EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Two Egg Harbor Township High School environmental education teachers can add accolades from Gov. Chris Christie to their list of accomplishments.
Christa Delaney and Jim House traveled to the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton Dec. 11 to accept the award as part of the 18th annual Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony.
State officials and high school principal Terry Charlton said the teachers' impact has gone beyond the classroom, improving the school’s environmental record and saving tax money.
“It felt like such an accomplishment,” Delaney said after the event. “It was one of the best educational moments of my career so far.”
House said they brought some advance placement environmental science students along “so they could see how the real world works,” and they had a chance to tour the state museum and see some of the exhibits before the awards luncheon.
Both teachers said they were deeply honored to be included.
Other awards went to towns, businesses, authorities and organizations throughout the state, as well as one for a student, Sanjana Kaloth, who launched a campaign to collect litter and recyclables this year. The Egg Harbor Township teacher were the only educators included in this year’s event.
In recent years the school has achieved several environmental awards including Green Ribbon School Awards from the Departments of Education at the state and federal level, two Sustainable Champion awards from Sustainable Jersey for Schools, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star Award certification.
“Jim and Christa have been a big part of that,” Charlton said after they received the award.
House and Delaney helped students form an eco-action team that focuses on waste, energy use and other areas, and district energy use is down 35 percent, according to information provided by the DEP.
House said they worked with students to try to reduce waste and increase recycling. As part of the project, kids looked at what was being discarded in a given week, and sought ways to convince their peers to recycle more and to try to produce less waste. He said the next time the students did an inventory of the waste, there was a clear improvement.
“We learned a lot from that,” he said.
Based on data from the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, the school produced 700 pounds of recycling in a four-week period in 2012. Now that number is close to 29,000 pounds for the same four weeks, House said.
Other accomplishments he cited included the creation of a wildlife and vegetable garden, and an outside classroom that can be used in nice weather.
“We can get the kids outside and in the elements,” he said.
Delaney pointed to a hydration station installed at the school with a grant from AtlantiCare that enables students to refill reusable water bottles instead of buying bottled water.
She said a counter on the station shows that more than 10,000 bottles had been filled so far, indicating many plastic bottles have been kept out of landfills.
“Students also have developed a classroom composting program and use the final product in the school garden and in lab activities across multiple fields of study,” reads a statement on the award.
Delaney’s and House’s students apply the same lessons at home. Egg Harbor Township High School offers a free service called GreenQuest that encourages residents to analyze their personal impact on the environment and see how their homes compare to others in the area, according the statement.
The awards program is sponsored by the DEP, the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust and the New Jersey Corporation for Advanced Technology, in partnership with the New Jersey League of Municipalities. A panel of judges reviewed and scored nominations.
Since 2000, some 170 Governor’s Environmental Excellence awards have been presented.
“I congratulate this year’s winners on their wide-ranging efforts to have a positive impact on New Jersey’s environment,” Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said. “From a child’s cleanup of plastics in her neighborhood to very large organizations sharing best practices with community partners, these honorees are setting outstanding examples of what it means to commit to environmental protection. We salute their leadership and example to others.”
Both Delaney and House attended Egg Harbor Township Schools. House has taught in the district for 15 years, Delaney for 13.