UNION COUNTY, NJ--Union County residents in search of a meaningful New Year’s resolution have one at their fingertips: the Rutgers Environmental Stewards program is now being offered in Union County.

“If working to improve the environment in your community is among your New Year’s resolutions, I encourage you to sign up for the Rutgers Environmental Stewards program,” Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen said. “The program is conveniently located in Westfield, and we are looking forward to welcoming Union County’s very first class of Environmental Stewards.”

Environmental Stewards is an award-winning program run by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County, a division of the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station supported in part by the Freeholder Board.

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The program aims to provide local residents with an understanding of the science behind the environmental issues impacting their communities. The goal is to enable non-scientists to focus on effective conservation projects and other improvements.

On successfully completing the program, participants earn official certification as Rutgers Environmental Stewards.

“Every year hundreds of Union County residents volunteer to help with conservation projects in Union County parks,” Bergen said. “The Environmental Stewards program provides the tools and know-how to take this volunteer effort to the next level.”

Since the inception of the program in 2005, hundreds of certified Rutgers Environmental Stewards have engaged in projects statewide.

One outstanding example is the rain garden at the Cranford Municipal Building. Planted in 2014, the garden is designed to filter pollutants associated with stormwater runoff. It helps to protect the Rahway River, provides a habitat for valuable pollinators, and beautifies the property with native wildflowers including giant hyssop, cardinal flower, and purple coneflower.

The Environmental Stewards program will hold classroom training sessions beginning Friday, January 26 at the Extension offices in Westfield, at the Colleen Fraser Building in the Union County complex, 300 North Avenue East.

Classes are held on Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for 20 weeks. Experts from Rutgers University and non-profit organizations will guide the participants through topics including energy conservation, climate change, invasive species, open space management, soil health, water resource pollution, environmental policy, protecting pollinators, and habitat conservation.

Applications are available online at envirostewards.rutgers.edu. A fee of $250.00 applies.

For more information, contact Michele Bakacs at bakacs@njaes.rutgers.edu or 732-398-5274.

For information on all Extension programs offered in Union County, including 4-H, Master Gardeners, and Master Tree Stewards, visit ucnj.org/rce.

Visit the Green Connection at ucnj.org/green-connection for all Union County environmental programs and activities.

For all Union County programs and services visit ucnj.org, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email info@ucnj.org or use the online Contact Form.

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