Marking Climate Week, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Sustainable Jersey and The College of New Jersey announced the award of $4.55 million in grants to fund the planting of trees at 34 public schools, colleges and universities in the state, according to a news release.

Funded by Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative auction proceeds, the Trees for Schools grant program will help mitigate climate change through the planting of more than 3,000 trees across the state, many in overburdened communities and those experiencing elevated temperatures due to insufficient numbers of trees and an excess of paved areas.

The program is a joint effort of the DEP, Sustainable Jersey and The College of New Jersey and is among a number of initiatives the DEP has announced in conjunction with Climate Week. Climate Week provides the public with an opportunity to understand the impacts climate change is having on our planet and the steps we must take now to become more resilient.

“These grants are an important step to help mitigate the impacts of climate change and are an investment in healthier schools and communities,” Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette said. “Trees store carbon and reduce greenhouse gases and energy use, thereby mitigating the impacts of climate change and strengthening the resilience of our communities. Equally important, the planting of these trees will inspire our young people to become tomorrow’s leaders in the fight against climate change.”

“Congratulations to the schools, colleges, and universities that received a Trees for Schools grant. Planting and caring for trees help our students learn about ecosystems and the valuable role trees play,” said Randall Solomon, director of Sustainable Jersey. “We look forward to working with the grant recipients to expand their campus tree canopy while allowing students this important connection.”

Seventy-five percent of grant project sites are located in an overburdened community, which surpasses the program’s goal of allocating 40% of the grant funding for applicants located in overburdened communities. Moreover, many of the trees will be planted in urban communities where excessive paving and deficient tree cover results in higher temperatures, a condition known as the heat-island effect.

Grants range from $12,000 to $250,000 and will fund costs associated with planning, site preparation, trees, planting, watering, monitoring and related expenses over a three-year period.

Grant awards are as follows:

Atlantic County
Galloway Township Public Schools, $110,893

Bergen County
Bergen Community College, $250,000; Bergenfield Public Schools, $12,346; Carlstadt-East Rutherford Regional School District, $37,675; Closter Public Schools, $47,940; Garfield Public School District, $86,042; River Edge Public Schools, $137,558.

Camden County
Audubon Public School District, $106,100; Camden County College, $167,550; Cherry Hill Public Schools, $250,000; Collingswood Board of Education, $71,225; Rutgers University – Camden, $72,139.

Essex County
Belleville Board of Education, $249,639; Bloomfield Township School District, $250,000;
East Orange Public Schools, $227,477; New Jersey Institute of Technology, $188,554
Philip’s Academy Charter School, $149,682; Rutgers University – Newark, $100,291
South Orange-Maplewood School District, $25,342.

Gloucester County
Clayton Public School District, $21,643; Rowan University, $168,707; Westville School District $12,569.

Hudson County
Hudson County Community College, $217,400; Jersey City Public Schools, $249,752.

Mercer County
Paul Robeson Charter School, $158,011.

Middlesex County
Dunellen Public Schools, $68,164; Edison Township Board of Education, $54,021; Rutgers Gardens, $249,385; Rutgers University – New Brunswick, $161,706.

Monmouth County
Long Branch Board of Education, $109,700; Manasquan Public School District, $99,690.

Passaic County
Bloomingdale School District, $71,800; Paterson Public Schools, $250,000.

Somerset County
Somerville Board of Education, $119,946.

The K-12 grant recipients have an additional opportunity for student engagement with these projects to support the New Jersey Climate Change Education Student Learning Standards. Through continued support and advocacy for climate change initiatives by Gov. Phil Murphy and first lady Tammy Murphy, New Jersey became the first state to incorporate climate change education in content areas.

The Murphy Administration recently announced the release of the Summary of Climate Change in New Jersey, an important resource developed by the DEP to help teachers throughout the state understand and incorporate climate science into their lesson plans.

The Trees for Schools program is funded through New Jersey’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multi-state, market-based program that establishes a regional cap on carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel power plants. Proceeds from cap auctions are used to fund programs that benefit the environment.

The Trees for Schools grant recipients will now work with the project team to develop their tree project design and will participate in tree-planting workshops. The tree plantings are scheduled for spring 2024.