WEST ORANGE, NJ - Thomas Edison National Historical Park was the setting for a presentation by the West Orange Energy Commission, which provided updates on energy sustainability initiatives around the state.

Mike Brick, WOEC Chair, gave a brief overview of the "I Will If You Will" Earth Hour, a worldwide effort planned for March 23, from 8:30-9:30 p.m. West Orange is an official participant in Earth Hour, which will be held for the third year at Edison National Historical Park. He noted that Edison himself recognized the importance of of energy and the resources of the earth itself: solar (sun), wind and tide. Jill Hawk, Director or ENHP, and Park expert Karen Olsen, shared why the park was the perfect locale to recognize the importance of energy sustainability, and discussed the park's goal to move forward with their own green efforts. Olsen asked the attendees how many had been without power during Hurricane Sandy and how only a few days without it affected us.

Mayor Robert Parisi also acknowledged the efforts of Thomas Edison and said that soon ground would be broken on the new downtown redevelopment project on the site of the old Edison Battery Factory.  He said that Edison recognized his responsibility to the land, keeping it environmentally sound,  and that little remediation was required to ready the land for renovation.  

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West Orange Interim Superintendent James O'Neill briefly spoke about the school district's efforts to develop a permanent curriculum on sustainability for K-12.  He noted that he has been 'energized' working in the West Orange community, with its diverse strengths.

Kelly Wenzel, West Orange resident, parent, Energy Commission member and employee of the Audobon Society, discussed what Audobon is doing in New Jersey to assist in conservation efforts with nature, particularly NJ Shore birds, and how Audobon is working with farmers to grow sunflower seeds.  She said as an educator, she was passionate about their "Eco Schools International" which serve to educate the community.  Kelly works at the Essex County Environmental Center in Roseland.

John Rebick, a self-professed "lighting geek" for Phillips, spoke passionately about LED lighting (light emitting diode) and how it was revolutionizing the lighting industry.  He said there was also much advancement in the arena of organic (organic compound is any member of a large class of gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical compounds whose molecules contain carbon) LEDs.  He recommended that any LED bulb worth its cost would have extensive informational labeling regarding its life and usage on its label and to purchase those types.

Assemblyman John McKeon, a long time supporter of environmental initiatives, noted that the exponential growth of the earth's population would continue to take its toll on the earth's resources, and that "the environment should never be a political issue."  Unfortunately, the government has cut billions of dollars in funding for environmental efforts.  He lauded the efforts of West Orange to "think globally, and act locally." He encouraged the township to look into the use of LEDs to incorporate into art projects.

David Wolk of the WOEC, shared state efforts to assist in free Home Performance evaluations through Energy Star, including 0 percent financing on certain energy repairs and initiatives; information on NJ Energy Star Homes; Energy Star Rebates on certain hot water heaters, boilers, washers, and even lights. He noted that there were available resources to those impacted by Hurricane Sandy as well. He encouraged everyone to visit www.njcleanenergy.com for more information.

Sue McCartney, council liasion to the Energy Commission, reminded everyone that we could all "change the world" by participating in the March 23 Earth Hour.  "If it can change the way we think, we can change the world in one hour," she said.

Patty Taylor, another WOEC member, spoke about the solar panels installed on 166,000 light poles around New Jersey.  The panels did not power the lights on the poles, she said, but went back to the grid, where it was recirculated to residents. Taylor, who works at PSEG with residents and businesses regarding transition into solar power with their Solar For All  program, said that New Jersey was second in the country for solar energy efforts.  She brought with her one of PSEG's completely electric powered vehicles (a BMW).

Eighth grade Liberty Middle School Science teachers Ms. Zaccaro, Ms. David, and Mr. DeJesus, spoke about how they incorporated sustainability into all their science curriculum.  Students from the West Orange High School Green Club then spoke about their efforts. The teachers also described the arrival of the newly discovered comet, Pan-starrs, making its appearance in the northern hemisphere during the month of March.  If weather conditions are good on the night of the 23, the comet could be visible to the naked eye or with low level telescopes.  From her blog on Earthsky.org, Deborah Byrd says:

"Throughout March 2013. The comet could be visible in the Northern Hemisphere evening sky low in the west after sunset. It will move northward each evening during March 2013 as it moves from being in front of the constellation Pisces to being in front of the constellations Pegasus and Andromeda. At this time, the comet might have a bright dust tail, and perhaps visible to the unaided eye or binoculars. It should, at least, if it lives up to expectations. Remember to look for the comet in the vicinity of the waxing crescent moon on March 1213 and 14. The comet swings above the star Algenib on March 17/18, and above the star Alpheratz on March 25/26."

For more information on Earth Hour, go to: www.earthhour.org.

For more information on West Orange Township and the Energy Commission, go to: www.westorange.org.

For more information on the West Orange School District, go to www.woboe.org.