Many of you are undoubtedly familiar with the Ewing Green Team, while others may not be. The Green Team was established with the guidance of the Ewing Environmental Commission in 2009 by a municipal resolution, which authorized the Green Team to lead Ewing’s registration and participation in the Sustainable Jersey Municipal Certification Program.

The Sustainable Jersey program is a statewide program that identifies steps that a town can take to “go green,” or to be more resource and environmentally friendly. The program (sustainablejersey.com) lists various things that might already exist, or can be implemented in the township that can help to make the town cleaner, greener, more energy efficient, healthier or more desirable to live and work in—in essence, to become a more sustainable community. Each step or action that the town implements earns the town points within the program, and towns are awarded certificates as they reach certain milestones.

Ewing earned its Silver Certification just last November, and is one of only 39 New Jersey towns that have attained recognition at this level! Congratulations to the Green Team, and to all of us in Ewing, for that achievement. Ewing also received the 2016 Sustainability Champion Award in the medium municipality category (by population size) for earning the highest number of points in this category. Way to go, Green Team! And way to go, Ewing!

What you may not know is that this is not the first time that Ewing has endeavored to improve itself and make itself more “green,” even by way of a contest of sorts.

In my on-going work researching the Ewing Presbyterian Church/1867 Sanctuary building, I found a fascinating booklet entitled “The West Ewing Improvement Association” (organized October, 1878) and containing the proceedings of the organization’s second annual meeting, held in the Ewing church building in 1880. The speeches and presentations made at this annual meeting were printed and distributed, and thanks to digitization, the booklet can be found online.

The West Ewing Improvement Association was formed in part to “beautify our homes in the neighborhood, and make this township a more pleasant and desirable place to live in.” Yet their efforts seem to have been even broader. The president of the association in 1880, Mr. A. B. Green, reported that in the two years since the association was formed, “about two hundred shade trees have been set out along the roads and sidewalks … with great cheerfulness, mostly by people owning the property on which the trees are planted.”
Additionally, “a road which formerly bore the reputation of being the worst in the place” has been improved and become “a pattern for the whole county.”

The association’s mission was “rural development”—bringing environmental improvements and community resources to a township that was still very rural. The booklet talks about paving and improving roads; plantings along roadsides, sidewalks, railroad tracks and buildings; septic tanks and sanitary improvements that both the homeowner and the town can make; ways the homeowner can upgrade his home to ensure “pure air, pure water, and pure soil;” and other similar topics.

While the suggestions and instructions given nearly 140 years ago to make these improvements may not always meet current-day standards, it’s clear that improving Ewing to make it a sustainably “pleasant and desirable place in which to live” has been a constant over time, and continues to inspire our residents.

And yes, there were even contests back in 1880. The first offered the Ewing resident who set out and maintained the “longest and best row of trees along the public highway” (in conformance with some rules) a prize of $25 (I wonder who won, and if the row of trees is still here?).

The second contest was for the school board at either the Scudder’s Falls, Birmingham or Brookville school districts “to effect the greatest material improvement in or about the school-house” by July 1, 1881. Again, the prize was a generous $25, to be used by the trustees for further improvements of an “aesthetic nature.”

We are grateful for all, past and present, who seek to improve and create a more sustainable Ewing!

Do you have a Ewing story to share? Contact Helen at ewingthenandnow@gmail.com.