SOUTH PLAINFIELD - In efforts to ensure South Plainfield’s sustainability for generations to come, the South Plainfield Green Team held a special event to release their video on sustainability, encouraging volunteers to join them in their endeavors.  On Wednesday, June 26th at 5p.m., the Green Team unveiled their video at the South Plainfield Public Library, featuring Green Team essay contest winners and many other community members who are passionate about South Plainfield’s sustainability.

“The hope with the video is that it is going to explain what the Green Team is and what we’re doing so that more people can join the committee and lend a hand,” said Bob Longo, Green Team Chairman.  “That’s the goal, but as important, is to let people understand how important sustainability is and maybe learn from what the children are saying in this video.”  

“I thought the video was really well done,” said Science Teacher JulieAnne Montany.  “The kids spoke from the heart.  They really did a great job.  It’s like they were naturals on television. This is so exciting and it’s inspiring to other students to see their classmates speaking up for what they believe in.  It’s wonderful.” 

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Along with the video, the Green Team launched their new website and social media campaign.  

“In today’s world, everything is visual,” said Alice Tempel, Environmental Specialist and Green Team Secretary.  “We’ve been working for ten years with print media and we still have the same small group.  We’re hoping that the social media and the visual impact will attract more people and give them a sense of the excitement of what is involved here.”

One year ago, the Green Team applied for and received a $2,000 grant from the PSE&G Foundation to help fund promotions for the South Plainfield Green Team.  Longo contacted Jill Ryan, Owner of Ryan Consulting, to design a website and create the Green Team’s social media presence.  

“It was interesting to learn about all that the Green Team does to save the environment,” said Ryan.  “They do so much that I felt a video would be a really effective way to share with the community and let them know how to get involved.”

“The video that we’re going to show you is the public unveiling,” said Longo, opening the presentation as he stood before the crowd with Green Team members Debbie Boyle, Alice Tempel and Tom Walsh.  “Only a few people have seen this video, so we’re excited about it because it really came out very nice.” 

The South Plainfield Green Team is a subcommittee of the Environmental Commission and was established ten years ago.  The organization achieved certification through Sustainable Jersey, a nonprofit organization that helps municipalities become more sustainable and not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs.  

“This project started because we’ve been struggling to get people involved with our programs and the projects,” said Longo.  “We’re all volunteers and are not funded by the borough, so we were looking for a way to get the word out.  We applied for and received a grant through Sustainable Jersey, through PSE&G Foundation and we decided that we were going to use that money to promote who it is we are and what we are looking to do.”

“We hired Patti to do the video for us and I think we said 60-90 seconds and then we did the shoot,” said Longo.  “Patti calls me up and says it’s great, you’re going to love it.  It came out great.  I asked how long is it, and she said it’s six minutes.  She couldn’t cover things in less time then that, which was wonderful.”

“I felt really honored to me asked to produce the video,” said Patricia Trenchak Feeney, Writer and Video Producer.  “I grew up in South Plainfield and my children are growing up here.  I think all that the Green Team does is wonderful and I wanted to create a video that would not only show what they are doing, but show that if we all work together as a community, we can make a huge difference.  We chose to interview South Plainfield children because the children are the future.”

In order to generate excitement and determine who would be interviewed in the video, an essay and video contest was announced to narrow down the search for those who would be interviewed.  

“We had a video contest for the older students and an essay contest for the fifth and sixth grade students,” said Longo.  “And we got some really great responses.”

All fifth and sixth grade students living in South Plainfield were able to enter the Green Team’s essay contest, which entailed writing a 500-750 paper on what sustainability means for South Plainfield and how can South Plainfield become a more sustainable community.  Grades seventh through twelfth were allowed to submit three minute video entries on how can South Plainfield can become a more sustainable community. 

Winning contestants were presented gift certificates at the borough council meeting on Monday, January 7, 2019, including: Ryan Wooten, Riley Billian, Abyan Khan and Isabella Spadavecchia.  Jerry Shang and Vishan Budhan were the video contest winners. 

“The kids were incredible,” said Trenchak Feeney, when asked to talk about the process of production.  “So the process was, I work with a videographer whom I’m known since I worked at NBC in Philadelphia.  So we had a professional crew, we had a boom, we had sound, we had everything and the kids were wonderful.  Each child sat across from me for the interviews.  We did their sound checks and they said their names.  They were so eloquent with their answers.”

The production of the video took four months from pre-production to finished video.  Trenchak Feeney enlisted John C. Johnson, Executive Producer of National Creative Group, who teamed up with her to shoot and edit the video.

“The students read their essays on camera and told us what was important about preserving the environment,” said Trenchak Feeney.  “They were passionate and their ideas were brilliant.  They came up with so many ideas for South Plainfield.  So after the shoot, I went through every word and came up with a seventeen page script. And from that, I worked with the editor and created a beautiful story about the future of South Plainfield with some great ideas from the up incoming generation about preserving this beautiful town we live in.”

Also appearing in the video was Principal Ronnie Spring and his therapy dog, Mamas, stressing the importance of the role of animals for the Green Team.

“Principal Ronnie Spring brought his therapy dog, Mamas, for the video shoot” said Boyle.  “I want to thank him for being a part of this video because animal companionship is a part of the Green Team mission.  When the students have anxiety, they go to his office and they pet Mamas, who is a certified therapy dog, so that’s also apart of the environment, so you will see him in the video.”  

According to Boyle, who holds a seat on the Board of Education, school teachers and principals are an integral part of the future of the Green Team program.

“I want to thank Patrick Sarullo, who is our principal at Grant and was so amenable to having us all come and use the library for the video shoot,” said Boyle.  “He gave us all time we needed so we thank him and for also being involved in the environmental club at Grant School and JulieAnne Montany, who is also at Grant.  And Megan Boyle Winters, who is a teacher at Grant.  We also have the support of Mrs. Sandy Doyon, who is at Kennedy School, Kristine Keefe, who is a teacher in Edison, but her children go to school here, and Kathleen Benton at the high school.” 

“I think the impact that the town can have is so much greater than anything that the high school could do alone,” said Kathleen Benton, South Plainfield High School Science Teacher and Advisor of the Environmental Science Club.  “We’ve been super successful in our first year.  It was amazing, but only because of the Green Team in this community and I just think they’re such a great group of people that are so driven to make changes and that’s really what we need to do so I’m really glad that they’re there.”

“The schools seem very supportive and we’re definitely going to be leaning on them going forward,” said Longo.  “I think we can tap into some of the energy of some of these young kids.”

“I want to get Grant School involved with this Green Team initiative and go from there,” said Michele Kirchofer, Grant School Science and Special Education Teacher.  “Bob Longo spoke of different actions and I’m on board.  I think really it’s the students’ excitement and enthusiasm that drives us.  In a way, I feel unstoppable because if you share something with them, they pick up the ball and they run. I’m just cheering them on because their whole heart is in it and they believe in it.  They’re not going to stop, so I get to just keep watching.  That’s my hope.”

The video was projected onto the screen in front of the audience and each student explained the importance of preserving the environment with innovative ideas to help South Plainfield be sustainable for the future.  Longo was also included in the video, offering his perspective on sustainability after years of experience as Chairman of the Green Team.  Appearances were also made by several members of the Green Team as well as the Grant School Environmental Club.

“It’s important for me to remind people because little kids such as us, we can make awareness to others that we need to help preserve energy for our community and it can make a big change because it saves people’s lives,” said Sixth Grader Abyan Khan on camera.

“We, the citizens in the town must realize that sustainability is not a choice, but it is a necessity,” said Ryan Wooten, Six Grader.  “By shifting to sustainable products, it positively affects sustainability, not only in South Plainfield, but throughout the country and globally.”

The video went on to describe innovative ideas to help the environment and bring the community together for the common goal of conservation.

“I have so many ideas for our town that can be good for the environment,” said Isabella Spadavecchia, Six Grader.  “The ‘SP Tree’ can be a tree that represents our town. We can put this tree in the middle of town by the South Plainfield Library, Spring Lake Park, and Police Station. This tree will be planted near there and will be decorated with things that represent South Plainfield. This can make that space feel more airy and it could be a good symbol for our South Plainfield community.”

“Many children and even adults enjoy fishing at Spring Lake Park, but imagine if there were no more fish left to catch,” said Riley Billian, Sixth Grade.  “We want to see wildlife continue to live in our community.  In order to accomplish this goal, the citizens of South Plainfield will need to pitch in.   One solution is to have filters installed in the storm drains so trash and even things like oil will not end up harming the environment.  If we can stop pollution and make our hometown more sustainable, the future will look brighter than ever.”    

As the video concluded, the audience applauded excitedly.

“I think the kids were amazing in the video,” said Kirchofer.  “I couldn’t be more proud.  My favorite part was that I heard all of them discussing concepts that are part of our curriculum, so I know that they're holding onto what they're learning in the classroom and applying it to real world life issues around them.  Honestly, it just made me so happy.”

“My son is always looking around for how to make things better,” said Fahim Khan, whose son appeared in the video.  “In the neighborhood, he’s always tries to coach his friends on how to recycle and so forth.  He’s always passionate about it.”

Along with the many educators who came out for the video's launch, several borough officials attended the event including Councilwoman Christine Faustini, Councilman Jon Dean and Councilman Derryck White.

“The mayor and council have been very supportive of what we’ve been doing,” said Longo, addressing the audience as the applause settled.  “Councilman Jon Dean is our Liaison to the Environmental Commission to the Green Team. Derryck White has also been very supportive.  So we’re looking for people to get involved.”  

“I just wanted to say, a lot of work went into this,” said White.  “You can see in the quality of the video as it’s rolled out.  Thank you to everyone whose been on this road for such a long time and are open to doing some innovative things like these types of videos.  So kudos to all of you and hopefully you’ll get the support that you need because it’s people that power these types of initiatives like environmental change.  We appreciate you coming tonight and we appreciate all that you’ve done here for the Green Team.”

Several spoke encouraging the community to volunteer and be proactive about saving the environment.

“As far as volunteering goes, as Bob mentioned, we’re volunteers,” said Bob Walsh, Green Team member.  “It’s not a lot of time.  We meet once a month for an hour or so.  We just need help to get some of these items that we have under Sustainable Jersey going.  We’re up for recertification next June.  So we’ve been putting things together.  So we’re trying to build back up to get some of these action items to be completed.  We need help because there’s only a handful of us to do that so the more help, the better.”  

The South Plainfield Green Team is open to new ideas and welcomes volunteers willing to head new projects to better the community.  Ongoing campaigns where volunteers are needed include the air quality campaign, which involves enforcing the anti-idling initiative as well as the restriction of smoking in parks and outside of municipal buildings.  Green Team members would like volunteers to approach businesses to ask them to post anti-idling signs in support of keeping the air clean.

“We hope that we’ll acquire enough committed volunteers that we can move some of our programs forward that have been sort of pending,” said Tempel. “We got to a certain point with them and in order to get to the next step, we need people who will do some on the ground work that takes a certain amount of time and commitment to follow through.”` 

“I hope you enjoyed this video,” said Longo.  “I want to thank Patti again because when we said do a video, to be honest, I never expected anything like this.  It’s really very professionally done.” 

The Green Team asked the audience to share the video with those they know.

“You’re now one of very few people who have seen this video, so we’re going to use this to promote what we do,” said Longo, wrapping up the evening.  “So if you see it on social media, you can like it, you can share it for us, we would appreciate that and if you’re into helping us, please reach out.  Thank you for coming.”

Many of the educators present said they plan to encourage their students to become part of the Green Team and launch initiatives with the South Plainfield Green Team.

“I think the students will be interested in getting involved with the Green Team because it’s always a trickle effect, where one kid might have an idea and another kid might say I have another idea,” said Montany.  “But they really have some amazing ideas that we don’t even think about, so it’s nice to hear from a young mind.”  

“I truly believe that environmental consciousness is something the children are going to carry on and continue,” said Kirchofer.  “Watching the students,  I was emotional, because I know that’s really how they really feel and I know that it’s not going to stop because sixth grade ended.  So to me, that’s what we set out to do.  I’m very proud of them.  Their ideas are inspiring and they don’t feel limited.  They can make them happen and to me, that’s everything.”  

The Green Team sayd that love for South Plainfield is a motivating factor and incentive to unite as a community to help keep the environment green for future generations.

“I grew up in a different world from this one,” said Tempel.  “It was simultaneously worse and better.  The air was dirtier over all, but there was more green. There were fewer opportunities and possibilities, but it was a little quieter, there was more space, there was more ease and one of the things a sustainable community has is a balance so that people can live comfortably in their skins, in their communities with less stress and more health.”

“I think the unveiling of the video went great," said Longo.  "It was very exciting to share with people.  We were very surprised with the quality of the video and how well it came out, so it was nice to be able to share with people.  I’ve been kind of hyping it up for a while and I don’t think anybody was disappointed.”

Anyone interested in joining the Green Team can visit their Facebook page at South Plainfield Green Team for the latest information, and website at www.southplainfieldgreenteam.com.