TRENTON (21/P044) – People and organizations that protect New Jersey’s environment through sustainable practices, education and partnerships are among the eight winners of 2021 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards and the prestigious Richard J. Sullivan Award, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette announced today.
This year’s honorees are recognized for their commitment to enhance New Jersey environmental protection practices by mitigating the adverse effects of climate change, improving living conditions and providing training for people in environmentally vulnerable communities, adjusting preservation goals to help local farmers, and building partnerships to promote land conservation.
“We are lucky to have so many forward-thinking organizations that work every day to ensure future generations will have a healthy environment to enjoy with their families,” Commissioner LaTourette said. “I am thrilled to honor the winners of this year’s Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards and the Sullivan Award for their continued dedication to create a stronger, fairer New Jersey through outstanding environmental leadership.”
The 2021 Awards were presented online. Video is available at the DEP website. Facebook page. DEP social media channels will feature excerpts and videos of the presentations throughout December.
The Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards were awarded to eight individuals and organizations, including Fred Byarm, who has three decades of experience in the food service industry and focuses on improving the standard of living for black and brown communities through job training and education. Another Excellence Award was presented to Montclair State University’s PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies, which develops research projects and education programming through academic and corporate partnerships.
Named for New Jersey’s first DEP Commissioner, the Richard J. Sullivan Award honors New Jersey residents who demonstrate exceptional leadership and outstanding accomplishment in safeguarding public health, protecting and enhancing New Jersey’s diverse natural resources and creating vibrant, sustainable communities that provide economic opportunity for all.
This year’s Richard J. Sullivan honoree is Capt. Bill Sheehan, a Hackensack River Watershed area resident since his youth, is the recipient of this year’s Richard J. Sullivan honoree. He is a dedicated conservationist and founded Hackensack Riverkeeper in 1997 and continues to serve as the organization’s Executive Director.
Captain Bill, as most people know him, holds a 25-Ton Launch/Tender Master’s license from the U.S. Coast Guard, which he earned in 1995. Since then, he has commanded several Riverkeeper research vessels. He spends at least six monthly a year advocating for others, educating them, and patrolling Hackensack River.
Capt. Capt. The Trust is responsible to acquire, hold and manage conservation properties in the Meadowlands as well as throughout the Hackensack River watershed.
The Hackensack Riverkeeper was a founding member and supporter of Waterkeeper Alliance. This international coalition includes more than 300 clean-water advocates working to improve waterways all over the world. Capt. Bill is the Northeast regional representative on the Waterkeeper Council, one of the Alliance’s governing boards. He is often called upon as a mentor for rookie Waterkeepers, which is something he enjoys.
The 2021 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards winners are:
CLIMATE CHANGE & CLEAN AIR: Solar Landscape
Founded in 2012 by New Jersey natives Shaun Keegan and Corey Gross, Solar Landscape develops, designs, installs, owns and operates community solar and solar energy solutions for the commercial/industrial, municipal, public school and nonprofit marketplace. The Asbury Park-based company has installed more than 110 megawatts of commercial solar energy projects in the Northeast and offers a Solar Job Training Program in underserved communities as part of the company’s commitment to the state’s Community Solar Pilot Program. When completed, Solar Landscape’s 20 MW portfolio of community solar projects from the program’s first year will deliver enough electricity to power more than 3,000 New Jersey homes for the next 20 years.
ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION: Montclair State University PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies
Montclair State University’s PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies advances sustainability by developing community-engaged research projects and building educational programs through academic/corporate/public partnerships. The institute’s annual Green Team Internship Program connects teams of students with corporations, organizations, nonprofits, municipalities and community groups to address sustainability issues. From 19 Montclair students in 2016, the program now has 270 students from more 100 majors from 55 colleges and universities across New Jersey. Recently, 54 green teams supported 191 projects in 32 host organizations. This included 18 companies, seven non-profits, nine municipalities and three government agencies.
ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION: Summit Free Market
Founded in 2008, the Summit Free Market is a volunteer, student-run program that works to reduce the amount of reusable material that enters Summit’s waste stream. Summit Free Market has saved more than $25,000 per year in garbage tipping fees since its inception. Its popular and successful community reuse initiative has helped to keep more than 160 tons of reusable material out of Summit’s waste stream. Each volunteer is trained by a student leader who explains how reuse contributes towards municipal sustainability. The market is open to anyone in need during the week.
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE Fred Byarm
Fred Byarm has 30 years’ experience in the food services industry, is a Six Sigma Black Belt and Lean Six Sigma certified, with a focus on health care and manufacturing. Invincible City Farms, LLC was founded by Fred Byarm. Byarm is a permanent member of Invincible City Inc.’s Board of Directors and Acting Interim Executive Director. Invincible City’s mission is to improve the standard and health of black and brown communities through the development of local food systems. These systems have many benefits, including job training, education, market access, and support for low-income and marginalized communities in order to increase racial equality. Byarm, who has opened four restaurants, is also a veteran in the Start-Up industry.
ECOS: HEATHLY & SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS
ECOS is a pioneer in green cleaning, having been producing more than 200 environmentally-friendly laundry detergents, dish soaps, and surface cleaners since 1967. ECOS is a leader of sustainable manufacturing. It has certified facilities in Parsippany, New Jersey, and nationwide that are carbon neutral, water neutral, and Platinum Zero Waste. ECOS became a climate-positive business in 2021. This company invests more in renewable energy projects, and has water restoration programs for critically endangered habitats.
HEATHLY & SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES Somerset County Agriculture
Somerset County’s Farmland Preservation Program held roundtables with local farmers, agriculture professionals, county commissioners and the county Agriculture Development Board to determine how to best support local famers, increase sustainability and improve the agricultural economy. The county updated its Farmland Preservation Plan through mass mailing postcards to local farmers. These postcards included links to online information about farmers rights, preservation program and applications. It also developed general educational programs, events, and outreach tools. It also established relationships with other professional organizations. The county also expanded Ag Day celebrations in order to reach a wider audience.
HEALTHY ECOSYSTEMS & HABITATS: Hudson Farm
Hudson Farm provides a year-round outdoor adventure for its members on more that 4,000 acres of Sussex County land. The farm manages its land voluntary through its New Jersey-approved Forest Stewardship Program, as well as multiple other voluntary conservation projects. This has resulted in a significant ecological improvement over the years. Hudson Farm has voluntarily implemented ecological forest practices on an annually basis. This includes forest-stand thinning, integrated pest management and invasive species control, stream and river quality restorations as well as stream, water and wetland restorations and riparian buffer works. These practices are intended to benefit a variety of declining wildlife species. From October 2020 to October 2021, Hudson Farm and its partners implemented more than 130 acres and 1.5 miles of habitat restoration/stewardship on its property, as well as wildlife monitoring projects. The results were improved biodiversity, increased surface water infiltration and provided critical habitat. Hudson Farm also managed to control soil erosion and sediment runoff and diversified the forest age-class to increase forest resiliency, carbon sequestration, and improve nutrient cycling.
WATER RESOURCES – Fred Akers
Fred Akers, administrator of the Great Egg Harbor Watershed Association has spent more than 20 years in service to the Great Egg Harbor Watershed. He has been monitoring, assessing, and improving the water quality. His projects address the interconnected issues of stormwater management and land conservation, pollution reduction, habitat protection, and stormwater management in the region. Akers’ success comes from his passion for environmental protection, as well as his deep understanding of local issues and communities. Akers continues to build on his successes with continued work on critical projects, research and advocacy to protect New Jersey’s environment.
The Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award is New Jersey’s premier environmental award, having recognized 196 winners since 2000.
The DEP, New Jersey Infrastructure Bank, and the New Jersey Corporation for Advanced Technology, in partnership with the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, sponsor the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards program.
A panel of judges reviewed and scored the nominations on criteria including documented environmental benefit, contributions to meeting the state’s environment needs, replicability by others, leadership and innovation, and education and outreach undertaken as part of the effort. To learn more about the program, visit www.nj.gov/dep/awards/.
Follow Commissioner LaTourette via Twitter and Instagram @shawnlatur, and follow the DEP via Twitter @NewJerseyDEP