MCCC Lecture Focuses on Ways to Preserve New Jersey’s Environment
Marc Rogoff, environmental education specialist at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), spoke to an audience of students at Mercer County Community College on April 25 about how every day practices can affect the natural world. The talk was part of the college’s Distinguished Lecture Series.
Rogoff commended New Jersey on being one of the states with the highest rate of recycling in the country, but noted that 65 percent of materials that could be recycled in the state still end up in the trash. “We buy more than we ever need, and we use more resources than anywhere else in the world,” said Rogoff, imploring students to take action and reduce their own carbon footprint.
“I work for politicians, and I’ve seen a lot that are fully aware (of environmental issues), and some that couldn’t care less,” said Rogoff, emphasizing that the changes in daily practices need to start with how each individual person lives their life. He noted that the average American throws away 4.5 pounds of garbage per day, and in New Jersey, that average is even higher, at 6.5 pounds.
“There’s nothing that can’t be recycled or reused in some way,” said Rogoff, mentioning plastic waste as one of the main environmental issues.
“There’s nothing wrong with plastic; women have been wearing it since the 20s,” said Rogoff, referring to nylon stockings. He said the issue is that residents don’t make the effort to recycle everything they can.
“Turtles see plastic bags as jellyfish, and other animals see it as food,” he said, noting that one dead fish was found with two pounds of plastic in its stomach. He added that New Jersey sends most of its recycled plastic to Patagonia, an environmentally friendly clothing store which reuses the materials in its products.
Rogoff also spoke about an organization in Chatham, NJ, “Back 2 Tap,” which helps both corporations and residents reduce their use of disposable plastic bottles by sharing information on how much waste they cause in the environment, and encouraging the use of reusable water bottles.
He also noted that New Jersey has the highest standards for tap water in the country, so residents shouldn’t shy away from drinking straight from the faucet instead of drinking bottled spring water.
Rogoff told students about the many ways they can reduce their carbon footprint, such as ceiling fans, which only use 150 watts of electricity, instead of air conditioning units, and LED light bulbs, which, if left on constantly, would only cost approximately three cents per year in electricity.
Installing solar panels on the roof not only saves on electric bills, but also helps maintain the roof for a longer period of time, while increasing a home’s value. “The solution to all of our energy problems has been up in the sky all along; it’s the sun,” Rogoff said.
He also surprised his audience by telling students that a small sedan with good gas mileage is actually much better for the environment than a hybrid. He said that rare minerals are used to make hybrid car batteries, which causes them to be expensive and also drains the environment of natural resources.
Instead, he recommended “hypermiling,” which involves slowing down and speeding up on highways at a slower pace, which has increased his car’s gas mileage by 7 mpg.
A former teacher and museum educator, Rogoff manages multiple award-winning education websites and the DEP's Speakers Program. He works with the NJ Commission on Environmental Education, and assists schools with outdoor classroom development. Prior to working at the DEP, he also served on a wilderness rescue squad with the National Park Service. He is the recipient of the New Jersey Audubon Society’s 2012 Excellence in Environmental Education Award.
Additional information on ways to help the environment can be found on the DEP’s website, www.state.nj.us/dep/seeds.