How to take action after the Climate March

Posted on by By Randall Solomon, Sustainable Jersey Co-Director


This past Sunday in New York City, over 300,000 people took to the streets to stand up for climate change action at “the biggest climate march in history.” As many people are feeling the post-march glow, it’s the perfect time to funnel this enthusiasm into local action — with the added nudge of some available grant funding.


Randall Solomon

Against the backdrop of the 125 countries attending the United Nations conference to negotiate climate change policy this week, progress is happening at the local level. New Jersey mayors and green teams are working together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy conservation and renewable energy projects as well as investments in transportation and energy efficient infrastructure.

For many towns, cost savings are a primary motivation for municipal climate change policies. Energy efficiency initiatives can reduce operating costs along with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Here are a few examples from Sustainable Jersey certified municipalities:

  • West Windsor Township and the West Windsor-Plainsboro School Board installed a cutting-edge geothermal HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system at the Thomas Grover Middle School. The geothermal system serves as a model of operational efficiency. It delivers heating and cooling, while operating with less adverse environmental impact, and requiring less operational maintenance than any comparably-sized conventional HVAC system.
  • The Montclair Township Council adopted an ambitious Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan with an associated annual two percent reduction as proposed by the Montclair Climate Committee and the Global Warming Response Act of New Jersey.  The plan intends to achieve a rate of four percent annual GHG emissions reductions that will put Montclair on track to reach New Jersey’s official GHG reduction target of an 80 percent reduction by the year 2050.
  • Jersey City took an asset-based inventory of its municipal car fleet and established goals to purchase hybrids and reduce the total number of vehicles by 20 percent. The City Council passed a resolution to purchase five hybrid vehicles for the Department of Public Works and the Automotive Division.
  • The Township of Woodbridge and the School Board have worked together for years to advance energy efficiency in the school buildings. Solar systems have been installed at 12 of the schools. The efforts by Woodbridge Township and the Woodbridge School Board have resulted in 24 out of 25 schools achieving an EPA Energy Star rating of 75 or above. This equates to a reduction of current site energy intensity by nearly 62 percent across the schools. Implementation of all of the identified energy conservation measures will further result in 2,270,000 kilowatt-hours of annual avoided electric usage and 171,000 therms of annual avoided natural gas usage. This equates to annual reductions of 1,750 tons of CO2 or 477 acres of trees planted annually.

Wanted: Innovative Sustainable Energy Projects

20140921_112456Do you or your municipality have an idea for a sustainable energy project? Well, good news, there is funding available to help. Sponsored by the Gardinier Environmental Fund, the Sustainable Jersey Small Grants program is now awarding grants to New Jersey municipalities in two amounts: $35,000 and $10,000, with a total of $150,000 available. Applications are due Nov. 5.

These grants will fund sustainable energy projects focused on efficiency, renewable energy, outreach and educational programs, feasibility studies, and/or related advanced energy infrastructure. Possible projects could include building efficiency upgrades, alternative vehicle fueling and charging stations, energy education projects that promote municipal energy conservation and efficiency programs, energy resiliency, solar energy installations, studies and engineering and your own innovative projects.

We challenge you and your town to see the opportunity beyond the climate crisis. Take action by implementing a sustainable energy project.

Connect with Sustainable Jersey on its Website and Facebook pageRandall Solomon is one of the principals that founded and now co-directs Sustainable Jersey.

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The Revolutionary Spirit: Creative Elizabeth Launches

Posted on by By Kacy O'Brien, Creative New Jersey

Creative Elizabeth flyer central question graphic_v2

Founded in 1665, The City of Elizabeth has a rich and celebrated history with a revolutionary heritage.


Kacy OBrien

During its nearly 350 years, Elizabeth has been the seat of change — ranging from the sinking of the first British ship after the Declaration of Independence, to the establishment of the Singer Sewing Machine Manufacturing Company plant, which was the largest single-establishment operation in the world by the 1870s.

Today, Elizabeth is home to nearly 125,000 people, and is the fourth largest city in New Jersey with a diverse population representing 50 countries and 37 language groups. Over the past 25 years, there have occurred enormous shifts in the business climate, industrial base, and population demographics.

Snyder Academy

Snyder Academy

On Oct. 23 & 24, the revolutionary spirit of Elizabeth lives on with the launch of Creative Elizabeth at the Snyder Academy of Elizabethtown, a newly renovated historic building on the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabeth campus — a site of revolutionary heritage (Alexander Hamilton was a student at the Academy and Revolutionary War soldiers rest in the adjoining historic graveyard) that will inspire the two-day, participant-driven convening.

For the past several months, the Creative Elizabeth Host Team has been working with Creative New Jersey to take a creative and collaborative approach to building on Elizabeth’s successes and tackling the current challenges it faces.

The central question we will explore together in October is:

How do we work more creatively and innovatively to draw upon Elizabeth, NJ’s historic greatness and ethnically-rich culture to maximize its assets and ensure a dynamic future?

This innovative gathering will bring together the creative thinkers and thought-leaders from throughout the City of Elizabeth’s region — leaders in education, politics, business and industry, transportation, finance, culture, faith-based, social service and other disciplines who think beyond the daily challenges of their particular fields of interest and imagine Elizabeth’s potential, and will join the ranks of Creative New Jersey communities across the state.

If you would like to learn more about Creative Elizabeth or get involved, please let us know! Email me at

Kacy O’Brien is the Program Manager at Creative New Jersey.  Creative New Jersey is dedicated to fostering creativity, innovation, and sustainability by empowering cross-sector partnerships in commerce, education, philanthropy, government, and culture in order to ensure dynamic communities and a thriving economy. Creative New Jersey’s leaders and partners are regular contributors to the Dodge blog. To learn more about Creative New Jersey visit: 

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From the Local News Lab: The Rise of Hands-on Journalism

Posted on by By Josh Stearns, Dodge Foundation Director of Journalism Sustainability

Digital journalism has made possible some incredible storytelling in recent years. Visually stunning reports on issues as diverse as gun violence, environmental disasters, and surveillance have brought stories to life on the screen. Increasingly, however, journalists are experimenting with innovations that move journalism off the screen and into people’s hands.

Josh Stearns

Josh Stearns

This spring RadioLab did a story about an ancient skull and the questions it helped answer about the origins of human history. It is a fascinating story, but it revolved around minute details scientists discovered in the skull, details a radio audience couldn’t see. So the RadioLab team took a scan of the skull, printed it out with a 3D printer, and made the scan available online for others to print out. So, now you could hypothetically feel the groves and markings on the skull as the scientists discuss them, discovering new facets of the skull alongside the narrators.

I am fascinated by the potential for these sorts of journalism-objects to help engage communities around stories and foster empathy with audiences. So I began collecting examples of what I call, “hands on journalism.”

I see this hands-on journalism as a particular kind of community engagement, one that may involve collaboration with community, but puts an emphasis on discovery and learning. Specifically the kind of learning that comes from doing.

The Things We Keep

In 2010 California Watch (part of the Center for Investigative Reporting) published an important story on retailers selling jewelry containing illegal levels of lead (a toxic metal especially dangerous to pregnant women and kids). Immediately after the story was published, California Watch sponsored three lead screening events for people to bring in their jewelry from home to have it tested.

A story about lead poisoning is going to have a very different resonance if you find out that your jewelry, or that of your neighbors, has high levels of lead. It brings the story home in a different way, while also providing a very important service to people. More recently the Center for Investigative Reporting printed a graphic novel, “The Box,” as part of their investigation into teen solitary confinement. Whereas the Internet often feels boundless, reading about solitary confinement in a medium that is bounded by page-edges and covers, gives a very different feel to the story.

Jessica Clark, the director of Dot Connector Studios and the curator of Tumblr “The Revenge of Analog,” argues in an upcoming post on Medium that “digital isn’t all it was cracked up to be.” “Our desire for the offline, the tangible, the face-to-face is foiling previous predictions of a fully-digitized future, and leading to a much more interesting and multilayered alternative,” she writes.

As we create physical objects and experiences to augment digital storytelling, we are also imbuing physical objects with Internet connectivity, in a way that Clark says, “erodes the stories we tell ourselves about the duality of online and offline life, and the innate functions of specific platforms.”

Creating a Lived Journalism

In 2008 Clark was testing “locative” projects focused on getting people out into the world with GPS driven place-based audio stories and interactive maps. This year, former Associate Press reporter Samantha Gross launched StoryTour, which describes itself as “an in-person magazine that brings its audience offline to experience stories firsthand through on-the-scene storytelling.”

StoryTour’s give journalists a chance to literally bring people into the story, connecting great journalism to curious people in amazing places. A recent StoryTour called “The Land of Slow Food Startups” introduce participants to one building in Brooklyn where “the city’s DIY community and rapidly shifting food culture meet.” In a similar vein, Postmedia Network in Canada created Gastropost, which ”sends its members on weekly food missions that could involve a specific ingredient, a particular cooking style or something that invokes a certain emotion.”

In an interview Gross told me that when she was reporting for the AP, “the best part of my job was something the audience never got to see.” She wanted to introduce people to the faces and voices behind her stories, to let them ask their own questions, to see the building blocks of each narrative first-hand. Hands-on journalism is often an effort to move people beyond the story and foster a deeper connection to issues and people. When Benjamen Walker launched his new mobile app Boardwalk Stories from Sandy this summer he said “We tried to do it in a way that draws in people interested in Sandy and others who don’t understand the science or who might not understand why people would want to rebuild.” The app takes users on a physical walking tour of Hurricane Sandy devastation on the New Jersey shore through GPS tagged audio stories.

The growth in interest in hands-on journalism is also evident in the increase in journalism events hosted by a range of newsrooms around the country. These events help position largely digital newsrooms physically as hubs in communities. They give readers a human connection, and extend the reporting.

Mashing Up News, Art and Technology

Hands-on journalism also creates new opportunities for artists, technologists and journalists to collaborate. For example, to help visualize an investigation about Wisconsin dairy land and farm waste, Wisconsin Watch shared their reporting data with artist Carrie Roy who created sculptures representing the stories. The Center for Investigative Reporting has worked with young people in the Off/Page project to create poetry from their reporting. And in 2013, RadioLab created an easy to build soil-sensor kit and distributed it to listeners to build, so they could monitor the emergence of cicadas in the Northeast.

Hands-on journalism can help break down complex issues, through tasks, projects and first-person experiences. It not only helps us see the issues more clearly, but also helps reveal aspects of the issue, new angles and perspectives, that may not have even made it into an article. For that reason, I think hands-on journalism is particularly interesting as a tool for reporting on what Jay Rosen, and others, have called “wicked problems.”

Not every story lends itself to these approaches, but the exciting thing about hands-on journalism is that it encourages journalists to imagine new ways for stories to exist across platforms, on and offline. Hands-on journalism doesn’t privilege the physical over the digital, but instead recognizes how the two can work productively together. In the future, the stories that move us most might persist as memories of great experiences or objects on our bookshelves, rather than just links in our browsers.

This post first appeared on the Local News Lab, a project of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, supported by theKnight Foundation. Josh Stearns directs the Dodge Foundation’s journalism sustainability project, designed to develop new structures and strategies to support a robust future of news. In this role, he works with journalists and newsrooms in New Jersey and New York to communicate their mission, expand their impact, and engage their communities.

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2014 Featured Festival Poet: Patrick Rosal

Posted on by Michele Russo, Poetry Program Coordinator

Rosal Web

Pat Rosal was born and raised in New Jersey and has written “love poems” to this wonderful state, which is just one of the reasons I will always have a soft spot in my heart for him. Watch him read “Kundiman Ending on a Theme from T La Rock” which starts at 15:35:

While people often look away from the gritty side of things—including New Jersey—Pat Rosal looks the grit straight in the eye. In this poem, he has made music of the sounds and smells of New Jersey, without romanticizing it. That’s one of his gifts as a poet—capturing complex and difficult stories in rhythmic, tongue defying, richly musical and visually stunning poems. He was formerly a DJ and breakdancer and when he reads, you understand that physicality is a huge part of Rosal’s way of connecting with the world. To say you “hear” him read is a misnomer. You feel the poems in your body, in your own breath and heartbeat. The energy builds up through the poems and it becomes impossible to resist their momentum. These poems can give you the delightful and welcome feeling of being immersed—you may not catch every detail, or understand every reference. But you are along for a journey, you trust your guide and the ride is captivating.

Another strength of Pat Rosal’s poems is their stunning endings. Their exploration of disparate narratives and themes again create that immersive and swirling experience for the reader or listener. That swirling is brought to a crescendo in the final jaw-dropping lines, which tie the narratives together. At 11:20 in the video above, you will find “Bienvenida: Santo Tomás”.

Some lines stay with us—you may find yourself chewing on them for days and ruminating on their meaning. “Sometimes/ we have to sing just to figure out/ what we cannot say.” is one of those lines; in this poem it synthesizes the streams of violence, music, ritual and family that are explored in the poem. And in a broader sense, it expresses the mystery of music and poetry—their capacity for expressing the unsayable, for transcending everyday speech and everyday writing.

Pat has worked in the Dodge Poetry Program’s Poetry in the Schools program, and we are really looking forward to seeing him again, sharing his work with our Festival audience. For more, check out his website which has links to poems, essays and other creative projects.


We encourage you to use the “Comments” box below to share other resources you may have found for this poet. In this way, we can build together a mini-wiki-encyclopedia on the 2014 Festival Poets.

For more information on the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival and Program,

visit our website


We encourage you to use the “Comments” box below to share other resources you may have found for this poet. In this way, we can build together a mini-wiki-encyclopedia on the 2014 Festival Poets.

For more information on the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival and Program,

visit our website

- See more at:


We encourage you to use the “Comments” box below to share other resources you may have found for this poet. In this way, we can build together a mini-wiki-encyclopedia on the 2014 Festival Poets.

For more information on the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival and Program,

visit our website

- See more at:


We encourage you to use the “Comments” box below to share other resources you may have found for this poet. In this way, we can build together a mini-wiki-encyclopedia on the 2014 Festival Poets.

For more information on the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival and Program,

visit our website

- See more at:

Posted in Poetry, Poetry 2014 Festival, Poets | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Highlands Festival at Waterloo features non-stop music, history, and family fun

Posted on by By Lisa Kelly, NJ Highlands Coalition

The Highlands Festival at Waterloo is not only a celebration of the natural resources of the New Jersey Highlands but also the amazing talent of our region’s musicians, artisans, chefs and creative people.

For the second year, the New Jersey Highlands Coalition is excited to present the two-day festival, Sept. 20-21, at the historic, picaresque Waterloo Village. We promise it offers something for everyone.

There are many reasons to attend the Festival, but here are my Top 10:

1. The charming Historic District of Waterloo Village will be open and staffed with knowledgeable guides who will showcase the Morris Canal and the village’s historic buildings. You can visit the working Grist Mill, see a blacksmith at work, tour the quaint 150-year old Waterloo United Methodist Church and learn about the inclined plane on the canal that was an engineering innovation in its time. Hourly walking tours will give a fascinating overview of the area’s history.

2. If you love live music, this is the place to be this weekend! We have non-stop music on two stages in the main festival area, with headliners Jim Weider’s Project Percolator and the Main Squeeze, plus local favorites like Quimby Mountain Band, Citizen’s Band Radio, Nadine LaFond, Mike Esposito, Subcommittee and more. Plus, in the Historic District down by the waterfront, there will be an old-fashioned Front Porch Blue Grass Jam, with local musicians playing acoustic blue grass music.

3. Kids will find lots to do at our Children’s Area, with live performances by Rizzo’s Reptiles, Bobby Beetcut, Big Jeff, Marafany Drum and Dance, and students from Vanguard Music Studio. Plus, kids can make bird and bat houses with volunteers from Home Depot, do hands-on experiments that illustrate the effects of climate change and litter have on our environment, and explore the fields and meadows of Waterloo with guides who can help them identify the plants, insects and animals that live there.

4. Winakung, the recreated Lenape Village, will be open with guides showing how our ancestors on this land lived hundreds of years ago. Many of us have visited there on school trips; here’s your chance to see it with your whole family.

5. As much as I love funnel cakes and other festival food, you won’t find it here. Our Local Food Court will have delicious offerings, from home-made tacos, Southern cooking, savory sausage breads and more. And don’t forget dessert: we’ll have homemade ice cream, cupcakes and made-to-order cappuccino and other gourmet coffee and tea drinks.

6. Speaking of drinks, don’t forget your reusable water bottle. In keeping with our environmental mission, no disposable bottles of water will be sold at the festival. We will have a water tank, courtesy of NJ American Water, at which you can refill your water bottle free all day!

7. There will be five local craft beers for sale as well as wine. The burgeoning craft beer industry here in New Jersey depends on Highlands water and we will have some of the best local craft beers at the festival.

8. This is a “zero-waste” event and we will have stations where you can sort your trash into compost, recyclables and trash. Our goal is to minimize what we put into the landfill, so you’ll find volunteers who can help you sort your lunch leftovers into the appropriate bins. Compost will be delivered to Ag Choise, a commercial composter, and the recyclables will be delivered to ReCommunity.

9. You can visit the booths in our Living Green Expo, Crafts and Fair Trade Marketplace and Cause Crusaders. You’ll see vendors with rain barrels, tower gardens, handmade jewelry, plants, solar options for your home and more. And there will be a number of environmental nonprofits there sharing their work.

10. Most important of all, the Highlands Festival at Waterloo is a celebration of the New Jersey Highlands, a region that supplies much of the fresh, clean drinking water for New Jersey. It is also raising funds for the NJ Highlands Coalition’s Small Grants Program, which helps small nonprofits do their important grassroots work in our communities.

You can buy tickets online and save at up until 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19. Tickets will be available at the door for $25. Kids 12 and under get in free.

Lisa Kelly is the Director of the Highlands Festival at Waterloo. The festival is produced by the New Jersey Highlands Coalition. For more information about the festival:

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