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December 14, 2020

Contact: Caryn Shinske (609) 292-2994
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795


(20/P048) TRENTON – The Murphy Administration is honoring a wide array of environmental leaders with its 2020 Environmental Excellence Awards—from elementary school students who spearheaded an enormous battery recycling effort to the social and racial justice champions who advocated the nation’s most progressive environmental justice law signed by Governor Murphy this September. This year’s honorees have moved the state forward on significant issues, including climate change, recycling, clean drinking water, and environmental justice.

image“As we celebrate our fiftieth anniversary and create an ambitious vision for the next 50 years, this is a historic year for environmental protection and this year’s honorees are on the leading edge of this important work,” said New Jersey DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe. “Their vision and innovation set a standard to which we can all aspire, and I look forward to their next milestones in environmental protection.”

“Governor Murphy and I congratulate and thank all of the winners for their contributions, as well as every New Jerseyan who has worked to protect our environment” said First Lady Tammy Murphy. “Despite the serious threat of the climate crisis, we are incredibly optimistic about New Jersey’s future because of the persistent advocacy, commitment and leadership of so many New Jerseyans in the fight against climate change.”

In his opening remarks at the virtual awards ceremony, DEP Deputy Commissioner Shawn LaTourette also noted that the 2020 “honorees exemplify the values that motivate us here at the Department of Environmental Protection and across the Murphy Administration: an abiding commitment to science and service, and a drive to confront our greatest challenges, and out of them create new opportunities that will help us build a stronger, fairer New Jersey.”

The 2020 awards were presented virtually and video is available on the DEP’s website and Facebook page. Excerpts from the presentation and videos of the honorees will also be featured on DEP social media channels throughout December.

The Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards were awarded to seven individuals and organizations, including Sri Nihal Tammana, a student in Edison, New Jersey, who created a non-profit which has led an effort to recycle batteries nationwide. Another Excellence Award was presented to Lawrence Township in Mercer County for its work in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from municipal operations.

Named for New Jersey’s first DEP Commissioner, the Richard J. Sullivan awards recognized five individuals who helped champion the nation’s most protective environmental justice legislation. Not only has their work improved the future of their communities and blazed new trails for environmental justice advocates everywhere, it also demonstrates the power of collaboration between advocates and lawmakers.

This year’s Richard J. Sullivan honorees are:

  • Ana Baptista, Assistant Professor and Associate Director for the Tishman Environmental and Design Center, The New School
  • Kim Gaddy, Environmental Justice Organizer for Clean Water Action of New Jersey
  • Maria Lopez-Nuñez, Deputy Director, organizing and advocacy, Ironbound Community Corporation in Newark
  • Melissa Miles, Executive Director of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance
  • Nicky Sheats, Director of the Center for the Urban Environment at the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy of Thomas Edison State College

2020 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards:

Climate Change & Clean Air
Lawrence Township, Mercer County
Lawrence Township earned this sustainability award for its work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions from municipal operations and serving as a role model for its community. In 2019, construction began on solar carports for the township’s municipal building and police facility, as well as roof-mounted panels at public works. The project was completed in 2020, and the township expects the solar power generated will provide 85 percent of the electricity needs for these buildings. Lawrence Township also installed electric vehicle charging stations for both public and fleet use and replaced two municipal cars with electric vehicles.

Environmental Education (Educator-Led)
The Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, Middlesex County
The Department of Environmental Sciences (DES) at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, has earned this award for years of educating and training thousands of undergraduate and graduate students, who now practice in the areas of water quality, wastewater treatment, remediation, soil quality, solid waste management, energy sustainability, air pollution control, meteorology and climate science. DES faculty, staff and students have contributed knowledge of the environment to the benefit of the people of New Jersey and beyond. The department plans to embrace its core missions in scholarship, teaching and service by continuing to provide guidance in the face of rapid climate change.

Environmental Education (Student-Led)
Sri Nihal Tammana, Recycle My Battery, Edison, Middlesex County
Sri Nihal Tammana’s work in sustainability earned him this award because he not only spread awareness about the importance of recycling used batteries, but turned words into action. The 11-year-old founded the nonprofit organization Recycle My Battery in 2019, which has helped set up certified battery bins free of cost and educates communities across the U.S. on the importance of recycling batteries. To date, he and his team of more than 45 children have recycled more than 38,000 batteries.

Healthy & Sustainable Businesses
Atlantic Health System, Morristown, Morris County
Atlantic Health System (AHS) earned this award for reducing the carbon footprints of its medical centers, implementing aggressive changes in high-waste areas such as ORs and finding new ways to reduce waste and reuse common medical materials. According to AHS, Overlook Medical Center’s tri-generation power plant has had the most significant impact on reducing the AHS carbon footprint by producing 4 megawatts of electricity on site. AHS continues to encourage its team and community members to be better stewards of the environment.

Healthy & Sustainable Communities
Dr. Changlu Wang, Urban Entomology Laboratory at Rutgers, New Brunswick, Middlesex County
Dr. Changlu Wang has earned this award for the development of new and improved techniques and materials in urban pest management. His goal is to reduce pest problems and environmental risks in the urban environment, improve the quality of life and protect the health of the public.  Dr. Wang and his research team serve New Jersey by conducting field research to test pest management protocols designed to reduce potential health hazards. Their efforts resulted in wider implementation of safer and more sustainable pest control methods in urban communities.

Healthy Ecosystems & Habitats
Whippany River Watershed Action Committee and Garden Magic LLC, Mountain Lakes, Morris County
Whippany River Watershed Action Committee (WRWAC) and Garden Magic LLC have won this award for the creation of the Birchwood Woodland Restoration Rain Garden. WRWAC and Garden Magic LLC have served the Mountain Lakes area by creating a rain garden that combines woodland restoration practices with advanced rain garden concepts in a single project.

Water Resources
New Jersey American Water, Camden, Camden County
New Jersey American Water earned this award for its leadership in designing and testing new ways to effectively treat PFAS. New Jersey American Water delivers safe, clean, reliable and affordable drinking water to 2.8 million people across the state.