BRICK – Did you know that butterflies can taste with their feet? Or that you can find eels in Lake Riviera?
Not many people did before attending the 9th annual Brick Township Green Fair at the Brick Township High School. The annual event drew residents from all over the Jersey Shore to engage in a little environmental and sustainability fun.
The event featured dozens of vendors, student exhibits, and engaging displays focused on demonstrating environmental and social responsibility, locally-sourced products and zero waste.
This year’s theme was “Make One Change.”
“We’re trying to get people to make one small change, for instance stopping to use plastic straws,” said a representative from the Brick Township Environmental Commission, one of the event’s sponsors.
The Environmental Commission was engaging people in ‘making one change’ by encouraging them to sign a petition stating that they will scrap plastic straws. They also suggested alternatives for those every day, not-so-sustainable items, such as metal straws, reusable Ziplocs and water bottles, for example.
A major issue with plastic is that it lands itself in our waterways. Many local municipalities have even begun a ban on single-use plastic bags to prevent this, including Stafford Township, Beach Haven, and Point Pleasant Beach.
Clean Ocean Action contributed to the cause by providing free, reusable metal straws for attendees at the fair.
For a fun bit of local geographic education, Brick Township Engineer Elissa Commins was helping students point out which local waterways they live near.
“I ask kids where they live, tell them which watershed they live in, and I am asking them what they can do to make one change,” she said, such as using warm water to brush your teeth and wash your face, or using a Brita filter for water instead of plastic bottles.
And the kids weren’t just learning, some were actually doing the teaching. Two students from Osbornville Elementary were giving passersby a quick lesson on how to maintain energy efficiency when looking for new lightbulbs.
The demo used two strands of multi-colored twinkle lights, one LED, and compared the wattage. The other part of the demo compared the brightness and wattage of three different lightbulbs. In both cases, the LED was the most energy efficient option while still providing bright light.
Students from Warren H. Wolf Elementary created a sustainable greenhouse built entirely with recycled, reusable, sustainable resources. This greenhouse was displayed at the fair for kids to go inside and explore.
These Brick schools are also PowerSave Schools, a program created by the Alliance to Save Energy. According to the organization, “PowerSave Schools program students are empowered to grow as leaders, apply academic knowledge to solve the real-world challenge of increasing utility bills, and move their schools and communities toward a greener future with energy efficiency practices and measurable energy savings.”
Some of the most popular exhibits of the event were those that feature animals, some even showcasing snakes and butterflies for people to get an up-close look.
A representative from the Barnegat Bay Partnership told the story of eel migration from the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda, to the east coast of the US. Their table had a container of live eels taken directly from Lake Riviera. The Partnership tests the health of these eels and their environment once a year.
While energy efficiency and sustainable resources are popular notes to hit when talking about “going green,” not many may think about our soil and what we put into it as contributing greatly to our environment’s stability.
Save Barnegat Bay was focusing on this lesser-known environmental issue: fertilizer.
“It’s very important to us because stormwater with fertilizer brings it into the bay and the river, everywhere. It ends up there and the nitrogen creates algae, seaweed growth, and takes oxygen out,” which is damaging to the marine life, said Lindsey Roethke of Save Barnegat Bay.
The Green Fair encompassed a multitude of sustainability topics from energy, to aquatic life, to recycling. Information sessions were also held, including the Barnegat Bay with the Barnegat Bay Partnership, home energy efficiency by New Jersey Natural Gas and the NJ Clean Energy Program, and recycling with Brick Township Recycling Coordinator Trish Totaro and Atlantic Coast Recycling.
The Brick Township Shade Tree Commission also worked to distribute up to 825 tree seedlings during the event, provided by the New Jersey Tree Recovery Program, the NJDEP and the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry.
While the atmosphere was fun and friendly, the message was a serious one. We need to “make one change” in order to keep our communities and environment clean and healthy.