NJHEPS | New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability

New Jersey Higher Education Partnership For Sustainability

Sharp Sustainability Education Center

Ramapo College of New Jersey

505 Ramapo Valley Rd.

Mahwah, NJ 07430, USA

(201) 684-7830, njheps@gmail.com, http://www.njheps.org

A Message from the NJHEPS President

Dear Members of the NJHEPS Community,

As we are well on our way into the 2015-16 academic year, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your continued support of the New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability (NJHEPS). NHJEPS exists to leverage the collective impact of often isolated efforts on our campuses, to enhance the flow of information between research and implementation communities, and to share best and leading practices across the implementation communities. We want New Jersey to be a beacon for collaborative, smart, and meaningful collective impact for sustainability in the United States and beyond.

I am very proud of the strides NJHEPS made this past year. We welcomed an impressive group of new leaders to our executive team as part of a successful reorganization effort, representing the full spectrum of higher education institution types across the state; we attracted several new member institutions, and achieved great success in renewing existing members. We also hosted high quality events at various member institutions and partner organizations including Princeton University, Montclair University, Duke Farms and Ramapo College, focusing on timely topics important to our membership. These topics included: 1) utilizing your campus as a sustainable laboratory, 2) the psychology of sustainability decision-making and leadership, 3) the financial benefits of sustainable practices, 4) careers in sustainability, and 5) teaching sustainability across disciplines, to name a few.

One of the brand new initiatives that I am particularly excited about is our NJHEPS Student Leadership Group, engaging and supporting talented young people from our member institutions eager to apply sustainability within a variety of fields. One of the things we hope to build as part of this endeavor is a premier internship clearinghouse matching top NJ students with desirable placements in various NJ sectors, helping solve sustainability challenges. We are also in the final stages of completing an inventory of building metering needs across New Jersey higher education institutions, which will be presented to industry-leader BPU for potential funding.

We are looking forward to a very active academic year for all members of our constituency, including a slate of educational and operational conferences and workshops concentrating on energy, facilities and construction, education and curriculum, and sustainability research.

Again, thank you for your support in promoting sustainability in New Jersey Higher Education. I look forward to our continued partnership.

Shana Weber, Ph.D., President, NJHEPS

Director, Office of Sustainability, Princeton University

NJHEPS Executive Board Elected

The NJHEPS membership welcomes the new leadership team. We thank you all for agreeing to serve in positions that will make a great difference in promoting sustainability across our state’s campuses. If you are interested in being more involved in our leadership, NJHEPS is still filling a few committee positions. This is a great way to further the mission of NJHEPS, become more involved and network with a great team.

The following committees have openings: (1) Energy, (2) Facilities and Construction, and (3) Research. If you are interested, please contact Kristie Reilly at njheps@gmail.com.






Shana Weber

Term 2014-2016

Princeton University

Director of Sustainability

President Elect


Liaison to Host Institution (Ramapo)

Emma Rainworth

Liaison to Host Institution


Ramapo College

Professor, Environmental Science and Geology


Diane Trainor

Term  2015-2017

Middlesex County College

Professor, Chemistry and Environmental Science


Robert Taylor

Term 2015-2016

Montclair State University

Professor, Earth & Environmental Studies, Coordinator of Sustainability Science BS and MS Programs.

VP Campus Energy

Past President

Mike Kornitas

Term 2015-2017

Rutgers University

Director of Sustainability and Energy

VP Development & Membership                               

Charles Lamb 

Term 2014-2016

County College of Morris

Director, Operations and Professional Development

VP Education and Curriculum

Ashwani Vasishth

Term 2015-2017

Ramapo College

Associate Professor of Environmental StudiesDirector, Master of Arts In Sustainability Studies

VP Facilities & Construction

John Hone

Term 2015-2016

Union County College

Facilities Manager, Elizabeth and Plainfield Campuses

VP Research

Scott Mittman

Term 2015-2016

Essex County College Professor, Environmental Microbiology

VP Student Relations

Daniela Shebitz

Term 2015-2017

Kean University

Associate Professor

Senior Advisor

Donald Wheeler

Appointed, Continued

Kean University

Professor Emeritus

Co-founder of NJHEPS

NJHEPS Launching its First Student Leadership Group

NJHEPS is pleased to announce its’ recently created Student Leadership Organization. This new initiative is an opportunity for interested students from our member institutions to apply their talents and ideas to incorporate sustainability to a wide range of academic and career disciplines. The organization will initially focus on building student programs that provide awareness, offer internships placements and student workshops, and opportunities for students to share their campus research and initiatives in sustainability.

Daniela Shebitz, NJHEPS Vice President of Student Relations and Program Director, Associate Professor of Environmental Biology, Kean University, has taken the lead in bringing our student leaders and participants together at the annual meeting to first launch this initiative. “The entire executive board of NJHEPS was inspired by the shared passion and enthusiasm for environmental sustainability that brought students from throughout New Jersey together at our annual meeting. What has emerged from that initial meeting is the start of a long-term exchange of knowledge, ideas, and opportunities that will inevitably have a great influence on the students, our colleges and universities, and on the state as a whole”.

Stephano Castro, B.S. Sustainability Science, Founder and President, Montclair State University Environmental Club is one of our first student leaders. “At least five colleges and universities with an environmental group of students will host regional events and projects that touch upon a broad range of sustainability topics such as GMO’s, fracking, water privatization, alternative energy, green economies, permaculture, environmental education, sustainable architecture and neighborhood planning to name a few. Students from Kean, Montclair, Princeton, Ramapo, and Union, Essex, and Morris County Colleges have all expressed interest in such an interdisciplinary team, now it’s just up to us to get together and strategize on how to help New Jersey become more sustainable!”

Stephano, along with the new student team are looking for volunteers to make this student-driven organization a strong and sustainable force. Stephano sums it up with his wise words “In a world where if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem, it is more important than ever for all students to become sustainably literate and proactively work towards environmental and sociological solutions- the future of our grandchildren is depending on it."

If you are interested in becoming a member of the NJHEPS student leadership group or would like to support the group in any way, please send an email to Kristie Reilly at njheps@gmail.com and we will be in touch asap!

Upcoming NJHEPS Events

Pedagogical and Research Initiatives in Sustainability

Friday, December 4, 2015 at Kean University

10:00 am- 1:00 pm

The New Jersey Higher Education Partnership in Sustainability welcomes faculty engaged in or interested in sustainability to come together and share their experiences. Lunch will be served.

If you would like to reserve a seat or if you have a specific pedagogical or research activity you would like to share, please contact njheps@gmail.com

If you would like to reserve a seat or if you have a specific pedagogical or research activity you would like to share, please contact njheps@gmail.com

NJHEPS 2015 Student Award Competition

At the 2015 Annual Meeting, the NJHEPS Executive Committee presented three undergraduate students with the Student Research Project in Sustainability Award. We would like to thank Concord Engineering for sponsoring the NJHEPS Student Award Competition. If you are interested in recommending a student or if you are a student interested in submitting a paper or research project for the spring, 2016 competition, please contact us at NJHEPS@gmail.com

What’s New on our New Jersey Campuses

We’d love to hear from you! Let us help you get the word out about your campus sustainability activities…

Essex County College

Campuses as Living Laboratories for Sustainability: A Community Partnered Student-led Rainwater Harvesting and Solar Powered Water Distribution Project

After winning a Ford sponsored College Community Challenge (Ford C3), Essex County College (ECC) faculty worked with community leaders to devise a way to improve the sustainability of a fledgling urban hydroponics effort in Newark. The ECC faculty used the project as a teaching tool, where students were central to the design, planning and installation of a rainwater harvesting and photovoltaic powered water delivery system.

With the unmistakable trend in urban gardening and a greater recognition that food sustainability emphasizes the benefits of local food production, faculty at Essex are implementing improvements that would support a fledgling urban hydroponics effort in Newark. Essex partnered with Urban Farm (a pilot urban agriculture project) to implement a rainwater harvesting system (water catchment, storage, and purification) with a photovoltaic powered distribution system to promote and help grow a nascent urban hydroponic food production system. Hydroponics are not reliant on soil; rather this technology uses growing media that permits a faster plant growth rate, while delivering a higher crop yield. In recognizing that hydroponics has a considerable and costly demand for water, the proposal seeks to enhance the sustainability of the overall project and shift the hydroponics water burden (and associated cost) from the Newark city water supply to a free sustainable source – rainwater. The hydroponics project we are looking to support was itself a partnership between the Branch Brook Park Alliance and Essex County. The project sought to serve as a model for Newark and the surrounding Essex County, to increase healthy food access in an underserved area and also to be an educational laboratory to share this technology.

Essex faculty are looking to build on this venture, to not only assist this agriculture mission by providing needed resources, at no cost to the facility, but also to enhance the sustainable nature of the overall hydroponics project. With a nearly free supply of water, this endeavor will help support the likelihood of long-term success and support the anticipated growth of the extant hydroponics system from one to the second of two 4,000 ft2 Urban Farm greenhouses. With the vision of incorporating this technology into the greenhouse infrastructure, the urban agriculture project will save money and will continue to do so long after this grant project has been implemented and completed.

Project by Scott A. Mittman, Alkis Dimopolous, and Robert Leone, Division of Biology and Chemistry, Division of Engineering Technologies & Computer Sciences

Fairleigh Dickenson University

Upstream Outreach to Schools and New Sustainability-Management Major

Want to inspire the next generation to lead sustainably? Start early. That’s the approach of the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise (ISE) at Silberman School of Business, Fairleigh Dickinson University. ISE reaches upstream in two ways: (1) it engages high school students directly through applied sustainability challenges, and (2) it offers professional development for primary and secondary school teachers, equipping them to teach sustainability.

To engage high school students directly, ISE co-organizes a series of High School Sustainability Challenges (in partnership with the non-profit Student Global Ambassador Program). With the help of FDU student volunteers, ISE has run three Challenges since 2014. Each has taken a case-based approach, challenging students to design solutions to real sustainability problems. Past Challenges have focused on renewable energy. The 4th Challenge, in October 2015, will engage students in social entrepreneurship. More than 200 high school students, 20 teachers, ten renewable energy experts and 25 university student volunteers have participated in the past three Challenges. In evaluations, students reported learning a lot (4.0/5.0) and teachers called the challenges extremely engaging for students (4.8/5.0) and very aligned with their curriculum goals (4.3/5.0).

If you really want to magnify your impact, consider teaching teachers. If you train ten primary and secondary school teachers to add sustainability to their curriculum, and each reaches 25 students per year, you’ve helped inspire 250 students. And that’s precisely why ISE hosts an annual Teacher Sustainability Education Workshop, in partnership with FDU’s School of Education. The 2-day programs helps kindergarten to grade 12 teachers develop problem-based learning units on real sustainability challenges. Teachers learn to: Identify engaging sustainability problems with local relevance (including biodiversity loss, water availability and neighborhood revitalization); Develop grade-specific curriculum plans that use sustainability problems to stimulate critical thinking and meet government teaching standards; Collaborate across disciplines and grade levels to create multi-year learning experiences on similar topics. This helps students appreciate the relevance of individual subjects as they see how each contributes to solving a sustainability challenge.

More than 60 teachers from nine New Jersey schools have participated. Following the program, teachers overwhelmingly reported being much more likely to teach sustainability in their classrooms (rating the likelihood at 6.5 on a 7.0 scale). Participating teachers have reached a collective 1,500 primary and secondary school students and report notable increases in student engagement, enjoyment and learning.

ISE also has helped the Silberman College of Business launch a 21credit undergraduate degree concentration in sustainability management. The program focuses on sustainability from the perspective of all business disciplines, including courses on global issues, environmental economics, marketing, operations, financial value, change management, and social entrepreneurship. A 15-credit minor without pre-requisites is open to students from all of FDU’s other colleges and academic programs.

Kean University

Planting More than Just Veggies: Student-Created Plans for a Sustainable Urban Farm

Under increasing urbanization pressure, Groundwork Elizabeth emerged as a nonprofit organization dedicated to address challenges of food security and environmental degradation in Union County. One of the recent initiatives that they have undertaken is the management of a five acre farm located on Liberty Hall of Kean University. Within the first year of their management (2014-2015), Groundwork Elizabeth worked with volunteers from Kean University and other community groups to grow over 90 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs and grains without synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers. While the goal of the farm is to grow food to distribute to a farm-to-table restaurant, farmers markets, and to local food pantries, the overall influence that it is having goes much deeper than the fresh produce that it delivers. The Liberty Hall Farm is quickly becoming an essential part of the learning experience for the college students of Kean University. Over the past year, Kean students have logged over 500 hours volunteering on the farm as individuals, with clubs, with classes, or as interns.

Through their senior capstone this past spring, 17 students in the School of Environmental and Sustainability Sciences at Kean University created a six part plan for farm design and management. They worked collaboratively as an environmental consulting firm, with Groundwork Elizabeth serving as their client. This structure contributed to their professional development so that they learned to navigate team dynamics while catering to a client’s requests. The client put forward a request for proposals which articulated six projects that they wanted to assistance with planning: 1) water management, 2) soil management, 3) permaculture design, 4) an online farm records tracking system, 5) education curricula for primary and secondary schools visiting the farm, and 6) a medicinal plant garden design and implementation. The students first divided into the six teams based on their strengths and interests, with one student designated as the Project Manager, one as the Assistant PM, and one as the Technical Editor (who was also on a “team”). They created a proposal that was presented to the client for feedback and worked with them to create a schedule and a list of deliverables for each of the focus areas.

At the end of the spring semester, the students delivered an 80 page document that exceeded the client’s expectations. In fact, Groundwork Elizabeth presented the permaculture (food forest) plan as part of a large grant proposal to the Department of Environmental Protection. The permaculture plan sought to expand the diversity of produce available at Liberty Hall farm by including forest trees, while introducing exemplary models of sustainable farming and food production practices. Forest gardening and hugelkultur beds are representative of a 'rediscovery' of pre-industrial farming practices that sustained large populations.

Another great outcome of this project is that the students are now seeing great personal benefits through their work on the practicum. For example, the students who developed the water management plan were awarded a Student Research Project in Sustainability Award through NJHEPS in the spring. Amazingly, one of those students was offered a job in water management upon her graduation, in large part because of her work on the Liberty Hall Farm. It is clear that this is the start of a strong partnership that will benefit those students directly involved, but importantly is helping the larger community and environment as well. Through this collaboration, the students of Kean University and other volunteers are working with Groundwork Elizabeth to establish strong roots that spread from the Liberty Hall Farm throughout Union County.

Montclair State University

Supplied by Robert W. Taylor, Coordinator for Sustainability Science at MSU

  • The Sustainability Science Program recently moved into its new LEED building, the Center for Environmental and Life Sciences. This building provides state-of-the-art laboratories for the environmental and life sciences.
  • The Environmental Club launched a debate series and invited speakers came from Ramapo. The first debate discussed the issue of genetically-modified agriculture.
  • Students in the Senior Capstone Sustainability Science Course for the undergraduate major worked on the following projects. It worked with a major electrical supply company to do a LED lighting feasibility study for the campus. It concluded that the university would receive a 143% return on its investment if it moved to LED lighting. A second project was to create a rain garden for a LEED certified PSE&G building in Hudson County, New Jersey. The team worked with a landscape architect consultant in this project.
  • Students from the Environmental Club initiated the food composting program. The Rocket Commercial Composter was positioned on campus and a strategy of taking food scraps from Sam’s Place and composting was designed. The ultimate use of the compost is for landscape gardening fertilizer on campus.
  • Students in the Graduate Professional Science MS Degree in Applied Sustainability Science were engaged in the following projects:

o Developing potential sites for urban agriculture in Passaic County under the guidance of the Passaic County Office of Planning.

o Working with consultants to develop a strategy for taking the contaminated sediment from the Passaic River and turning it into a beneficial use. The purpose of the project was to access alternative methods to shipping the contaminated dredge from the Passaic River and shipping it out-of-state, a high risk activity that places an emphasis on long-distance rail transport.

  • Students in the Environmental Club are in the beginning stages of putting an Earthship on the University campus. Earthships are buildings that are constructed from materials from the waste stream, utilize passive solar energy, and are built on the use of natural technologies for reducing energy consumption and creating livability. These are buildings that utilize solar and other renewable energy and are geared to creating closed-loop solutions – i.e. incorporating food production for on-site consumption and composting solutions for recycling the food waste. The concept recently won a honorable mention from the New Jersey Chapter of the USGBC. The Environmental Club is currently looked for a permanent site on campus for the Earthship and putting together a budget for the project. It is looking for cooperation from other NJHEPS members on this project.

Princeton University

A New Course Offering in Ethical Approaches to Sustainability

A new student-initiated sustainability seminar is underway this Fall at Princeton University: "Investigating an Ethical Approach to Sustainability Planning at Princeton." The course will apply environmental ethics frameworks to sustainability decision-making and implementation related to campus and sustainability planning. Students will produce research-driven recommendations that will be offered to the University’s 2026 Campus Plan leadership team. The seminar is being taught by Dr. Shana Weber, Princeton’s Sustainability Director, and was initiated by Misha Semenov '15, Hannah Kraus '17, and Jenna Spitzer '17.


President Mercer instituted the President’s Committee on Campus Sustainability (PCCS), this past year, and approved a new Center for Sustainability at Ramapo College, to help move the institution forward in meeting its obligations toward the Association of College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). The College organized a Campus Sustainability Day this month, at which members of the PCCS as well as student sustainability leaders presented recent and ongoing developments on campus.

Some few developments this past year include: rejuvenation of the Ramapo Green website, to serve a hub for all sustainability-related information across the campus; the operationalization of a Rocket Composter, which has so far diverted about 6 tons of food waste away from the waste stream; the establishment of a student Bee Keeping Club to manage a beehive; the installation of a wildflower meadow to help support pollinator species; the creation of a new student-led garden, with its own compost bin, managed by students enrolled in our Sustainable Living Facilities (SLF); the initiation of a vegan/vegetarian student club, Plant Strong, to help promote a more sustainable dining fare on campus; the establishment of a pilot student-led composting program in one of the residence halls; the distribution of refillable water bottles to incoming students, accompanied by the installation of a number of Hydration Stations around the campus (soon to be expanded to the Residence Halls); the negotiation of a procurement contract to increase the use of recycled paper on campus; the initiation of a retrofitting of recycling bins in classrooms and offices to expand collection beyond paper to all recyclables, taking advantage of the College’s single-stream recycling contract with our waste haulers; as well as the establishment of four paid Student Sustainability Aide positions reporting to the President’s Committee to help move the campus more quickly along its path to a more sustainable future.

College faculty are collaborating with organizations such as Food & Water Watch to design, create and host a wide variety of events on campus, such as the upcoming Climate and Energy Forum.

As the host institution for NJHEPS, College faculty have helped anchor the Partnership more firmly within the State, assisting in the organization of a number of events across NJHEPS Member Institutions.

Interested in Becoming a Corporate Sponsor?

NJHEPS is a membership-based, professional association founded in 1998. We are always welcoming new sponsors. So much of our growth and success is due to our corporate sponsor members and college/university members from New Jersey.

Memberships run for a one-year renewable term and include many benefits such as recognition of your sponsorship on the NJHEPS website, opportunities for you to share ways in which you can help our member institutions reach their sustainability goals, newsletters that include notices of events and highlights of activities across higher education, free displays and attendance at our workshops and the NJHEPS annual conference, and several opportunities to be an annual sponsor for events such as the annual conference, student research awards, the education or facilities workshop series, or the student leadership group, and so much more…

Please email Kristie Reilly at njheps@gmail.com or call 201 684 7830 for more information or to get started. Join today and become part of our higher education social network!

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