College students from New Jersey and beyond completed the Green Teams paid summer internship program at Montclair State University this week.
Amy Tuininga, director of the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies at Montclair State, oversees the Green Teams Program, a rapidly expanding initiative that gives students the opportunity to solve real-world sustainability problems for New Jersey companies.
Green Teams places interdisciplinary student groups with corporations, organizations and government agencies including New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance, The City of Newark, and Prudential Financial in opportunities to help solve their respective sustainability challenges. Students earn $4,000 for the 10 weeks of the program.
In summer 2019, eight teams of five students worked on sustainability projects focused on food, energy, water, and waste, Tuininga said. Among them, the team serving PSEG developed materials to map PSEG’s corporate initiatives to the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, she said.
According to Tuininga, one team serving New Jersey Natural Gas investigated the feasibility and benefits of implementing renewable natural gas sourced from landfills and wastewater treatment plants, and they presented results to New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan stakeholders meeting.
Another team assisted the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority in a partnership with Foam Cycle to evaluate the economic and environmental benefits of diverting foam packing materials known as extruded polystyrene from landfills, and they built a website for the end product created from the recycled foam – picture frames – creating a completely closed loop economy.
A team serving Newark Science and Sustainability, a 501(c)3 nonprofit with a mission to ensure that all children grow up self-sufficient, helped to build out plans for connecting community gardens and food initiatives across the landscape in Newark and across northern New Jersey where there are food deserts, turning them into food oases by bringing produce grown in the community gardens to bodegas and broadening the community farm to table opportunities, Tuininga said.
The Green Teams program is all about opportunity and encourages applications from students from all backgrounds, particularly those who are first-generation college, first-generation STEM, and from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented, she said. Interns go on to subsequent internships, graduate and professional school receiving top scholarships, and to careers that incorporate sustainability in a variety of ways.