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They’ve Got the (Green) Power

PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies’ Green Teams step up response to meet accelerating global crises

Posted in: Homepage News, Research, Science and Technology

Four students in matching green shirts in a park
Members of the 2021 Newark Community Food Systems Green Team

Every summer since 2016, the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies’ Green Teams program has matched teams of students from multiple institutions and various disciplines with host organizations to tackle the sustainability issues confronting our planet.

This year, after a challenging summer of 2020, the program is back with more projects, more teams and some new plot twists. Diverse projects include everything from vertical farms to mass transit electric vehicles to upgrades for affordable housing to novel clean energy storage.

Lora Billings, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, stressed that the need for solutions to complex global problems is urgent.

“We’re not advancing at the speed and scale required,” said Billings, who noted that the COVID-19 pandemic created a global “health crisis that quickly became a socio-economic crisis.”

“That’s why the Green Teams are important,” added Billings. “We need to mobilize everyone everywhere … to ensure a better planet for us and future generations.”

When launching this summer’s program in June, PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies Director Amy Tuininga announced that 60 students will participate on 12 teams for summer 2021. The students come from 33 universities and 42 degree programs.

Plus, Tuininga said, “This year, as always, we are piloting something new. We are embedding a Green Team in a faculty lab to work on some cutting edge and marketable technology.” A Green Team led by Glen O’Neil, associate professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, will focus on designing, developing and testing membraneless electrolysis cells for producing clean hydrogen for energy storage applications, as well as investigate market opportunities for small-scale clean energy storage using hydrogen.

O’Neil expounded on the work as part of a keynote at the launch. Another keynote featured Nancy Gillis, CEO of the Green Electronics Council, a mission-driven nonprofit that seeks to achieve a world of sustainable information technology. Gray Russell, who is retiring as the sustainability officer for the Township of Montclair after 20 years of service, was also honored with a proclamation presented by Montclair Town Council Member Peter Yacobellis.

Additionally, Tuininga announced, “we are piloting a new aspect of Green Teams with this team this year. … a micro-internship where one team member will be working with the team some of the time throughout the summer, and then work into the academic year on those or other projects.”

green team members staing on stage with presenter
PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies Director Amy Tuininga introduces the Glen O’Neil Green Team.

The Green Teams Internship Program, now in its sixth 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. In its first five years, the Institute’s Green Teams program served 210 undergraduate students from 34 universities and more than 70 degree programs on 42 teams, completing 144 projects for 26 different hosting organizations.

Lora Billings holding a microphone and presentation notes
College of Science and Mathematics Dean Lora Billings

The Green Teams program has been a key platform for launching participating students into internships, green jobs and graduate and professional study. Not only does the program pull students from higher ed throughout the world, it also brings together students from all backgrounds and majors – including Biology, Graphic Design, Computer and Electrical Engineering, Public Relations, Environmental Sciences and more.

To prepare Green Team members, the PSEG Institute provides training throughout the course of the program, as well as community service projects and field trips. Teams make site visits to their host organizations and meet weekly with host representatives. Students are trained, and conduct the majority of their work, on-site at Montclair State University under the supervision of a leadership team. They work intensely full time for 10 weeks and then, at the end of the program, present their work in a comprehensive written report to their hosting organization and give a group TED Talk-style presentation to a broad audience. This year, final presentations will take place 3 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. on August 4 at the Kasser Theater.

Register to attend the Green Teams presentations.

over-the-shoulder view of keynote presentation being broadcast to a laptop
Nancy Gillis, CEO of the Green Electronics Council, gives a virtual keynote on “Purchasers as Sustainability Change Agents.”

Announcing the 2021 Green Team projects:

Green Team: Glen O’Neil (Montclair State University) will perform iterative design of membraneless electrolyzers using 3D printing including optimizing channel width, electrode size, electrode placement, and more; optimize catalyst loading for maximum device efficiency; quantify product purity using gas-chromatography; perform multi-scale modeling to optimize fluid transport in the cell; investigate gas collection strategies; and investigate potential markets for membraneless electrolysis.

Glen O’Neil in lab surrounded by equipment
Glen O’Neil, associate professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, will lead a Green Team that will explore new ways to use hydrogen to store energy using 3D printing devices.

Green Team: City of Jersey City is heat mapping the city, asking questions about infrastructure that contributes to heat, objects that can mitigate heat, like street trees and green space, and how equitably the heat and heat mitigation is distributed in the city.

Green Team: City of Newark is focused on positioning the city to report on emissions (CDP- ICLEI) and become certified for green building initiatives (LEED for Cities and Communities).

Green Team: Greens Do Good will work to increase production and address food scarcity and food insecurity while minimizing environmental impact within the Greens Do Good organization’s vertical farm by recommending planting strategies, examining energy and water usage and the drain on current HVAC systems and humidity controls; conduct an energy audit to quantify energy use and propose ways to increase energy efficiency; and assess the profitability of infusing sustainability to make real changes in the bottom line.

Green Team: Hackensack Meridian Health will work to develop inventories of direct and indirect emissions – including fleet vehicles, anesthetic gases and refrigerants – using Practice Greenhealth’s GHG toolkit and online calculator. They will also develop plans for emissions reduction strategies for anesthetic gas and food waste using Practice Greenhealth’s Anesthetic Gas toolkit and Less Food to Landfill toolkit.

Green Team: Newark Community Food System will assess food security in Newark communities; develop tool kits for community gardeners to quantify and value their food produced with the goals of improving the local food systems; and develop educational materials and community partners.

Green Team: NJ Transit will identify what is known and what information is still needed in order to assess what happens to the components of various electric vehicle (EV) bus batteries once they reach their end of life and which EV buses are most sustainable from a life cycle perspective.

Green Team: Prudential will work to provide research on internal corporate Green Team structures and best practices; summarize corporate Green Teams case studies; conduct focus groups with members of Prudential Green Teams; and reach out to competitors and other comparable organizations to survey them on their internal employee-led sustainability practices.

green-shirted team member posing with his family in a park
Edgar Manriquez ’22 (back row, right), a Glen O’Neil Green Team member majoring in Chemistry with a minor in Mathematics, and his family: father Edgar, mother Jacqueline, and sister Janitza. PSEG ISS is utilizing a $2 million National Science Foundation Hispanic-Serving Institution grant to include team members’ families in the Green Team projects.

Green Team: PSEG will research and analyze waste generation and reduction strategies for PSEG; address and develop an Environmental Justice initiative focused on climate vulnerability assessment for EJ communities. This will incorporate a weather risk assessment and mapping in a variety of scenarios, including use of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s overburdened communities’ maps; and undertake a European Union Green Taxonomy initiative examining criteria used by financial organizations to apply to energy and other sectors.

Green Team: Solar Landscape will develop community outreach initiatives educating the public and businesses about the benefits of Community Solar and build out a social media campaign for Solar Landscape’s Clean Energy Community Partners.

Green Team: Stevens Winter Associates, Inc. will perform virtual energy audit assessments on multifamily affordable housing buildings that define site-specific energy upgrades; create a list of projects for potential local and federal stimulus infrastructure investments; and collect information on skills gaps/training needs and abilities of existing building maintenance staff in these buildings.

Green Team: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) will study stormwater management of the parks and playgrounds TPL has developed specifically in Newark and the region and determine how stormwater flow and infiltration would be affected by presence of impervious, semi-pervious and pervious surfaces and green infrastructure.

The Green Teams Internship Program was initiated as a transdisciplinary internship program targeted to upper level undergraduates (exceptional rising sophomores may also be considered) coming from any discipline who are interested in sustainability. Green Teams are teams of students who serve corporations, organizations, nonprofits, municipalities and community groups to address sustainability issues identified by host organizations.

Follow the Green Teams on social media using the hashtags #GreenTeams2021 and #GTLaunch2021 or visit the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies where you can also find resources and a link to the 2022 corporate and hosting organization application.


Story by Staff Writer Mary Barr Mann

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