WEST ORANGE, NJ – Just as the concept for the annual worldwide Earth Hour event has evolved, so too has the West Orange Environmental Commission’s (WOEC) annual event recently held at Thomas Edison National Historical Park (TENHP), featuring a wide range of environmental initiatives.

WOEC Chair Mike Brick served emcee for the event along with West Orange Township Council President Susan McCartney. McCartney serves as council liaison and supports environmental initiatives town-wide.

Brick reminded attendees that Earth Hour was set for March 24 from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. around the world. He offered suggestions on what families could do during the one-hour period when lights are turned off.

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According to the Earth Hour website, “Starting as a symbolic lights-out event in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour is now the world's largest grassroots movement for the environment, inspiring millions of people to take action for our planet and nature.

As accelerating climate change and staggering biodiversity loss threaten our planet, Earth Hour 2018-2020 endeavors to spark never-before-had conversations on the loss of nature and the urgent need to protect it.”

Find out more here.

TENHP Superintendent Tom Ross discussed Edison’s inventions and particular interest in the environment, sharing the inventor's prescient quote:

“We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy—sun, wind and tide,” he said. “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power. I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

TENHP Ranger Karen Sloat-Olsen shared upcoming events and activities as TENHP continues to partner with the school district and township.

Senior Naturalist at the Essex County Environmental Center David Alexander briefed attendees on upcoming programs (yes, the butterflies will be back) and encouraged attendees take a guided river tour.

West Orange High School Class of 2015 alumnus and environmental science major Andrew Cumming discussed his experiences at Rutgers University, particularly as part of an indigenous bee research project. He recommended using only bee-friendly repellents and planting flora indigenous to New Jersey to help promote the growth of the bee population.

WOHS Supervisor of Technology Ryan DelGuercio and Engineering and Design Solutions instructor Rudy Petrella brought students to discuss their solar projects.

Jasmin Awany demonstrated a solar-powered flashlight that she designed and Tony Homere represented the student group that was building the frame for a solar-powered bus shelter with solar lights and a phone charging station. Student Ahmeer Brooks presented the solar lanterns high school students developed with Liter of Light in December.

West Orange Environmental Commissioner and Environmental Consultant Christina Faust educated on freshwater supplies, locally and globally. West Orange receives its water from Passaic Valley Water. Worldwide, fresh water makes up only 2.5 percent of the earth’s water, and only one percent of that is accessible.

WOHS freshman Riya Goel was the final presenter, discussing vegetarian options not only for the school district, but for the community. It would promote conservation of natural resources as well as healthy eating for humans.

See all the photos from the event here.

See the information on the solar-powered flashlight and bus shelter here and here.