Belleville’s Municipal Green Team: On Earth Day, Remember the Strides We’ve Made

BELLEVILLE, NJ – April 21, 2020 – The members of the township’s Green Team are certainly disappointed that their plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day have been postponed.

But while we practice social distancing and spend more time in our homes to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, it’s a good time to reflect on some of the strides that have been made since the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.

The Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act, the advent of the Environmental Protection Agency – that and more – has emerged from that one day 50 years ago when more than 20 million Americans held rallies and spoke out about pollution, air quality, water quality, natural resources, waste and endangered and threated species.

“We're now starting to see what could be done if we could just make some of these small positive changes,” said the Green Team’s Gabrielle Bennett-Meany, who is also a member of the district’s Board of Education, noting imagery from satellites, from NASA, and from the data on air and water quality show real-time changes in our collective behavior.

The Belleville Municipal Green Team, headed by Bennett-Meany and Deputy Mayor Vincent Cozzarelli, with the support of Mayor Michael Melham, was going to spend part of this Wednesday planting some native shrubs, trees and grasses along the Second River at Camp Carragher purchased with funds from a floodplain restoration grant.

This year’s plan was to partner with the Belleville High School Environmental Club, whose members were going to help with plantings.

Then, the faculty advisor was going to do a small macro invertebrate study of the stream to get some water quality information.

It would have been right in the spirit of Earth Day.

The Green Team, a small group officially established by Melham and the members of the Township Council on Jan. 21, 2019, carry on these ideals established 50 years ago. Bennett-Meany said the team has had to put other projects on hold, including the creation of Belleville’s first nature walk, replete with a wild flower meadow and seating areas. There were also plans to create a community garden and a dog park.

While many of us will pass Earth Day away looking for something to watch on our phones or computers, Bennett-Meany suggests we search for the digital celebrations on TV and online and absorb all that our planet has to offer.

“The 50th anniversary of Earth Day will be a new beginning as we all join together in years to come as a new generation of environmentalist activists focus on sustainable initiatives and local and global action,” she said.

“Our attention has had to turn to this health crisis at hand,” Melham said. “But I urge residents to take a moment this Wednesday and think about the importance of Earth Day and all it stands for.

The members of the Green Team continue, even through the pandemic, to work behind the scenes to do what they can to keep our little corner of the world cleaner and greener. They continue to plan projects and procure grant money. I am proud of their work and look forward to the day when it is safe for them to carry out their Earth Day plans.”