City of Summit Sustainable Future Public Forum Recap
On March 30, I attended Summit New Jersey’s Sustainable Future Public Forum. It was by chance that I saw the flyer for the event in a diner window the day before, so I made the plan to attend and see what eco-friendly procedures they have in place. I felt my own town could do a lot more eco-friendly tasks to help the community, so hearing what’s been successful in other towns helps to lessen our own failures.
Summit had several sponsors for their public forum, including the local YMCA and Rotary Club. It’s so good to see other associations support Summit’s green efforts! This forum discussed looking forward to envision how the town might have evolved sustainably in 2026.
There were several speakers with their unique views and hopes for how we can have less of an impact on the earth. I learned of Summit’s GreenFaith Circle that is already in place. It combines representatives from 6 of Summit’s many houses of worship, who encourage their congregations to walk to service. Several of the speakers included two Summit High School students and co-chair of the GreenFaith Circle, Rabbi Avi Friedman, seen above.
Mike Shapiro, President of TAPinto a local online newspaper, began the forum with the thought that in 10 years smaller newspapers would cease to exist. With the exception of the large newspapers like the Times, most will direct their readership online. Mike also believed that college would take a harder turn towards virtual degrees. Allowing fulltime education online, lessening the need for cars to travel to campus and reducing the amount of land that would be needed for parking on campus.
Summit’s City Administrator, Michael Rogers was the next speaker to share his hopes for this growing city. With Summit being a hub of transportation, with their own train station, parking is always a challenge. Rogers believed by 2026, Summit would have their own “smart” city model. Allowing patrons to know ahead of time where empty parking spaces were available in town. For this to happen he believes Summit’s “government needs to be proactive and can be a little slow at times.”
Summit High School Senior, Louisa Fowler was the first to share student ideas. She had the great ideas of rewards for students who bike to school or take fuel-efficient vehicles. Extra credit could be given for students who pick up trash in town parks. Xavier McCormick was another Summit High School Senior who had more great ideas to share. Xavier suggested that because of the large amount of water it takes to cultivate meat, that students should steer towards more vegetarian oriented diets. He also believe it would benefit the town if residents had grey water tanks at their homes. This method collects water from all household plumbing fixtures) except toilets and garbage disposals), treats it and then is reused for below the surface garden water, flushing toilet flushing and more. My favorite student suggestion was that Xavier suggested the schools allow students compost their unfinished food, as the town already composts yard clippings.
Marian Glenn, Biology Professor at Seton Hall and President of the Rahway River Watershed Association, created my absolute favorite ideas of the evening. Marian had a wonderful story she created of life in Summit in 2026. These ideas included a “walking school bus” where the Senior Citizens of the neighborhood would take their 3-wheeled bicycle to walk a group of children to school, helping to avoid so many cars showing up to deliver children to school, while possibly only carrying one child per car. Marian also believed a virtual classroom would be helpful to setup, when there are snowstorms that close schools. Seeing Summit acquire wind turbines for a local power grid would be a great benefit during power outages. All of these ideas create a great vision, which I believe can be accomplished in 10 years.
The most surprising speaker of the evening was not listed in our evening program; it was from a representative from Summit’s biotechnology company, Celgene. They are already LEED certified and use rainwater for flushing toilets. Celgene has employee education programs for environmental care. They are even celebrating Earth Day with their own Earth Day Fair for employees and families.
I was thrilled to hear so many people caring for our environment, however since this recap is already rather wordy I’ll stop here. Let me know if you would like more details from this event, as discussing the environmental future is my favorite.