Category Archives: Sustainability

DeKorte Park Led the Way – Part 1

Concept Plan for Experimental Park on a Landfill, later renamed Kingsland Overlook.

Concept Plan for Experimental Park on a Landfill, later renamed Kingsland Overlook.

Did you know that Kingsland Overlook was one of the first public parks to be built on a landfill anywhere? I recently came across an article on Inhabitat titled Eight Great Parks Created from Landfills. It shows how far we’ve come. And it got me wondering how much today’s DeKorte Park visitors really know about its history.

It’s hard to imagine, 26 years after ground was broken, that this lush landscape – rich with native vegetation, scores of birds, and other wildlife – was a giant pile of garbage. But that’s what it was when the agency then called the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission decided to establish its headquarters here, ending the spread of the landfill and creating DeKorte Park. The photo below shows how the site looked in 1977. The HMDC began construction of its headquarters in 1983. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the DeKorte story, coming soon.

02 Active Landfill



Clean Water Rule Will Protect Streams, Wetlands

MC_0904A_marshRST65pLast week, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finalized the new Clean Water Rule. Protection for many of the nation’s streams and wetlands has been confusing, complex, and time-consuming as the result of Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. The Clean Water Rule ensures that waters protected under the Clean Water Act are more precisely defined, more predictably determined, and easier for businesses and industry to understand.

Visit the EPA’s information page here.

Bobolinks Thrive at Bergen County’s No-Mow Zone

bobolink-jim-macaluso 3-401“Since the 1900s, bobolink populations in the northeast have been declining- with a 75% decrease occurring in the past 40 years according to the Breeding Bird Survey. Bobolinks are a grassland bird and a ground nester. The loss of North American grasslands and modern farming practices, that call for the harvest of the hayfields during nesting season, have led to their waning numbers.  But creating No-Mow zones, like those at Overpeck County Park, is one way that we in suburban New Jersey can help.”

This according to DonTorino, whose column Don’s Jersey Birding appears weekly in Wild New Jersey. Read the full article here.

Folk Art as the Original Recycling

Photo: Catie Leary.

Photo: Catie Leary.

Creative minds have always seen the potential in junk. And frugal minds have always seen ways to re-use old things. Add a dose of divine inspiration and amazing art gets made. Certainly that was the case with folk artist Howard Finster, whose magnum opus, his home and garden in Summerville, Georgia, is undergoing an extensive restoration.

“Reverend Howard Finster is widely hailed as the “grandfather of modern folk art,” and for good reason — he only started making art after the age of 59. Born in 1916, Finster spent the first half of his life in northeastern Alabama working as a born-again Baptist preacher and bicycle mechanic. He later moved across the border to Georgia, where he eventually opened Paradise Garden,” write Catie Leary for Mother Nature Network.

Readers of a certain age – or a certain musical persuasion – may remember Mr. Finster’s album cover for the Talking Heads 1985 release Little Creatures.  Earlier, the band R.E.M. filmed the video for Radio Free Europe at Paradise Gardens, while Michael Stipe collaborated with Finster on the cover for R.E.M.’s Reckoning.

Read more about this amazing artist and the restoration of Paradise Garden, with lots of pictures, here.

In an upcoming post, I’ll introduce you to an current Sussex County, New Jersey artist whose extraordinary home/ studio/garden could be described as our local Paradise Garden.

Amazon Now Rents Goats to Mow Your Lawn

goats_Jesse SwickWhen the NJMC used goats to clear a neglected woodland in Rutherford in 2012 and 2013, a few eyes rolled. Now you can rent them on Amazon. But think about it – how did our ancestors maintain their lawns? Grazing. You can feed your livestock and manage your meadows at the same time. The great estates of Europe, with their elegant sweeping lawns, employed sheep and other grazers to keep their lawns manicured. They even wore shoes to prevent their hooves from damaging the turf.

But I digress. Rented goats are not a magic bullet for clearing overgrown lots – they cleared the 2-acre Rutherford lot of poison ivy, Japanese knotweed, and, to a lesser extent, phragmites in a couple of weeks. But they can only eat leaves and stems so the roots remain, which means the weeds grow back, though not as vigorously as before. Resident goats could keep down new growth as it emerges. The goats, of course, require fresh water and other care.

But consider this: the cost estimates to bring in a crew to hand-pull and spray with glyphosate (Round-up) were as high as $30,000. The goats cost less than $3500 for each visit. So you could hire goats for 8 years or spray one time. The goats would leave a lot of fertilizer as well.

See the article on by Lee Mathews here.

Living Concrete Incorporates Helpful Bacteria

150504125010-bioconcrete-exlarge-169We have invented bioconcrete — that’s concrete that heals itself using bacteria,” says Henk Jonkers of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

We use a lot of concrete in our modern world. Concrete often cracks. “If you have cracks, water comes through – in your basements, in a parking garage. Secondly, if this water gets to the steel reinforcements…if they corrode, the structure collapses.”

“The bioconcrete is mixed just like regular concrete, but with an extra ingredient — the ‘healing agent’. It remains intact during mixing, only…becoming active if…water gets in.”

Now Jonkers hopes his concrete could be the start of a new age of biological buildings.

“It is combining nature with construction materials,” he says. “Nature is supplying us a lot of functionality for free — in this case, limestone-producing bacteria. If we can implement it in materials, we can really benefit from it, so I think it’s a really nice example of tying nature and the built environments together in one new concept.”

Read the article from CNN here.

Earth Day Screening and Discussion at NYBG

Jens Jensen FilmGet inspired to take action with this award-winning film celebrating Danish-born Jens Jensen (1860-1951), who rose from street sweeper to “dean of landscape architects” and pioneering conservationist. When he arrived penniless in Chicago in 1885, it was a fast-growing city teeming with urban squalor. Rejecting the neo- classical vision of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, Jensen joined Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan in taking the prairie as inspiration for a new city design. In his parks, workers’ children enjoyed playgrounds and grew food in community gardens, and Jensen became known as “The Vexing Thorn” for his passionate battles with Chicago’s political bosses over the city’s future.

Earth Day, April 22, 6:30-8:30 pm. at the New York Botanical Garden
Click here for event info.
Watch the Jens Jensen Documentary Trailer and learn more at

Drowning Out the Sounds of Nature



Silence Map of the U.S. shows where we’re drowning out the sounds of nature.
“Noise pollution is just as real as other forms of pollutions, and we run the risk of losing something very precious if we’re not careful: Quiet, restorative silence, as well as the subtle sounds of nature that we’ve evolved to like.” Click here to read more.

Nature was not drowned out in my driveway on 3/14…check out this (admittedly shaky) video. I once read that grackles like these were the inspiration for Hitchcock’s The Birds.

April is World Landscape Architecture Month

LA Month“Landscape architects are the people responsible for designing the parks, plazas, bike trails and other green spaces that make the outdoors fun, healthy, and sustainable.

If you had to pick a favorite designed green space to photograph, which would you pick? That’s the question asked by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) as it launches World Landscape Architecture Month in April.”  Read more here.

Green is France’s New Favorite Color

france-rooftops AP-Remy de la MauviniereFrench parliament has passed a law that requires all new rooftops in commercial areas to be partially covered in either solar panels or plants. Green roofs aren’t there to just look pretty. They reduce stormwater runoff by absorbing water, provide habitat for birds and other wildlife, and minimize the amount of energy buildings use. Read about it here.