The Green Housewives of Morris and Essex Counties
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Kristy Ranieri: Going Green with Sustainability
It was living for several years in San Francisco, prior to making Maplewood her home, that took Kristy Ranieri’s ecological awareness to a new level. “Everyone was concerned about water quality and recycling. Every apartment had multiple recycling cans, and reducing waste was really big there before anywhere else,” explains Ranieri,43. “I guess I began modeling my behavior on what I saw.” It was also in San Francisco that Ranieri began working for Circlepoint, a communications and environmental planning consulting firm that primarily works with government agencies to help them to inform, educate and involve the general public in their prosocial initiatives. “Through my work and becoming a mother, I’ve grown much more aware of and passionate about caring for our environment,” she says.
One of Ranieri’s local clients is Sustainable Jersey, a two-year-old program that helps New Jersey towns go green. Towns that become “Sustainable Jersey-certified” are recognized at an annual awards ceremony. The certification has become prestigious—and competitive. Ranieri says, “Each mayor is trying to out-green all the others!”
Ranieri’s own hometown of Maplewood was among the first to become Sustainable Jersey-certified. She helps the town stay eco-smart as a principal member of the Maplewood Green Team, a group of volunteers who are passionate about promoting sustainability. The group’s projects include the annual Maplewood Green Day, an event dedicated to educating citizens about how to implement eco practices and sustainable solutions into their everyday lives, and the Maplewood Green Challenge, which asks each Maplewood household to pledge to take at least five actions (such as switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs) to reduce its carbon footprint.
Next up for Ranieri: sustainability in the Maplewood schools. “One day my son came home from preschool quite upset that he didn’t get a turn to go toss garbage into the trash bin,” Ranieri recalls. He’d had no trash to dispose of because Ranieri makes her children “no-waste lunches” without disposable packaging or utensils. Her son’s reaction motivated her to begin working with the school to come up with a campaign to encourage other parents to make no-waste lunches. “Soon no child will have a reason to visit the trash bin,” she says.
Sustainable Jersey is a voluntary certification program for towns in New Jersey that want to become more green and sustainable. Towns must agree to take certain actions, such as supporting local farmers or agreeing to conserve water usage, to reach the minimum points required for certification. Sustainable Jersey provides towns with specific guidance and access to grants—the organization has distributed more than $500,000 to New Jersey communities to help them achieve certification.