Public Info

Learn How to Make a Real Difference: Join the Environmental Stewards in Union County

people examining foliageUnion County, NJ – Union County residents who are interested in improving the environment can learn how to create a conservation project in their community by joining the Rutgers Environmental Stewards volunteer program. The program helps members of the public learn specific steps leading to a positive impact on the local ecosystem.

“Whether you are looking for a project or already have one under way, the Environmental Stewards program can help you develop an effective course of action that makes a real difference in the Union County community,” said Commissioner Board Chairman Alexander Mirabella.

The Environmental Stewards program is offered in New Jersey through Rutgers Cooperative Extension, which is part of the NJ Agriculture Experiment Station and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in cooperation with county governments. It is designed to make university-based information available to local communities, and is supported in Union County by the Commissioner Board.

Recent Environmental Steward projects in Union County include a collaboration with the Department of Parks and Recreation to collect data on the impact of the Ash Borer beetle on the tree population in Union County, the creation of a new program in New Providence encouraging children to learn about environmental conservation, and a new “Adopt a Storm Drain” project in Westfield to stop debris from reaching the Rahway River.

Other recent examples in New Jersey include:

  • Clearing invasive plants and planting native trees for a forest restoration project at the Billy Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve in Princeton.
  • Building 1,000 homes for native bees from bamboo kits, for distribution in Burlington, Mercer, and Ocean counties.
  • Organizing a symposium for municipal leaders about the impacts of planning and zoning on the environment, in Burlington County.

The Environmental Stewards program consists of a series of weekly classes and field trips during the winter and spring. Each participant also chooses a local environmental issue as an internship project. The internship provides opportunities to gain real-world experience and build relationships in the community.

On completion of the classes and internship, participants earn certification as Environmental Stewards.

This year’s classes will include zoom sessions, in-person instruction, field trips, and electives by request. The program will cover climate change, green infrastructure, environmental justice, wildlife habitat and other topics of broad interest.

Each class will be taught by a leading researcher from Rutgers University, a government agency, or the non-profit sector. The 2022 class will begin on Tuesday, January 25 and continue on Tuesdays through May 17. Each class will run from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

More than 900 New Jersey residents have received Environmental Steward certification since the program began in 2005, and many continue to have an impact in their community.

To learn more about the Environmental Steward volunteer program and to sign up for classes, visit

For additional assistance contact Michele Bakacs, County Agent and Associate Professor for the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County at or 732-398-5274.

The Union County Commissioner Board supports the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County with administrative assistance and office space in Westfield, land for the Demonstration Garden in the Watchung Reservation in Mountainside, and funding for special projects. For more information about all Extension projects and activities in Union County, including Master Gardeners, Master Tree Stewards and the 4-H youth development program, visit

For information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including free vaccination, free testing, emergency food distribution and other support services, visit General information about COVID-19 is available through the New Jersey Department of Health at

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For all Union County programs and services visit, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email or use the online Contact Form.

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