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State environmental commissioner visits Perth Amboy Campus

State environmental commissioner visits MCVTS Perth Amboy Campus

State Environmental Commission Bob Martin urged students to consider careers in environmental science during a visit to the Perth Amboy Campus of the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools.

“The environmental science area is growing dramatically,” he said. “There are a lot of great opportunities.”

Martin outlined the role of the state Department of Environmental Protection during a presentation to about 100 juniors who are taking environmental science classes. Some wore “Green Team” T-shirts, indicating membership in a student organization that promotes responsible environmental practices.

Principal Robert Fuller told Martin the school has applied for Green Ribbon status, which would recognize efforts at sustainability.

The commissioner visited the culinary arts shop, which was the first public school kitchen in the United States to be designated a Green Restaurant. Chef Stephen Moir, the instructor, outlined the steps that were taken to achieve the recognition, including using local sources for meat and produce and moving away from disposable tableware.

Noting that Earth Day had just passed, Martin told the students the state DEP’s 3,000 employees are tasked with protecting “the air, the land, and the water” to preserve the quality of life of New Jersey residents.

“What drove this country to Earth Day was that a lot of grassroots people thought that what was going on was wrong,” he said. “People were saying that we can’t behave like this anymore.”   

He said the DEP had cleaned up 26,000 polluted sites in the last 10 years but another 14,000 remained. Although it is a national leader, New Jersey only recycles 40 percent of its waste, he said.

Martin said the effort to combat air pollution must extend beyond state borders because only 21 percent of the ozone in our atmosphere originates in New Jersey. He said the use of renewable energy, such as from the sun and wind, “cuts carbon emissions and provides jobs.”

In addition to protecting the environment, the DEP also manages state parks, wildlife preserves and historic sites, and has a firefighting service to combat forest fires, Martin said.

Junior Alexander Salazar of Perth Amboy, a member of the Green Team, expressed interest in being one of 2,000 volunteers who can be called upon to battle forest fires. He gave his name to one of Martin’s aides.

The last stop on Martin’s tour was the Perth Amboy Campus aquaponic garden, which uses the waste of fish in an aquarium to fertilize plants.

The Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School District, the first full-time county vocational school district in the nation, has seven schools on five campuses, in East Brunswick, Edison, Piscataway, Perth Amboy and Woodbridge. The Perth Amboy Campus, the Edison Academy and the Woodbridge Academy have been named National Blue Ribbon Schools.