By Alexander Mirabella
Chairman, Union County Board of Commissioners
As Earth Day approaches, many Union County residents and visitors look for ways in which to commemorate the event.
Picking up litter, planting trees, and producing educational programs are among the many traditional Earth Day activities supported by the Board of Commissioners.
We also recognize that our everyday habits can have an impact on the environment, and we encourage the whole Union County community to learn new ways in which we can all make a difference, every day.
One good place to start is the statewide Choose to Reuse NJ campaign. The campaign aims to encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags when shopping, to help cut down on single-use bag.
In particular, single-use plastic bags have become notorious symbols of environmental damage. When disposed improperly, plastic bags easily become windblown litter that can harm wildlife in our County parks. They can also blow into local waterways and travel to the ocean, where they impact marine life.
To help prevent this damage, a new state law will ban single-use paper and plastic grocery bags effective in May of 2022. Visitors to Union County parks can help prepare for the change by using sturdy tote bags or backpacks to carry picnic items and other gear, instead of relying on single-use bags.
Used or broken fishing line is another form of plastic waste that can harm wildlife. Visitors to County parks can help prevent birds, turtles and other local wildlife from getting tangled up, by depositing used or broken fishing line in the “Reel in and Recycle” bins now located at several popular fishing spots throughout the County parks system.
Visitors to our parks can also pitch in this year by keeping an eye out for the spotted lanternfly. This invasive pest threatens our native trees and other plants, and they should be destroyed on site.
We also continue our free countywide recycling events, and we recently introduced the Recycle Coach mobile app to help our residents keep up-to-date on news and schedules for their local recycling programs as well as countywide events.
More information about Recycle Coach and all Union County recycling programs is available online at ucnj.org/recycle.
This year we are also continuing our traditional Arbor Day activities, aimed encouraging the public to plant and care for trees. Earlier this month, we provided free trees for tree-planting activities at local schools and we are now reviewing submissions to our annual Arbor Day poetry contest for students.
Another ongoing program supported by the Board of Commissioners is the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County. The Extension continues to run environmental programs for adults and students, and they have introduced new online activities, too. More information is available at ucnj.org/rce.
And finally, I am very happy to report that Union County will host a special Earth Day celebration this year, on Saturday, April 24, on the grounds of our Trailside Nature and Science Center in Mountainside.
We are delighted to bring back this annual event. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet live animals, celebrate wildlife, and embrace environmental conservation in our community. Visitors can stroll the grounds or sign up in advance for scheduled activities. For more information, visit ucnj.org/trailside.
For quick links to all environmental programs and activities in Union County, visit ucnj.org/green-connection.
Let us all celebrate this Earth Day, every day.