October 1, 2020

Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission Receives a 2020 ANJEC Environmental Achievement Award for One Thousand Trees Tree Seedlings Giveaway

On Thursday, Oct. 1, at its 47th Annual Environmental Congress, the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) presented the Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission (BHEC) with a 2020 Environmental Achievement Award for organizing and producing this year’s One Thousand Trees tree seedlings giveaway.  Accepting the Environmental Achievement award on behalf of the BHEC were Richard Leister, BHEC Chairman, and BHEC members Angus Chen and Kim Diamond.

This marks the third year in a row that the BHEC has received an ANJEC Environmental Achievement Award, having won last year for Vegan Fest 2018 and in 2018 for the town-wide Trex bin thin film plastics collection program. This year the event was held over Zoom due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. ANJEC President, Jennifer Coffey, announced to the many attendees, which included environmental commissioners and green team members from other towns across the state, that the BHEC won this award for One Thousand Trees for creatively distributing the tree seedlings to residents. Ms. Coffey noted the challenge in organizing an event in the current environment.

The Environmental Congress features educational programs and this year marked ANJEC’s 51st anniversary. While usually a one-day event, this year it is being held virtually over the month of October. The many programs offer attendees the opportunity to learn about and potentially replicate in their own community successful projects that had positive environmental benefits.

As an illustration of the importance of this conference, keynote speakers include Shawn M. LaTourette, Deputy Commissioner and Chief of Staff of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP,) as well as Judith Enck, Founder of Beyond Plastics and former Deputy Secretary for the Environment in the New York Governor’s Office. Governor Phil Murphy and Senator Cory Booker also offered recorded messages of support for the organization.

June 21, 2020

How Residents Are Making Berkeley Heights More Beautiful

TAPinto Berkeley Heights

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - They arrived before opening time, forming a long line of vehicles along Plainfield Avenue, and kept coming for hours. Some cars took one seedling, some took four, five or six. Dogwoods, pawpaws, swamp white oaks, hackberries, redbuds. They took them to put in wet spots.  They took them to put in shady areas and sunny areas. They took them to plant at their homes and make them more beautiful.

Environmental Commission volunteers organized the event, which happened Saturday June 6 at Columbia Middle School. Friends and family of the Commission helped with the distribution. The goal was to distribute 1,000 tree seedlings to Berkeley Heights residents. “We gave out most of the seedlings at the event,” said Environmental Commission Chair Richard Leister. “Any leftovers went to the fourth grades or to Hall’s Garden Center, which will offer them to customers free of charge.”

The event was inspired by the New Jersey Tree Recovery campaign, which offers free seedlings to municipalities. As the citizens of New Jersey rebuild their communities, New Jersey Tree Recovery campaign is working to bring back the beauty of the tree line. Formed as a partnership between the Arbor Day Foundation and the New Jersey of State Forestry Service, the campaign focuses on providing trees to homeowners and communities who lost their urban canopy in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

“This project was important to me,” said volunteer Jessica Franolic, “because I like to give back to my community, especially during stressful times like these. I also am very passionate about helping the environment and so this event satisfied both of those wishes.”

Another volunteer, Amalia Canovas added, “This event is important because we need more trees everywhere, for environmental reasons, to clean the air and to prevent floods.  Also, since some of the tree will have flowers, they will contribute to the beautification of the town.”

Trees sequester carbon (CO2), reducing the overall concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  A tree is a natural air conditioner and filter.  The evaporation from a single tree can produce the cooling effect of ten room-size, residential air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.

The 67,150 trees planted last year will reduce carbon dioxide by 87,064 tons, reduce non-carbon dioxide air pollution by 379 tons, save $12,024,729 in energy costs, and intercept 1,444,796,059 gallons of rainfall.

The Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission was established to protect, develop or use natural resources, including water resources, located within the Township. The Environmental Commission is an advisory group with the responsibility to recommend plans and programs to the Planning Board for the development and use of open lands and wetlands. All the members volunteer their time on a variety of projects and tasks.


October 5, 2019

Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission Receives a 2019 ANJEC Environmental Achievement Award for Vegan Fest

TAPinto Berkeley Heights

WEST WINDSOR, NJ - On Friday, Oct. 4 at its 46th Annual Environmental Congress, the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) presented the Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission (BHEC) with a 2019 Environmental Achievement Award for producing last year’s Vegan Fest.  Accepting the Environmental Achievement award on behalf of the BHEC were Richard Leister, BHEC Chairman, and Kim Diamond, Chair of Berkeley Heights Vegan Fest 2018 and BHEC member.  

This marks the second year in a row that the BHEC has received an ANJEC Environmental Achievement Award, having won last year for the town-wide Trex bin thin film plastics collection program.

ANJEC President, Ray Cywinski, announced to a crowd of several hundred people comprised of environmental commissioners and green team members from other towns across the state that the BHEC won this award for Vegan Fest 2018 due to the educational and health benefits that it provided to Berkeley Heights residents and other Vegan Fest participants.  Mr. Cywinski noted that a main benefit of the event was that it equipped attendees with tools they could incorporate into their daily routine in order to live a healthier life.  A number of people at the Environmental Congress indicated their interest in attending Vegan Fest next year.

The Environmental Congress was an all-day conference that marked ANJEC’s 50th Anniversary and featured educational programs.  Many programs offered attendees the opportunity to learn about and potentially replicate in their own community successful projects that had positive environmental benefits when conducted originally.  

As illustration of the importance of this conference, keynote speakers included Dr. Anthony Broccoli, Chair of the Department of Environmental Science at Rutgers University and Co-Director of the Rutgers Climate Institute, as well as Catherine McCabe, Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).  Governor Jim Florio was also in attendance and gave a brief speech following his receipt of ANJEC’s Candace McKee Ashman Environmental Legacy Award.


September 29, 2019

Vegan Fest Success! Cook-Off Winners Announced!

TAPinto Berkeley Heights

Editor's Note: Photo contributions by Bob Coletta, Natalie Chin and Bobbie Peer. Video by Berkeley Heights Communications Committee, produced by Lucinda Hayes.

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Berkeley Heights Vegan Fest provided the community with a weekend full of healthy living style options. The fest included activities to educate the community on optimal health through yoga, educational speakers, children's dance sessions, and a vegan cook-off.

Berkeley Heights resident Kim Diamond spearheaded the weekend for the second year to educate the community on healthy lifestyle options, as well as share ways to adopt a mindful outlook on life. Diamond switched to a plant based diet two years ago after being diagnosed with cancer and her nutritionist told her she wasn't getting enough vegetables in her diet.  Diamond said, adopting a plant based diet, "you will feel better and you will be healthier moving forward."

A highlight of the weekend was the Vegan Cook-off held under the pavilion at Columbia Park. The cook-off featured entries from individual and restaurant/caterers. The panel of judges were served samples starting with appetizers, entrees and then deserts. Prizes were awarded for first, second and third place winners in each category. 

The five-star panel of judges included Mayor Angie Devanney; Councilman Manny Couto; Devour Creative Catering owner Michael Ramella, Smoothie King of Summit owner Mike Matthews; and John Leo and Angus Chen, members of Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission.

Winners - Appetizer Category

Fist Place - Meera Rao; Dish:  Coco-Loco

Second Place - David Steiner; Dish:  Knot Your Ordinary Garlic Knots

Third Place - David Sonshine; Dish:  Sonshine Pesto Sauce

Winners - Main Course Category

First Place - Marcus Efford-Singleton; Dish:  "Italian" Style Spaghetti & Check Pea Meatballs

Second Place - David Steiner; Dish:  Fiesta Pea-ita

Third Place - Tori Fetner; Dish:  Vegan Philly Cheesesteak

Winners - Dessert Category

First Place - Victoria Murray; Dish:  Ginger Lemon Berry Crumble

Second Place - Christine Cantner; Dish:  Aiden and Cameron's Zesty Lemon Cake

Third Place - Amanda St. Clair; Dish:  Vegan Pumpkin Bars!

Many of the guests admittedly said they are not vegan, however, were fans of the delicious treats they sampled. After tasting the various samples that ranged from "Vegan Chickpea Sliders" served by Delicious Heights and the crowd pleasing vegan brownies made by Amanda St. Clair -- many people said they will be adopting to a more vegan lifestyle.  

The weekend started with two yoga classes by certified yoga instructors LeeAnn Gerrato and Crystal Maldonado, who led the participants in two yoga sessions at Grove Park in Connell Corporate Park. 

Yoga helps you to focus on being more mindful and taking care of yourself, said Diamond. "Taking time each day to reflect and unwind and relax" will lower blood pressure and makes you a healthier person. Yoga also is an activity that can be done by anyone at any age, any size, shape or form. "It's something everyone can do and it is very very helpful," she said.

On Saturday, Bold Arts held creative dance sessions to include children in Vegan Fest. They celebrated moving their bodies and feeling great and being healthy, said an instructor from Bold Arts. "We love creative movement - and empower them [the children] by talking about wellness."

While the children were engaged in the creative movement class, the adults participated in two educational panels. The first panel led by Mitch Bentler [an oncology nutritionist from Summit Medical Group] and Lisa McQuilkin [Wellness Director of the Berkeley Heights YMCA] focused on why a diet rich in fruits and vegetables promotes good health. The second hour discussion focused on how a plant-based diet helps to promote environmental preservation. 

"What I try and promote is whole food, plant based," said Bentler. "If it grows, it is good. Two rules when I talk to a client: if it's a plant I want you to eat it. But, I want you to eat it in the form as close to the way it was created. In other words, corn is fine -- but corn flakes, not so great. Potatoes are terrific -- but potato chips, not such a good idea."

"It doesn't mean you have to give it up all at once. It's a transition," said Bentler. "The importance of this transition is if you look at the top 10 killers in the United States -- diet is related to all of them. If you look closer, it's the intake of animal products that relate to heart disease, diabetes, strokes, cancer. The more science that comes out there, the more I am convinced that we really need to minimize or eliminate animal products from our diet," she said. "A good place to start is with processed food."

Bentler recommends to start with breakfast -- "make breakfast animal free. Next, make breakfast and lunch animal free. Anything better than you did last week, last month is going to be an improvement," she said. "It's not an all or nothing thing. Try and build on it -- and make sure what you do is better than the last time." -- "We live longer, but we live sicker -- eating more plant based, it make you live longer and healthier life."

McQuilkin spoke about how regular activity can benefit your life. "We, as a society, don't move enough -- the benefit of getting up and moving is huge. You don't have to do anything really dramatic. The recommended activity for kids is 60 minutes a day -- 60 minutes a day of movement keeps them healthy and strong and prepares them as they are growing into adults. The recommendation for adults is between 150 and 300 minutes of exercise a week. The chronic health conditions we have in the United States: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety, diabetes  -- all of those things, combined exercise and diet can combat the onset of those diseases." McQuilkin recommends start with something you like -- "it doesn't matter what it is -- you can walk your neighborhood, swim, bicycle, or a dance class -- you just have to get up and move. In addition to that, find a buddy, a class or a group -- it keeps you connected -- it gives you the social component and the physical activity component," said McQulkin.

July 8, 2019

Springfield Avenue Clean Up Raises Community Litter Awareness,
Collects Over 100 Shoes for Re-Use

TAPinto Berkeley Heights
Patch New Providence-Berkeley Heights

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - On Sunday, June 30, members of Val’s Valiants, the Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission (BHEC), Sustainable Berkeley Heights, the Berkeley Heights Downtown Beautification Committee (DBC), members of Girl Scout Troop 40822, and other local residents braved the sweltering heat to help clean up Springfield Avenue.

At the beginning of the event, which began outside of Dunkin’ Donuts, Pavni Bhardwaj and Katherine Zhou, two members of Troop 40822 who are each working toward earning their Silver Award, delivered an inspiring presentation about how people are adversely impacting the environment by littering and why it is important for people to become more educated about this issue so that they can change their behavior and take appropriate action.

The group children and adults alike, which included DBC head Julie Lloyd and Councilman Manny Couto, divided into “teams” of two and three people, with each team using a Val’s Valiants litter data tracking sheet – based on New Jersey Clean Community Council’s (NJCCC’s) Ocean Data Litter Tracking From – to record the amounts and different types of litter collected.  Many clean-up participants were shocked at the number of cigarette butts and other small items they collected.  Collectively, in just over one hour, the group gathered 1,158 cigarette butts, 152 food and candy wrappers, and approximately 500 pieces of glass, plastic, and paper that would otherwise still be polluting the Berkeley Heights downtown area.

“The litter we collected is not just unattractive, but in the case of cigarette butts, toxic,” said Gail Nelson, a DBC member and a clean-up participant. “The DBC is pleased to be able to partner with Sustainable Berkeley Heights and other town organizations to make Berkeley Heights clean and green.  It’s wonderful that community members continue to come together to clean up our town’s main street.”

Ms. Zhou and Ms. Bhardwaj observed that having additional trash cans and ash trays placed in the downtown area would be beneficial in keeping the downtown area cleaner.  “We picked up many cigarettes behind CVS even though there were ash trays just across the street at Dunkin’ Donuts,” noted Ms. Zhou. “People are doing what is more convenient for them.”

Education, mindfulness, and behavior modification will also play a key role in keeping the downtown area cleaner.  According to Ms. Bjardwaj, “To make littering less prevalent in our town, not only do we have to educate those around us to be more mindful of the negative consequences ground pollution has, but we also have to make it easier for them to be mindful.” 

In the spirit of recycling and re-using items collected, Val Diamond of Val’s Valiants helped both to clean up the street and run a shoe donation drive for gently worn shoes.  As a result of this effort, 108 pairs of shoes weighing a total of 118 pounds were received from community members and donated to Zappos for Good in partnership with Soles4Souls.  The shoes will be distributed in the U.S. and globally through Soles4Souls, so that they assist people in need, rather than winding up in a landfill.  

Val’s Valiants, the BHEC, Sustainable Berkeley Heights, the DBC, and Troop 40822 plan on conducting another litter clean-up that is open to the public toward the end of August.  Please check the websites for Sustainable Berkeley Heights and the BHEC for information and details that will be posted in the upcoming weeks.


June 25, 2019

Adopt-A-Sign Volunteers Help Beautify Berkeley Heights

TAPinto Berkeley Heights

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Summer is here and the Berkeley Heights Adopt-A-Sign program is in full swing, bringing hands-on volunteer opportunities for families, businesses, and community organization to make the Town green and beautiful.

Here’s how this new program started: In recent years, new Berkeley Heights branded signs were installed around Town. These include welcome signs on entrance roads to Town and marker signs at parks. To ensure well-maintained plantings at the base of each sign, the Berkeley Heights Downtown Beautification Committee (DBC) and Environmental Commission teamed up to launch Adopt-a-Sign.

Once volunteers have selected a sign location, they care for that sign by adding plantings at its base and maintaining them through first frost. Besides buying and planting flowers and greenery, volunteers are watering, weeding and mulching the plants; keeping the immediate area free of leaves and litter; and washing the signs if needed.

Julie Lloyd, chair of the DBC, said: “We have asked volunteers to raise their hands and get them a little dirty, so to speak, to make a positive difference for their Town, their family and their neighbors. Now 16 groups of Adopt-a-Sign volunteers are doing an awesome job.”

The DBC and Environmental Commission thank the following families, community groups and businesses who have already adopted a sign:

  • Bartholomew Family 
  • Chaleff Family 
  • Cruz Family 
  • Facey Family 
  • Girl Scout Troop 42065 
  • Girl Scout Troop 40254 
  • Girl Scout Troop 40178 
  • Hagen Family 
  • JL Franchino Masonry 
  • Lawrence-DiLullo Family 
  • Manieri Family 
  • Ortega Family 
  • Scorzafava Family 
  • Thayer Family
  • The Connell Company  
  • Varnerin Family 

 “This is a great initiative that combines environmental awareness for decorative, local flowers and plants with an opportunity for families to participate in a community service project together outdoors,” said Kim Diamond, a member of the Environmental Commission. “Volunteers appreciate the flexibility of their simple commitment, as they just perform their responsibilities when they have time.”

Check out the DBC Instagram page to see pictures of these plantings and signs. To learn more about the program check out the Township’s Downtown Beautification Committee and Environmental Commission web pages, or email


April 2, 2019

Residents Pick Up Everything and the Kitchen Sink at Adopt-A-Beach Clean-Up of Snyder Avenue and Snyder Avenue Park

TAPinto Berkeley Heights

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – On Sunday, March 24, residents of all ages gathered at Snyder Avenue Park, put on pairs of reinforced gloves, and helped rid Berkeley Heights of approximately 150 pounds of litter through their participation in the Adopt-A-Beach Clean Water Challenge.

The group consisted of approximately 25 children and adults of all ages, including couples and families. One family even brought their dog, Coco, to make the event truly a family effort.

The event, which was a collaborative effort among Val’s Valiants, the Berkeley Heights Innovation and Sustainability Alliance (Sustainable Berkeley Heights), the Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission (BHEC), and the Berkeley Heights Downtown Beautification Committee (DBC), aimed to kick off spring and the spring sports season by ridding Snyder Avenue and Snyder Avenue Park of recyclables and trash that had been hibernating under the snow and leaves all winter.

Half the group tackled the wooded area behind the turf field at the park itself, while the other half cleaned both sides of Snyder Avenue between the park and the Bank of America Building, as well as the area along the bank of the Passaic River tributary near the bridge next to the Bank of America parking lot.

Visually, the amount of litter in certain places was shocking. According to Chloe Moon, one of the youngest participants, “It’s weird ’cause there’s so much paper everywhere.”


December 11, 2018

Val’s Valiants, Scout Pack 368, and BHEC Members Brave the Cold to Clean Up Locust Avenue

TAPinto Berkeley Heights

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Braving the freezing temperatures on Sunday, December 9, members of Val’s Valiants and the Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission put on their reinforced gloves and led Cub Scouts and Scout members from Pack 368 to clean up litter along both sides of Locust Avenue, between Russo Place and Timber Drive.

The group of 10 consisted of five children, Sambhav Chaturvedi, Vibhav Chaturvedi, Valerie Diamond, Evan Harris, and Tyler Reed, as well as five adults, Tulika Chaturdevi, Kim Diamond, David Harris, Richard Leister, and Victoria Reed. Working together in teams of two and three, the group collectively gathered 36.3 pounds of litter – consisting of 29.7 pounds of recyclables and 6.6 pounds of trash – within just a 1-hour period.

“The small group who made it did quite a good job – especially . . . in light of the cold weather,” noted Victoria Reed.

Some of the more unique items that the group picked up included two sets of ear muffs, a belt, a scarf, and a metal stand from a candidate’s election sign.  There was no shortage of beverage containers, cigarette butts, and thin film plastic bags, though.  Among other items, the group collected a total of 30 plastic bottles, 28 glass bottles, 50 metal (beer and soda) cans, 41 cigarette butts, and 13 thin film plastic bags.

The particular stretch that the group cleaned is one notorious for being a “litter magnet.” Clean-ups were conducted on the same exact area both in the spring and in the fall. Yet, just a few weeks following the most recent clean-up, litter abounded – particularly in the wooded area adjacent to the street.

The clean-up effort was part of the New Jersey Clean Communities Council’s International Coastal Cleanup effort, which runs from September 15 – December 31, 2018.  Through their efforts, those participating in Sunday’s clean-up joined thousands of volunteers globally in their efforts to rid litter from streams, lakes, rivers, bays, and beaches.

“It’s great that people of all ages are taking an active interest in keeping our town clean, and are actually coming out to do something about it” said Valerie Diamond, leader of Val’s Valiants and junior at Governor Livingston High School. “Pack 368 and Val’s Valiants have already agreed to work together this spring so that more of these clean-ups happen. It just shows that no matter how old you are, you can make a difference.”