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Bergen Community College Fields “Go Green” Less Pesticides Mean Healthier Students and Lawns Lessons Learned Being Applied


Bergen Community College officials, joined by state legislators, landscape professionals, parents and environmentalists, announced today it is switching to a natural turf management program from a conventional, chemical-based one to create lush, playable fields without the use of synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers.


This action is just the latest step in demonstrating the College's commitment to environmental protection, sustainability and public health and supports comparable statewide efforts to reduce children and young athletes’ exposure to toxic, synthetic lawn pesticides, like The Safe Playing Fields Act (S1143/A2412), sponsored by many Bergen County legislators, including Senators Bob Gordon (D-38) and Kevin O'Toole (R-40) and Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-38).

“Bergen Community College believes in the importance of sustainability to ensure the health of the College community and the environment,” said PJ Ricatto, Dean of the School of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Bergen Community College. “Bergen is extremely fortunate to have a grounds supervisor with Hugh Knowlton’s vision. The conversion of the College’s playing fields, from a chemical-based program to a natural one, is the latest partnership between the students, faculty and our team from Buildings and Grounds. These projects would not have been completed without Hugh’s leadership and commitment to the environment.”

Knowlton, Grounds Supervisor for the College, stated: "The heart of natural turf care centers on nourishing the life in the soil rather than being dependent on synthetic fertilizers and toxic pesticides. I look forward to building great fields in a safe manner."

Mike Kolenut, owner of Lincoln Landscaping, who the college hired to manage the transition said: "I work with ball playing fields to transition them from a traditional chemical product approach to a natural process approach. I have produced dense, thick, vibrant turf without the use of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. We have been able to provide this service so it is revenue neutral for schools. I look forward to working with Bergen Community College. This is a win-win for students, for administration and for the environment."

Assemblywoman Wagner noted the College's and her efforts support each other: "I applaud Bergen Community College for taking the step to lower their pesticide usage. Harmful chemicals will no longer be washed away into our streams and rivers, keeping our waterways clean. The grounds will now be a healthier place for students and will save the College and taxpayers' money in the long run. This can serve as an example for other public institutions that we can use less pesticides and get the same great results for our fields. That's why I'm sponsoring and working to pass the Safe Playing Fields Act."

Senator Gordon added: "I am so pleased that Bergen Community College has chosen to avoid chemicals in maintaining its playing fields. As a sponsor of the 'Safe Playing Fields Act,’ I have been a staunch advocate for the reduction of pesticide and chemical fertilizer use on playing fields. There is no reason our children should be exposed to toxic substances when suitable, natural treatments are readily available. I hope the College's efforts inspire institutions across the State to make similar efforts."

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen) continued: "Protecting our environment in a responsible and cost-effective way is a bipartisan effort. There is widespread support for ensuring that public venues, such as parks, schools and playgrounds are made as environmentally safe as possible, which especially benefits our youth. The collaboration between Bergen Community College, the private sector and elected officials shows the commitment we all share about safeguarding our natural resources."

The bipartisan Safe Playing Fields Act restricts the use of toxic synthetic lawn pesticides where kids play outdoors at K - 8 schools and day care centers, as well as park playgrounds. It encourages use of “low impact” pesticides to create and maintain healthy lawns and ball fields more economically, safely and effectively and includes a public health emergency exception.

“Parents across New Jersey are looking forward to an expedient passage of this legislation.” concluded Suzanne Aptman, Executive Director of the Northern NJ Safe Yards Alliance, a citizen’s group advocating for a shift to safer lawn and field care practices. “I salute the sponsors of this bill and Bergen Community College for their commitment to children’s health. Young people, today, are exposed to a great deal of toxic chemicals in the environment. It is just not necessary to use them on the places where they play at school and in parks. There are alternatives that are safer, that work, and that are better for our schools’ budgets.”

Bergen Community College will host their second in a series of sustainability conferences, titled “Greenscaping and Xeriscaping” on Thursday, April 26, 2012 at the Moses Family Meeting and Training Center in the Technology Education Center on the College’s main campus in Paramus.

Attendees will learn how to create an environmentally friendly aesthetic landscape using organic fertilizers and weed suppressants, which emphasize water conservation. For additional information, please contact Tracy Miceli, School of Continuing Education, at TMiceli@bergen.edu or Roseanne Crisafi, School of Continuing Education, at RCrisafi@bergen.edu.

Northern NJ Safe Yards Alliance is holding a free tele-seminar and invites New Jersey residents, schools, and landscapers to “Simple Steps to healthy Lawn Care for you, your family and your pets” with Chip Osborne, the nation’s leading expert in natural lawn and field care, on April 2nd at 7:30 p.m. RSVP and get the call-in number at info@northernnjsafeyardsalliance.org

For more information on Bergen Community College's sustainability efforts and/or The Safe Playing Fields Act, please see the attached fact sheets.

Sustainability at Bergen Community College

Sustainability remains a focal point for Bergen Community College – enhanced environmental stewardship is one of five goals outlined in Bergen’s 2010-2013 strategic plan. The document calls for Bergen to become “a model green school” by implementing programs such as establishing yearly departmental sustainability goals, composting cafeteria waste and purchasing Energy Star-labeled appliances.

The College’s sustainability initiatives have reduced some costs as well as the institution’s carbon footprint. Bergen’s composting program saves $30 for each ton of cafeteria waste composted. Variable speed drives on motors in heating and air units will make the systems more efficient and pay for the cost of installation in just over one year. Through energy supplier PSE&G, the College has earned approximately $200,000 in efficiency rebates.

The College also recently received a $2,000 fellowship award from Second Nature, a nonprofit organization that works with colleges and universities to create environmentally conscious campuses. Bergen’s Dean Dr. P.J. Ricatto, and members of the school’s grants department helped secure the award.

“Any time you can secure outside funding for a project, it is important, especially given current economic conditions,” Dr. Ricatto said. “It would be disappointing if we could not continue our work regarding building a sustainable campus due to costs. Truly, an investment in building a sustainable campus is an investment in the future.”

To further support green projects, the College opened the $15 million Emil Buehler Trust Center for Science and Exploration last year. The science wing addition not only includes laboratories, but offers space for classes to experiment with equipment such as a bio-diesel generator and solar panels.

Additionally, the College’s Student Center renovation project was designed and built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, meaning the structure adheres to environmentally friendly methods of design and operation outlined by the U.S. Green Building Council. The Student Center also features energy-efficient lighting, water-saving fixtures and a rooftop garden with water-absorbing plants.
During the Fall 2011 semester, Bergen installed two electric car charging stations. The College also created a sustainability task force that meets monthly to discuss ways of conserving energy and other green initiatives.

In addition, the College’s student lead “Green Team” collaborated with the grounds crew to implement an organic vegetable garden behind Ender Hall. A one-acre storm water detention basin in the front of the campus was converted from sod to a near-zero maintenance native planting area that is referred to as the “Meadow Project.”

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