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Nothing like New Jersey

Committee cites state’s commitment to environment at forum

Every American produces more than 1,600 pounds of garbage on average, nearly a ton each year. Let those staggering statistics set in.

That is what Iileen Wright, a member of the Medford Green Team, shared during her presentation at the township’s Environmental Affairs Advisory Committee (EAAC) community forum in March. She spoke about the importance of reducing and removing plastics from households with sustainable replacements.

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“Now we need a solution at home to help our climate and communities recover,” she said. “I’m proud to live in New Jersey. We have one of the strongest plastic bans in the country.”

Presented as part forum, part educational program, the EAAC event had four major topics on its agenda, including environmentally friendly and sustainable household products; creating a wildlife habitat area in the backyard; and local invasive species, with a focus on the Spotted lanternfly.

Different sustainable household products were also on display.

“One thing I think that we all have in common is, we all love the environment,” Medford councilman Eric Rebstock noted. “We wouldn’t be sitting here if that wasn’t the case.”

Wright was part of a four-speaker panel that also included Cecelia Schmidt, a licensed landscape architect; Robert Petrillo, a certified ecologist and professional wetland scientist; and Saul Vaiciunas, a plant pathologist.

Schmidt spoke about creating ecosystems not only in a backyard or in and around one’s home, but in public spaces to further create ecosystems that increase the diversity of nature.

Medford, situated in the Pinelands, has the benefit of already being an area with a diverse ecology, but residents can always do more to help it out, she advised.

“Understanding our local ecosystem and attracting wildlife to our gardens is a giant positive step in the Save the World business,” Schmidt pointed out. “We can wait for a global effort of corporations and governments to set up and agree on policies, but the individual can act now on their own property and make a giant impact.”

Petrillo’s presentation directly addressed the wetland presence in Medford and its  importance. He is a certified ecologist and professional wetland scientist who said that outside of Medford’s status as a wetlands-heavy area, the state Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has done a lot to protect such areas statewide.

“Nothing is like New Jersey, which is great,” he remarked. “The (NJDEP) has jurisdiction over everything. That’s not normal for other states.”

Vaiciunas’ presentation focused on invasive species. As one of the leading people working on the current spotted lanternfly problem with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, he was the perfect person to speak on the issue.

“We switched from eradication mode to something else,” Vaiciunas explained of how fast invasive species are spreading. But he said the situation is not hopeless.

“There is something that can be done,” Vaiciunas assured forum guests. “It’s just going to take time.”

For those who want to get involved with protecting the environment, the Medford Green Team, in cooperation with the EAAC, has formed an auxiliary committee. Students are welcome.

For more information email eaac@medfordtownship.com or call (609) 654-2608, ext. 330.


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