Small steps, massive assist for the atmosphere (Gardening for Life)


Volunteers are always required to maintain Crane Park and its pollinator garden, as well as all other township parks. (Jose German-Gomez)

With reference to the phrase “We don’t have a planet B”, we must act to protect our home. Each of us plays an important role in maintaining the environment in a safe equilibrium that enables us to secure our own existence.

As members of this community, individuals in Montclair must ensure that their actions do not pollute the environment. The protection of the local environment cannot be left to the local government alone. If everyone makes a significant contribution, the effect will be felt not only in Montclair, but also at the county, state, national, and ultimately around the world.

Our actions are really important. Much of what we do at home has environmental implications. Treating your lawn with pesticides and other chemicals pollutes the air, soil, and water, harms your family’s health, and even threats the lives of your pets.

Our lavish lifestyle affects other communities as well. Most of the trash we generate in the city goes to the incinerator in Newark, where children suffer from high levels of asthma and other respiratory diseases. The water we pollute in Montclair doesn’t stay in town. Toney’s Brook and the Third River receive a large amount of pollutants in the form of runoffs of fertilizers and other chemicals from nearby yards, as well as discarded plastics and other garbage. Our Montclair streams transport these pollutants to the Passaic, which carries them into the ocean.

It is time to do something for us, for our families and for future generations. If your New Year’s resolutions didn’t include measures to protect the environment, it is not too late. You still have the opportunity to be part of the solution for the good of your family, community, our nation, and the world.

Where to start

Simple steps in your garden can make a difference. Concerned About Protecting Wildlife? You could help fight pollinator extinction by making some changes in your landscaping.

Growing some of your own foods is another easy and rewarding way to improve your health and help the environment. Supporting organizations that build a legacy for your children and grandchildren is also a way to help protect and restore our environment.

Actions You Can Take at Home

  • Create a vegetable garden. Growing your own food is a very worthwhile project for you and your family to enjoy, and it reduces the use of chemicals and fuels for growing, transporting, and processing industrialized food crops. If you don’t have a place to grow vegetables at home, join a local community garden. At least three organizations in the city have community gardens: Montclair Community Farm, A Lot to Grow, and the Northeast Earth Coalition.
  • Start composting. Reduce the amount of waste that goes into the incinerator while making high quality natural fertilizers for your garden. The community sells compost bins at a discounted price to residents.
  • Switch your gardening and gardening tools (mowers and leaf blowers) from gas to electric. A 2011 study found that a gas-powered two-stroke leaf blower produced 300 times the hydrocarbons emitted by a three-ton pickup truck and 23 times the carbon monoxide. Electric is cleaner. It is even better to break out the rake and not the leaf blower in autumn. Get light, enjoyable, emission-free (and quiet!) Seasonal exercises while saving fuel and equipment costs.
  • Save water. Take measures to limit water wastage in your garden. Reduce the size of your water-eating lawn and replace it with native plants that have evolved to withstand the summer heat in New Jersey. You can also save water by watering the remaining lawn early in the morning instead of in the heat of the afternoon, and watering occasionally and deeply rather than often and shallowly so the grass develops deeper, more drought tolerant roots.
  • Make your garden pollinator friendly. The world has seen a sharp and frightening decline in insect populations in recent years. You can make a real difference here by taking a few steps to aid pollinators. Reduce your lawn wherever possible and use the freed space to plant pollinator-friendly native plants, including host plants and nectar plants. Leave the leaves on the ground to allow the pollinators to hibernate. And don’t use pesticides, of course – you don’t want to kill the pollinators you’re trying to attract.

Community actions

  • Planting trees. Coordinate with the city’s Department of Community Affairs, the Advisory Board on Parks and Recreation, or the Environment Commission to plant a tree in one of our public spaces. You can also donate the money to the community (a tax-deductible gift) to plant a tree or to adopt a recently planted street tree.
  • Be a mentor. If you are a seasoned gardener or knowledgeable about environmental issues, become a community gardening or environmental education educator. By teaching our youth, you are planting the seeds for the future.
  • Become a volunteer. Join one of the groups that represent our parks. Anderson, Brookdale, Edgemont, Crane, Glenfield, and Nishuane parks, and the Alonzo F. Bonsal Wildlife Preserve are always looking for volunteers. How about joining friends of a park group for your favorite park and working with them to maintain the park? Interested in birds? Join the Montclair Bird Club or the Montclair Hawk Watch. Many other local environmental groups also welcome volunteers.
  • Take the initiative. Find the environmental initiative you are passionate about and start a local movement or community project.

Our environmental challenges seem daunting and daunting on a global scale, but action in our own homes and communities can reduce the problems to an extent where each of us can see the significant differences our actions make. These individual and collective actions can make a global difference.


Jose German-Gomez is an environmental activist, certified master gardener in Essex County, and a resident of Montclair. He is the founder of the North-East Coalition.