Living a sustainable life can be easy and often only necessitates a few changes.
Haddonfield residents exude a plethora of tips, from installing rain barrels to shredding leaves to composting instead of trashing.
Recently, the Haddonfield Green Team changed its name to Sustainable Haddonfield to encompass a broader scope of ways to help improve the local community.
Julie Beddingfield’s family has one car, which generally stays in her driveway.
The Sustainable Haddonfield co-chair does her best to take advantage of the town’s walkability, with her children walking the block from her house to Elizabeth Haddon Elementary School and taking the PATCO high-speed line to her job in Philadelphia.
Stepping into Beddingfield’s yard, two rain barrels come into sight. Inside her home, composting bins are stored in the basement and readied to find their way into the ground.
Her goal is to meet needs efficiently now, while preparing for the future.
“That’s what sustainability in that bigger sense is about,” she said.
Storm water run off is a huge issue in Haddonfield and causes flooding, Beddingfield said.
“The more we can reduce storm water run off, the better,” she said.
The battle begins at her home, where rain barrels sit next to her porch, though rain gardens and rain barrels can be seen at homes and on streets throughout town.
The 55-gallon barrel is attached to a downspout on a home. It collects rainwater from the roof instead of running off into the yard or street.
“Then you can use that water instead of just letting it go into the storm drains,” she said.
The water can be used to water plants or even wash a car, she said, explaining that even 10 minutes of rain will fill the barrels.
A rain barrel retails for more than $100, according to a document from Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.
Rain gardens also help to conserve water. Water tolerant plants are placed in a low spot where water usually pools. The water then infiltrates the ground rather than running into the street.
Bugs and critters naturally clean the storm water and the gardens reduce its volume.
“It’s a way to keep the water,” she said.
Living with little
Mary Previte learned at a young age in a Japanese concentration camp what it meant to live without material goods.
The 80-year-old can often be seen lugging an array of interesting items into her garden plot at Crows Woods, saving scraps that many people would simply throw away.
“I recycle all of my vegetable kitchen waste,” she said, which is a “wonderful addition.”
As a result, she discovers avocados growing from seeds in her garden. Pine needles, leaves and hay also find their way into her plot. She places crushed eggshells around her tomatoes to improve flavor. However, in another time of her life, eggshells meant direct nourishment.
Born in China to missionary parents, Previte’s entire school was shipped into Weihsien Concentration Camp in northeast China one day after Pearl Harbor was attacked. She was 9 years old and became “Property of the Great Emperor of Japan.” She was separated from her parents for five-and-a-half years due to warring armies.
“Japan had been warring with China long before she attacked Pearl Harbor,” she said.
There were 1,500 prisoners in the camp and her teachers made sure their students were being properly nourished, which was a feat in a place with little in way of heartening foods.
There was no milk. Often, there weren’t eggs either. Black marketing took place over the walls, with prisoners trading for eggs. The eggshells were crushed into a powder for the children to consume to help sustain teeth and bones. After swallowing, the children would have to stick their tongues out to ensure the shells were eaten.
“They were also very quick to look for weeds to eat,” Previte said.
She stayed in the camp until being liberated by Americans in 1945 at age 12.
Her sustainability practices seep into every action, even outside of her garden. Growing up in China, all her clothes were hand-me-downs.
“Everything we used over and over again,” she said. “You didn’t throw anything out.”
She loves when she sees Girl Scouts recycling prom gowns.
“That’s a way of recycling,” she said.
Currently, her quilting bee circle is in the midst of making a wedding quilt for her niece’s daughter, who is to be married at Christmas, from scraps of fabric bundles in a pineapple pattern.
“You can use all kinds of sizes,” she said. “Why should we throw quilt scraps into the trash? I don’t understand that.”
Even more, Previte conserves energy in her home by utilizing her clothesline.
“I love the feel of sunshine-fresh sheets, so I rarely use my dryer. Summer and winter, I dry all of my clothes on my clothesline,” she said.
Every morning, she walks three miles, all the while picking up twigs to use in her fireplace, plus anything else she might see. If an item is too heavy to carry home, she will get in her car and drive back. Last fall, she collected 20 bales of hay for her garden, not to mention bags of leaves and shredded grass.
“I look in the neighborhood,” she said. “Everything is right from my immediate area. While my mother used to have a farmer dump a truckload of cow manure into her garden, I use leaves and vegetable scraps. Some years, I’ve lugged in 50 bags of leaves to mulch into my Crows Woods garden.”
Previte mainly eats what she grows in her garden, including weeds, such as dandelion leaves, pig wee and purslane.
“I’m told that there are restaurants in the Philadelphia area that snip it into their salads,” she said.
Crows Woods has flourished over the years with bumper crops and happy earthworms, much to the delight of its composting caregivers.
“I’m out there frequently,” she said.
Gardens, gardens, gardens
Previte isn’t the only gardener in town re-using leaves.
Mark Oswald shreds leaves with his lawnmower to keep his garden plot moist and happy. In the fall, he, too, takes bales of hay to line the paths of his garden and put under plants as compost. By placing two to three inches of leaves under vegetables, he keeps weeds from growing while keeping the soil moist.
“It’s a great process to use,” Oswald said. “It’s so easy to do.”
He also never throws away plant garbage, instead opting for the compost pile.
Paul Eckman follows suit, recycling vegetable matter in his garden whenever possible. Eckman is quick to point out not to throw cooked food into the compost, however, explaining “that would attract rodents.”
Grass clippings, coffee grounds and newspaper shreds can be found in his plot. Eckman practices lasagna gardening, a process of layers of vegetable matter, newspapers and leaves, which helps trap moisture. In fact, last year, he only had to water his plot “maybe once,” despite the hot and dry conditions.
“The ground was so moist,” he said.
Most of the work in his garden takes place in early springtime. The rest of the season consists of watching his plants rise strong and healthy.
Bobbie Eckman, Paul’s wife, spearheaded a home project to install solar panels, being sustainable in her own way, and the results have been wonderful, she said.
“We have the perfect roof for it, which is unusual in Haddonfield,” she said.
About a year and a half ago, she settled on the idea, becoming the 13th home in the borough with solar heating.
“I just wanted to take a shot at it,” she said.
The tree-lined streets make it hard for residents to purchase the panels, but the Eckmans’ roof sees significant sun. Now, the couple does not pay an electric bill.
“You pay for the connection to the street,” she said.
If interested in solar panels, Eckman suggests choosing a reliable installer who will potentially stay in business for the next 10 years. Panels come with good guarantees, she said, “which is a really nice thing as long as your installers are still in business.”
Many times, Eckman finds herself monitoring the panels.
“I spend time tracking them,” she said. “I monitor what they’re doing every day so I can project what it’s going to look like in a month.”
Sustainability in town
In Haddonfield, supporting local businesses is a way of being sustainable, Beddingfield said.
Walking to grab a gallon of milk or other needed product instead of driving to a box store in another town helps to keep the downtown vibrant, engages community connectivity and cuts the time of sitting behind a steering wheel.
The environment and economics are interrelated, she said.
“I love to see those packs of kids downtown on their bikes,” she said. “That’s the sort of community connection that’s part of sustainability.”
Sustainability resources online
There are plenty of online resources specific to the area to learn more about sustainability, from the local gardeners to community groups to larger operations.
• The Crows Woods Gardeners are ready to help. Visit http://crowswoodsgardeners.com to learn about community initiatives, garden plots and read the newsletter from the gardeners.
• Learn all about storm water management by visiting http://water.rutgers.edu/Stormwater_Management/rainbarrels.html. The website houses a wide berth of information, including the answer to “why rain barrels?”
• Find out more information about a clean energy incentive program being offered through the end of June by visiting http://www.njcleanenergy.com/residential/programs/home-performance-energy-star/home-performance-energy-star-r.
• Visit http://www.njsolarpower.com to learn more about solar power.
• Stay on top of news from Sustainable Haddonfield by visiting www.facebook.com/SustainableHaddonfield.
• Sustainable Jersey gives a wider perspective on the topic. Visit www.sustainablejersey.com for more details.
• On the county level, visit www.camdencounty.com to learn about going green, area parks and upcoming events.