start a zero waste kitchen at Ramapo College:

Step 1: Get Reusable Bags and Containers
Reusable jars and bags are essential to a zero waste kitchen and food shopping. Wasteful packaging liters our earth, but that does not have to be how you live. By simply bringing jars or reusable bags, you can save a lot of materials from going to landfill. Mason jars can be found almost anywhere, but you could also reuse an old peanut butter, pasta sauce, or jam jar.

Step 2: Shop at Local Farmers Markets and Coops
Shopping at farmers markets and coops make it easier to shop waste free. Typically these places have a wide variety of unpackaged, local goods. Great options near campus are Hungry Hollow and Ramsey Farmers Market. However, bulk sections can be found in just about any grocery store. There are pros and cons to both options, but it is up to you to choose what place is best for you.

Step 3: Plan Ahead
While planning ahead is an essential part to going zero waste, including bringing your own jars, utensils and bottles it can be incredibly hard for a college student to try and balance everything. Planning what you eat helps reduce the amount of food waste you produce. This in turn helps promote healthier eating habits because if you have delicious healthy meals prepared, there is no time for late night Ramen or McDonalds.

Step 4: Compost!
Just because you aren’t eating something, doesn’t mean that it has to be waste. Add it to your compost and let it go back to nature. Many are afraid to compost because they are afraid of the smell. To prevent smell, place your compost in your freezer and dispose of every week. Here at Ramapo College, compost is picked up weekly or you can drop it off at any of the on-campus gardens. Don’t know what to compost? Any food scraps except for meat.

Step 5: Recycle More, but Recycle Less
It is commonly thought that if one recycles that they are doing their part to protect the earth, however we should be moving toward a future that does not need unnecessary packaging. Recycling is great alternative when you can’t avoid materials, but if you can, refuse using any resources made of fossil fuels. This is how we can truly conserve and live our values in our day-to-day life. When recycling, make sure to clean your recyclables because one dirty item can soil the entire bin of recyclables.

Reducing Plastic Waste: Bulk Shopping Near Campus

By Ysabella Langdon

Most packaging is made of plastic, but many people don’t know that plastic can take up to 500-1000 years to decompose in a landfill. This is why bulk shopping should be a more widespread practice. Buying from a bulk store requires no single-use packaging and you often end up supporting local businesses.

The Ramapo Green team compiled a list of nearby bulk grocery stores for those of you who are new to the campus or are just new to reducing their waste.

Organico | Ramsey, NJ | 9 mins
Organico has a small bulk section, but if you are looking for healthy and natural smoothies- this is your place! They are clean, delicious, and healthy, free of dairy, gluten, preservatives, processed milks, and fast sugars. They are sweetened using only whole food ingredients.

Ramsey Farmers Market | Ramsey, NJ | 10 mins
Ramsey Farmers Market is one of the best and closes option, however it is only open in the warmer months. For students, it is great for finding the best selection of in season, local, and unpackaged produce in the beginning of the semester. Don’t forget to bring your bread bags because this is an often amazing bakery with delicious bread.

Hungry Hollow | Spring Valley, NY | 16 mins
Hungry Hollow is another amazing option! It has a variety of in season produce, package free grains, and baked good. There is also healthy prepared food if you are not one to cook. Hungry Hollow can be a bit expensive on a student budget, but the good news is that they provide a discount for Ramapo students!

Whole Foods | Ridgewood, NJ | 24 mins
This Whole Foods has a good selection of package free grains, nuts, and pastries. You can even get mochi package free if you bring a container! The mochi bar serves a variety of seasonally-driven mochi flavors.

Humans of Ramapo Green: Patrick Harrison, Beekeeping Entrepreneur

By Ysabella Langdon

Humans of Ramapo Green is a monthly series that highlights students and faculty on campus that are doing great things in the name of sustainability.

Patrick Harrison is a familiar figure amongst the Ramapo Green community, but many don’t know that he is the founder of HarBee Beekeeping, a Bergen County-based beekeeping operation making backyard beekeeping possible. 

HarBee’s goal is to create a more sustainable food system based in the most up-to-date scientific information. HarBee Beekeeping provides two packages. Package #1 allows for the client to own the hive and all the honey and can cost between $800-$1800 for yearly maintenance. Package #2 allows for the client to lend their land to Harbee Beekeeping and have first dibs on the honey supply. The cost includes bear fencing and 10 dollar bottles of honey upon request.

When Pat isn’t working at HarBee, he is probably with the Beekeeping Club, 1Step, Garden Club, or studying for one of his environmental science classes. He is commonly seen on campus riding his bike from one responsibility to the next and always bringing an enthusiastic attitude to everything he does. He is also a member of the Sustainable Living Eco-stewardship program and is on a mission to create as little waste as possible. He intends on spreading sustainability through ethical practices and transparency.

How did you find your current passion for environmentalism?
As a scout I was constantly hiking, fishing and camping. I want to make sure that young people have the same beauty that I enjoyed.

What has been your most memorable moment within Rampo Green?
The community that Ramapo Green is, especially with SLE, has made all of my favorite memories at Ramapo. I wouldn’t know how to pinpoint it.

What is one thing that you would like to change on campus in the name of sustainability?
I think Ramapo is on a good track. It is important to move slow to ensure that every step is deliberate and perfected before taking on new projects.

What are your plans post grad?
After graduation, I will be self-employed, managing 15 hives with HarBee Beekeeping. In addition, I was recently hired as the Havemeyer Edible Garden Ambassador for the Havemeyer House.

Ysabella Langdon is a senior at Ramapo College of New Jersey majoring in visual communication design.

Green Designer: Ysabella Langdon

By Lily Makhlouf

Ysabella Langdon, a senior Visual Communication Design major, is making strides in sustainability as the Community Manager of both Ramapo Green and Brooklyn-based Package Free Shop. Ysabella manages media for Ramapo Green and 1STEP, Ramapo College’s student environmental club. In the Spring of 2017, she co-founded Ramapo’s Garden Club, seeing a need for more student involvement in the campus gardens.  When she’s not busy organizing and planning for Ramapo Green, she’s managing communication with customers at Package Free, in addition to running her own business.

Through her business, Redo Lab, a design innovation lab that aims to invent and redesign products, Ysabella creates compostable heating and cooling packs that are handmade using herbs and other natural ingredients.

What brought you to start Redo Lab?

“I didn't start redo lab on purpose. I was making a lot of products for myself because I couldn't find them the way that I wanted. My whole life I've suffered from extremely sensitive skin, which forced my mom and I to start making our own detergent, lotion, and deodorant to make sure it only consisted of the most natural ingredients possible. Ain't nobody have time for toxins! My parents always told me that it is okay to complain, but only if you do something about it. By making my own things, I was taking control of what goes in, on, and around my body, while promoting a ethical and sustainable supply chain.”

How did your business become connected to Package Free Shop?

“Fast forward to the summer of 2017, I was working for a company called The Simply Co., which is owned by Lauren Singer of Trash is For Tossers, a zero waste blog. At this time, Lauren and her business partner, Daniel Silverstein, were opening a zero waste lifestyle shop called Package Free Shop. On one of my last days working in the office, I gave Lauren and Daniel one of my heating and cooling pads. To my surprise, they wanted to carry it in their store! Everything kind of took off from there.”

How can design influence sustainability?

“I am a strong believer that great design is human centered and makes the human experience better. The burden of waste should never fall solely on the consumer. As a maker of things, I take pride in designing products that don't litter our earth with unnecessary materials. I also believe waste is a design flaw and any great product should be invented with its impact in mind.”

You can find Ysabella’s products at Package Free Shop in store and online. If you want to keep up with all of the great work she is doing with her sustainable business, check out her instagram @redo_lab.

Climate Threats and Solutions Discussed at Clean Energy Conference

Thilmeeza Hussain, Ramapo College
World Sustainability Professor

By Lily Makhlouf

If action is not taken soon, the climate refugee crisis that threatens people in island nations and drought-affected areas will continue to grow to the millions. The effect of such a crisis will be felt around the world.

That’s the message that World Sustainability Professor Thilmeeza Hussain delivered at the “Clean Energy for a Brighter Future” conference on March 28 that Food & Water Watch and the Andrew Goodman Foundation hosted at Ramapo College. The event included a panel discussion on steps individuals and groups at the local level could take to make our legislators act to ensure a transition to 100% renewable energy by 2035 for the state of New Jersey. In attendance at the event were students, faculty, organizations, and members of the local community.

Matt Smith of Food & Water Watch was the host of the event, while Assemblyman and Ramapo alum Tim Eustace gave a strong opening speech to the audience. Eustace has been vocal about his support for progressive climate action in New Jersey and has pledged support to Off Fossil Fuels, a project by Food & Water Watch that puts political pressure on elected officials for 100% renewable energy policies.

The panel was made up of three speakers—Thilmeeza Hussain, Kevin D. Moore, and Scott Edwards. Each panelist had a unique perspective on climate change issues and policy that sparked intrigue and valuable questions.

Thilmeeza Hussain is a professor of World Sustainability at Ramapo College and former Deputy Permanent Ambassador for the U.N. in the Maldives. Hussain shared the background of climate effects in Maldives. She spoke about the fact that island countries like the Maldives are disproportionately affected by climate change because of vulnerability to rising sea level. One of her concerns is that our climate actions, including the Paris Climate Agreement, are not aggressive enough because they support only bottom-up action. Stricter policies need to be enacted by governments to ensure that vulnerable communities are well equipped and protected from the effects of climate change.

The second panelist to speak was Kevin D. Moore, the Climate Coordinator for the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance, an organization that aims to prevent pollution and provide support to “Environmental Justice” communities. EJ communities are most often communities of People of Color and indigenous citizens. These communities are disproportionately affected by the impact of climate change and pollution.

In Newark, an EJ community, the number of cases of childhood asthma is alarmingly high. Moore explained that this is due to the communities’ proximity to particle pollution that is produced by commercial and industrial plants. More affluent communities typically don’t have to deal with rates of health crises because they can afford to have polluters far away from their backyards. But in low-income areas, people have no choice but to deal with the problems in their backyards. The NJEJA aims to support these vulnerable communities and support legislation and policies that will put an end to harmful polluters through stricter regulation and a commitment to 100% renewable energy for a cleaner future in all communities.

 The third panelist was Scott Edwards, the National Climate and Energy Program Director for Food and Water Watch. Edwards discussed Food and Water Watch’s approach to 100% renewable energy, which differs from many other climate action policies because it calls for a more aggressive approach.

Edwards said that such acts like RGGI, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, are not strict enough on fossil fuel polluters. Policies like cap and trade and carbon taxes allow fossil fuel companies to buy credits or pay their way to keep on polluting. Rather than take this approach, Edwards stated that strict legislation, similar to standards in the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts of the early 1970s, needs to be enforced so that polluters are thoroughly regulated. If a fossil fuel company is violating a certain regulation, a government agency could fine it and eventually shut it down if it continues to violate. This type of legislation would ensure that no fossil fuel company gets its way by paying money to continue polluting.

After the panelists spoke, a question and answer discussion was held that expanded on climate policy, environmental justice, and the path to 100% renewables for New Jersey. The greatest takeaway from the event is the fact that as citizens we must take action and reach out to our legislators and let them know where we stand on climate policy and renewable energy—we must make our voices heard and demand change for a better future.

Lily Makhlouf is a senior majoring in environmental studies at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

A Look at Contaminated Soil in Pompton Lakes

By Dominique Otiepka

Pompton Lakes has been exposed to a variety of toxic chemicals that were released by DuPont Chemical Company.  Over the course of the semester, I have been conducting extensive research on soil contamination in Pompton Lakes.  I explored the soil types, the ways the soil responds to chemicals, considering weather impacts, and reviewed the remediation and toxicity of contaminated sites.  This research considers each of these topics because soil contributes to the health of the community. Analyzing the soil will help further understand how the released chemicals influence different components throughout Pompton Lakes and how they remain within the environment, unless proper remediation efforts are completed.

The DuPont Chemical Company site itself was never fully remediated; it is a source for constant chemical migration from the property. Some chemicals released included lead, mercury, chromium, and copper, which had absorbed into the soil throughout DuPont Village. The soil type within Pompton Lakes is permeable and can easily absorb water and chemicals more readily than other soil types.  Such toxins are capable of remaining in the soil for extended periods of time, which is referred to as soil persistence. Soil persistence occurs in various ways.  Soil persistence occurs in every type of soil, though lasts for a prolonged time in clay-based soils.

Regarding soil persistence, the released contaminants that have been found in the soil can either volatize, evaporate, bind tightly to the soil, end up in the water held within the soil particles or in the underlying groundwater. Sandy loam tends to have much larger pore spaces because the sand grains are more irregular in shape and do not compact as readily as other soil types. The arrangement and size of soil particles within the soil can change the flow path for water, gases, and pollutants.

Pore spaces are further identified by macropores and micropores.  Macropores tend to allow movement of air and percolating water very readily, whereas micropores are the first to be filled with water in a moist field soil and do not permit much air movement into or out of the pores. The size of the sandy loam particles varies, since the soil consists of sandy loam, fine sandy loam, and coarse sandy loam in the alternating soil layers.  Measurements of particles range from 0.1 to 1mm. Due to this porous soil type, chemicals do not have the ability to bind tightly to the particles because sandy loam is not aggregated. Instead, the soil structure allows for both the absorption and evaporation of chemicals.  

Impacts from Rainfall and Wind on Soil in Pompton Lakes

The DuPont plant site was built on a higher elevation that drains to a small stream called Acid Brook. Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy and other storms caused Acid Brook to overflow.  The soil, which was originally sandy loam, was excavated approximately eight feet down, then filled with clay on contaminated properties in DuPont Village between the years of 1992 and 1996. This in turn, led to the soil being clay on resident’s properties in DuPont Village, since it was used to fill the excavated areas. The clay that was utilized was from a location outside of Pompton Lakes that was brought in by truckloads and was chosen to prevent further absorption of chemicals.  

Clay absorbency properties are limited, and clay does not percolate, although, it furthers the spread of chemicals from flooding throughout the town and have forced water into the lower levels of homes that were remediated with the clay. Clay soil drains poorly, and only absorbs approximately ¼ of an inch of water every hour. Meanwhile, sandy loam absorbs water at a rate of more than 2 inches per hour.

Pompton Lakes has excessive flooding in the southern end of the town, which has flooded up to four feet in the past due to hurricanes. When there is intense rainfall, the topsoil may be easily removed and carried by the water runoff, which can pick up other contaminated soil particles and transfer them as well. The average annual precipitation ranges from about 47-54 inches throughout the county, with about 33 thunderstorms each year.  Partly thawed soils tend to be very erodible during periods of heavy rainfall, especially during the winter months. With flooding, contamination within the water bodies can spread outward to neighboring towns.

Wind may also carry and relocate chemicals, which are then deposited on the surface of soils; this soil structure allows particles to be moved readily. The direction of wind in this region is from the Northwest.  The soil pile placed near Lakeside School after dredging Pompton Lake could have been deposited in the Southeast direction off site, either in the Pompton Lake or across it, towards Wayne.

Dust monitoring was utilized to assess potential impacts of the remedial action on the surrounding environment and community. Dust monitoring was conducted at one upwind and two downwind locations.  The forecast wind direction for each day was considered. Locations that were upwind of the activity measured dust levels coming into the processing area as well. Monitoring activities were performed during excavation, dredging, material handling and processing, and will be performed when the eco-layer placement occurs during the final steps of remediation. The final phase of soil removal from Pompton Lake is on schedule to occur in May 2018.

The average hourly wind speed in Passaic County has significant seasonal variation over the course of the year.  The windier part of the year lasts for 5 months, from November to April, with average wind speeds of 5.6 miles per hour (m/hr). The wind velocity must be greater than 15 m/hr for wind erosion to occur on bare soil, but if the surface is disturbed by buildings or cultivation, then a wind speed of only 3 m/hr is required to start soil moving and once moving, it will continue to move.  The annual wind speed in Passaic County of 5.6 m/hr is greater than the wind speed that can move soil particles in this occupied area, which is only 3m/hr. The climate conditions in Pompton Lakes can evidently spread the chemicals throughout the town through wind and flooding.

Vapor Intrusion Pathway

DuPont’s toxic waste has contaminated the soils and sediments by absorbing the contaminated water from overflow events.  Much of the contamination came from previously detonated blasting caps which contained mercury, lead salts, and chlorinated solvents. Chlorinated VOCs volatilizing from shallow groundwater are a potential source of VOCs in soil gas and sub-slab soil gas overlying the groundwater plume. Vapor intrusion refers to the migration of VOC vapors from a subsurface source, through the soil, and into overlying homes and buildings where people can be exposed. Since the soil located in the plume absorbed chemicals, toxic vapors have migrated into households located over the groundwater plume.  The vapors move from the groundwater and through the cracks in the structure of the lower part of the house.

The carcinogenic chemicals released are PCE and TCE.  The impacted soil is a result from toxic vapors rising from the groundwater, located beneath the soil layers.  The chemicals are released through gas and migrate upward. Residents have not been removed from their houses, even though chemicals migrated to places underneath their houses, so Vapor Intrusion Mitigation Systems have been installed.  

Acid Brook Delta and Pompton Lake: Soil and Sediment Removal

Hydraulic dredging of a 36-acre portion of the Pompton Lake has been completed, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. A final remediation step includes restoring the previously dredged materials with the placement of an ecological-layer consisting of naturally washed sand.  Shoreline areas will be stabilized and planted, and wetland areas disturbed by dredge operations will be restored through backfilling and installation of materials such as coir logs. The input of sand will be approximately 6 inches in depth, though the US Fish and Wildlife Service argued for a thicker cap; any contaminants remaining in the sediment and soils that had not been dredged could move up through the sand layer by way of the water that fills the spaces between each grain of sand.

Where the Acid Brook flows into Pompton Lake, known as the Acid Brook Delta (ABD), approximately 128,000 cubic yards of sediment and soil were removed. Results from investigations at the ABD show that the greatest total mercury (THg) and methylmercury concentrations in sediments and soil were near the mouth of Acid Brook.  

An expansion of the ABD removal area was initiated in 2016 and will be developed over a five-year monitoring period. Expansion of the ABD removal area consists of additional locations between the Lakeside Avenue Bridge and the Pompton Lake Dam. The other two are Area A and Island Area. Island Area is defined as the soils between Lakeside Avenue and the edge of the water in Pompton Lake.

In expanding the removal area, the locations for potential exposure with elevated mercury concentrations in sediments will be removed.  Methylmercury concentrations measured in the water were in the upper range in areas of Pompton Lake outside of the ABD. Additional sediment removal reduces the overall exposure to methylmercury within the expanded ABD removal area. Area A is a shallow, near-shore area adjacent to the southern extent, which has the potential to being exposed to materials containing THg. With the elevated subsurface, the removal of THg concentrations in sediment in Area A is being conducted to reduce the potential for future exposure of subsurface materials that may contain elevated THg concentrations.

Acid Brook Remediation

Removal of contaminated soils and sediments has been completed in Acid Brook as well as on the properties that surround residential houses alongside Acid Brook. In 1991, DuPont began the remediation of contaminated sediments in Acid Brook and on residential properties; this was completed in 1997. The recorded removal depths generally ranged from 0.5 to 9 feet below the ground surface.  The current total of estimated removal volume was approximately 3,160 cubic yards.

Lead and mercury were the constituents driving the remediation in both extent and depth in Acid Brook.  The highest mercury concentrations, greater than 100 milligrams per kilogram, (mg/kg) were generally found in the sediment near the Acid Brook discharge.

In Conclusion

Since the 1990s, efforts have been made to try and clean the soils affected by the chemical release from DuPont Chemical Company. But residents believe that it is not enough or thorough, since their health has been impacted directly and indirectly. Most of the soil remediation in Pompton Lake will come to an end in the summer of 2018, although it will continue in the Acid Brook Delta expanded removal areas. 

Dominique Otiepka is a graduating senior at Ramapo College with a BA in Environmental Studies.  She has dedicated time to various environmental research projects and has completed an Environmental Impact Statement with the Environmental Studies senior class in her final semester. She is thrilled to use her knowledge after graduation and make a positive impact wherever she is.