Clean Green Jersey is an organization that was formed in September 2020 by Jersey City resident Karam Thapar, with the mission to see a cleaner and greener New Jersey for a healthier and stronger community. This initiative started in downtown Jersey City as a pilot program to educate and empower the community through volunteer-based cleanups. Previously called Clean Green Jersey City, this volunteer-based organization has been expanding to new neighborhoods and municipalities such as Hoboken, to make New Jersey a more sustainable and cleaner place to live. Keep reading to find out more about Clean Green Jersey.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of it, Karam, founder of Clean Green Jersey wanted to break down why community cleanups are important in the first place. He explained:
- – Plastic, paper, and other litter items break down into the air as either microplastic, methane, or other forms of air pollution. This air pollution leads to asthma and other respiratory issues.
- – Litter that goes down the sewer drains are eventually released into the Hudson River and other bodies of water on rainy days. When that occurs the litter will either kill our sea life or be consumed by them, and therefore enter our own food supply to slowly harm human health.
- – Seeing constant trash-filled neighborhoods is medically proven to impact human mental health. It leads to a quickened heart rate, stress, and even depression.
- – Seeing visible trash on one street versus a cleaner street will negatively impact property values by 7% for landowners on average.
- – Seeing trash leads to a vicious cycle of others thinking it’s okay to litter.
- – Leave a better future for the next generation otherwise, the problem will become too arduous.
- – No single company, industry, or individual can solve this alone. We need to work together and take immediate action.
How It Started
Karam Thapar is a first-generation American of Indian descent, was born and raised in West Orange, N.J, and moved to Jersey City in 2014, where he has lived since. He works at Citigroup where he works in the ESG sector (Environmental Sustainability, Social Responsibility, and Corporate Governance). In his role at Citibank, Karam focuses on creating socially responsible investment opportunities for corporations, municipalities, and individuals.
Since living in Jersey City and commuting to NYC for work every day, Karam has always been disgusted with the amount of trash he saw on the street on both sides of the Hudson River. Karam assured himself that someone else would clean it up, and like many others, he just dealt with the trash as being a normal part of city life.
In recent years, Karam has also begun to see his hometown of West Orange have a growing trash problem. He became highly aware of there being trash everywhere, including the side of the highway, and he could no longer ignore the obvious widespread issue. Karam told Hoboken Girl, “How can the United States claim to be the best nation in the world, with trash everywhere.”
Navigating Through the Pandemic
When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, Karam was no longer commuting to New York City for work, which allowed him to take a step back and slow down. He decided to use the extra time to go outside and clean his street each day. Slowly, he chipped away at the trash that had never been cleaned on his street, until it was spotless.
Hiking up in Vermont one weekend in one of the most “naturally pristine” lands, he saw litter every few feet along the way. It made him think about his roots in India. Having traveled to India many times, Karam was aware of how bad the trash problem is there, as trash lines the streets everywhere you go.
Karam shared with Hoboken Girl, “When the trash problem gets so bad, no one is willing to solve it anymore, because at that point it gets too expensive and challenging to recover the land, and I didn’t want to see that happen here in New Jersey.”
As the pandemic continued, Karam noticed an increase in the amount of trash with masks and gloves now added to the issue and knew he needed to take action and get involved on a larger scale. Karam shared, “I realized if I wait for the government to clean this up or corporations to make the sustainability change, that it will likely take longer than our health and environment can withstand before irreversible damage.” Karam then made a promise to himself to do whatever he could to prevent this from happening, with the motto “start small but think big.”
Clean Green Jersey started as Clean Green Jersey City, focusing on organizing clean-ups in the immediate area. For the cleanups, Karam started by partnering with anyone and everyone willing to help and get involved, including elected officials, businesses, schools, religious organizations, non-profit organizations, and other concerned community members who are tired of seeing all the trash on the streets.
As the volunteer base and organization grew, local businesses also started providing refreshments and discounts for volunteers, donated funds for supplies and helped to promote the events.
So far, the organization has held 100 cleanups with over 2,000 volunteers. Clean Green Jersey has neighborhood captains and coordinators around Jersey City + Hoboken. The organization has also helped supply a “cleanup” themed birthday party for a young eco-warrior and have another birthday party planned in 2022.
Clean Green Jersey has also held sustainability lessons for students in conjunction with school cleanups, and in 2022 it will be launching a partnership with the Jersey City Board of Education to educate 6th-grade students on the importance of cleaning the environment.
Since last September, Clean Green Jersey has been expanding to new neighborhoods and municipalities. The organization recently changed its name to ‘Clean Green Jersey’ from ‘Clean Green Jersey City’, intending to eventually have a chapter in every town across the state. Founder Karam also has plans to build Clean Green Jersey into a sustainable brand and exchange where people can easily access information about everything sustainable, with a local focus.
The goal is to also have businesses sell their sustainable products through the organization and advertise about sustainable initiatives.
The mission is to continue to grow and evolve, all led by local volunteers. As new members join, Clean Green Jersey will also educate the community about ways they can add sustainable changes to their daily life, such as reusing bags and avoiding the use of plastic straws.
Karam shared, “Clean Green Jersey will only go out of business once there isn’t any more trash to clean. I’m hoping that at some point we will be forced to go out of business.”
To learn more about this quickly-growing organization, visit its Instagram at @cleangreenjersey.