Surveying Jersey City’s tree canopy and quantifying carbon sequestered in them. Mapping emissions for the entire City of Newark. Integrating technology to better manage urban farms. Analyzing municipal food waste. Developing internal corporate energy efficiencies.
Thirty students from 17 institutions of higher learning will be working on all this – and more – as part of the Green Teams program of the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies (PSEG ISS) this summer.
In the program’s official launch on June 3, Ralph Izzo, Chairman, President and CEO of PSEG, presented the keynote “5 Things to Tackle Climate Change.”
“If there is a broader lesson to be learned from COVID-19, it is the complexity and challenges associated with global problems. It is not too soon to do something today,” he said.
Izzo noted that while investments in sustainable energy are critical, “the best way to combat climate change is energy efficiency – reduced usage.” He said that PSEG would be tackling this issue partially through investing in advanced metering infrastructure (commonly known as AMI).
He also had hopeful words for students: The future is bright for STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] – as well as skilled crafts and the social sciences. “There’s a whole raft of disciplines that will be brought to bear on this challenge that will be a productive career path.“
The Green Teams program, now in its fifth summer, is based at Montclair State University, where the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies supports research and community projects, including climate change in New Jersey, and energy and water studies globally. It has been a key platform for launching participating students into internships, green jobs and graduate/professional study.
This summer the Green Teams are working on projects with the City of Jersey City, City of Newark, Newark Science and Sustainability, New Jersey Natural Gas, the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation, and PSEG.
The paid internships are supported by the PSEG Foundation, academic and corporate partners and a grant from the National Science Foundation, and offered in partnership with New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability.
Montclair State University recently secured $2.6 million in National Science Foundation grants designed to connect students and their families to careers in STEM, according to PSEG ISS Director Amy Tuininga.
“With this new funding we will advance efforts to address underrepresentation of diverse groups in STEM, a challenge that may be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Tuininga said. “This program will help to ensure future employment is diverse and inclusive – a crucial step forward in our ability to solve problems together as a society.”
“Representation is critical,” said Katia Paz Goldfarb, Montclair State’s assistant vice president for Hispanic Serving Initiatives. “It is important for us to maintain an open and inclusive conversation. So that processes we need to implement are relevant to our community, so that they are not imposed, there is a buy-in … and the community is more invested and committed to finding a solution.”
Key to the grants’ implementation is the Green Teams program, which has provided a training ground and diversity pipeline for long-term professional development in STEM education by bringing together talented, transdisciplinary teams to design and deliver innovative sustainability solutions for a range of public and private organizations. Students this year represent a range of majors from Physics and Biology to Graphic Design and English.
PSEG ISS has fostered 36 Green Teams in the last five years, placing 180 graduates who completed 128 projects for 25 different organizations.
This summer, the 30 Green Team members – working in six teams with five members each – will receive training on systems thinking, project management, sustainability and more, Tuininga said. “We’ll also talk with them about culture – some of its corporate culture, some community culture, and the culture of their team.”
The Green Team members will be virtual through the end of June per guidance from the state and the University. “We want the students to be safe and healthy while they contribute to creating positive change for the environment and our communities,” Tuininga said.
Find the Green Teams on social media @PSEGISS
Story by Staff Writer Mary Barr Mann.