By Jack Deegan
With a population of almost 40 thousand people, Ewing Township, N.J. is a very large town with a lot going on in it. With so many people, waste is inevitable. To combat this, the town has a group of volunteers who are doing what they can to help make the town a more eco-friendly place and reduce waste. Not many people are aware of them, but the Ewing Green Team has been very active in Ewing with their efforts.
Established in 2009, the Sustainable Ewing Green Team has been working to make sure that Ewing is a sustainable community. The group was composed entirely of volunteer residents who now work closely with the town. There are currently 13 members on the group’s board, and they were appointed by the mayor with three-year overlapping terms.
Evan Crumiller, the vice-chair for the team, spoke about how he started with the team, explaining how “[he] moved to Ewing about 10 years ago. I wanted to get involved and give back to my community. I was already working in politics and I had heard about the Green Team because they are very active in Ewing, so I signed up.”
One of the ways by which the team helps to make Ewing sustainable is through their partnership with Sustainable Jersey. That organization is responsible for certifying cities as sustainable and giving them sustainability ratings. The group is constantly working to meet those standards and ensure that the town is as certified as possible.
“One of our biggest projects which is Sustainable Jersey, which is an environmentally focused organization who certifies cities as sustainable,” Crumiller said. “Every two years, our main project is achieving that certification every time, and we’ve got the highest level every time.”
The group’s mission is a simple one: help out wherever they can. Whether that means getting the word out about the recent ban on plastic straws and the upcoming plastic bag ban or getting in the trenches with clean-ups, they are constantly working on the next project to improve the town’s sustainable efforts.
One of their efforts is a program that Crumiller himself actually started, which incentivizes restaurants in the township to stay sustainable.
“We also started the Ewing green business recognition program, where businesses who go above and beyond with sustainability practices and we give them a proclamation from the mayor for practicing these efforts,” he said.
The biggest thing that the group is known for, though, is the events that they hold every so often. These community-oriented events involve spreading the word about a cause and getting people to be active in making their community more sustainable.
“We really just sit around and brainstorm. There are all sorts of ideas that come from other towns. We’re not too proud to shamelessly copy another town to benefit the town,” Crumiller explained. “It comes down to that and someone having enough time to plan and run these events. We’re all volunteers, we’re all doing this in our own free time, a lot of us have full-time jobs. It’s a lot of work, and you need at least one person keeping track of progress.”
Past events have included an annual retreat, a Scarecrow scavenger hunt and a trash toss, where people can learn what is and is not recyclable.
The events do not just happen overnight, and they take a lot of people to put together. The team meets at least once a month to catch up on where everyone is at but is divided up into subcommittees, which are constantly in contact with each other, meeting weekly.
“They are open to the public, so we hear them out sometimes, but really we are just concentrating on our goals and how we can accomplish them,” Crumiller said. “The vast majority of our work is done between our meetings, so they’re mostly catching up seeing who has done what and what still needs to be done.”
The team has been making great efforts to keep the town sustainable, but they have been coming to some conflict with the township. Their budget for their projects is limited, so they have to plan around that and use it sparingly to make sure the most work happens.
“We do face challenges, too,” Crumiller explained. “Working with the township, not all of our dreams come true because of budget considerations and things we don’t have the money for, so we have to balance that out.”
The team meets on the fourth Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. at 999 Lower Ferry Road in Ewing Township, N.J.
“If anyone reading is willing or looking to give back to their community, I do think joining the Green Team is a great way to do that,” Crumiller said. “You have a very tangible impact to make your community better.”