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imageThe 20th Annual Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards, held at the New Jersey State Museum, recognized efforts by schools, businesses and nonprofits that protect water and air quality, support sustainability and protect natural resources.

Commissioner Catherine McCabe also announced that former Governors Thomas H. Kean and James J. Florio, noted for their leadership of the state during pivotal periods in environmental protection, were honored with Richard J. Sullivan awards. The award, named for the first DEP Commissioner, will be formally presented to Kean and Florio in April, as part of DEP’s 50th birthday celebration and the 50th anniversary of America’s first Earth Day.

“It is truly an honor to recognize these environmental leaders who are shining examples for all of us to follow,” Commissioner McCabe said. “Their commitment and dedication provide proof that the spirit of environmentalism remains strong in New Jersey. We congratulate them on their outstanding achievements and thank them for helping to improve the health of our environment – and our quality of life. We are particularly pleased to honor former Governors Kean and Florio, pioneers in protecting the environment who today remain stalwart advocates on environmental issues, including climate change.”

Among the honorees recognized are two businesses that adapted green practices to combat climate change and promote sustainability; two nonprofits with statewide reach that facilitate local environmental decisions and actions; two comprehensive projects that harness the collaboration of numerous partners and volunteers to protect natural resources; and two efforts that engage students in designing and caring for rain gardens and green infrastructure.

The Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award is New Jersey’s premier environmental award. The program has recognized 188 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 and the DEP’s Environmental Stewardship Initiative, sponsor the program.

The DEP received more than 50 applications for this year’s awards. 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


Richard J. Sullivan Award
Thomas H. Kean
Kean served as Governor from January 1982 through January 1990. He served in the New Jersey Assembly beginning in 1967 and became the youngest Assembly Speaker in 1971, at the age of 36. As Assembly Speaker, he helped usher passage of the Coastal Facility Review Act, regulating coastal development. His environmental record as an elected official included pushing for legislation protecting freshwater wetlands and dealing with the state’s legacy of toxic waste dumping, contamination of the Passaic River from chemicals used to produce Agent Orange, and ocean pollution. He signed the Worker Community Right to Know Act in 1983, signed an executive order to protect the public from radon, signed the law that made New Jersey the first state to require recycling. He also worked to end ocean waste dumping in 1991. Additionally, he signed a law to stop the discharge of raw sewage into the ocean and worked on efforts to upgrade wastewater treatment plants and track medical waste. He later served as president of Drew University and remains active on environmental issues, serving, along with Florio, as honorary co-chair of the New Jersey Climate Change Alliance at Rutgers University.

James J. Florio
Florio served as Governor from January 1990 until January 1994. Before his election as Governor, he served in the state Assembly and then in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the First District. As a member of Congress, he authored the Comprehensive Response Compensation and Liability Act, know commonly as the Superfund law, which prioritized remediation of the nation’s most contaminated sites. He also wrote and steered passage of an amendment to the National Parks and Recreation Act, creating New Jersey’s Pinelands National Reserve. As Governor, he signed the state’s Clean Water Enforcement Act, one of the strongest laws of its type in the nation and model for reauthorization of the nation’s Clean Water Enforcement Act. During his tenure as Governor, the State Development and Redevelopment Plan was adopted. He remains a passionate speaker and advocate on protecting the environment. Along with Kean, he serves as honorary co-chair of the New Jersey Climate Change Alliance. He received the prestigious Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Foundation in 1993.

Climate Change & Clean Air
Domain Computer Services
Domain Computer Services, a Cranbury technology solutions company, is working to reduce its environmental impact by using and promoting electric vehicles. The company’s commitment to going green began in 2012, when Domain founder and CEO Rashaad Bajwa introduced electric cars to its fleet. Today, the company has 10 electric vehicles – and employees are encouraged to use them not only for business, but in their daily lives, to promote a cleaner environment. Domain also has five electric vehicle chargers at its offices and participates in New Jersey’s It Pay$ to Plug In, a charging station grants program. The company estimates that it has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 348,000 pounds since replacing its gasoline-powered fleet with electric vehicles.

Water Resources
Garden Magic LLC
How your garden grows – in an environmentally friendly way – may depend on whose advice you’re following. Garden Magic LLC, of Mountain Lakes, provides practical, in-the-garden assistance to homeowners, master gardeners, community organizations and landscaping groups. Company principals Susan and Brian Marshall specialize in water resources engineering and native plant horticulture, which they use to create rain gardens and other watershed protection projects, including a state-of-the-art rain garden installed at historic St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Mountain Lakes. The rain garden collects stormwater from the church and rectory roofs, the rectory driveway, surrounding lawn and gardens, and two adjacent properties. It is expected to capture more than 200,000 gallons of runoff each year.

Healthy Ecosystems & Habitats
reTURN the Favor New Jersey
From sunset to sunrise, they roam Delaware Bay beaches in search of stranded horseshoe crabs. Volunteers with reTURN the Favor New Jersey visit these beaches from April through July, during the spawning season, and gently turn the horseshoe crabs onto their legs, pointing the creatures toward the water. The program assists the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife by reducing the loss of spawning horseshoe crabs, increasing public awareness of conservation needs, and collecting data on horseshoe crabs and their habitat. Volunteers also identify stranding hazards and make observations that inform conservation, research and habitat restoration. Since 2013, volunteers have rescued more than 500,000 horseshoe crabs. Partners include Citizens United for the Maurice River and its Tributaries, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, Friends of Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, M. Wren Consulting, New Jersey Audubon, Rutgers University, The Nature Conservancy, The Wetlands Institute and Executive Office of Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.

Land Conservation
New Jersey Conservation Blueprint
Everyone knows that New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation. So how do we figure out how to most effectively work toward conserving the most critical remaining lands? The New Jersey Conservation Blueprint – a data-driven, interactive mapping tool – is meant to help with determining those answers. More than 140 data sets are available, including regional analysis, landowner contacts and funding collaborations, with information as detailed as the parcel level. And all of it is free, accessible with the click of a computer mouse. The Blueprint was established by a partnership of The Nature Conservancy, Rowan University, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and 22 other conservation leaders from government and the nonprofit sectors.

Healthy & Sustainable Businesses
La Belle Vie Salon
“The beautiful life” is what La Belle Vie Salon strives to provide – in every way. The Gloucester County hair salon not only offers hair and beauty services, but also is committed to reducing its ecological footprint. Since 2017, about 90 percent of the salon’s waste has been recycled or repurposed, thanks to its partnership with Green Circle Salons, an environmental company devoted to helping salons become sustainable. At La Belle Vie, excess color waste is separated so that the color can be repurposed and the wastewater used for landscaping. Chemicals are removed from cannisters and metal products, and disposed of properly, while the cannisters are recycled. Hair is recovered and used in materials to help clean up oil spills. The salon also has energy-efficient appliances and LED lighting, and shampoo bowl shower heads that conserve water, reducing water and energy use by 65 percent.

Healthy & Sustainable Communities
Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions
When everyone else is looking at the big picture, the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions narrows its focus to this: local environment matters. The nonprofit organization has spent 50 years providing leadership, education and support to New Jersey’s environmental commissions, as well as local planning boards and public officials. From educational resources to networking opportunities, the association aims to prepare its members to address challenges ranging from hazardous spills to climate change. The association also has partnered with local, county and state organizations to advocate for strong state and regional environmental policies. But the heart of the association’s work is to ensure that every commission understands its local, regional and statewide responsibilities to assure responsible and sustainable use of New Jersey’s natural resources and to protect environmental health.

Healthy & Sustainable Communities
New Jersey School Boards Association
imageThe writing on the blackboard should read: Sustainable practices do not have to cost the district a lot of money. That is the thinking behind the New Jersey School Boards Association’s effort to get the state’s public schools focused on advancing environmentally friendly practices in their facilities. The Association represents more than 5,000 members of the state’s 581 local boards of education and charter school boards of trustees, which govern the operation of New Jersey’s public schools. Since 2011, the organization has not only helped school board members and administrators to learn about sustainability and sustainable practices, but it also works with school teams to create sustainability plans tailored to meet a district’s needs, reduce operational costs, improve indoor environmental quality, and infuse sustainability throughout curriculum. The Association offers a New Jersey Sustainable Schools Guidebook, which is a resource for school and district leaders aiming to “green” their facilities.

Environmental Education (Educator-led)
Wallkill River Watershed Management Group
Remember when summer camp meant days swimming and splashing around in a lake? For students taking part in Stormwater Summer Camp, activities still involve water – but have a “green” goal. The third annual camp, funded by NJ Future and held in July at Marian E. McKeown Elementary School in Hampton, saw students building water filters, getting their hands dirty in the school’s 3,865-square-foot rain garden and observing the installation of porous asphalt in the school parking lot. The camp, conducted by the Wallkill River Watershed Management Group (part of the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority), included stormwater-themed STEM activities and off-campus field trips to teach the campers about water pollution and conservation, project planning and design, and stormwater management using nature-based solutions. The efforts at the Sussex County school help to capture stormwater from its facilities so that polluted runoff won’t flow into the Paulins Kill River directly across the street.

Environmental Education (Student-Led)
Bridgewater-Raritan High School Students
They call them the Green Ambassadors. Five students at Bridgewater-Raritan High School discovered that flooding from rainwater near one of their school buildings was sending polluted runoff into the Raritan River and decided to do something about it. Digging in to find a solution, the teens – Ritika Thomas, Aneesh Nagalkar, Amogh Jupalli, Sujay Edavalapati and Pravar Jain – determined the best remedy would be a rain garden. Working with environmental experts from Rutgers University and the Raritan Headwaters Association, they created a plan.

The students researched native plants, gathered necessary materials and selected a planting date in mid-July. Accompanied by volunteers from the local elementary, middle and high schools, they dug, mulched, weeded and filled the rain garden with low-maintenance plants. They followed up with a schedule for watering and nurturing the garden’s plantings into the school year. The young team also has launched a Green Infrastructure Club at school to educate others about the environment and water quality. The rain garden will serve as a science laboratory for soil, plant and pollutant testing by science classes. The students also want to add a weather station and fencing, and plan to build another rain garden on the school grounds next year to alleviate a similar flooding problem.