“Sustainability and resilience are new words in our everyday language now,” says Angela Andersen, Long Beach Township Clean Communities Coordinator.
Long Beach Island is a quaint shore community, home to many fishermen and small business owners. The locals are outnumbered in the summer months by vacationing families who typically rent houses for a week at a time. In October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated the shores of New Jersey, specifically Long Beach Island. The storm tore down many of the homes on the island and left others in need of repair. According to Andersen, “some people had to leave the island after being here for generations.” This community was forced to be resilient, even though the beaches they had frequented just weeks prior were in ruins.
Instead of letting Sandy define the fate of the community, spearheaded by Andersen, the island was able to rebuild and rethink their approach to sustainability.
With a chance to start fresh in a lot of places, Andersen and her team took the opportunity to implement sustainable practices. One of their major accomplishments is the free shuttle bus system that runs the length of the island. They have also installed a rain barrel outside of town hall, expanded the island’s recycling program, and implemented water bottle refilling stations. Andersen is currently working towards a switch to solar energy and the implementation of vegetated dunes along all of the beaches.
During the busy summer months, traffic on the island gets congested. Especially on Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekend, it can take a long time to get down the island. Now, this congestion is mitigated by free public shuttles that drive the length of the island. These buses cut out much of the pollution from surplus cars. Andersen says that this project was led by Commissioner Joe Latttanzi who “didn’t like the short answer of ‘you can’t do a shuttle on the island’ so he researched it and made it happen.” Because Long Beach Island has one main road, the shuttle system accommodates tourists nicely. Kids can hop on the shuttle to the nearest mini golf course because the shuttles make one big loop around the length of the island.
Promoting recycling in a community of tourists is challenging because of the quick turnover time. Recycling on the island has recently become more convenient, as it has moved to a single-stream system that allows residents to recycle paper, plastic, and glass in one container. Additionally, recycling bins have been added to each of the beaches. Andersen’s team has gone the extra mile to make education more accessible to the islanders.
“We just launched an app called Recycle Coach to try and reach the Millennials,” she says, “we educate, educate, educate – but it is still confusing to people.” Ocean County has specific regulations about what can be recycled, so Andersen’s team is constantly educating the changing community about these guidelines.
I downloaded the Recycle Coach app, and it has the potential to really change the way we recycle. The app has a quiz called “What Type of Recycler Are You?” and it asks questions about your recycling habits (like how often you try to recycle) and also questions specific to your town’s ordinances (like what kinds of things can be recycled). I was surprised by how low I scored, because while I do my best to recycle, I wasn’t aware of all of the recycling restrictions my town had. The quiz emails you your results and provides tips on how to recycle better in your town and shows you how your score compares to other recyclers worldwide. By educating people about how to recycle effectively, the app facilitates the recycling process and answers questions. The app also features a link to a blog with tips for reusing household items and ideas for upcycling.
Another innovation was implemented to address the water bottles left on the ground, cluttering the tennis courts in the town of Loveladies on the island.
“I was in a bait and tackle shop in Beach Haven Crest one day and two girls came in to ask to refill a water bottle, as they had been out power walking and had run out of water," Andersen said. This encounter piqued Andersen’s interest and inspired her to install water bottle filling stations around the tennis courts. In the town of Loveladies, one water bottle filling station was installed, followed by five additional stations due to the success of the first one. These stations cut down on plastic waste and have helped the littering problem as well. They are also a town favorite, and Andersen hopes to install them in neighboring towns as well.
Since Sandy, there have been numerous flood prevention efforts as well. Andersen says, “when we rebuild, we are going to resiliency standards and above.” The rebuilding process has included upgrades to storm drain basins, new water and sewer lines, and new and improved pump stations.
Additionally, a rain barrel was installed outside of town hall in order to collect rain water runoff from the roof. Andersen describes these rain barrels as “public pieces of art” and “a community building project as we all build them together.”
In times of distress, it is refreshing to see a community coming together to implement these innovations that will benefit the environment in the long run.